Sunday, March 5, 2017

Neiafu - Vavau, Tonga - 2008

21/04/2008 Neiafu – Tonga

We tidied the boat prior to the officials coming on board, and at around 0845 hours I went ashore to the Customs Office and introduced myself, the Customs Officer was very polite and said that he would organise with quarantine and immigration to meet me on board. Some 20 minutes later the Customs Officer came aboard and we sat in the saloon I gave him the usual paperwork and he gave me 2 forms to fill out, then the Quarantine Officer came aboard and joined us in the saloon he waited whilst I finished filling out the forms, we all chatted whilst going through the process, as they asked about what we were doing so we talked about our trip and what we were doing, talked about families theirs and ours. Then the Immigration Officer joined us and gave me another form to fill out. Nancy offered refreshments tea, coffee or cold water and introduced the biscuits choc chip and a savory biscuit with an avocado spread that Nancy had made, and they were very popular with our guests. They asked Nancy what was the ingredients, she explained that she had mixed the avocado with a little mayonnaise, chili, pepper, and lemon dash of garlic and salt. They said they had used avocado in a similar way but it was not as good as this.

We sat around and chatted some more, these islanders are a very religious group and they are trying very hard to promote the young people and play sports. They are introducing cricket but find it hard to buy cricket gear, they have started a competition amongst the different island groups, and at the moment they are using bits of wood for bats and sticks for stumps. I think what is making it hard for them is not being able to buy the gear locally and they cannot afford the freight to bring them in. The average wage here is 15 Pa’anga Tongan per day one Pa’anga is approximately AU$1:50.

So anyone out there that would like to donate any cricket gear it can be sent to the Quarantine Officer at Neiafu, Tonga. We are going to see what we can do to get some gear to them.

After quite a time we all finished up and the officials left, as the Quarantine Officer stood up he must have noticed Nancy’s sign in the saloon and said sit long talk much we have done that. As far as taking any food stuff the quarantine officer said we can keep what we have the only thing he removed was our bag of garbage.

We then had a visit from a local con man Lofi, he sells flags, which we needed, necklaces, fruit, veg, bread, and he try’s to get you to go to his home for a Tongan feast all at a price naturally. Once he was dealt with we prepared to go to a mooring.

We left the dock and picked up one mooring belonging to Beluga Diving, we could not raise anyone on the radio so we dropped the dinghy and I went ashore. I found someone at the Mermaid Bar and he said we could use one of the Sailing Safari’s moorings out front of the bar, so we left the first mooring and picked up a mooring in front of the bar.
(Mermaid Bar and Grill, home of the Vava'u Yacht Club)
 (The waterfront view that we have from our boat)

Once secure we got the covers on for shade then got cleaned and dressed to go ashore, we had lunch at the Mango Restaurant then ventured into town. The place is quite small so we kept bumping into Baker the bloke that helped us on our arrival and Craig a South African who we also met on the first day. As we were walking back to the boat the new publican of the Bounty Bar introduced himself as we were passing and we had a bit of a chat, we thought whilst we are here we may as well quench the thirst and went in for a beer, we bumped into Craig once more and Baker a little later.

 (Previous islands had chooks roaming the streets here we have pigs)

 (Alana Rose on the mooring)
 (Distances from different places)
(This is the main street)
(The Bounty Bar)

We got back on board for the radio sched at 1600 hours, unfortunately we can’t make contact due to the interference, and it may be our location as we are tucked away in the centre of the island.

We were in relaxing mode so I said to Nancy we may go ashore for dinner and we went to the Mermaid Bar and who was there Craig. Two other blokes who were there were Kiwi’s, I can’t remember their names. They said on behalf of the Vava’u Yacht Club your first beer is free. We had a good chat then an Aussie couple came and joined us Bruce and Julianne, they have started a business here, and Julianne is still running a business in Brisbane from here. They said they left Australia because they were unhappy with the way society was heading, things like neighbours not talking to each other and people not caring about one another. Unfortunately that is the way it is in the cities, probably not so much in the rural areas.

