Sunday, April 21, 2019

Winding up 2018 in New Zealand

Ahoy from New Zealand. Enjoying Mangawhai Beach on the way home from Auckland.


We've been incredibly busy so this post is a bit late and we're playing catch-up. The following is how we closed out 2018.

After arriving in New Zealand we were able to spend a few days and nights with the crew enjoying Northland New Zealand before they had to fly out. We were fortunate that the crew didn't immediately want to jump ship (it happens!) but instead chose to hang out, rent a car (thanks Torben!) and take us sightseeing.

We walked across the longest footbridge in the southern hemisphere.

We went to the beach and watched surfers.

Of course we had to research historic buildings on the way home.

While in Tonga the crew purchased some very cool shirts to use as CINNABAR team shirts, then they surprised me with the shirts. Tom added some graphics with fabric paint et voila...

Tom's art work - "CINNABAR express 52...To N.Z."

Phil lookin' good sporting the team shirt before he heads to Auckland.

Phil left us to visit the South Island and the rest of us spent another day visiting Russell, once known as The Hellhole of the Pacific. Russell was the first land-based whaling station in NZ (all whaling was previously done from ships) and you can imagine how rowdy and lawless it must have been.

We take the car ferry to Russell

Russell is now a lovely tourist destination featuring a HUGE Moreton Bay fig tree in front of the old police station. The Duke of Marlborough hotel is in the background and we had  lunch at the beachside table.

We had lunch at the historic Duke of Marlborough hotel which had roomfuls of wonderful old pictures.

Torben and Judy did a few more touristy things before they had to fly out from Auckland.

View of Whangarei from nearby Mount Parihaka (photo by Judy)
(270 degree vista; 1 hour loop trail from Town Basin Marina)

Tom on the local Mount Parihaka Trail, doing the NZ version of the annual Thanksgiving Day Hog Jog. Hilly trail ("tracks" in NZ), forest, creek, waterfall, and at night, the slope behind is full of blue-light glow worms!

The Kiwis have a great sense of humor and keep up with major current events in the U.S. They also have excellent local microbrews. One place combined all of the above into a cheeky, timely, and delicious pain reliever.

 Local NZ Brew. 

MYWGA Beer (Make Your World Great Again - we need a hat, yes?)

It's true - New Zealand is overflowing with beauty. This is an ordinary scene on the local river loop track, right in the center of town (Whangarei).

Over the next few weeks we re-connected with friends from the past years in French Polynesia and made many new friends.

The yacht DESIDERATA (Scottish) hosted a huge 60th Scottish-themed birthday party with bagpipes, food, haggis and whiskey. The entire marina was invited.

Amidst the socializing we still had to find time to fit some boat projects into our schedule.

Hatch gasket repair/replacement, couldn't get the darn frame apart! But Tom finally figured out a way.(2 days, 2 winches, Dyneema lines, steady pressure, lots of Kroil (creeping oil), gentle prying).

Whangarei really celebrates their holidays and the Christmas spirit was strong. Not only was the Town Basin thoroughly decorated including a 30' tall Christmas tree, the Marina had a boat-decorating competition and some of the boats took it very seriously. Every time someone added a significant decoration their neighbor would try to outdo them.

This boat's one of two Christmas trees was on the bow. The other was at the top of the mast.

It was a very social time, there were Christmas pot-lucks in addition to the weekly happy hours on the floating barge. December is summertime in NZ so our New Year's Eve pot-luck and BBQ was enjoyed in shorts and flip flops.

An international group of American, Canadian, Scottish, English, and Swedish.

After dinner we went back to the Scottish boat for a big New Year's blow-out with full Scottish traditions to ring in 2019.

1 January 2019 - Even after the huge after-midnight party a group of us managed to get up and go to the Highland Games in nearby Waipu for yet another dose of Scottish culture. Much of New Zealand was settled by the Scottish and Waipu in particular is proud of their Scottish heritage.

