Tag Archives: kid boat

6 weeks in Tonga: part one- Vava’u September 2018

img_1785img_1789Upon our arrival into Tonga, we felt a mixture if great relief and anticipation. We were relieved to be somewhere that we knew we would be at for about 6 weeks and were  anticipating the next step… were we going to get Josie to work in US as a travel nurse again for a 3 month assignment or wait for work in New Zealand.  We had to get both lined up a some point.  Josie’s work in New Zealand  should probably start sometime late December or early January.  Lots to think about and lots of fun to be had at the same time. Finding the balance of continuing the enjoyment of cruising and being responsible to keep the kitty fund coming can be a challenge.

Lets first have fun and worry about the other stuff as it comes up.

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Check into the country: check. Get Pa’anga (Tongan Money) from the ATM: check. Fresh produce from the local produce market: check. Walk around to town to get the general feel for things, check. Find our cruising friends, some of which we hadn’t seen since Tahiti, check check.  Neiafu is a small, but popular port of entry for Tonga in the northern group of islands called the Vava’u Island Group. It lies in the upper group of Tonga.fbd5ce09-0e7f-4b3c-90bd-c455a94a98d3

Checking in was pretty easy, the docking, not so much. The industrial dock is not super small sailing yacht friendly. It’s weather dependent,  has limited space, and tidal dependant.  We happen to have it to ourselves, but it isn’t uncommon for there to be 2-3 boats side tied to each other waiting for many hours for the check-in or check-out process.  This is also the only supposed place to get duty free fuel, which by the sounds of the radio chatter wasn’t quite that easy of a process and was not to be relied on.  Anchoring is also very limited. Most of the waters were at least 70 feet-120 deep up right near to shore and known for some rocky bottoms.  Basically, you crossed your fingers that there was a mooring available. We lucked out, someone had just left one.img_1597Mango Bar and Grill was where most of the cruisers would take their dinghies into shore and tie up.

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Taj driving the dinghy back out to the boat.

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A little boys club time at the Mango bar and grill

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We spent a few days on the mooring just off of Neiafu, exploring the town, visiting friends, meeting new friends, accessing wi-fi, finding the local butcher shop, and pondering what anchorages we should visit over the next 6 weeks.  Tonga has this weird, and thought to be rude by some, anchorage naming phenomenon.  Instead of the proper Tongan names for the anchorages, they have assigned numbers associated to them. This all started with the Moorings charter company. It was easier to provide anchorage numbers to the charter boats than for the people to read and pronounce the names of each anchorage.  I have to admit, as much as we tried to avoid using the #’s and be respectful to the Tongan people, it was a lot easier to use the #’s to let people know where we were at or heading to.  It just became what people did with the exception of a few more popular places.  Hopefully, at some point, the # names will be lost and the traditional Tongan names will be used again.

There were over 40 different anchorages in the Vava’u Island group of Tonga. You can see Moorings Tongan Cruising Guide in the link above or here.

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Noonsite also has some useful information on the latest Tonga info.  It’s all about the “latest” as it is ALWAYS changing season to season. Most of the anchorages are fair weather anchorages only, but there a few good ones that a really protected from specific wind directions. We happened to be in Tonga during one of the most windy 6 week stretches of the year, so we were a bit limited on where we went. But we made the best of it and we were with great people, so all was good.

I’m not sure what happened to my anchorage/ farkwar tracking abilities during our time in Tonga. I’m pretty sure I was just trying to enjoy every bit of it that I could in that moment before I had to leave for work and then move to New Zealand for more work. I’ll try my best to re-hash some memories of our time in the Vava’u group (part 1 of our 6 weeks in Tonga).

August 30th: Maurelle bay (anchorage 7), Tonga. After 5 days of “big city” Neiafu life, we ventured out to our first anchorage in Tonga. Maurelle Bay. This lovely spot would end up being where we frequented the most,  with the exception of trips to Neiafu town to re-stock.  Maurelle was just a quick few hours out of town and a beautiful little bay that can fit a good number of your friend’s boats. There was 4 mooring balls that were available and then probably room for about 7 more boats to anchor.  A local would come by to collect a “donation”, I forget how much it was, but it wasn’t too much and  you could stay 5 days with it, but if you left and came back you would have to pay again. A bit funny, but we got over it.  The bay offered swimming, snorkelling, beach walking and easy(ish) access to the caves that are well known in Tonga. Mariners Cave and Swallows Cave.  Swallows Cave offered bats and clear water with many bait fish swimming around in formation. Super cool and easy for the kids. We did see a sea snake in there though…eeek.  Mariners is one of the more popular caves for having to dive down through and up into the open, dark cave. There is a swim through that’s anywhere from 6 feet to 12 feet deep depending on the tide and another one much deeper at  13-15 meters (44-50 feet).  S/V Muskoka took a bunch of us out to Mariner’s Cave and has a bit of footage of me diving down and through the deep tunnel. Here’s the link to their youtube video. The dive can be found at ~5min 10sec of the 14 min video.  (There is also a clip of Taj during one of his many frequent visits to S/v Muskoka : at 7min).