After the people left to go home we sat down and had a steak for dinner and very nice to. Then we jumped into the dinghy and went home ourselves.

22/04/08 Neiafu

The day started with writing notes for the blog and then I had to get to check the starboard gearbox, we had been losing oil and it was probably due to the fact that when it was repaired in Raiatea the mechanic had to use some old seals because we could not get the new ones or they have been put in incorrectly. I pulled the gearbox out and could not find where it was leaking, all the seals looked dry. The disappointing part was the new clutch discs that I had trouble with before have worn considerably and they will need replacing. I cannot understand why they have worn so much in so little time, I will have to contact Yanmar and see what they say.

I spoke with the local Moorings manager who has the same models of Leopards in his fleet to see if he had experienced this before but he was unable to help.

The other problem we will have is getting parts sent to here, it may be better to wait until Fiji. Well that’s one problem to be sorted out.

After putting everything back I had a shower and we went ashore mid afternoon to buy some internet time so we use Wifi from the boat. We then went to the mermaid bar and used their free internet whilst having a coldie. Patrons can take their laptops to the Mermaid Bar and use their Wifi free, it is very slow, but it’s free.

We then went back on board for a while and tidied up a little than around 1730 hours we went ashore again o the Mermaid Bar to help celebrate one of the local’s birthdays.

Whilst there we met Jeff and Terese of ‘Habsolu’, they are friends of Barbara and Michael of ‘Traveler’. We sat down and talked had dinner and came back on board around 2130 hours.

The Tongan people are shy but very nice; Tonga is made up of many islands with different island communities. Tonga is split up in eight island groups; each group of islands has a main centre. Neiafu is the main centre for the Vava’u island group. The children have to come to Neiafu for secondary school as the island communities only have primary schools. When we arrived on Sunday boats were arriving packed with people mainly the school children. They have large houses each for the different island communities. Each community provides adults to look after the children in the house. They come in Sunday evenings and go home to their islands on Friday afternoon. There must have been around ten boats that arrived whilst we were at the dockside.

Many Tongans wear their traditional dress as seen in the picture, it does differ between communities. However, they do have high standards, men and women do not bare tops only allowed at the beach, shorts are not short shorts they are knee length. So we visitors to mix with the locals must dress accordingly or the locals will be embarrassed and will avoid you.
 (Traditional dress on a male)

 (Traditional dress female)
(School uniform)

Neiafu is a small town, the main street is very small, the waterfront has a number of facilities, Mermaid Bar, Mango Restaurant, Mamaia Bar and Restaurant, Aquarium Café, Beluga Diving, Sailing Safaris and The Moorings charters, there is many other restaurants and bars in the town. Bounty Bar (owned by English bloke), Tonga Bob’s (Aussie) are ones that we are aware of so far. Each place has a dinghy dock that one can just dinghy across and tie up.
 These are local Police Officers, they are stopping cars and checking they are registered)
 (This is OK though)
(This car has the back door held on with string)

We are one of the attractions as we are the forth yacht to arrive for this season, many yachts will arrive around May to July and they say the place is packed. They have backpackers in town and they have a number of large resorts which also get filled in the season. 

24/04/08 Neiafu – Tonga

Yesterday we went into town for a bit of a look around and get a few items, I sold the additional 30 metres of anchor chain which upset one person that missed out on it, but that’s life first in first serve.

We went down to Tonga Bobs Hotel that is owned by an Aussie by the name of Matthew and we booked a seat for dinner, they had a Les Girls show there thought it would be good for a laugh. The crew of ‘Haapsalu’ joined us for the night out. The show consisted of two Les Girls, one just danced to music, the arms and shoulders on it could hold a bull out to pee. The other one although not that much more feminine mimed to songs and carried the performance out quite well. Because we had dinner there we did not pay for the show. Tonga Bobs Hotel is a Mexican Restaurant and the food is very good. Matthew the owner usually holds an Anzac Day service but unfortunately he is away on business for this one. We will hold a service ourselves on board Alana Rose. Anzac day is recognized in Tonga and it is also the Kings birthday and therefore a public holiday. However, the Anzac service is only held in the capital Nuku’alofa the returned service men only being one here from the Second World War will be flown to the capital for the service.