Look how tiny some of those dancers are! But they took their dancing seriously.

Welcome 2019! And with that I think we can take a break from all things Scottish.

In 2019 we were looking forward to some much-needed spa treatment for CINNABAR and a March rendezvous in Lake Taupo with some friends from the states. More about that adventure coming soon.

Photo Album: WHANGAREI 2018

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tonga to New Zealand ("Tongatapu to Tutukaka") via Minerva - With Crew!

Moving West:

Leg 1 Raiatea, French Polynesia to Palmerston, Cook Is. (Sept 23-28), 675 nm
Leg 2 To Beveridge Reef (Oct 5-7),                                                    288 nm

Leg 3 to Niue (Oct 8-9),                                                                    142 nm
Leg 4 To Vava'u, N. Tonga (Oct 12-14)                                               245 nm
Leg 5 To Nuku'alofa, S. Tonga (Oct 31-Nov 1)                                     168 nm
Leg 6 To Minerva Reef (Nov 7-8)                                                    258 nm
Leg 7 To Opua,  New Zealand, (Nov 10-14)                                    787nm
Total                                                                                               2563 nm 

(by Sylvia) 

When we were planning our 1100 nm passage from Tonga to New Zealand, I was concerned because the window between the time our crew arrived in Tonga (4 Nov) and their flight out of NZ (19 Nov) was quite narrow. Considering the trip takes about a week that only left a week of wiggle room to wait for our perfect weather window. My concern: we might have to leave in less-than-desirable conditions to make sure we got the crew back to NZ in time. We had spoken to plenty of sailors who had done the trip earlier in the season and their conditions ranged from nasty to dead-calm-motoring. Hmmmph, we didn't really want either of those.

Well, I worried for naught. While in Tonga both Tom and Torben had been checking the weather for days and it looked like we were going to get an  absolutely perfect weather window, at least for the first few days. Hooray!

Weather/Routing: Normal convention is to:
  • Depart Tonga on the backside of a passing High
  • Sail 250 nm WSW to Minerva Reef and re-evaluate the weather
  • Continue if wx looks good and can cross the remaining 800 nm to NZ before the next Low arrives
  • If wx looks bad, wait it out in the fairly protected and safe Minerva Reef until the favorable weather window.
  • Depart Minerva and sail (600 nm) to an "aim point" 300 nm straight North of NZ (Cape Reinga). This is somewhat westerly and adds extra distance, but it enables a good (bearing off) sailing angle if bad wx arrives from the W to SW.
As it turns out, we did depart and follow behind a High pressure centered over NZ. This High left flat seas in front of us and the wind filled in from the SE, giving us really nice conditions overall. We got very lucky on this notorious passage. Usually one gets some heavy conditions either at the start or end of the 7-9 day passage since the high/lows tend to move on 5-7 day cycles.

GFS grib weather forecast the day before departure looks good.
(black lines = surface press., red = 500 mb press., wind arrows = dir & speed,
color gradient = sea state (wave height))
Tonga to North Minerva: At 07:30 on 7 November we turned on the engine and proceeded out the pass of Tongatapu. 

Torben drives while Judy helps navigate out the pass. Phil and I are on the bow using our eyes and pointing to the reef for Torben. Tom was also looking at the boat's Nav system.

After we hoisted the mainsail and jib, we were a little dismayed at our slow boat speed. The winds were perfect, 16-18 knots but we were only going 6 knots. When Torben reached down to turn the engine off he realized he'd put the throttle into reverse-idle instead of neutral. We were slowly motoring in reverse! After turning the engine off, Cinnabar surged up to 8 knots of boat speed - that was more like it.

In short we had a lovely overnight sail to our first destination - the famed North Minerva Reef.  Similar to Beveridge Reef, it was a surreal experience to make a rest stop in what felt like the middle of the ocean.

