2 October They did not move the yacht today. Most of the other yachts that were in the current anchorage with them move out yesterday – there are now 3 of them remaining – and the anchorage they were planning on going to has a lot of boats in it, so they now plan to probably move tomorrow. The crew had a somewhat lazy day today. Leslie and Carl both went to church this morning, Carl thought his was Methodist or similar, whereas Leslie wasn’t sure what denomination hers was. She enjoyed it but said there was a bit more ‘fire and brimstone’ than she is used to, and she arrived back with some food that was given to her by a woman from another boat. I was surprised where they would find a church as there are only two very small villages close by, but Andrew said that even the smallest villages always typically have up to 4 or 5 churches. They did some reading today and watched a recorded TV program on board.
The weather has turned around to the south today and the wind come up a bit but still a pleasant day. They are all really enjoying the Vava’u area and have discussed where they will possibly spend the next few weeks. They have not heard anything attractive about the main island to the south where the capital Nuku’alofa is, so may spend more time in the current island group and the remainder in the next island group to the south, the Ha’apai group.
Andrew said that he is starting to feel a bit sad that the trip is nearing the end. I commented that they still have a month to go, but I suppose in the big picture, they started at the beginning of the year, so the end is getting close!
That’s all for today
3 October The yachties had a little bit of excitement last night. About dusk the wind came up a bit and changed direction and moved them much closer to shore – 30’ to 40’ away – so they kept a close watch on the situation over night and then moved today as anticipated to anchorage No 16, see attached map. It took about an hour to motor over to the new location where there were about 6 other yachts. A further two have arrived since. They did some snorkelling and that’s about it today for Andrew and Lisa. Don, Leslie, and Carl had gone off in the dinghy to explore a bit further up the island and were expected back shortly after we had talked. A & L were watching a movie when I called. Andrew said there has been an unusual haze in the sky for the past two days and has been reported from Fiji as well. It makes the moon very red and pretty at night so maybe some volcanic ash in the atmosphere. The locals are quite nervous about it as the last time this happened the king died!
The weather is lovely with a very calm sea and a breeze of up to 15 knots to keep the temperature within the comfort range. Dinner tonight is the curry and naan bread that was going to be on the menu last night as they had the food that Leslie had been given last evening instead. That food included some very nice fish in coconut, and octopus dish and some taro chips, etc.
They will probably stay there another couple of days and then return to Neiafu on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Everyone is fit and well and really enjoying the beautiful location.
4 October Good loud signals today. The weather is still very pleasant although the wind came up a bit over night and has continued during the day, but it helps keep things cool. Yesterday when Don, Leslie, and Carl went off in the dinghy they went to the reef that joins the north end of their island to the island above it. It was very pretty snorkelling on the reef so Andrew went up there this morning and had a snorkel as well. He says it is nearly as pretty as the Tuamotus which have been the prettiest of the trip to date. This afternoon they all walked over the island to the reef at the south east end of the island (I have attached a photo showing both the reefs discussed) and snorkelled there as well, very pretty multi-colour coral gardens and lots of fish, particularly the pretty little clown fish. The bush on the island reminds Andrew of New Zealand bush with a lot of palms added. It must have been a tiring day because some had a nap this afternoon.
Today was test day for the radio. Their radio only works on the Amateur (Ham) bands but it would be useful if it also worked on every other frequency as well so that they could join in the marine band nets as well as the normal amateur nets. I emailed them a modification a few days ago which only required the removal of one small internal component provided they could identify it successfully. The danger was that it could disable the transmitter completely. However they identified the component and crushed it with pliers (the component is so small it is almost impossible to successfully unsolder it with out damaging something else) and the radio worked as normal this evening (a few sighs of relief from this end). Tomorrow Andrew will attempt to join in with the morning Marine Net and hopefully everything will work!
There has been a steady stream of boats in and out of the bay today, and there are currently about 9 moored there for the night. Dinner tonight is spring rolls with ramen (I think that was the word) noodles (like 2 minute noodles without the unhealthy flavour sachet added (Lisa adds her own flavouring) followed by pawpaw and sticky rice for dessert. They have got quite a stock of very nice pawpaw and it is their staple dessert currently.
