Monday, October 10, 2011

Vava'u Group to Ha'apai Group in the Kingdom of Tonga

It was hard to believe that we had arrived in Vava'u on September 5th and more than a month later we were still there. Truly one of the great cruising grounds that we've visited as it had many of the things that we treasure - spectacular beauty, pristine anchorages, an active cruising community, decent restaurants, internet access (albeit extremely slow), beautiful clear water and tolerable day time temperatures. It was hard to leave.
Regardless, this morning at 0300 we untied from our mooring in Neiafu harbor and made our way to sea. The wind was freshening and shortly after leaving the main entrance we cut the engine and picked up the course to Ha'apai, about 60 miles due south. The conditions couldn't have been better - the waxing moon, two days from being full, gave us near-daytime visibility. With the wind on a close reach at about 17 knots, Rutea frequently hit hull speed and that was with a single reef tucked in the main. The seas were very slight with only a wind chop. As dawn arrived, we were well out of the lee of Hunga Island and the chop increased. Ruthie and Corie had taken Stugeron, our preferred medication for sea sickness, prophylactically but I didn't. I got sea sick. After five weeks in the flat, protected waters of the Vava'u Group, my inner ear was no longer capable of sorting out the motion. I did take a Zofran that our son, Ian, prescribed for us and it worked remarkably well though it did make me quite drowsy.
The Ha'apai Group consists of 61 islands many of which are unpopulated. Our first stop was at an open roadstead that serves as a pretty decent anchorage off of Ha'ano Island. We had to drop the hook in over 50' of water but we were able to find a good sand bottom with few coral heads. Ruthie and Corie did some snorkeling that they said was fantastic while I tried to sleep off my drug-induced stupor.
We only plan to stay here for about five days but there's a BFH (Big Fat High pressure area) approaching that's going to reinforce the trade winds into the 30-knot range before the end of the week. That might just force us to sit tight until the BFH breaks down. Since we have about another 100 miles to go until we get to Tongatapu (where we go to officially check out of Tonga and fuel/provision for the run to New Zealand), we'd like to have that passage not be a challenge.
Last night we watched Australia play South Africa in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. The World Cup happens every four years and South Africa has won it several times. In a very tough game, Australia came away with an upset victory. We have become converts to rugby. North American football seems so boring after watching rugby. For example, in rugby, the clock almost never stops. There are two forty-minute periods. In last night's game, an injured player was being attended to by the team's medical staff but he was lying right near where his teammate was attempting to kick for a penalty. The penalty kick proceeded anyway, the clock running the whole time. Since the clock runs almost continuously, there are no commercial breaks - only at half time. The rules are pretty simple and though the terminology is different, it's a very exciting game. There's still a few games left for this World Cup. Check it out.
At 10/10/2011 6:55 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°40.31'S 174°17.44'W
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