After we dropped anchor at 17:26 (5:29 p.m., 8 November), Tom wrote the following in CINNABAR's log: "Overall - really nice conditions - beam reach, moderate seas, good winds." Doesn't get much better than that. 

CINNABAR's track through the pass and our anchor spot. Note the 360 degree protection from the exposed reef.

It was quite windy but the reef provided good protection from the ocean swell and, unlike submerged Beveridge where we bounced unprotected at high tide, the exposed reef at Minerva protected us and we had a very comfortable couple of days and nights in the anchorage with our friends. 

GONE WITH THE WIND (blue) and AMARYLLIS (red) anchored in Minerva Reef.
Tom and Liam (GWTW) went spearfishing in Minerva.
(Unlike other reports we've read, big fish were not abundant)

Fresh fish that night
(Had to settle for small goatfish)

North Minerva to Bay of Islands, NZ: Although we would have liked to stay in North Minerva a bit longer, the good weather was stable and it looked like perfect conditions to sail on to New Zealand. On 10 November we turned the engine on at 09:28 and motored out the pass of North Minerva Reef. Our friends on GONE WITH THE WIND would stay another night and depart the next day.

We had good conditions the first day and were able to sail the entire day. The winds were in the 16-21 knot range. The seas got a bit lumpy that evening and CINNABAR was going very fast, in the 8-9.4 knot range. When we started taking big waves into the cockpit, we reefed the sails (reduced sail area) to make things less bouncy and more comfortable. 

Just after midnight, we crossed over the 180th meridianwhich divides the western and eastern hemispheres. This is the opposite of the 0 degree (or Prime) meridian which runs through Greenwich, England.  From now on, we would be reporting our position at longitude EAST instead of longitude WEST, a milestone! 

That day the conditions moderated a bit but we still sailed 100% of the time in good winds in the teens. A boat 1 day ahead of us reported having to use their engine because they were becalmed. We hoped that we were bringing the wind with us. Since our genset (small independent generator) had died, we continued to need to run the engine 1-2 hrs daily to recharge the batteries (not optimal). However, the engine also heated the water for showers, so it wasn't a bad thing. Tom's log entry that night: "Weather forecast still looks great."

Perfect wind at 17.6 knots, sailing on a close reach in flat water, heading right to our destination,

 The third day, Monday 12 November, the conditions lightened a bit more but we still kept wind in the sails, hoping to stay above 7 knots of boat speed in order to get to our destination Opua, NZ before nightfall on Wednesday. Boats were having to motor ahead of us, and GONE WITH THE WIND reported having to motor behind us, but CINNABAR kept zipping along at a comfortable 7-9 knot range.

Phil enjoyed hand-steering.

On day four the seas became quite flat and the winds got lighter, but we managed to maintain our desired boat speed. We used the mild weather opportunity to deploy our storm jib/staysail for the practice and to check the jib sheet leads. 

Keeping Phil busy on the bow.

Also, things were really getting cooler and we pulled out jackets and hats...but not shoes. Around midnight the temperature was down to 65 F, a new low.

Torben, Sylvia, Judy and Phil enjoying the great conditions. No shoes yet.

The passage to-date was going incredibly well with our experienced, fun, and capable crew, everyone getting lots of sleep, the boat going moderately fast, and the conditions staying favorable. We were thanking our lucky stars each day while being ready for any road bumps or hiccups that could eventuate at any moment.

I loved sharing galley duties with Judy. Lasagna, another great dinner down the hatch. Note Phil resting off-watch in the background.

In the early morning hours of day five at 03:10 we passed under the 100 mi. distance to our destination. At 04:37 the wind got very light and our boat speed was too slow. In order to make it into Opua before dark that day we turned the engine on and motored until the winds came up at 10:45. 

At 12:30 Phil sighted land and got to yell "Land Ho!" 

It's always exciting to sight land after many days at sea.
As we entered the stunningly beautiful Bay Of Islands we were amazed at all the bird life. We loved seeing the huge albatross but the colorful gannets, hundreds of them, were especially striking as they dive-bombed into the water head first to grab fish. 

