Nov 052008
 

Watching the election and pickin at the Billfish bar in Nukualofa, Tonga
Watching the election and pickin at the Billfish bar in Nukualofa, Tonga

Well I was supposed to be gone yesterday…and I was kind of. Turns out that I’m back in Nukualofa after a false start and was able to catch the election coverage today at the Billfish. We got to the bar at 10am Tongan time, which was about an hour before the first of the East coast polls closed and stuck around through Obama’s victory speech. It was an amazing day. We muted the TV and picked songs through all the commercial breaks, and then spent the rest of the time trying to explain the electoral college to the non-Americans. I’m very excited to see what Obama will do. It was definitely worthwhile delaying our departure to NZ.

Speaking of taking off for New Zealand. Well yesterday, I finished taking on water and was all ready to go. I just needed to get out of the harbor so that I could scrub the bottom. Well, there was a northwesterly wind coming in and no real protection anywhere to anchor and dive the hull. I finally selected a spot 6 miles out to the West on my way out of the group. Well, the reef that I anchored behind was only partially awash, and there was quite a chop running while I cleaned the hull, so much so that I was taking a lot of water through my snorkel. Well I got pretty sick and had to lie down for a bit. Not 10 minutes later, Tate came down to alert me to the thunder storm rapidly descending on us. Well where I was anchored was no good, there just wasn’t any protection. So we raised the hook and tried to motor around inside the reefs to avoid the 2 thunder cells coming through. We quickly realized that we weren’t going to avoid the weather, so I decided to just head for the pass through the reef a mile away. It was shortly after that ill fated decision, that a bolt of lightening hit the water right in the pass we were heading for, close enough to blind me for a little while (maybe ½ mile away). So out came the jumper cables to hang in the water from the rigging to give the lightening a path to ground that doesn’t go through my boat. Then it was time to put all the movable electronics in the oven. Once that was done, I went ahead and decided that I wasn’t meant to sail to NZ that day and I slowly motored back to the quay. It looks like the next window to leave won’t be until Saturday, though now I’m beginning to doubt that I’m ever going to make it out of Tonga.

 Posted by at 8:32 pm
Oct 302008
 

The internet’s a bit slow here in Tonga, but I thought that I’d try to get up all my pics for the last few months before I took off for New Zealand. I’ve taken over 600 pictures of Tonga, but I’ve whittled it down to a semi-reasonable number to actually put online:

Photos from Tonga

 Posted by at 12:24 pm
Oct 292008
 

Dodging cows on the wrong road on Lifuka:
Biking on Lifuka

Aguja, Veleda and Bodhran all safely got into Nukualofa yesterday after a 16 hour beat hard on the weather from the Ha’apai group. Fortunately the wind wasn’t stronger or we’d still be out there.
The Ha’apai group treated us well with good snorkeling, good sailing and beautiful anchorages. I sure would have like to spend more time there, but I’ve got a plane to catch in New Zealand and cyclone season is fast approaching.

We spent a couple days in Pangai after the last post. We went for and epic bike ride from Lifuka up to Foa island on some very questionable rental bikes. The heat was brutal, but the cold beers back at the Mariner’s cafe were to die for. Of course we played music again and got a pretty good group of Tongan kids to play percussion for us.

Nothing like closing the one road on the island to wait for a plane to land:
Waiting to cross the runway

Crossing the bridge to Foa island:
Crossing the bridge to Foa Island

Hanging out on the beach on Foa Island:
Hanging out on the beach on Foa Island

Lauren and half of our drumming section at Mariner’s:
Lauren and the girls

Niki and Lauren getting all the minis dancing out in the street:
Niki, Lauren and the girls dancing

From Lifuka we sailed a whopping 5 miles down to Uoleva island where we anchored off a very cool, low profile resort that is being constructed by an American, Patty and her Tongan partner Sammy. Uoleva has the nicest beach I’ve seen in the South Pacific, good snorkeling and a big calm anchorage.  As an added bonus Patty likes to through dinner/bon fire parties on the beach. We had a couple of good ones during the 3 days we were there.

