Saturday, 21 July 2018

5-2018 Suwarrow to Tonga

Hi from Clare, 5-2018 Suwarrow to Tonga Thursday 19th July 2018

After sailing 730 sea miles, we arrived in the Vava'u Group of islands in Tonga last Saturday. When we first left Suwarrow we intended sailing to the island of Niue some 240 miles east of Tonga. We would have enjoyed calling into Niue on the way to Tonga but unfortunately the angle of sail was forward of the beam and very unpleasant. We smacked into three metre waves in twenty knots of wind getting covered in salt water for twenty four hours before we decided to turn right fifteen degrees give Niue a miss and head straight for Tonga. This put the wind aft of the beam making the ride a lot more comfortable. The trip took five days and the highlight was catching a 75cm long tuna. Quite a thrill after no fishing for three years in French Polynesia due to the threat of Ciguatera. But now with no threat of illness, we have been eating Tuna a la Every Which Way for the past week – simply delicious.

CHECKING IN
So far we have spent most of our time in Neiafu township in Vava'u checking into the country and re provisioning fresh goods. When we arrived and tied up at the wharf Customs and Immigration came to the boat. Then we were told to leave the wharf because a Navy Boat wanted our spot. We picked up a mooring ball in the bay and spent the next two and a half days and numerous trips ashore trying to track down Quarantine and the Health Official to complete the check in process. The annoying part about this was that we arrived on Saturday and were charged $90 AUD overtime rates. However (because we couldn't find the Health Official) the check wasn't completed until late Monday when overtime doesn't apply. Not sure what we paid the money for!

PROVISIONING
There is a very good fresh fruit and vegetable daily market which is a welcome sight after nearly two months of no shops. Choices are limited to what is grown locally, fruit selection is papaya, banana, pineapple and water melon. Vegetables are more plentiful and we can buy eggs at the fresh market by forward ordering them. Andrew says the chooks must be on contract :) There is also fresh fish for sale so we will happily frequent that in the future.

The shops are very disappointing, thank goodness I have plenty of groceries. There are a number of grubby food stores with limited supplies. It is necessary to visit all of them when in search of something. We did find some tasty cheese eventually but there is no yogurt, sour cream or any other dairy, all meat is frozen. Food stores have ants and small bugs running along the shelves. The shopkeepers are not friendly and in one shop the cash register is named by a Chinaman more interested in his iPhone than the customer.
He didn't look up once. The township is dusty and grubby with pot poles, broken pipes and open drains. The footpath is treacherously slippery after a rain shower - enough said.

FREE AT LAST
On a brighter note there are a number of good anchorages to explore. We are currently in a lovely quiet spot up against an island. It is very peaceful and exactly what we need after a busy few weeks. We are looking forward to chilling out for a while. Late yesterday we went for a long walk along the beach and we will do the same in our new location this afternoon. Since arriving in Tonga there is a noticeable difference in the climate compared to French Polynesia. The daily temperature is around 27 degrees and 20 at night. The water temperature has decreased from 29 degrees to 25. It is still very nice but noticeably a bit fresher. We notice that the people snorkeling are wearing wet suits.

SO WHAT'S NEXT
We intend staying in Tonga till end August. We are currently in the Vava'u Group of islands then to the south of us is the Ha'apal group and then south of that is the Tongatapu group of islands where the capital city of Nukualofa is located. We will visit all these groups before we leave for Fiji.

Love Candy xx

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Saturday, 30 June 2018

4-2018 Mopelia and Suwarrow

Hi from Clare, 4-2018 Mopelia and Suwarrow Friday 29th June 2018

A SPECIAL PLACE
Our last week in Mopelia was just as memorable as the first. We met nearly all the inhabitants and learnt more about their lifestyle. Previously it had struck us that there were no children on the island. We thought maybe it's a place for retirees, but no the children are living in Maupiti with relatives and attending school. They are due home shortly for the school holidays. We also discovered that most of the local people have held down regular jobs on other islands or in Paris. They have chosen to return to Mopelia to enjoy the simple life. They don't have a lot of material possessions but they have everything they need.