We will wake the harbour at sunrise with the bugle call that I recorded off the net and hold a little service in remembrance.

This morning after cleaning the stern of the boat we joined Haapsalu crew in a buggy safari, with guide we went around the island through roads and dirt tracks to see some of the sights, we left at 1030 and returned at 1400 hours. The buggy’s were fun we went through quite a bit of dirt and mud we were covered in dirt by the time we got back so we just jumped in the sea. It was a great time.
 (All ready to set off with our guide up front)
 (Mechanical problems, there was a mechanic with us that fixed the problem)
(Do we look the part)
 (Having lunch under the tree)
 (Some of the views on the trip)

(Heading home and locals wave)

At 1700 hours we went over to the Mermaid Bar, Sandy and Terry from the Moorings was there (Kiwi’s), Sandy has a terrible sense of humour, I like it. We were there for a few drinks and come back on board for dinner, that was the plan, that went to the way side as we decided to have a few more drinks and then we ordered dinner. We finally got home around 2130 hours and had a coffee before going to bed.
 (Inside the Mermaid Bar looking out)
(Each yacht that visits hang a T Shirt with crews names)
(Some of the lovely staff at the Mermaid Bar)

25/04/08 Lest We Forget – ANZAC DAY

Today I am a little homesick; I am missing the Anzac Day march with my mates. We held a small service on board at sunrise this morning and raised the Australian flag in proper fashion.

Usually today we get together as mates say a silent prayer to the mates we lost in conflict or through other incidents during our service life and we celebrate theirs and our lives with a number of beers which we do not count and we talk about the fun times we all had, have a few jokes and generally bullshit each other. Have a beer for me mates and I will have one for you.

Anzac Day is a special day and this below is what we had in our service this morning.

‘Lest We Forget‘ - by the Runner

They died that we might live. Shall we forget
The sacrifice they made to keep us free?
They gave their all for us, and shall we let
Their brave deeds fade from out our memory?

Shall we who live in peace, forget the slain,
Who died to keep the nation’s honor bright?
Shall we, who live in comfort bought by pain,
Forget the souls who fought and died for right?

Shall we for whom they gladly laid life down;
Shall we who benefit by their decease,
Forget the brave who laughed at death’s dark frown?
Forget the wooden crosses overseas?

God grant that we to each departed soul,
May give a reverence time will not decrease,
God help us keep our hard-won freedom whole,
That they who fell for us, may “sleep in peace.”

(Written by Private Benjamin P McCormack, C.E.F.)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them.

(Sitting with Terry and Sandy of the Moorings)
 (Some of the staff enjoying the night)
 (Tiny giving us a tune)
 (Very pretty bar staff)
 (Onga on the right with his daughter, he is part owner in the Mermaid Bar and Sailing Safari's)
 (Tiny showing his dancing talents with one of the staff)
(Tiny with his fiance and his crew)

26/04/08 the day after.

Well I may not have had a few beers with the ex-service mates yesterday but I certainly had a few beers with new mates here. Friday night is music night at the Mermaid Bar; we went in for a bite of lunch originally and returned back on board 12 hours later.

By the time the sunset came we decided we may as well have dinner there as well. So we sat with a group having a few drinks and people started to arrive, the place that I was sitting was within a ‘U’ shaped bar area but it is not actually the bar itself. This lady comes up to me introduces herself as Linda and asked if I served a certain beer in a glass bottle. I said hello I am John no I don't but the bar is behind me might, she apologised and went around to the bar to get a drink with her two friends. She came over for a talk and she looked familiar to me but I was not sure.

When we got talking she told me who she was and she is a Minister in the NSW State Government the Honorable Linda Burney and I had met her before when she had visited my Fire Control Centre at Dubbo. We all had a good night some of the people got involved with karaoke, especially Tiny who had just arrived from NZ with a Moorings charter boat. We all danced the night away it was a good night.
(The Honorable Linda Burney on the left)

There was this one weasel of a guy called himself the dance man who continually dragged the women up dancing continually picked on our table, best part about it it saved my legs.