Tonight the plan is to go on shore and light a bonfire on the beach. Apparently they have always wanted to do that somewhere on the trip but still haven’t done so, so tonight’s the night.
If the wind continues then they will probably return to Neiafu tomorrow, if it doesn’t they probably won’t.
5 October They sailed (no motor today) the yacht back to Neiafu today, lovely weather very calm sea with a good wind of 10 to 20 knots and it took about 4 hours. They are anchored close to the shore right in the middle of town – see attached photo. Radio signals were even louder today, it was like talking to someone sitting beside you. Annette came with me today and Jack in Tauranga came on as well and the four of us must have talked for a good 45 minutes or more. They plan to stay for 5 or 6 days in Neiafu but haven’t really decided yet. They are waiting for a parcel we sent to them and one that Carl’s parents sent him. Our package was sent nearly 3 weeks ago air mail. There are daily flights from New Zealand to Nuku’alofa and multiple daily flights from Nuku’alofa to Neiafu but we gather the island Post office is basically incompetent and mail can take weeks to go anywhere. We can only live in hope that the mail arrives before they have to leave.
One of the reasons to return to Neiafu today was also to restock their food supplies. Everyone has just been given their weekly allowance from Yacht funds so they expect to eat out tonight. As they arrived into Neiafu today there was a parade going on with lots of noise and car horns blowing as apparently their 3 local rugby players had just arrived in from competing in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. They all really like Neiafu and enjoy the town, and indeed are enjoying the Vava’u island group. There is little tourism as the only way around is by boat and it is amazing how easy it is to travel around in the calm protected waters with such amazingly pretty scenery. They did light a fire on the beach last night, but it was a petite fire and couldn’t really be called a bonfire! Nice though. There is a bit of work to do on the yacht; the bilge pump is not working and needs repairing and tomorrow is the weekly boat cleaning day.
That’s about all I can remember of importance from today.
6 October This is just to let you know that Don has but a lot of photos on the yacht’s blog last night and they are very interesting, worth a look http://braincloud2011.blogspot.com/
I don’t talk to the yacht for another 6 hours or so today but just remembered something of interest that Andrew told us when we talked yesterday. On the yacht they have an ipod that has all their combined music on it and it plays continuously through their sound system when they are at sea – they all like music (although there are a few tracks that somebody put on that do drive some of the others nuts) and it is good for keeping awake on the night shifts in particular. You will remember at Niue they took a whale watch group out hunting whales one day and were told that whales are responsible for more boat sinkings than any other cause, more than storms, collisions, running aground, etc and it is because whales do not actually sleep but relax on the surface, especially at night, and shut down one half of their brain, one half is always at least partly awake. Most yachts especially non keel ones like catamarans are very quiet in the water and hence can easily run into a ‘sleeping’ whale. Whales navigate and communicate by sound so the Whale Watch Group’s recommendation is to make noise when sailing so that the whales can hear you coming, and music is ideal. So unknowingly Aldebaran’ music may well be providing much more benefit than just keeping the crew awake.
6 October Everyone has had a lovely day enjoying Neiafu. Most of them spent at least some time on the internet and Don spent most of his time on the internet, but the photos he has put on their blog are really interesting. Andrew said that he had a shower today which felt really good. They also attended a talk by a business man from Opua, which is the port they will initially arrive at in New Zealand, He gave a lot of good info on what is available in Opua and also on what conditions they might expect between Tonga and New Zealand. He apparently goes to Neiafu once a year at this time as this is when the majority of yachts do the trip to NZ.
Last night they had burgers, which are very reasonably priced, for dinner at a bar and then everyone except Andrew went on to another bar where there was a transvestite contest. Andrew said he has seen them before and he was tired so he went back to the yacht to sleep. The second bar also had 3 members of the Tongan Rugby Team present, attracting a lot of interest. I asked Andrew how they get on when the are not all together and need to use the dinghy. He said they work it out quite well, sometimes people have to wait on the shore for a while until someone notices they are there, but last night Andrew said the yacht was close to shore so he took his clothes off, left them by the shore, and swam to the yacht. He went back ashore this morning and retrieved his clothes!