WONDERFUL COMMUNITY
We had a wonderful Pot Luck dinner with eight cruisers and six local folk who provided an abundance of fish and coconut crabs. The cruisers provided the nibbles, salads, sweets and alcohol. The local folk provided music by way of guitars, drums (a combination of barrels being beaten with a rubber thong) spoons in a bottle and wonderful singing voices.
This Pot Luck dinner is an event the local folk do when a number of cruising boats gather. They laid out the meal and played music, sang and had a few drinks while we ate. One local lady in particular, who used to be in the French military, spoke good English and had a very good singing voice. We had met this lady a few days before looking every bit a Polynesian just sitting on the beach cleaning fish and throwing the scraps to a dog. Looks can be very deceiving!

WONDERFUL CUISINE - MAYBE?
Talking about dogs, our friends on 'Fandango' were invited to dinner at Jean and Tuarae's home and in addition to the usual fish they had a very spicy dog stew. Ian from 'Fandango' said it was very tasty and he had two helpings. The dog in question was badly bitten by a coconut crab and was bound to get an infection so they decided to cook it instead. We had patted this dog a number of times and we felt sorry for it and we don't think we could have eaten it.

PLENTY TO DO
Every day we went for a walk on the island. There is a vehicle track that runs the length of the island just a short distance inland from the beach. It was a very pleasant walk in the shade of the palm trees and there are a number of smaller tracks along the way leading over to the ocean side of the atoll. It was on these walks that we met the local folk as the track runs by all the houses. We would invariably stop and chat and end up taking home more island produce than we needed. However it was too hard to say no. They would have it ready for us on our return trip along the road. It seems that their culture is to give you something. Just amazing considering that they don't have a lot.

Most days we would swim in the shallows in the lagoon or in the rock pools on the ocean side of the atoll. One day when the lagoon was flat calm we took three dinghies out and snorkelled the pass. There was less than the usual current running so we just held onto the dinghy and drifted by the colourful display of tropical fish.

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW
Sadly we had to leave this wonderful playground and sail west. We will always remember the unexpected gem of Mopelia and the happy faces of the people who live there.

We set off for the 570 miles sail to Suwarrow on Monday 18th June and arrived Friday morning. Exiting the pass was easy as there was little current and the seas were a mere 1.5 metres. We had a very enjoyable downwind sail with the main sail our to port and the jib polled out to starboard. At one stage when the wind dropped to 8 knots we put the spinnaker up as well.


ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SPOT
Suwarrow is a small uninhabited coral atoll about 500 miles east of Samoa and is a good place to stop for a rest. It is a Nature Reserve and very pretty with lush vegetation, mostly coconut trees, and sparkling aqua water. There are two attending Park Rangers here between June and November to check the passing yachts into the Cook Islands. They also make sure we do not damage the environment or ourselves. There is a variety of aggressive sharks here so many of the rules are focused on not luring these sharks into the lagoon. So no food scraps overboard, not spear fishing in the lagoon, no cleaning fish off the back of the boat and no kite boarding. They reported an incident where a kite boarder out in the pass had about five grey sharks following him just waiting for him to drop into the water. Also before 'no spear fishing' was a rule, a spear fisherman had his fish and spear gun totally chomped up by some sharks. Fortunately he lived to tell the tale. So the rules are not to be flaunted. We have been here for a week now and haven't seen any dangerous sharks in the lagoon. However if we walk to the ocean side of the atoll we see nurse sharks, black tips and white tips and greys cruising close to shore where the Rangers clean their fish and throw the scraps to the sharks.


A PRIVILEGED TO WATCH
The main attraction here is the manta ray. They come in the early morning to a shallow reef area some half mile from the anchorage as this is a cleaning station for them. They are truly wonderful to see. So big and yet so graceful just gliding around while the little cleaner fish remove any parasites that have attached themselves. Sometimes we have had as many as sixteen snorkellers and six dinghies out there watching the parade but the manta rays are not the slightest bit perturbed.


MAKE YOUR OWN FUN
At present we have seven cruising yachts here. Six of us were at Mopelia together and so we continue to have ongoing good company. A few nights ago sixteen cruisers were the guests of the Rangers for a pot luck dinner ashore. There is a lovely shaded area with a large table, benches, a fire place, hammocks and a swing made from old fishing nets. It is a very pretty setting and the Rangers provided the fish and the cruisers did the rest. The senior Ranger (Harry) performed the official Tongan welcome and we all had a very social time.

