Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Decisions, Decisions . . .

We're having a tough time. It's getting close to the time when we should be leaving the Vava'u Group and continuing south. The days tick by and cyclone season keeps getting closer - it officially starts on November 1st but it's very rare to have one that early in the season. We've contracted with a highly respected weather router in New Zealand to prepare as safe a passage from Tonga to New Zealand as possible. At first I told him that we'd be ready to go anytime after October 1. Then I emailed him back and said anytime after October 15.

Now I've learned that there's an organized rally from Tonga to New Zealand departing Tonga the first five days of November (it doesn't start on a specific day due to weather considerations). It kind of sounds like fun to travel with a group of boats and it's something that we've never done. There's already quite a good-sized fleet underway and so far their conditions have been very good. We're monitoring them quite closely.

The next group of islands south are called the Ha'apai Group and many cruisers don't stop there as there are few protected anchorages and the passages between islands are strewn with coral reefs. Some people say the diving and snorkeling there is almost as good as the Tuamotus but that's hard for us to believe. The Tuamotus were nothing short of mind-boggling.

South of the Ha'apai Group is Tongatapu or 'Tonga' to the locals. It has the largest population in all of Tonga and provisioning there would give us a much better selection. On the other hand, boats are strongly advised to have rat guards on their lines before they tie up to the wharf to get fuel. Apparently, rats will make a beeline for ships lines to make their way on board - rat guards are like big pie tins that you fix to your dock lines and the rats can't get past them.

There is the possibility of sailing straight from Vava'u to New Zealand. We like it here. Over 40 protected anchorages. Lots of other cruising boats. Great diving/snorkeling (today we beached the dinghy on the north side of the beach on Vaka'eitu and hiked across the island to the south shore where we found a deserted beach about a quarter-mile long. We donned our masks/snorkels/fins and swam out over the shallow reef. Out about 100 yards from shore, the reef dropped straight down giving us the feeling of free falling. The cliff formed by the reef was splashed with beautiful coral and thousands of brightly colored tropical fish were darting this way and that. Large underwater ravines in the coral wind their way towards shore providing excellent places to explore. The visibility had to be in excess of 80 feet.). On the other hand, the provisioning is lousy and expensive. And visiting Tongatapu puts us about 120 miles closer to New Zealand.

For the last few days Corie has been the invited guest aboard a beautiful 80' motorsailer. The owner is a former Hollywood film producer. He has four crew members, some of who are close to Corie's age. It's been a good break for all of us to have some time apart even though we get along remarkably well.

We're going to head back to the main port of Neiafu tomorrow to study the weather closely. There might be a front moving through next week and I think I'd prefer to wait it out here than in Ha'apai.

Rutea and all of us are doing great. How are you doing?

Nofo a.
At 10/6/2011 5:38 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 18°43.24'S 174°06.09'W

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