S/V Soggypaws has some good info on the dive sites and many other useful information for Tonga.

September 3rd: Kenutu (anchorage 30), Tonga.  This anchorage was out on the outskirts a bit, but worth the trip. One must follow the chart closely through a bit of a zigzag channel and go with good lighting to avoid running aground or on a reef.  This sweet spot held a good number of boats and offered more beach activities as well as dinghy sailing and kite surfing.  Kenutu was where we made cookies for the anchorage and had all the kids come paddle by the boat to pick them up.  Watch the short video below.

We shared many anchorages with many lovely cruisers. We had a dinghy raft up pot-luck, beach bon-fires, many sun-downers rotating between the different boats, pizza parties, birthday parties, and the occasional quiet evenings alone on our own boat.

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Calazone making aboard SV Anilaimg_1724

The video above was taken on one of my swims in Tapana Bay (anchorage #11). Zen life underwater.img_1788

The video below is when we had a impromtu boatfitness session aboard SV Muskoka.  I gave a little TRX demo / instruction and Laurie Ritchie added her professional Physio tips.

While we were there, we did get to experience a few cultural events. Sunday church is a HUGE thing in Tonga. In fact, most everything is closed on Sundays and the only thing to do is go to church. We are not church goers ourselves, but Nina and I went with a few other cruising families to get that experience. “Wow!”, is about all I can say. The attire that some of the locals wear and the songs they sing are amazing!. We went to the Catholic mass, but a few other cruisers went to the other sermans as well.   The experience is worth every bit of the effort.

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St. Joseph’s Cathedral

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As for the “traditional Tongan feast”, we hopped onto a luncheon at Ene’io Botanical Garden that a few other cruisers signed up for. It’s organised through one of the ex-pat tourist coffee shops in town.  A van picked us up and drove us out and over to the feast location. Apparently its this family farm that goes back many generations. Tours can be arranged for the full farm, but we just did the meal. I believe the meal alone was $40/person. I could be mistaken though, as it was a while ago. Again, just Nina and I went for this event. The roasted pig was as anticipated. I would say the rest of the food was so so. I think the best part was more about the whole experience, the attmoshphere and the people we were with more than food itself.  End result, we probably wouldn’t do this particular one again, but if we met a family and they invited us over for a traditional dinner, we would indeed be extatic to participate.08166056-ae0b-4cc6-8e32-e526641d9564

As time was ticking, it was time to start thinking about work.  There was play time and then there was a little thinking about “should I get a travel nurse assignment in The States or try to start work ASAP in New Zealand?”  First step was to look further into New Zealand Immigration  for what I’ll need to do to get a work visa and move to the next step from there.  As we looked into it further it became clear that the best way to go would be to apply for a job and get the job offer first and then apply for the visa.  If all went well with that, the visa would probably take a few months to go through. With that in mind, we decided it would be best for me to pick up a travel assignment back in San Francisco as long as the hospital  in New Zealand was willing to wait for a start date in January 2019.

Sure enough, everything happened to fall right into place. I was able to apply for NICU position at the level 3 NICU in Wellington, New Zealand, get in contact with them to set up an interview all the while setting up a travel assignment in the United States.  I was able to do all of this thanks to the affordable sim cards in Tonga and an APP called MagicJack to call internationally along with a few iridiumGo calls when there was no service available.  As I was organizing my travel assignment, Wellington Hospital offered to do a phone/skype interview. I loaded up my SIM card, had fellow cruisers watch the kids, and Christian motored our boat to an anchorage that we knew would be quiet and had cell coverage in order for me to have the clear call. I dressed up for the part, Christian went for a standup paddleboard tour around the island while I rang in for the interview. Wow, what a cool experience. I doubt many people could say that they had a phone interview off a remote island in Tonga. The interview went well. They were willing to wait until January if they offered the job, I just needed to wait a few days for their response. I rang up the travel nurse recruiter to confirm “a go” for 13 week assignment starting mid October to early January. Then a few days later I was offerend the New Zealand job!!! INCREDIBLE!

With all that excitement, we celebrated of course. But we also had to change gears for getting me to Tongatapu to fly out by October 9th.  We had more places to go, more time to play, but on more of a time schedule. We also had to arrange for our friend, Nic, from S/V Cielo Grande, to fly out to Tonga to help sail Shawnigan down to New Zealand.

