Niafu to Niuatoputapu Passage
It is about a 30 hour passage from Niafu in the Vava’u group up to Niuatoputapu in the northern group of Tonga. This will be Mazu’s second time here (my third thanks to my voyage with Mahina Tireri III in 2009), and we cannot wait to return.
We raise anchor at 3 a.m. on Thursday July 9th. We will buddy boat with Bill from Pacific Cool. We are expecting light winds for at least the first half of the voyage. At about mid-day we are able to put up or light air drifter and we sail along and a comfortable 5-6 knots. I set out our fishing lines.
As this is Tylers first open ocean passage I let him sleep until early afternoon when I get him up to eat. He is a little seasick but does not complain. As we are making a sail adjustment I look back and notice that one of my fishing lines is crossed under the other, I must have a fish on.
Yep! we have one. Tyler is very excited as we bring in a big beautiful Mahi Mahi, at 40” long he is the largest fish we have caught to date. The sea state is calm enough that I have no trouble getting him killed and fillet. Fish for dinner tonight!
Friday July 10th: an uneventful night last night, just how we like it. Our new light air drifter is a dream, moving us along at a constant 5-6 knots in just 10 knots of wind. Sunrise is picture perfect and I can see Niuatoputapu’s majestic cone shape, sister island Tafahi on the horizon. I set out the fishing lines in hopes of another Mahi Mahi. We again let Tyler sleep in, but shortly after my watch is over and I am just about to go down for a bit of sleep it is Fish On! No trouble getting Tyler up and again we have no trouble bringing in a nice size Barracuda, our first Barracuda ever.
Soon we are once again entering the passage and find ourselves the only boat in this beautiful lagoon. As we are getting ourselves settled a truck pulls up to the wharf and toots its horn, it is Sia. We drop the dinghy and head into shore.
Niuatoputapu (Neeo-toe-phoo-tah-phoo) is a small island with about 3 villages and about 600 inhabitants. It was devastated in a tsunami in 2009, just two days after I had left. When we were there last September the villages had been rebuilt. Some of the villages had been relocated to higher ground but many families decided to rebuild close to the shore where they had been before.
When we were there before we had befriended Sia and her family. Sia works for the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism (I guess even the smallest islands have one) and is the greeter and friend to all the “yachties”. I had called her from Niafu to let her know we are heading her way.
It is a warm reunion it is so nice to see Sia again. Little Sia is there too and she is as cute as ever. Sia drives us in to let us check in. We make plans for the next day to tour the island and have lunch at the beach.
Later in the day we return to shore as we also want to see our friend Ikoke and his sister Siona whom we had befriended last September. We have some gifts for them and their family. I especially want Tyler to meet them and the other very friendly children here. I have come prepared with my bag of “lollies” and pencils.
It does not take long to find Ikoke as he and a group of kids are playing near the wharf and as soon as they see us they all come running to great us. Ikoke remembers his time with us. I have Tyler give him the soccer ball we have brought for him. We then decide to take a walk around the village. We are accompanied by this group of children and soon we collect more, each one gets a candy and a pencil. We have a great time. Tyler joins in their games and even teaches them a dance. The kids are kind and caring especially of the younger ones. They are quick to laughter, like to tease and can be silly as can be.
Island Tour and Coconut Rugby
Sia has offered to take us on an island tour. We are joined by Bill from Pacific Cool. We pile into Sia’s flatbed truck little Sia in the front with Mel. She drives us all around this neat and very tidy island. Inland we can see the new villages built in land to relocate people from the low lands near the beaches and reef. We also take a trip out to the “airport”. Sia tells us that they are lucky as a plane is now scheduled for every other Wednesday. When we were here last September it seems the plane only came when the King was to visit. So good news, a plane along with the once a month (mostly) supply ship, bad news, the internet (if you could call it that, email sent and received if you were lucky) has been down since last September. The only communication now is through cell phones, and that is expensive. The best part of the visit to the airport is the fantastic view of the surf crashing onto the coral. We even see a whale spout.
We continue on to the High School (both an elementary and high school share the same campus) where we speak with the deputy principal. We ask if we may come visit the school as we have some supplies that we would like to donate. She invites us to attend on Monday and advises that we come at 8:45 for the morning assembly. Here we also pick up Sia’s son Toa and two of his friends, Moses and ????? and head to the beach for lunch.