CINNABAR enters the Bay of Islands.
The Australasian Gannet  (photo courtesy of NZ Birds Online)

We called harbor control and reported entering the bay and that we would meet Customs at their special dock the following morning. They gave us the OK for that and at 17:30 we dropped our anchor at Roberton Island for our arrival celebration. We'd made it! This was the first place we'd ever seen where the pictures of the location did not do it justice.

Our traditional celebratory shot of Don Julio. (Thank you SHINDIG)

Yay! We're here! Why is Torben frowning?

Come on Torben, how about a little smile.

That's more like it.

The next morning we went directly to the customs dock to wait for our turn to check into NZ. We spoke to a man who had done the trip 11 times and he said the weather for this trip was by far the best he'd ever had. 

We were greeted by a harbor representative who gave us a NZ welcome package that contained several forms that needed to be filled out. We had already filled out and emailed some forms, as required, ahead of time.

Tom tried to coax the nice harbor "greeter" lady into giving a free teeny bottle of whiskey to each crewmember, not just 1 bottle per boat. No dice.

The boat-bottom bio-hazard crew came out to take pictures of CINNABAR's bottom to make sure we weren't bringing any undesirable hitchhikers into NZ waters. They take this very seriously. Luckily we had new bottom paint applied in Raiatea, plus Tom cleaned the boat's bottom in Tonga just before we left, so we passed with flying colors. (Our friends on SMETANA just down the dock were not so lucky. They had to get hauled and washed at their expense before they were allowed to sail away.)

The food biohazard agent inspected our stores (food) and the only things he took were some frozen chicken and hamburger meat, and fresh fruits and veg (1 apple, 1 orange, 2 carrots, 1 egg). We'd heard about NZ's "war on meat and honey" and fully expected to lose fish (frozen from Palmerston), salami, and other cured or possibly canned meats but no, we got to keep all that and the herbs, spices, and other plant products. He wanted to take some frozen chicken stew but we promised we would eat it that night so he let us keep it.

Our bio-hazard gets dumped in the bins for incineration.

At 14:20 (2:20 p.m.) we were done clearing customs and Torben deftly drove us off the dock in some wicked current. As we motored out to our anchorage we passed GONE WITH THE WIND on their way in. They reported that they had gotten pummeled their last night at sea, some of the worst weather they'd had in their past 11 years of cruising. We breathed a sigh of relief that we'd left Minerva Reef when we did instead of waiting one more night.

A very large dolphin escorted us to our anchorage.

We dropped anchor in beautiful Omakiwi Cove and made it an early night as we would be weighing anchor at 03:00 the next morning. We were all keen to get down to Whangarei (74 nm trip). With CINNABAR's deep draft we would only be able to come in on the high tide which would be at 14:00. So we would have to leave at the godawful time of 03:00 to make the tide.

Bay of Islands to Whangarei: After sunrise, it turned into a lovely day and we had a beautiful motor-sail down the picturesque coast. 

Very pleasant day for a scenic journey south.
We could have used a bit more wind but we had plenty of fuel so we just sat back and enjoyed the journey. We'd had no luck fishing all the way from Tonga and today was no exception. The birds were having great luck, however.

We sail by Tutukaka, halfway between Opua and Whangarei. The birds had better luck fishing than we did.
As we sailed around the Whangarei Heads we could see one of the America's Cup boats practicing in the distance (they can hit speeds of 40+ knots). What a great welcome into Whangarei.

It was a long motor into the bay and 11 nm up the Hatea River to our final destination at the Town Basin Marina. CINNABAR has a nearly 9' draft and we were in water reading 9', yikes! But we made it up the river, under the drawbridge, and into our spot with no difficulties.

A local boat led us through the drawbridge, very neighborly!

Very high tide as we pass the marina office on the left.