Carl’s package from home has arrived but the large one I sent 3 weeks ago with coffee, tea, chocolate, sun sreen etc in it still hasn’t arrived. I think the contents, which have to be declared on the customs docket, may have been a bit too atractive for someone – hopefully not, but we do have the mail offices at both ends now trying to track it down. The crew are starting to get rid of excess equipment and Carl sold his 2 inflatable kayaks today for a good price I gather. Carl sent me a long list of what preparation he had done to import Raleigh into NZ and I passed it on to a friend of ours (a friend of Simon’s in reality) who is responsible for the import of animals into NZ. She passed it on to the Senior Adviser on the Animal Imports Team who has already responded to Carl this morning with the requirements he has to meet. I gathered that they see a lot of dogs (and some cats) that just arrive unannounced which causes real headaches, but they were quite complementary of the preparations Carl has done.
Carl put his fishing line over the stern today and caught a fish, so that will be baked with ginger and garlic for dinner. There are a few spring rolls left over as well which will be added to the menu. Tonight there is a quiz night at a local bar and they plan to go to that as they enjoy those events.
Jack came on again tonight which was nice (it’s ashame I can’t hear him – we are too close), and I left andrew talking with him when we had finished.
7 October The crew had an interesting night last night with a trivia night at a local bar. They met up with friends from the local backpackers and had an enjoyable evening. They were all back on board soon after midnight as everything in Neiafu closes at midnight. Don has put a lot of photos of last night’s revelry on their blog http://braincloud2011.blogspot.com/ At some stage they bought a pig last night! Andrew says no-one is very sure how it happened or who bought it (or perhaps no-one is admitting it!) but the plan is to try and cook it over a bonfire on the beach this evening (Leslie says it is a baby pig about 2½ feet long). To that end they moved some distance out of Neiafu this afternoon and as we spoke, Don and Carl were on shore getting a fire started. They have a number of friends who are also coming. They also have some fish and other food should the pork not be ready in time and there has been much discussion on how to cook it – throw it in the fire, elevate it on a makeshift spit over the fire, or make an umu. I think most of those suggestions will take hours to cook the meat and either they will not have pork before breakfast or they will have to cut smaller bits off it and cook them in time for dinner tonight. It will be interesting to see how they fare! They have moved about an hour out of Neiafu and I have updated the maps on http://angnz.com/aldebaran/ to show where they are now moored. They will go back to Neiafu tomorrow as Andrew, at least, wants to watch the four quarter final games in the Rugby World Cup this weekend, and to that end we will not have any radio contact for the next two days as he will be ashore. Next report will be Monday. It is a lovely evening in the little bay they are in, it is very pretty and there are a number of other yachts nearby.
Andrew went hunting our lost parcel again today and instead of phoning from the café he went and visited the Post Office. He said it reminded him of the dingy old bank buildings one would see in a western movie! The guy on duty was a really nice guy and ever so helpful. He searched the premises without success. Andrew then talked him into phoning Nukualofa where they had a hunt and found the package – it had been there since 21 September! They were full of apologies and said they had just forgotten it! How does a Post Office do that? They will send it up to Vava’u on Monday, so hopefully it will arrive next week!
It needs to be 6 months since they left Mexico for Raleigh to be allowed into NZ and they are planning on getting here a week less that the 6 months, however we got an email from Wendy today saying they should be able to offer a week's dispensation to allow Raleigh to enter New Zealand a few days earlier than he should do, which simplifies the entry.
That’s all for today
11 October After a few days back in Neiafu, the yacht has been moved to a new location (see attached map) where they plan to stay till the weekend, when they need to be back in Neiafu for the rugby! There are more maps on the web for those interested - http://angnz.com/aldebaran/ The new anchorage is very sheltered which is good as there is quite a wind blowing at present, but they are very sheltered.
The parcel that we sent 3 ½ weeks ago was expected in Vava’u today so they hope it will be there when they return this weekend. I commented that it was a shame that the parcel had held them up in Vava’u, but was told that wasn’t true; they do not want to leave Vava’u! They have moved to have a rest and Andrew was yawning quite a bit while we were talking, so I think the past few days have been full on with not a lot of sleep time! The night they moved to BBQ the piglet (lots of photos from Don on their blog http://braincloud2011.blogspot.com/ ) was a lot of fun. They had a couple of friends on board and some Australians and 5 South Africans all turned up as well. They made a spit with some sticks found nearby and roasted the pig over a small fire which they had made by transferring embers from a bigger fire so that they got heat without the flames. The fire could have been a bit hotter but the pig got cooked in a couple of hours and was lovely, I gather (for the meat eaters anyway!). They returned to Neiafu the next morning as their friends on board were flying out that day.