Jim, Niki and Tate pickin on Patty’s beach:
Jim, Niki and Tate pickin on Patty's beach

Myself Sammy and Patty:
Myself Sammy and Patty on Patty's beach

From there we made a 20 mile jump to the south end of the Ha’apai and anchored for one night off Ha’afeva before making the 80 mile jump down to Nukualofa. I’ll be here until the weather looks good for the crossing to New Zealand, but more than likely I’ll be leaving in the next 3 days. It’ll take 10-15 days to get across to New Zealand. I’ll get up another post when I get there.

 Posted by at 2:34 pm
Oct 202008
 

Our landfall anchorage on Ha’ano Island:
Our landfall anchorage on Ha'ano Island

Well believe it or not, I finally got out of the Vava’u group. It was nice spending 7 weeks in one place, but it made it really hard to get up and sail away. Actually we still didn’t get out the day that I was trying for. Veleda, Aguja and I were all going to head out to Ha’apai together, but the day we were going to leave it was raining, we weren’t all that motivated and then this Newport 30 named Tallwater anchored next to us with a bunch of 20 something cruisers on it and we started drinking Vodka. After the first bottle we decided that there was no way we were leaving that day, so we called up the Bounty Bar on the vhf and arranged to play one last show up there.

Laurence, the owner of the Bounty Bar who took great care of Tate, Bonnie, Greg and I while we were in Neiafu:
Laurence from the Bounty Bar

As it turns out Niki off Tallwater and I really hit it off and so I invited her along for the cruise through the Ha’apai group with Tate and I. She’s going to meet back up with Tallwater in Nukualofa, but the next week or so Bodhran has gone from the single-handing bachelor boat to having a crew of 3 and the good times are rolling on.

Niki, My new crew I poached off Tallwater ( you can check out her blog here ):
Niki Beckman

The sail down to the Ha’apai is about 60 miles, which is a bit too far to make during daylight. Veleda, Aguja and Bodhran all got out of Neiafu in the afternoon and were able to clear the reefs before dark and make the bulk of the passage overnight. It was the first time since Alex and Trevor sailed with me to Huahine that Bodhran actually maintained a night watch. We were hard on the weather the entire passage into 15-20 knot winds, so it wasn’t a comfortable ride but having Niki along made for a nice mellow watch schedule.

Ben sailing Veleda in close quarters with us in the Ha’apai:
Ben sailing Veleda in close quarters with us in the Ha'apai

Now Bodhran is Pangai, the one town in the Ha’apai group. It’s very rural and has a great mellow feeling. We arrived on Sunday, so the only place open was a cafe at the local guest house. Of course Tate and I brought our instruments in and put on a show. It was great. Apparently they haven’t had live music here in 10 years. All of the kids in area came out and lined the street outside the cafe. There’s nothing like a banjo to get all the locals out asking “what the hell is that sound?” To make matters even better, Lauren off Aguja and Niki went out in the street and got all the little girls dancing in big contra dance style circles. Just another good night coming out of bringing the instruments in to town.

Just can’t keep Tate away from that banjo, though we can banish him to the foredeck!:
Tate pickin on the foredeck

We’ll be hanging out here for the next day or two and then make our way down to Nukualofa. All the anchorages around here are within a few miles of each other. So we’ll see how long it actually takes to get down there.

 Posted by at 1:46 pm
Oct 202008
 

Ok, so here’s a few videos that I’ve been meaning to put up for a little while:

This is a shot from inside Mariner’s Cave. You’ve got to dive down 6 feet and then swim 20 feet underwater to get in here. It was really cool. Especially when the surge would come in and compress the air in the cave creating a thick fog for a couple of seconds.

Video from inside Mariner's Cave

And here are two shots of Bodhran flying her spinnaker courtesy of Steph on Crusoe they’re in mv4 format, so you’ll have to use Quicktime to watch them:

Video of Bodhran with her spinnaker flying

Video of Bodhran with her spinnaker flying

 Posted by at 1:39 pm