Cinnabar's new home, side tied to the old vessel RUAH.
Epilogue (by Tom): 
Arrival to NZ was a big deal for TC and SS. This was our main general goal when we set out cruising 6 years ago. This was the culmination of our central dream of 20 years and it was great to reach it in our 30th year of being a couple together. We look forward to spending much time here in NZ exploring this wonderful country and doing some major refit/repair to our floating home. From here onward it is all a bonus and we will formulate a new master plan/goal for our blessed lives. Our current thinking is to do a few more years of this cruising, including heading to places like Fiji, New Caledonia, Australia, and Tasmania.

We are extremely grateful to have had our friends and crew go to all the trouble and expense of joining us for this grand passage/adventure from Tonga to NZ. What great memories and how very enjoyable. 

Special Note: On this passage, Torben brought along his brand new (portable) Iridium GO! satellite wifi router along with a weather & routing subscription to the Predict Wind weather service. I must say, this combination package worked extremely well for easily getting weather updates and for the routing aspects. I've been a die-hard fan of using the HF Radio, Saildocs, and Expedition software to cover the same aspects, however, I am impressed with the ease and capabilities of Torben's new system. It must be why a few other trusted cruisers are using the same setup. I enjoyed comparing the two systems and there's much to recommend about the newest one.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Kingdom of Tonga

We are in New Zealand but will be posting some catch-up info about our journey from French Poly to New Zealand. We've already done posts on Legs 1, 2 and 3. 

Moving West:
Leg 1 Raiatea, French Polynesia to Palmerston, Cook Is. (Sept 23-28), 675 nm
Leg 2 To Beveridge Reef (Oct 5-7),                                                    288 nm

Leg 3 to Niue (Oct 8-9),                                                                    142 nm
Leg 4 To Vava'u, N. Tonga (Oct 12-14)                                          245 nm
Leg 5 To Nuku'alofa, S. Tonga (Oct 31-Nov 1)                              168 nm
Leg 6 To Minerva Reef (Nov 7-8)                                                        258 nm
Leg 7 To Opua,  New Zealand, (Nov 10-14)                                         787 nm
Total                                                                                              2563 nm 

Leg 4 - Niue to Northern Tonga - The Vava'u Group:
The first day of our trip from Niue to Vava'u Tonga was a bit squally, but we did get a beautiful double rainbow to admire. If you recall we left Niue along with several other boats including HILMA (heading north), ONDULAR and Y2K, (heading to Tonga).

We expected the next day (day #2) to be quite calm but then the following day (day #3) the weather was predicted to go downhill and we hoped to reach the protected anchorage in the Vava'u group of Tonga before then.

Sometimes (rarely it seems) the Pacific Ocean is actually pacific.

Day #2 (above) was flat calm in our part of the world. Our friends on HILMA had headed north toward the Marshall Islands and were in completely opposite weather. They ended up losing their rudder in some high winds and big seas. HILMA youtube: "Nightmare" episode. (Long episode so you might want to go to "settings" and select a faster speed for watching.) Luckily, after 4 days, they managed to limp into Majuro safe and sound. Just goes to show you how important the weather (winds and sea state) is to us sailors. Credit to them for tenacity and enduring 7 breakages on their temp-makeshift e-rudder! 

We approach the pass into the Vava'u group just after sunrise, heading for the town of Neiafu. It's overcast but we've managed to beat the big winds and heavy rain.
We arrived at Tonga around 4AM and waited in the wind and rain for dawn so we could enter the pass at daylight. Little did we know at the time that it would be rainy and cloudy for our entire 3 weeks in Tonga. 

We tied up at the concrete customs dock to check into the Kingdom of Tonga. This was the first place where a customs agent tried to hit us up for goods and a tip. Both requests were met with feigned shock and a polite "I don't think so." It was a bit of a challenge to arrive and especially to depart this dock because of the current and wind angle but we managed to do it without damaging CINNABAR and with a little help from people on shore.