Back in Neiafu on Sunday, Carl went to church in the afternoon, and Andrew, Carl, and Leslie climbed up the nearby Mount Talau (also shown on the attached map). It is a National Park and although it is only 130 metres above sea level it provides a great view of Neiafu and the islands. Andrew watched the rugby on Sunday and managed about an hour of Bathurst (this is an annual car race over a very hilly course in Australia for the northern hemisphere readers). Yesterday they spent some time with their friends on the motor vessel Eden (Adam & Eve). They have seen them a number of times since meeting in the Marquesas, but Eden is heading for Fiji and then Australia so they won’t see them again.
Everyone on board is fit and well and enjoying themselves.
12 October The yacht is still anchored at yesterday’s location and they plan to stay there till Friday when they will return to Neiafu. It has rained quite a bit today and it blew a lot over night so they haven’t done a lot since we last talked. Andrew had just had his afternoon nap. They did meet up with people that have met before and a number of new people on some of the adjacent yachts, including some North Americans, and all the yachts are ultimately heading for New Zealand. They also met a New Zealand couple who went sailing in the Pacific and loved it so much they have been sailing for the past 16 years (one would need an income that doesn’t need any personal input to be able to do that!). They heard that one yacht crew had found some lobsters locally so Andrew rowed around to find that yacht and then went and checked out the lobsters, but they were all too small. One of the boats he called on was a floating art gallery with some interesting exhibits on board. They watched a recorded TV show this afternoon.
Leslie and Carl are currently doing the dishes and Lisa is starting to prepare dinner. All are well and enjoying the rest in a lovely bay.
13 October Had a good chat with Andrew today. We were just commenting how good radio signals have been virtually all the time they have been in Tonga, and the noise levels have been low as well which helps.
Carl got up at a reasonable time this morning but the others all had an extended sleep in, Andrew till about 8am and the other three till 10am, just catching up on sleep! Leslie and Carl went snorkelling this morning and saw some interesting starfish, Carl took Raleigh for a swim too. They all went over and visited the ‘Art’ boat, ok art but lovely people. This afternoon they all went onto the beach where Lisa and Leslie cut Andrew and Carl’s hair. Carl is currently visiting friends on a yacht nearby and the others are watching a movie on the computer.
We discussed the elusive package that we posted 4 weeks ago and Andrew traced to Nuku’alofa Post Office last Friday. I phoned The Aquarium Café today but they hadn’t seen it, so I phoned the Vava’u Post Office and they haven’t seen it, so I phoned the Nuku’alofa Post Office and yes they remember it, they forwarded it on to Vava’u yesterday, so maybe it will turn up shortly! Pitiful service really.
They are going to return to Neiafu tomorrow and probably use the motor as their batteries are getting down a bit because they have not seen much sun recently. They still haven’t decided on their plans from here but definitively plan on reaching New Zealand about the 14th-15th November. They will come in to a port called Opua which is a few hours north of Auckland, just in case anyone was thinking of coming out here to meet them. We will head north a few days before they are due with the plan of meeting them. What will happen from there we don’t know, but Raleigh will have a few weeks in quarantine I imagine. We will probably stay up there for a week at least but that will depend on what they might need us to do. We will take the van up as that is our only means of talking to them when on the road and it also seats 7 which is convenient. I’ll keep you all informed of their plans, but I’m sure they will be in contact with family etc in due course.
Cheers for now
14 October The crew left the anchorage, that they had been at for the last 3 or 4 days, about 11 this morning and stopped at Swallows Cave (see map) on the way back to Neiafu. Swallows cave is a large cave that is open to the outside so they didn’t have to dive to enter it as they did at Mariners Cave. They stopped the yacht outside and swam/snorkelled into the large cave which had a lot of bats in it and schools of little fish and not much else. The cave is in a vertical cliff about 60’ high but it continues straight down under the water. The bottom was not viewable on the depth sounder so must be >180’ down. For this reason they couldn’t anchor at the entrance so just let the yacht drift with at least one person on board at all times in case it needed moving, while the others swam into the cave. It was not as spectacular as Mariners Cave.