Harry is a professional baker in a former life and he gladly shared his recipe for home made bread with Clare. The recipe has been tried on Eye Candy and turned out very well. Harry says the most important ingredient is patience.

We also had a dinghy drift for sundowners last night. We tied six dinghies together and just drifted in flat calm water while we handed around nibbles, had a few drinks and enjoyed a glorious sunset. The sky was blue, pink and grey and the cloud formation big and fluffy. How fortunate we are to enjoy such peace and calm far away from the troubles of the world.

SOME MENTAL STIMULATION
Andrew has been very busy using his SWR meter and dummy load to repair the Rangers HF radio station and their solar panels. The radio lost its tuner on the ship coming back to the island this season meaning that the Rangers had no radio communication with their base at Rarotonga. To replace their tuner and long wire antenna Andrew built a half wave dipole antenna from the bits and pieces lying around and bingo they are back on the air again. The Rangers are very happy and can now communicate to base 3 days per week to report on visiting yachts.

Andrew tracked down a couple of blown diodes in their solar panels and replaced them with others found in old solar panels to enable charging for their twelve volt batteries. He also gave them an old multi meter so now they can check on their charging.

He has also helped many of the cruisers with radio problems mostly caused by corrosion. In fact he has been so busy they almost have to book an appointment.


SO WHAT NEXT
We have some very strong wind and big seas coming in a few days as a very intense high pressure passes. So we will stay put until things settle down. We are prepared with two anchors out and floats on the anchor chain so we don't get hooked on one of the many coral heads covering the bottom. It might be a bouncing in here, but better here than out at sea.

Love Candy xxFriday 29th June 2018

A SPECIAL PLACE
Our last week in Mopelia was just as memorable as the first. We met nearly all the inhabitants and learnt more about their lifestyle. Previously it had struck us that there were no children on the island. We thought maybe it's a place for retirees, but no the children are living in Maupiti with relatives and attending school. They are due home shortly for the school holidays. We also discovered that most of the local people have held down regular jobs on other islands or in Paris. They have chosen to return to Mopelia to enjoy the simple life. They don't have a lot of material possessions but they have everything they need.

WONDERFUL COMMUNITY
We had a wonderful Pot Luck dinner with eight cruisers and six local folk who provided an abundance of fish and coconut crabs. The cruisers provided the nibbles, salads, sweets and alcohol. The local folk provided music by way of guitars, drums (a combination of barrels being beaten with a rubber thong) spoons in a bottle and wonderful singing voices.
This Pot Luck dinner is an event the local folk do when a number of cruising boats gather. They laid out the meal and played music, sang and had a few drinks while we ate. One local lady in particular, who used to be in the French military, spoke good English and had a very good singing voice. We had met this lady a few days before looking every bit a Polynesian just sitting on the beach cleaning fish and throwing the scraps to a dog. Looks can be very deceiving!

WONDERFUL CUISINE - MAYBE?
Talking about dogs, our friends on 'Fandango' were invited to dinner at Jean and Tuarae's home and in addition to the usual fish they had a very spicy dog stew. Ian from 'Fandango' said it was very tasty and he had two helpings. The dog in question was badly bitten by a coconut crab and was bound to get an infection so they decided to cook it instead. We had patted this dog a number of times and we felt sorry for it and we don't think we could have eaten it.

PLENTY TO DO
Every day we went for a walk on the island. There is a vehicle track that runs the length of the island just a short distance inland from the beach. It was a very pleasant walk in the shade of the palm trees and there are a number of smaller tracks along the way leading over to the ocean side of the atoll. It was on these walks that we met the local folk as the track runs by all the houses. We would invariably stop and chat and end up taking home more island produce than we needed. However it was too hard to say no. They would have it ready for us on our return trip along the road. It seems that their culture is to give you something. Just amazing considering that they don't have a lot.

Most days we would swim in the shallows in the lagoon or in the rock pools on the ocean side of the atoll. One day when the lagoon was flat calm we took three dinghies out and snorkelled the pass. There was less than the usual current running so we just held onto the dinghy and drifted by the colourful display of tropical fish.