Leg 4 Trip Totals:
Distance sailed = 245 nm (Niue to N. Tonga)
Duration          = 43.2 hrs
Avg speed        = 5.6 kts (low due to arriving early and stalling for daylight)
Motored           = 15.8 hrs

Cinnabar tied up at the concrete customs dock.
(Looks deceivingly nice at high tide, but underneath the concrete overhang are black-dirty tires and rusty metal wharf plates, all of which want to mark and crunch boat hulls)
After leaving the customs dock we headed over to the mooring field and luckily got one of the last moorings, owned by the local dive operation, so we were secure for the nasty weather event that was already spitting rain in our direction.

The very protected mooring field in Neiafu harbor. Cinnabar is at the far end which is where we typically prefer to be.

TONGA: The Kingdom of Tonga is a Polynesian country which is a constitutionalized monarchy (as of 2010) rather than a traditional absolute kingdom. It is an archipelago of 169 islands (36 inhabited) that stretches 500 miles north to south. The country has never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power.

Tonga became known in the West as the "Friendly Islands" because of the congenial reception that Captain Cook received on his first visit. He happened to arrive during an annual celebration and, according to writer William Mariner (teenage English sailor adopted into a Tongan family for 4 years) the chiefs were actually planning to kill Cook but couldn't agree upon a plan.

It's always fun when arriving in a new place to explore the markets. We were happy to see that the outdoor market in Neiafu had a good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Mostly everything is locally grown. The market even had lots of fresh herbs.

We noticed as we walked through the town, as we did most days, that there were many more pigs walking around free than there were dogs.

A very common sight in every yard in Neiafu.

After sailing all the way from French Polynesia to Palmerston to Niue to Tonga, and looking forward to sailing from Tonga to New Zealand, we decided that Neiafu was a good place to fuel up. The options are 1) arranging a fuel truck in advance and meeting it at the dreaded concrete dock, or 2) taking jerry jugs to the gas station. Since the weather outside the harbor was raging and we were "stuck" in Neiafu we, meaning Tom, had plenty of time to make several trips to the gas station. He planned to walk in and taxi back but most of the time locals helped him out. 

These two young construction workers (and rugby players, obviously) helped Tom carry his jug back to the Mango Cafe where we docked the dinghy. They wouldn't take money but they let us treat them to a soda.

We used the Mango Cafe as our office since it had the best wifi in town. It also had a daily happy hour, good food, and an international fishing tournament.

Italians Max (Y2K), Rafaela and Giovanni (OBIWAN) and Alex (Y2K) using wifi at the Mango. Rafaela and Giovanni met us at the concrete dock when we arrived and helped us with our lines.

The daily 5:30 PM fish tournament weigh-in coincided with Happy Hour at the Mango
(impressive Yellowfin Tuna)

There was some excitement in town during our visit. Rugby is Tonga's national sport and the entire nation was gearing up for the upcoming finals between Tonga and Australia. Everybody was wearing red (Tonga's national color) and parades through the town were a daily occurrence.

Mate Ma'a Tonga!! It means "Die for Tonga!" and everyone was singing and chanting this from morning until late into the night.

Of course we had to join the fun so we went to the Refuge, a sports bar across the street from the Mango Cafe to watch the game. Unbelievably, we ran into our friend Harold from San Francisco who was there to help deliver a boat to NZ. Harold and Tom had once done a boat delivery from So Cal to San Francisco.

What a fun surprise to run into a friend from SF
(Sylvia and Harold served on the Pac Cup Board of Directors).

It was a fun night and the Aussies handily beat the Tongans 34-16, but I don't think there is any nation as faithful to their team as the Kingdom of Tonga. The match was held in Auckland, NZ but the crowd was an absolute sea of red shirts and Tongan flags. Even when their team was down by 20 points at halftime the Tongan fans were singing hymns and songs in harmony. It was stunning.

All dressed up for church.