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Maurelle Bay

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Play dates with other boat kids! (Representing Counting Stars, Magic and La Cigale)

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Playtime aboard Shawnigan

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Taj trying to explain how to play “chest” (as he calls it).

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Tall Ship Picton Castle

Taj had to have this cottonball in his ear due to a really bad ear infection. It started as just an ear ache and a fever that turned into many days later still having it with a sudden continuous drainage of gunk. We ended up giving him antibiotic and thankfully within a week it was mostly clear up. Our friends on Anila had an Otoscope that they loaned us and from what we could tell, the eardrum was ruptured, and pretty severely. For the remaining time in Tonga, the poor kid had to be really careful about not going underwater or making sure that he had waxy ear plugs in if he did.  I cant help but wonder if the germs from Christian’s staph infections were hanging out on the boat and got into Taj’s ear. I think that’s the nurse in me, but we’ll never know and it all turned out ok.

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A little boat making project with dad.

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Giving the boat a go…

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Facebook video call with Ellamae, who was in Florida. Thay aren’t real tears, but sometimes I sure felt that they could be.

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Fish and Chips out on the water- I just realised that it actually says “fish and chip”… you do get more than one chip with your order.

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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.

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.

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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.

Bora Bora – Society Group – French Polynesia

Raiatea  was hard to leave. We were not super thrilled about going to Bora Bora. As I write this I realize how funny that sounds. Most people would be extremely excited to visit Bora Bora. For us, however, it was a stop we need to do in order to check out of French Polynesia by the end of our 90 day visa. And we knew it was a stop that was going to be heavier on the pocket book. We arrived August 5th, 2018 just in time to check out.Screenshot (338)

Checking out of Bora Bora has been reported as a easy process. The location of the offices relative to where you moor the boat is fairly close. That being said, there are very limited options to anchor, leaving $$$ mooring only options.  We moored up at the Maikai Marina Yacht Club in Vaitape. It sounds fancier than it is and the included wifi is very slow. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our stay and the kids enjoyed the pool, when they were allowed (not always an occurrence). We ended up paying for 5 days there because it was cheaper than paying for 3 days.  Not all 5 days were spent there though. We were able to sail over to the east side of the island for a few days to check that out. I think our timing must not have been optimal. We heared wonderful things about the eastern side, but for us, it was windy and not the best conditions for exploring. The view, however was spectacular. And to top it off, we were anchored, FOR FREE, right in front of the high paying customers in the Four Seasons and St. Regis Resort.IMG_5099S/V La Cigale anchored near us.IMG_5100Screenshot (352)We had these two men join us for a bit of fun… they were using our wake for a lift. It was great fun, but what we didn’t realise was that they scuffed up our “new” paint job on the hull. Hmmm, a bummer indeed, but left lasting memories of the fun it was and the smiles they gave us.Screenshot (353)Screenshot (350)Screenshot (348)Screenshot (345)Screenshot (344)Screenshot (341)Screenshot (339)

The Bajka Boys, Catherine from La Cigale and Taj enjoying the ambiance at the MaiKai.

Aiden from Sv Tranquilo sharing his toys with Taj .

All over the Society Islands, huge graffiti murals have been placed. Bora Bora hosts many of them.

Fellow sailing family from S/Y C’est Si Bon

From Bora Bora (our last official French Polynesian island) , we sailed off the mooring ball at Maikai Marina, out to Maupiti, through the narrow pass and onto the hook next to our friends on La Cigale and Bajka.

The last picture of our asymmetrical before she completely blew apart (off of Suwarrow, 700 miles later).

 

Raiatea – Society Islands – French Polynesia

 

Just west of Huahine is Ra’iatea. After spending about a week here, we decided that Ra’iatea is one of our favorite places so far. There is just something about the feeling, the vibe of the island that is alluring. We arrived July 30th. While were there we got to paddle up a river in Fa’aroa bay to a plantation, where we were invited to tour and take produce. We ended up with so much fruit and veggies that we did pay for it as well as trade for some said needed items that we had aboard the boat.

James kayaked out to invite us to his family plantation.Taj on paddleboardjosie on paddleboardJosie goofing on PaddleboardJosie and rambutin

From the east pass entrance at Fa’aroa Bay, we anchor hopped southbound until we reached the south pass, until finally exciting to make way to Bora Bora.

Fa’aroa Bay:

Rafted up with S/V La CigaleRafted up, Raiatea

Taj helping clean the dry food storage area.

Raiatea’s famous Marae Taputapuatea:

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another obligatory spiritual grounds handstand

A “map” of how all of the South Pacific islands are connected and meet at Raiatea as the
center for their cultural rituals.

Fetuna:

Boat teens jump off SV Bellini

Daddy DIY school

Typical Boat Storage set up.Next up… Bora Bora

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