Sia takes us to a beautiful lagoon with a white sandy beach and shallow water safe for little Sia. We have a nice lunch and I take little Sia out for a swim, she loves the water. At first Tyler and the boys are a bit shy of each other but Bill gets them started with a game of Rugby (Bill played Rugby in college), as there is no ball to be had a coconut is procured for the game, hence the name, Coconut Rugby. Boys will be boys everywhere and soon they are like old friends. The game goes on and on, even into the water, where I guess we can call it coconut rugby/water polo as there is a lot of dunking going on. Soon it is time to go. Sia takes us to the fresh water spring nearby to wash off the salt water then back to Sia’s home.
Sia has asked Mel and Bill if they could look at her generator, as it is not working (by the way, Sia’s husband, Nico is away working is Australia). After some diagnosis, a trip to Bills boat for tools it is determined that there is no oil in it and that there is a safety shut down. With oil topped off it is working like a champ.
Our next day here is Sunday; we decide to go to the Wesleyan Church. We had attended here last September and we want to show Tyler this important part of Tongan culture. The congregation is small but their voices are powerful and soon the entire church is filled with the strong and beautiful voices of the Tongan singing. We see many of the children from our walk-about yesterday and we see Moses. It turns out his Father is the Minister. As the entire service is in Tongan we have no clue what he is saying but he is very enthusiastic!
We have invited Sia and her family out for Sunday dinner at 1:00. I have baked much of the fish we caught along the way here along with the sweet potatoes given to me by Sia, fruit salad and banana bread, quite the feast. She has brought me a lovely woven matt, the kind a child would wear, with shell decorations. I have prepared some gifts for her, clothes I bought at home, a solar light, tarps, batteries etc. We also promise to visit her son Moto (we share the same birthday and celebrated together last September) in Suva, Fiji, where he is attending University.
Tyler goes to School
Sia meets us at the dock to take us to the school. She has brought a school uniform for Tyler to wear, including the woven matt trimmed in the school color of burgundy. I am amazed at how well it fits. We arrive in time for the morning assembly. We are introduced to the Principal and given chairs in the auditorium. The students sit on the floor. The morning begins with song and prayer, Tonga is a very religious country. The Principal then gives the morning announcements. The morning assembly to our surprise is all done in English, although I noticed the Principal would repeat an especially important reminder in Tongan (i.e. school fees due). We are then introduced and asked to bring our gift up front. I give it to Tyler to present (see the great picture). Then students recite a final pray (our safety is included in their prayer), then they are sent off to class. The Principal come to us and asks if Tyler would like to stay. We are surprised that he says yes. So he is whisked away and we are left to wander about.
As we wait for lunch break we find ourselves in the middle of the elementary recess. The kids all want to say hello and want their pictures taken and shown. I pull our my ipad to show them pictures of Oregon and our home and some of the dance videos from Samoa, soon I have a crowed all trying to see. They are fascinated by the pictures and love the Samoan dancing. Tyler had decided to stay for the whole day and in addition asks if he can stay overnight at Sia’s wow. Oh and by the way can I come back to school tomorrow? He does.
July 15, Toa’s Birthday
We are having a potluck at Sia’s for Toa’s birthday. Along with us and Bill another boat has arrive, The Italian’s (forgot their names and the name of the boat) we will have Sia’s in-laws and who knows who else. I bring chicken, fish and bake a cake. The Italians brought pasta, it was yummy. It was all yummy. Bill brought Toa a spear gun and boy was he happy. Tyler is asked to spend the night again, and he does.
It is time to move on. We are planning to leave here on Saturday the 19th for our passage to Fiji. Matt, Sherry and the rest of the grandsons will meet us there on August 3rd. It is a three day passage to Savu Savu which is on the North island of Vanua Levu but we are meeting them at Musket Cove which is off the west coast of the Southern island of Viti Levu, so it is time to get the boat and us ready.
Before we leave we have Toa over for dinner and a movie, a final goodbye for the new friends. Also, we have to check out of the country and say our good byes to Sia.
The weather continues to look good for a Saturday departure. Sia picks us up Friday afternoon. To take us to the Official Office (use this term in loosest form possible) so we can check out. Then we say a sad farewell. We promise to stay in touch and we will try to send supplies from New Zealand via other cruisers next year, and yes we promise again to see Motu in Suva.
We raise anchor early Saturday (July 19) morning, it is calm and beautiful in the lagoon. It is so sad to think that this is most likely the last time I will set eyes on this special place. I will never forget the people here, and how hard they work and how happy they seem. I won’t forget the simple life here, no real worries, plenty of food to eat, work to be done, family and friends. I also will not forget how beautiful it is here, how peaceful. A part of my heart will always be here, and I know that I will always have friends here. I hope Tyler never forgets this place, I know I won’t.