We'd heard that similar to French Polynesia, the Tongan church services included some incredible singing, so a group of us got all dressed up and went to the nearby catholic church for mass. The locals dressed in a combination and contemporary and traditional garb and arrived by the truck-fulls to attend mass.

I loved how these traditionally dressed women (wearing the straw or cloth woven kiekie) were taking selfies.

Mick (ONDULAR) and Tom had quite a conversation with this adorable little girl.

Piling in to head home.

One of the funnest things about our lifestyle is getting to meet people from all over the world. I have been talking to Joe and Michele aboard a boat called PEREGRINE over the HF radio since we crossed the Pacific Ocean in April of 2016, but we had never met them. Walking through Neiafu one day I stopped to chat with a couple who had a bag of laundry to ask them where they'd had it done. Turns out it was Joe and Michele and we got to finally meet them face to face. 

By now you know the four in front, with Michele and Joe from PEREGRINE in the back. Enjoying tapas and wine at the local Basque restaurant.

After a couple of weeks of wind and rain the bad weather was about to end and all the boats were in conversations with each other about who was going where. Y2K was going to stay in the Vava'u and Ha'apai groups of Tonga to enjoy the country some more. PEREGRINE was heading to Fiji for cyclone season. ONDULAR was going to New Caledonia on their way home to Australia. We had to meet crew in southern Tonga so would leave Vava'u and head directly south. And a big group of boats was planning to sail straight from Vava'u to New Zealand.

The group planning to head straight to NZ all fueled up at the concrete dock.

 Shortly after this group left for NZ we said goodbye to our friends and sailed out of Neiafu harbor. Sadly, due to the weather, we did not see any of the famed charter/cruising grounds of the Vavau Group (long ago we had a catamaran charter trip booked for here but had to cancel due to illness in our group). 

Leg 5 - Northern to Southern Tonga - Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu:
As we left the Vava'u group and turned south we were unhappy to discover that the winds were right on the nose. At least the winds were light and the seas weren't too lumpy. Boats can't sail directly upwind so we had to make the decision to either tack back and forth or just motor into the wind. We didn't want to be tacking for 2 days so we chose to motor-sail overnight to expediently get to Nuku'alofa. 

Regrettably, we had to bypass the entire  Tonga Middle Island Group, the Ha'apai's, due to time constraints. They are remote, have great diving, kiting, and beaches.

Enroute, we saw and passed withing 12 nm of a volcano and strange newborn island of Hunga-Tonga. Article link here: New Tonga Island

Naturally since it was now very close to the time our crew would join us, the handle on our head (bathroom) broke. The door would not remain closed. Tom removed the handle, took it apart, and we could see that the two little springs which hold the latch shut had weakened and broken. We didn't have replacement springs so he carefully re-joined the broken springs with our smallest size of seizing wire and inserted ball point pen springs (too wimpy to use by themselves) inside to keep them aligned. This successfully temporarily repaired the latch. (And the repair held throughout our passages to New Zealand.)

Also, during the routine daily rig inspection, Tom noticed that the sealant around the chainplates had become worn out enough to open some gaps around these essential strongpoints. Since these hold up the mast and things only get worse with salt water leakage, Tom was able to perform a temporary clean out and reseal/repair. The proper way to remedy this requires a marina or boatyard, so we added it to the list of refit items for NZ.

Twenty-nine  fairly uneventful hours after starting we pulled into Tongatapu at an anchorage near the main town of Nuku'alofa. 

We'd heard about Pangaimotu Island anchorage, home of Big Mama's Yacht Club which was yachtie-friendly and popular, but had been decimated by Cyclone Gita in February of 2018. There were quite a few boats in the anchorage so we motored around until we found our spot, dropped the anchor near our friends Liam and Annie (catamaran GONE WITH THE WIND), and went in to check out Big Mama's.

