Tag Archives: cruising with kids

6 weeks in Tonga: Part 2 – The Ha’apai group and Tongatapu September-October 2018

Okay okay I’m officially way over a year behind on my posts. Since leaving Tonga to do a travel nursing assignment and then moving to New Zealand to work full time and have the kids in school, I have to be honest, blogging hasn’t been at the top of my to do list.  And to be honest, the ease of using Instagram for posting current photos has taken over my usual blogging effort. That being said, I do understand that not everyone is on Instagram and I usually don’t write as much there either. My apologies.  But I persist none the less, so here it is, over a year later, the second part of our Tonga sailing adventures.  This one isn’t going to be too juicy, as I feel like we really didn’t do that much after leaving the Vava’u Group of Tonga. 

Tonga: Part 2.

Nothing like a little last minute, fly by the seat of your pants plan making… Nursing job in NZ offered, travel assignment in California accepted, confirmation from our friend Nic to fly out and help Christian sail… all to leading us to plan our sailing in Tonga to arrive in Tongatapu by Oct 10th in order for me (Josie) to fly out and Nic to fly in.

#teenytinyoptics

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From the Vava’u group, we headed south to the next group of islands called the Ha’apai Group. This group of islands are less inhabited and more pristine.  Supposedly there are more whales here as well, but while we were there the wind was steadily 20+kts , making the whale watching not so happening. We found ourselves anchored in front of a a cruiser friendly “resort” called “Sea Change Eco Retreat” off of the Uoleva Island.  They have a great beach bar with nice cold drinks, local Tongan beer and good french press coffee.  What more could you ask for on a remote island in Tonga.  Apparently, this was the area where the mutiny on the Bounty started.  We didn’t get any bad vibes from this place, even with that history.  And honestly, I think this Uoleva was one of the highlights of Tonga despite the constant wind and probably the one place we would want to go back to if we sail back there. I think we would have to learn to kite surf to really have a blast there.

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Time was closing in and groups of cruisers started to part ways as each one’s timeline for heading to New Zealand started to differ. We had a few “last” dinners with the last of the cruisers around us ( SV Caramor, Counting Stars, Blue Zulu, Dol Selene), taking turns having each boat over for dinner on our boat or us on theirs.  This starting feeling like the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

img_1830Taj, you have a friend on your shoulder.img_1827Took a sail to town aboard S/V Blue Zulu. Always nice to sail on another boat once in a while. img_1822Kid crew from SV Counting Stars, Blue Zulu and Shawnigan on our visit to town.

IMG_52111864ed0e-3c41-467d-85cd-405e766f9898IMG_3285IMG_3289S/V Counting Stars heading out just after us… also catching the whale sighting.

On our way out of Uoleva to the southern end of the Ha’apai group, we spotted some whales! What a lovely departure gift.  That day we sailed down to Lolofutu where we anchored for a night and met the caretaker aboard the catamaran Wildlife,  a whale watching charter adventure boat .  Not only were they cool, like minded people, but they happen to have kids eager to meet our kids. Always love a new “kid boat”.  They were planning to head to Tongatapu soon as well, so our parting farewell was easy knowing we would meet again soon.

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After a great passage down to Tongatapu, we found anchor room in front of Big Mama’s Yacht Club, a well known facility among the cruisers. It use to be a hopping spot, but after a hurricane a few years back that wiped it out, it hasn’t quite recovered, but its getting there.

We spent a few days wondering around the main part of the city.  A large part of one morning was spent trying to find the immigration/port captain to check out of the country.  We walked and walked which felt great. There were many churches, local schools,  clinics, restaurants. There was little to be desired as far as finding good food in Tongatapu though. We found it safest to stick with our own meals on the boat.  However, there was one pizza place though that was pretty good, thanks to S/V Wildlife crew’s recommendation.  The most important thing though…, we found coffee and wifi. A cruisers dream.

img_1941Tonga probably has as many churches as they have house… well, not really, but there are an aweful lot.  Here’s an old one that was just abandoned and fenced off. So beautiful. Its too bad they dont renovate it and keep it in use or make it into a museum of sorts. img_1942img_1944img_1943img_1893Another church…img_1872img_1886Tongans really hold high value on the deceased… especially the Royal Family. img_1887img_1878Nina getting her hair cut before heading down to New Zealand. img_1904October 9th, 2018: The Family taking me to the airport… a dinghy ride to shore, a taxi to the Nukualofa Airport.  I’ll be away for 3 months, working as a Travel Nurse in California, without seeing them again until I fly to New Zealand with Ellamae in tow. img_1903

img_1819An example of Taj’s homeschooling alphabet art. He attached the dinosaur to the flower.

 

Suwarrow – Cook Islands

From Maupiti we set sail for Suwarrow, not certain that we would actually stop there. 5 days and 700 miles later, we made landfall  August 22nd, 2018.

Suwarrow is one of the most northern of the 15 Cook Islands, which are self governing, but in free association with New Zealand. Its a bit out of the way, but on the way to Tonga. We had the option of going the rhumb (straight) line from Maupiti to Tonga, take the more southern route to Palmerston, or take the more northern route to Suwarrow. Most of our cruising friends that left before us went to Suwarrow and raved about it. A few went to Palmerston, but history has it as a fair weather only stop, and the weather was not predicted to be so fair.  And rather than doing a straight shot 1,200 miles to Tonga, we opted to aim toward Suwarrow, keep and eye on the weather and as long as it was looking good to stop, we would.