Back at Neiafu, early afternoon, Andrew went to check on the missing parcel – it wasn’t there so they phoned Nuku’alofa again to be told it was still there and would be sent next week! That’s what they said a week ago, and I got told yesterday that it had been sent on Wednesday, so either they are grossly incompetent or untruthful or both. I suppose it’s possible that the package has been pilfered at the Nukualofa Post Office and they are now just making up stories to cover that up. If it doesn’t come next week they yachties will leave anyway and I’ll start a process to highlight the problem to Tongan authorities. For a Country that survives on tourism it is not a good look.
Everyone went ashore when they arrived back in Neiafu to use the internet and get supplies and everyone is back on board now except Carl who is still at the Aquarium Café on the internet. Later this evening they are going ashore to have a drink with friends they met in Bora Bora. The plan for the weekend is to watch the rugby on Saturday and Sunday evenings and perhaps have a good walk possibly to the airport.
That’s all for now and I didn’t manage to send this last night as we were going out for dinner and then I forgot when we got home, so sorry it’s a bit late.
Monday 17 October.
We haven’t spoken over the weekend but the crew have had enjoyable time apart from Saturday when there was torrential rain all day. They watched the rugby semi-final between Wales and France on Saturday night to see France win, by one point, a match that was very lacklustre and should have been won by Wales who had all the territory and the ball but couldn’t turn it into points. Our crew booked a table at a local bar for the second semi-final on Sunday evening, between Australia and New Zealand. They had a group of about 20 yachties and the bar was full plus about 50 to 60 locals all looking in from the outside. A good fast game that saw NZ win reasonably easily. Now NZ have to play France next weekend in the final, which should be a walk in the park, however a poorly performing French team has caused some upsets in the past so we need to be careful!
Today they have had a busy day but not very specific. Carl and Andrew got up early and went and got their sausage rolls from the local bakery. I didn’t clarify it but the indication was that this is a regular visit! They all had a swim this morning and have found that swinging out onto the water on a halyard on the yacht’s mast makes it much more fun! This afternoon has been chores. Don and Andrew were on dishes this afternoon and Leslie and Lisa have been in the galley preparing for a Mexican meal tonight with friends on another two yachts. The people are all from LA and are travelling together, for some years I gather. One is a film director who was possibly going to show them one of his films tonight for their comments. Another, Jack, is an engineer from LAX (Los Angeles airport) who sounds as though he has an interesting job. They didn’t do their walk this weekend to the airport but Andrew wants to do that so maybe tomorrow.
We discussed the trip from Vava’u to New Zealand . They have been exploring the weather on the internet and have decided that later this week they will go to the next Tongan island group to the south, Ha’apai, then when the weather is suitable they will head south to Minerva Reef where there is some shelter in rough weather, providing it doesn’t get too rough. Minerva Reef is an atoll where the coral is at sea level at high tide. It has belonged to Tonga for a long time but there is a bit of a battle going on with Fiji who claims that no-one can own it as it isn’t an island at high tide. When a suitable weather window arrives they will go directly from Minerva reef to Opua in New Zealand. Ha’apai to Minerva is 3 to 4 days sailing and Minerva to NZ about 7 to 8 days. They do have an island group including Raoul Island which is about halfway which can provide some protection from rough seas if necessary.
The saga of the parcel from NZ continues. I phoned Nuku’alofa Post Office again today and asked to speak to the supervisor/manager this time. Tye supervisor is a very helpful lady called Sarni, who said that it had been sent last week, but she would check with Vava’u post office to see if they had received it, and could I call back. I phoned back 20 minutes later and she said she had made a mistake it was still in their office! I asked if she could explain why it had been in their office for 4 weeks and she said it was waiting for a flight! When I pointed out that there were multiple daily flights daily, she said that there was one today and she would make sure it was on it. We will have to wait and see again, but she has asked me to phone her again tomorrow.