Leg 5 Trip Totals:
Distance sailed = 168 nm (N. Tonga to S. Tonga)
Duration          = 29.3 hrs
Avg speed        = 5.7 kts (low due to motoring straight upwind)
Motored           = 29.3 hrs

There were many wrecked boats in the bay due to cyclone Gina, but this wasn't one of them. It's been a BMYC landmark for quite some time.

We were glad to see that even though Big Mama's patio and large dinghy dock had been destroyed they had managed to build a temporary dinghy dock and get the bar and restaurant back in working order.

The interim dinghy/ferry dock has to get pulled to/from shore due to the daily tidal changes. First they dock the ferry, lift the motors, and then pull the entire floating dock to the beach.
Big Mama's ferry made several trips a day to and from the city of Nuku'alofa.

We were told that we'd arrived just in time. There was going to be a huge end-of-season and birthday party and feast in two nights and all the locals and yachties would attend.

The band started early to get the guests warmed up.

The table was groaning with food, much of it prepared in the traditional umu fire pit such as this succulent pig. 

The Tongans love to dance and the dancing started out with traditional moves but got crazier as the night went on.

One of the band members couldn't help himself so he jumped in and started dancing. Big Mama is in the background egging everyone on.

The band - musicians by night...

...policemen by day.
 It was a terrific party but the next day when I went in to the yacht club the entire staff (except Big Mama's athletic son who was running on the beach at 6:00 a.m.) was bleary-eyed and admitted to me they had partied way too hard the night before.

Happy at the party, but she was holding her head the next morning.
Big Mama's Yacht Club as seen from the ferry.

By the way, above is what Big Mama's looks like now, below is what it looked like after cyclone Gita. Kind of gives you an idea of how hard they have worked to get Big Mama's up and running again. Prior to the cyclone the yacht club had a huge outdoor patio and long dinghy/ferry dock that went way out into the water.

photo from Big Mama's GoFundMe page.

Partying and feasting were fun but our crew was due to arrive in two days and we had lots to do so we spent our time preparing for the trip.

The day of the crew's arrival we dinghied in to shore and took the ferry from Pangaimotu island into Nuku'alofa. We had hired a taxi for Tom to meet the group at the airport while I spent time in town doing some final grocery shopping. They arrived on time and with no problems. In fact, a fellow yachtie was trying to track down his lost luggage from his trip back from the states and our crew found it for him at the airport! 

The taxi driver was a great guy and he drove us to our favorite place in town, the local Fishing Club which was private but they welcomed us.

Judy, Torben, Phil and Sylvia enjoying a cold beer at the Nuku'alofa Fishing Club, members only except for guests.

Taking the ferry back to Pangaimotu Island

Kennan from TIMOGEN was thrilled to get lost luggage and his new starter motor. Now he could continue his journey to New Zealand. Thanks CINNABAR crew!

The ferry driver was kind enough to deliver people and luggage directly to CINNABAR instead of making us do numerous dinghy trips back and forth.

The crew were able to enjoy just a couple of days in Tonga. Tom and Torben had been checking the weather for days and they both agreed that a departure in 2 days looked ideal. We did final preparations on CINNABAR, planning to leave at the same time as our friends Liam and Annie on GONE WITH THE WIND. 

The last thing to get put away was the dinghy. Thanks Phil, Torben and Judy for helping. No more going to shore because we're outta here!
The plan: leave Pangaimotu Nov 6th, spend one more night at anchorage near the exit pass in Tongatapu, leave the next a.m. for Minerva Reef (another one of those reefs in the middle of the ocean), stay at Minerva for 1-2 nights as weather allows, keep looking at the weather and depart for New Zealand.

Our last Tongan anchorage. Note that Gone With The Wind is in the midst of a cloud of smoke from a bonfire on the island. That's why we're far away. Early tomorrow we depart!

We've weighed anchor using our headsets so we can communicate without shouting. We'll put on our PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) and tethers and head out the pass. Looks like a great day. Next stop Minerva Reef! (photo by Judy)

Photo Album: The Kingdom of Tonga