Sail by the wind Jellies that we caught
and released. Their real name is Velella Velella . Also known as sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail, or simply Velella .

Our departure from Maupiti was seamless. We made it out the pass and turned west. The wind was great, perfect for the asymmetrical. We had her flying for a while, it was smooth sailing.  Then the wind started to pick up and as I was saying to Christian that we should probably take down the A-sail, we heard a tearing sound. The sail completely tore down the center and across the top. We quickly got it down and unfurled the jib.  The unfortunate part of this, besides loosing our A-sail, was that we had already took down our 150 genoa sail and exchanged it for the 120. The shape of our 120 is great and it made for a more comfortable sail, but our speed wasn’t what it could be if we had the 150 out. No matter though, the next day the wind picked up more and the 120 was more than enough. We made it to Suwarrow. The wind was strong as we came in. Bajka was already there, as well as La Cigale.

Good night sun and good bye asymmetrical 😦

The Island was beautiful! We had heard that it was watched over by two Rangers (caretakers), Harry and John. We got a very warm welcome from these two men, when they motored their skiff out to our boat to check us in to the country. After talking with them we learned that they get brought in on a supply ship with supplies from one of the southern islands called Rarotonga, the largest Cook Island, and stay for 6-7 months at a time without re-supply.  These two rangers were so awesome. They had the best attitudes, and were so kind to share “their space” with us cruisers. Many nights they allowed us to have potlucks and bonfires on the beach and would join us for the fun. Most nights included musical jam sessions as well, so we heard…

We ended up staying for only one night. We arrived in the morning, checked in, stayed the night and then left the next afternoon. The weather window looked good to leave and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck there for 3 weeks with the limited provisions we had left, plus another 700 mile sail. As soon as we arrived, Bajka and LA Cigale came to pick up the kids to do the Geocaching activity that was started a month or so earlier by another sailing family on S/Y Moya.

So after a evening potluck with music, and a morning of checking out the island, learning a bit from the rangers about the local medicinal plants, checking out the local feeding frenzy of sharks, then checking out of the country, we set sail for Tonga.

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Maupiti – Society Islands – French Polynesia

Maupiti: August 12th, 2018. Our last French Polynesian island… after Bora Bora .

We sailed off the mooring ball in Bora Bora, out the pass on the west side of the island, hoisted the asymmetrical, and aimed for Maupiti. Shortly afterwards, we had to douse the asymmetrical and go with the 120 due to wind direction.  We weren’t entirely sure that we would make it into Maupiti. The passage is narrow, and with any sizeable south swell the entrance would not be passable. On that same note, we might be able to get in, but if the swell picks up while we are in there, we would be stuck.  The weather forecast looked promising, so we were going for it. S/V Bajka was already on their way, as well as S/V La Cigale.

The sail over was a just a day sail, but again as with all of the passes and atolls in the South Pacific, you always want to have good day light to be able to see any under water obstetrical.  S/V La Cigale made it in well before we did, so Xavier got out the drone and filmed us sailing in through the pass. The entry, even without a large south swell was exciting.  There was not much room for error, and we were under sail power only. I stayed at the helm and Christian made sail adjustments and verbal instructions.  We enjoy being able to sail on and off the hook (anchor or mooring in this instance) for the challenge and for the pleasure of not having to use fuel. We made it through the pass and up into the southern anchorage, and found a spot between our friends La Cigale and Bajka.

If you look at the screenshot of Maupiti, above, you will notice the narrow pass in which we sailed through.IMG_3134IMG_3142IMG_3140

We spent the next few days there in the southern anchorage and in the anchorage just east of the inner island. Our friends on S/V Bellini, who we met over in Raiatea, were also already here as well. The population of Maupiti is extremely small. Provisions are limited, but there are a few fresh fruit stands and a bakery.  Since we weren’t sure we were going to stop here or not, we spent the last of our French Polynesian money in Bora Bora, so no fresh food for us.

While Christian went for a long  SUP paddle, myself and other families went diving with the huge Manta Rays!

Josie with the Manta.

Nina

Taj

Christian had already SUP circumnavigated the whole inner island, but the mountian that stood so grand above was calling our name.  We first attempted to do it with our friends on S/V Bellini, but it was a little too late in the afternoon. We made it about half-way by the time the sunset, so we turned around with plans to do it with the other kid boats another day.img_1403img_1394-1

Our next go at it, S/V Bajka and La Cigale went as well. What an amazing adventure!

Watch our quick video below:

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After a few days in Maupiti, our weather window to sail the five days (700 miles) to Suwarrow, Cook Islands,  was up.  Again, we weren’t entirely sure that we would stop in Suwarrow.  If the weather window was closing to head to Tonga, we were going to bypass Suwarrow, but if the weather was going to give us even just a few days there, we would take it. It would have been a bummer to sail right past the Cook Islands, but weather dictates.

Screenshot (332)Screenshot (333)Screenshot (336)Screenshot (363)Lucy off of La Cigale on her SUP for our last sunset in French Polynesia.

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Church with an anchor cross 🙂

img_1423Picking up some fresh produce at a roadside stand with fellow cruisers on S/Y Bajka.

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House of shells and coral.

img_1422The  S/V Bajka Boys are good boat buddies for Taj. img_1419-1img_1410Many houses have their deceased family members buried out in their front yard.