Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Zealand to Tonga, including Minerva Reef May 10 - June 3, 2014

We finally leave Opua New Zealand on Saturday May 10th. We joined the Island Cruising Association Tonga/Fiji Rally and we are in the company of about 15 other boats heading north. As part of the rally we will check in daily with our position and sea conditions. We will also receive weather updates. As on our passage down to NZ we have also hired a weather router, Bob McDavitt and will receive updates from him as well.
The weather is rainy and our first 24 hours underway finds us in squally weather. We are able to dodge most of the squalls but it is cold and wet. We are in our foulies. The second day is much improved and we soon are in “passage routine”, by the third day it is warmer and we have a fantastic day of sailing with good wind and calm seas.
We have a couple of SSB nets that we are checking in with Gulf Harbor Radio is great, here we get weather updates for our location from an ex-cruiser and meteorologist that are very helpful. Our friends on Alaeris, also have a small informal net each evening. Alex does an excellent job on the weather also. It is on these nets that we soon learn of some adverse weather on our way. It looks bad enough that we decide to tuck into Minerva Reef about 3 days away. So in order to beat the weather system heading our way we must maintain 6.5 knots of speed so we motor sail on and off for the next few days. We arrive in Minerva Reef on Thursday morning, May 15, way ahead of the “looming weather system”. It is also our 31st wedding anniversary, how many couples get to spend and anniversary is such a remarkable place! Love you Mel.
 Friday, May and have a nice walk around and good thing we did then as the next day finds Minerva smack dab in the middle of a squash zone, winds pick up to a steady 25-30 knots, with gusts even higher. There are now 25 boats safely tucked in.
The storm lasts for several days, but we stay safe here. Even the Tongan navy does not want to be out in the storm and they are anchored here too. There are now 27 boats here all waiting for this to pass through so we can be on our way again.
Monday arrives with less wind and a little sun. A reef party is organized and all us cabin fevered cruisers meet on the reef for a happy hour happy to be off our boats. The NZ Orion plane visits Minerva, and we all take turns checking in with our boat name, call sign etc. They also do a low pass for us so we all can take pictures. Gulf Harbor radio is calling for better weather so we are planning to leave tomorrow.
We raise anchor and leave Minerva Reef late morning heading to the Hapai, most of the boats are also leaving. Even though we did not plan on another stop in Minerva we are so glad that it was there and offered such good protection. It is one of those magical places and we feel fortunate that we have been able to experience it twice.
Our three day passage to the Ha’apai group, Tonga is a mixed bag. As we cannot make it to Pangai (where you clear into the country) by dark we decide to anchor at Ha’afeva Island. The next day we make our way to Pangai and formally check into the country.
Our original plan was to spend 2 weeks in the Ha’apai group prior to heading to the Vava’u group where we are leaving Mazu to return home for a few weeks for Graduations. But with our late departure from Opua and our stop in Minerva has eaten that time, so in the end we only stay a few days.
Our first stop is Uoleva Island, a very pretty anchorage. It is here that the ICA rally officially ends. The little, Uoleva Yacht Club hosts a BBQ. We enjoy the meal and drinks with the other ICA boat attending. We are the only non-Kiwi boat there. We have made new friends which is always fun.
We spend one more night a Uoleva then head back to Ha’afeva where we hope to meet up with our friend, Pollo and her nephews. We met them last year and have brought them some gifts of fishing gear and school supplies.
We arrive at Pollo’s home and are greeted by her Mother. Pollo and the boys are at the plantation she says, and Pollo’s cousin escorts us to see her. It is a long walk to their plantation where we find her with her nephews and Father. We have a nice visit and they walk us back to the wharf, carrying the two large yams they have given us. She asks for a book which we go and get for her. It was great seeing her again.
We raise anchor for our overnight sail to Vava’u. We are expecting (as predicted) light wind sail. We are slammed with 30 knot winds and rough seas, all night. One of the worse passages, but at least it was quick and we are soon hooked on a mooring ball in front of the Aquarium CafĂ©. Tonight, cold beer and a meal off the boat!
We are returning home for sons Spencer’s graduation from college and for our grandsons High School Graduation. Mazu is safe and sound on a mooring being cared for by Sheri and Larry of the Ark gallery.
Now for the long flight home. When we return we will bring Tyler our grandson back with us. He will sail with us here in Tonga and on to Fiji.


  


Mel on Minerva Reef


Minerva Reef (lagoon side)


Cruiser Reef Party

Mel with our friends Brett and Stacey from Bella Vita


New Zealand Search and Rescue plane paid us a visit at Minerva Reef



Tongan Beach Party


Uoleva Yacht Club


Ha'a pai Beach


Heading to the beach on a Saturday afternoon





Ha'a pai Sunset Uoleva Island

1 comment:

marcpaulette said...

HI,

superb photos of Minerva Reef. We were there in 1992 on our catamaran with 3 kids aboard. Right now, I am writing about this special place and would like to use one or two of your photos. Will it be OK, the credit will be mentioned. Please answer at :
marclabaume@hotmail.fr
Thanks in advance !