I was a little rough around the edges this morning, I did a few chores before Nancy had to go ashore for a hairdressing appointment. When we got ashore we could not find a taxi driver that new where the place was, we called into see the young girl who did our laundry and asked her. After a small giggle with her friends she drew a mud map where to go. We followed the directions but the mud map was one street out and we had walked a fair distance. We called into a shop to ask directions, the young girl asked her mother and her mother acted as though she did not want to help and did not want the daughter to help.

We started walking back and bumped into a gentleman that we had met on the first day of arrival we explained what we were looking for and he said follow me. We did and by the time we arrived we were half an hour late and the shop was closed.

The reason we feel that some people appeared not to be too eager to help is that the hairdresser is a transvestite, this being a very religious community looks down on that sort of thing. We knew the person was a transvestite because we had met him/her at the Mermaid bar and made the appointment. Apparently a very good hairdresser.

We then did a little shopping came back on board and had a quiet day, I had an afternoon nap, we went and had sundowners at the bar then left early and had dinner on board.

02/05/08 Neiafu and enjoying it.

We are enjoying ourselves in Neiafu Kingdom of Tonga, it has been a bit of a party time with the locals and kiwi’s. We have done some work on the boat, general maintenance etc. I ordered some parts to be sent to Fiji and they will not be there for 2 -3 weeks so we decided we would stay here a little longer rather than busy Suva.

The yacht ‘Promise’ arrived Tuesday morning, that’s the two doctors Lee, Mary-Beth and children Alex and Lara. We have had a couple of nights out with them. The first night we went to the Mermaid bar and last night we went to Mamaia’s which is a Pizza place, they hold a movie night so after dinner everyone moves to comfortable lounge chairs to watch a movie.

 (A boat pulls up throws the fish on the deck and the kids go down to pick them up and take them to the kitchen)
 (Donated our Red Esign flag we signed it  and Nuafa put it up behind the bar)
(Nancy relaxing)

We had some shirts made with our boats name and logo from the local T Shirt Shop, they look quite good. Other than that we have walked around looking at the place and I have done a series of photos for the Mermaid Bar they may use them on their website and for advertising. I will be going in this morning to take a series of photos of the staff.

We are also moving to Mala Island today and tonight we are having a Tongan feast and watching children dance and the fire dancers. We will also go around a few of the other islands over the next few days. We will be away from internet until we come back Monday or Tuesday. 

03/05/08 Mala and Nuapapu Islands

Yesterday morning we got ready to make a move out to see some islands for the weekend, I had a 1000 hour appointment I was taking photos of the Mermaid Bar staff. These people do not have the resources to do this type of thing. I did this work for free as I did with the advertising picture that they are also going to see if they can get postcards made. I did get some benefit the main was helping people who appreciate it and because I did this work I got a large reduction in mooring fees.
(Inside the Mermaid Bar, our flag hold pride and place behind the bar)
(The start of the photo shoot, there are too many to put on the blog so I will do the collages and group)

After I had finished taking the staff photos a few of the individual staff asked if I could take their photo, these are normally shy people, but they soon got used to having a bit of fun with photos. When we go back to Neiafu on Monday I have to teach Naki how I do the photos on the computer.

Once we got all the photos finished we got the boat organised went alongside and filled up with water then set off for Mala Island, we followed ‘Promise’ out and we anchored a little away from them when we arrived at Mala. Later the English catamaran arrived ‘Rumpoleteazer’ it’s about a 47’ Cantana, they had five on board.

Not long after we arrived we went to see the resort that we had booked the dinner and fire dancing at when it poured of rain, we filled a few buckets for drinking water.
 (Young dancers)

 (Fire dancing)

(Young man joins his father in the fire dance)

Just before 1900 hours we went in by dinghy to the island all three crews turned up for the Tongan Feast and Tongan dancing that included Fire Dancing. This resort was run by an Aussie and he had left it run down somewhat. New owners have employed managers to get it going again Aussie girl married to a Kiwi. The night was very good, the children that danced were great, and the fire dancing was very good, the meal was also very good. We arrived back on board around 2130 hours relaxed a little while before turning in for the night.

