We'll soon be pulling stakes here and moving west. Just finishing up a few things and waiting for a weather window. Until then, dial in the Way Back machine to our arrival some months ago in the Kingdom of Tonga after that nasty passage from New Zealand.
P.S. Carrie's done a lot of writing and she'll be posting things chronologically as much as possible to catch you up - Now with these colorful things called Photos!
June 20 - July 11, 2012
Back in Paradise (Kingdom of Tonga)
Tonga was a terrific place for us to recover and begin to gain some perspective again. We were totally exhausted from our passage from New Zealand and badly needed to rest and recover. After such a tough passage, it felt very welcoming to come back to a place we knew well. The customs people were great, they didn't charge us for coming in un-annouced nor did they take any food from the boat, not even our onions and potatoes (fresh). The fees for being in Tonga are reasonable and the dollar was stronger than it was last fall when we left Tonga. It felt good to be in a place that you knew where things are. We knew where the grocery stores were, where the market was - when it was open. We knew when the cruisers net started and which channel it was on. We knew where the ATM machine was. We knew where the good internet cafe was. And the weather was perfect - sunny and warm! We spent 4 days on the dock sleeping a lot and beginning to tackle the boat repairs. Owen discussed the broken SSB radio with the skipper of the large cat who pulled in next to us. He suggested a spray to force the salt water out of the unit. So Owen sprayed the SSB all over. The spray discolored the casing - but after it dried - it worked again (saving us a small fortune - new ones can cost up to $4000). Being on a dock made it very easy to walk into town and visit other boats.
We heard daily as we lived on the dock how bright, intelligent and alive our kids were. Our neighbor, a delivery captain was reminded of his own children, now grown, when they were aboard for long stretches. Tamsyn and Griffyn spent whole days hanging out on the big cat with its crew of 4 men (two in their early 20s). Matt, 23, enjoyed rough housing with Griffyn and Griffyn loved him. Matt would also be sailing on to Fiji.
Tamsyn caught these in her net off the dock.
After buying some food and taking on water, we decided to head out to an anchorage that we hadn't seen the first time we were here. We motored out to a crescent shaped island (anchorage #16 by the Moorings Group guide). It is a very protected bay, surrounded by low hills, sandy beaches and near two non-navigable passes in the reef (surrounding the Vava'u group of islands) - which made for very good diving. There water was blue green, clear and 80 degrees. After spending 6 months in a cold murky river, it was glorious to be able to swim, to snorkel and bathe daily. I made bread every other day and began to feel as though I had really mastered it. We ate pineapples and bananas, and the kids found lemons, limes and coconuts on shore. We spent over a week in one spot soaking up the sun. There was also fresh water available - so we were able to wash and stow away all of our fleece clothes, sleeping bags, jackets, pillows and blankets (that had kept us warm on passage and in NZ).
From our 1st morning on the dock to our last day in the anchorage, people we met openly enjoyed and played with Griffyn and Tamsyn. We were there during the New Zealand holiday (school break) so there were many families that sailed to Tonga for their holiday. They took Tamsyn and Griffyn for hikes, kayaking, swimming and play dates, leaving a little time for Owen and myself. We met Daniel and Michelle (SV Evangeline) who live on a Westsail 33 (hull number 1). Daniel is a second generation cruiser from New Zealand and his wife met him during her AFS year abroad (in New Zealand). She grew up in Hawaii, so they spend their winters either in Hawaii or New Zealand.
Michelle eating one of Carrie's famous cinnamon rolls.
We spent the 4th of July on a beach together sharing dinner and roasting marsh mellows over a fire built near the waves that eventually quenched the flames as the tide came in just after sunset. We drove our dinghy home that night across a starry bay amazed as the largest full moon we had ever seen rose into the sky showing us the way back to Madrona. It was one of the many perfect moments we had in Tonga during our three week stay. We didn't teach school, instead we made it a point to swim, to explore the waters and land, to play daily. We needed to be reminded as to why we live in such a tiny space, why we endure such tough passages.
The kids playing around with friends in anchorage 16.
More to come soon.