10 Jun 2019

10/6/2019: Niefau, Vava'u Group, Tonga

We left Niue on Friday evening at 6pm for our 36 hour sail to Tonga after a very enjoyable lunch with two other boats. The anchorage at Alofi was becoming very rolly with the shift in wind direction and so we were glad to be on our way.

We had a good passage with winds all the way that enabled us to sail, all apart from three hours when the breeze switched to being from behind us in the night, and that would have needed us to deploy the whisker pole. Needless to say, we would need daylight to achieve this under our present circumstances, so we put the engine on until we had a decent enough wind angle to sail again.

We arrived in Tonga at 11:00 am on Monday. Yes, those mathematicians among you might say that is a day longer than 36 hours. Well, we crossed the date line and lost Sunday altogether! We are now GMT+13 which with BST in place puts us 12 hours ahead of the UK whereas in Niue we were 12 hours behind .... true time travelling! All the clearance forms I had completed in advance were one day out, but the officials didn't seem to mind, they just had wry smiles on their faces. Interestingly, two of the officials were wearing sarongs, obviously part of their culture. Anyway, they cleared us in and we are at anchor in the bay which is swarming with jellyfish. I'm not going swimming today!

The temperatures are dropping as we move farther west and on the overnight passages we have resorted to wearing jackets on watch. Of course, it's winter in the southern hemisphere and as the sun moves ever northwards it is getting steadily cooler. Our wardrobes simply aren't geared for cool weather!

We've got a week in Tonga and plan on exploring some of the many small islands making up the Vava'u (pronounced Va..Va..Ooh) group, one of several groups of small islands united as the Kingdom of Tonga. The Vava'u Group is believed to have been settled for around 2000 years and was first visited by Europeans in 1781 when it was claimed for Spain. Captain Cook missed it when he was sailing past ten years earlier, being told by islanders in the neighbouring Ha'apai Group that there were no islands further north!

Tonga is a an important breeding ground for humpback whales which are often dubbed 'singing whales’. On the final night of the passage here I thought I could hear something, rather like in  the movie Finding Nemo when Dory is talking to the whale that has swallowed them. Maybe a passing whale was courting Tumi! Luckily for us he didn't do more than sing to her!!

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