When we got up this morning the place was still, the water was like glass and you could see the seabed as clear as clear. The unnerving part was looking over the port bow and straight below was our anchor. We had moved around with the current overnight and the anchor chain had wound itself around three rock formations bringing the boat back directly over the top of the anchor. We had about 30 metres of chain out in 5 metres of water at low tide.
 (Promise anchored behind us)
(Calm among the many islands)

Once we had breakfast we raised the anchor and set off for Nuapapu Island about 4 miles away being calm we motored all the way. When we arrived ‘Haapsalu’ was just leaving and there was a kiwi yacht anchored. We found a quiet spot to drop anchor and made sure all was secure before heading ashore.

Our guide book which is around 5 years old indicates a resort and shows where the path is to get to it so we thought we would investigate. Unfortunately the resort had finished all that was left was ruins. Not sure what happened but I would say it may have suffered a storm before or after the owners had abandoned the idea. The sad part is that these islands are beautiful but they have the difficulty in getting clients to visit. Even an established business like the Mermaid Bar in the main centre states that there main income comes from the whale watching season and the whale watching charters that they run.
 (Heading to Nuapapu Island)
 (Alana Rose anchored at Nuapapu Island)

 (Remains of the resort)

(Nancy walking the track)

Land here is cheap, land is on lease for 30 or 50 years, because it is beautiful place people get the idea of getting the land build a resort and make money, its not that easy. The whole town relies on supply ships coming from their capital Nuku’alofa or NZ in between these shipments stores often run out of items it does not make it easy for resorts when they cannot buy goods to feed there clientele.
 (Blue starfish)
 (Sea Cucumbers)

 (Nancy standing  where the sea has gouged the land)
 (The anchorage)

 (hermit crab has a shell with a jagged part that is leaving a track)
 (The hermit crab just grabs any shell for protection)
(Sunset from the anchorage)

Well we are going over to ‘Promise’ for dinner tonight; Mary-Beth said she has lots of Champaign to drink she said she has been saving it up for an occasion like this one. We will see how things go tonight.


We had a good night last night we met a kiwi by the name of Richard has sailed these areas for ten years so had lots of info regarding the crossing to Fiji. Mary-Beth served a nice dinner and we had lots of chatting, drank champers and white wine and poured ourselves home around 2130 hours.

We were woken up a few times through the night due to anchor cable noises, the wind had picked up and the boat was rocking a little but we were quite sound nothing had moved, we fed out another 10 metres of chain for security and went back to bed.

Richard came over with some charts of where we are going so I photographed them and spent the morning putting them together electronically and gave a copy to ‘Promise’ we figure we will be sailing out of here together either Thursday or Saturday. We will leave late afternoon so that we arrive at dawn on the third day at the beginning of the reef areas, we will look at the weather and get a good weather window before we leave. We have changed our plans and are heading for Savu Savu instead of the hustle and bustle of Suva. Savu Savu is on the north main island, from there we will sail through more reefs to the west of the southern island Lautoka where the Yanmar dealer is and pick up the parts I require. Then we will sail for Vanuatu.

After the working on charts we went over to the island in the dinghy and had a walk around looking at the different things, part of the area was covered in sea slugs, the coral was pretty. On the way back I saw this tracl in the sand that looked like a snake track, these island do not have snakes, when I followed down near the waters edge was a hermit crab in a shell that had a piece sticking downwards digging into the sand. It had made the track with the shell.

The ‘Promise’ crew came over for a BBQ around 1730 hours, we discussed our sailing plans checked the charts before settling down to a couple of beers wines and dinner.

Tomorrow we sail back to Neiafu, get provisions and do some work for the Mermaid crew, I have to teach Naki how to do some things on the computer and deliver the staff photos that I have put together. It feels good helping these people, we do not realise how lucky we are at times.