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW
Sadly we had to leave this wonderful playground and sail west. We will always remember the unexpected gem of Mopelia and the happy faces of the people who live there.

We set off for the 570 miles sail to Suwarrow on Monday 18th June and arrived Friday morning. Exiting the pass was easy as there was little current and the seas were a mere 1.5 metres. We had a very enjoyable downwind sail with the main sail our to port and the jib polled out to starboard. At one stage when the wind dropped to 8 knots we put the spinnaker up as well.


ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL SPOT
Suwarrow is a small uninhabited coral atoll about 500 miles east of Samoa and is a good place to stop for a rest. It is a Nature Reserve and very pretty with lush vegetation, mostly coconut trees, and sparkling aqua water. There are two attending Park Rangers here between June and November to check the passing yachts into the Cook Islands. They also make sure we do not damage the environment or ourselves. There is a variety of aggressive sharks here so many of the rules are focused on not luring these sharks into the lagoon. So no food scraps overboard, not spear fishing in the lagoon, no cleaning fish off the back of the boat and no kite boarding. They reported an incident where a kite boarder out in the pass had about five grey sharks following him just waiting for him to drop into the water. Also before 'no spear fishing' was a rule, a spear fisherman had his fish and spear gun totally chomped up by some sharks. Fortunately he lived to tell the tale. So the rules are not to be flaunted. We have been here for a week now and haven't seen any dangerous sharks in the lagoon. However if we walk to the ocean side of the atoll we see nurse sharks, black tips and white tips and greys cruising close to shore where the Rangers clean their fish and throw the scraps to the sharks.


A PRIVILEGED TO WATCH
The main attraction here is the manta ray. They come in the early morning to a shallow reef area some half mile from the anchorage as this is a cleaning station for them. They are truly wonderful to see. So big and yet so graceful just gliding around while the little cleaner fish remove any parasites that have attached themselves. Sometimes we have had as many as sixteen snorkellers and six dinghies out there watching the parade but the manta rays are not the slightest bit perturbed.


MAKE YOUR OWN FUN
At present we have seven cruising yachts here. Six of us were at Mopelia together and so we continue to have ongoing good company. A few nights ago sixteen cruisers were the guests of the Rangers for a pot luck dinner ashore. There is a lovely shaded area with a large table, benches, a fire place, hammocks and a swing made from old fishing nets. It is a very pretty setting and the Rangers provided the fish and the cruisers did the rest. The senior Ranger (Harry) performed the official Tongan welcome and we all had a very social time.

Harry is a professional baker in a former life and he gladly shared his recipe for home made bread with Clare. The recipe has been tried on Eye Candy and turned out very well. Harry says the most important ingredient is patience.

We also had a dinghy drift for sundowners last night. We tied six dinghies together and just drifted in flat calm water while we handed around nibbles, had a few drinks and enjoyed a glorious sunset. The sky was blue, pink and grey and the cloud formation big and fluffy. How fortunate we are to enjoy such peace and calm far away from the troubles of the world.

SOME MENTAL STIMULATION
Andrew has been very busy using his SWR meter and dummy load to repair the Rangers HF radio station and their solar panels. The radio lost its tuner on the ship coming back to the island this season meaning that the Rangers had no radio communication with their base at Rarotonga. To replace their tuner and long wire antenna Andrew built a half wave dipole antenna from the bits and pieces lying around and bingo they are back on the air again. The Rangers are very happy and can now communicate to base 3 days per week to report on visiting yachts.

Andrew tracked down a couple of blown diodes in their solar panels and replaced them with others found in old solar panels to enable charging for their twelve volt batteries. He also gave them an old multi meter so now they can check on their charging.

He has also helped many of the cruisers with radio problems mostly caused by corrosion. In fact he has been so busy they almost have to book an appointment.


SO WHAT NEXT
We have some very strong wind and big seas coming in a few days as a very intense high pressure passes. So we will stay put until things settle down. We are prepared with two anchors out and floats on the anchor chain so we don't get hooked on one of the many coral heads covering the bottom. It might be a bouncing in here, but better here than out at sea.

Love Candy xx

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