These people do not have the opportunity to get ahead because the place is poor, the government get money from other countries to assist but like most it is mismanaged or used in areas it was not meant for. Those that are fortunate to have a job get around 80 cents Aust per hour. The Mermaid pay top dollar to their staff and that is Aust $1:10 per hour. Items are not that cheap here as everything has to be brought in. Many people survive by growing their own food some sell their produce at a local market but there is not a large range to choose from.

The people have their religious faith and that keeps them going.

05/05/08 Back to Neiafu

We got out of bed fairly early and prepared to sail back to Neiafu, we pulled down the covers, checked the engines, had breakfast and then weighed anchor. We motored through the shallows and through the islands. As we were leaving a large motor cruiser that had anchored nearby moved away at the same times as us it moved a lot faster than us. Once we had some wind away from the nose we rolled out the Genoa, we knew it would not last long as we had to turn into the wind again so we did not worry about the mainsail, we were going along at 5.5 knots until we had to change course back into the wind, we motored the rest of the way. When we arrived in the harbour of Neiafu we picked up the same mooring as before. I then went into the Mermaid Bar to let them know we were on their mooring but Aunofa had already seen us arrive.

We showered then went into town and to the market for shopping then had a quiet afternoon getting items for this blog.

 (Some of the markets in town)

(A view from outside the laundry shop)

11/05/08 Weather watch.

We were originally going to sail last Thursday or yesterday, however, the MJO became active again and had created a trough and convergence zone between here and north of Vanuatu so we have waited for it to move north away from us and Fiji. We will now sail tomorrow around lunch time.

It is shame we could not sail Thursday it would have saved me a hangover yesterday, Friday night we went for a few quiet drinks with newly made local friends and at times I do not know where the beers were coming from but there was two stubbies in front of me at times. The result was I had wobbly boots and when I went to bend down to untie the dinghy on a rocky floating dinghy dock I kept going and fell into the water. A couple of the local lads helped me out but other than those guys who were sitting on the dinghy dock no one noticed. Nancy had stopped on the way talking and she came down wondering why I was sitting on the end of the dock, then she noticed I was dripping wet. We then got into the dinghy and motored home.

Friday I carted water and filled the yachts tanks and started to get things ready for leaving, also topped up the fuel tanks and filled jerry cans. When we sail Monday it is likely that we will have to do some motor sailing. Once the stormy weather has passed it usually leaves calm or light winds behind.

This next leg of the trip can be the trickiest, Fiji is surrounded by reefs, and we have to time it so that we arrive at the first reef at dawn as it will take us all day to pass through them back into open water before reaching Savusavu, it will be about a three day voyage. There are three yachts heading in this direction, ‘Promise’, ‘Blessed B’ and ourselves on ‘Alana Rose’ so we will have company all the way. One NZ yacht did leave yesterday but they were heading south to Suva, they basically had to leave because they had already cleared out with Customs. Another yacht will leave today, ‘Haapsalu’ Americans, they are sailing direct to Noumea and are hoping to sell their yacht there before flying home to America.

We have received emails from Suni on ‘Cosmos’ they are still in Bora Bora hoping to set sail next week. She said the around the world yacht race ‘The Ark’ has started to arrive in Bora Bora, there are approximately forty yachts racing. They have stopovers at different places so they will be behind us all the way.

The radio schedule has not been good as all the yachts here cannot get out on the airways due to our location. We may be able to pick them up again tomorrow afternoon once we have left the coastline.

The weather forecast is for low winds so it will be motoring for sure if they are right with the forecast this could last for days so we will still sail tomorrow.

(The last evening here, we will miss this place and the new friends we have made)


Last night we had Sandy and Terry over for a BBQ they run The Moorings Charter Company here, we said are farewells and there is a chance we may meet again in Oz when they go sailing next year.

This morning I will check everything is ready to go and then we will go and clear out with the authorities and set sail for Savusavu, Fiji. The weather this morning does not look promising, the sea is like glass and there is not a breath of air. It may change once we get out there.

We have gone through Customs, Immigration and the Port Captain we are ready to go.
Some bad news 'Promise' will not be going with us they have to fly back home for a short time due to unforeseen circumstances. We hope all goes well and we see them in Oz when they get back sailing. 


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