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After an agonising anchor haul with some really horrible noises coming from our bowsprit, we eventually got away from Suwarrow at about 10am on the 6th September on the 6th leg of our Pacific crossing.

It was beautiful weather – sunny with 15/20 knots ESE wind plus, of course, the usual sea swell.

We were moving along nicely on a broad reach and everybody on deck was happy. In fact, this was one of our fastest passages – we were averaging 6 knots – Woo !!

Obviously we were getting too relaxed as, just as we thought we were going to have a record run, our Main sail split in two for no apparent reason on day 4.... Oops...



As a result, the rest of the journey was a bit rolly as we were severely underpowered with 2 reefs in our Main. With the current against us, we were only making about 4 knots.
 
We finally arrived in Neiafu in the Vava'u group of islands after 6 days and 738 miles.



The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago comprising 169 islands of which only 36 islands are inhabited. The total surface area is about 290 square miles scattered over 270,000 square miles of the southern Pacific Ocean. It stretches over about 500 miles in a North-South line.



Tonga became known as the “Friendly Islands” because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain Cook on his first visit in 1773. He arrived at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tu'i Tonga (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities. According to reports, the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during the gathering but, luckily, could not agree on a plan....

We found the Tongans to still be very laid back and really friendly.



The Vava'u group of islands are considered to be Tonga's most scenic region. They have a warmer climate than the rest of Tonga which is very conducive to growing Vanilla, Pineapple and other tropical fruits. In fact, 75% of Tonga's Vanilla is produced on these islands on plantations covering more than 50 hectares.



The group measures about 13 miles from East to West and 16 miles from north to south and consists of 70 islands of which 17 are inhabited. In local lore, it is explained that the islands were created by the God, Maui, who caught the bottom of the sea with his magic hook, fished up and left on the sea surface what subsequently became the islands of Vavaʻu. 


Having completed all the usual formalities on arrival, we anchored off the town of Neiafu and went ashore to explore...








We had applied to the Government in advance for a “Pet Landing Permit” so we had immediate permission to take the boys ashore. This was a real bonus as they had been boat bound since we left Bora Bora about a month before. We moved to a little anchorage about 12 miles away from the Town – Port Maurelle on Kapa Island where we “vegged” for a week just enjoying playing with the boys on the beautiful beach...
















The Vava'u Regatta started on 22nd September so we registered to enter as we thought it might be a bit of fun. We had a great week and totally enjoyed all the crazy activities that were going on. The event started with a Fancy Dress Pub Crawl so we knew it was going to be 'our kind of Regatta'....


Note the couple of scruffy old Vagabonds on the right...


This was followed by a Cornhole Tournament {an American lawn game in which players take turns throwing bags of corn (Bean bags) at a raised platform with a hole in the far end. A bag in the hole scores 3 points, while one on the platform scores 1 point. Play continues until a team or player reaches the score of 21}. Then a day of Tridecagonathlon took place with lots of very silly games including “Catch the raw egg in a tupperware dish on your head” race etc etc...

Roger was "The Little Guy" in this rather daft game of bounce without touching...


We entered the Harbour Race and took Matt & Jean on as crew.... I think it was the first time Matt had ever come 5th out of 5 in a race but, don't forget, he is not used to manual winches!!!




Shift over - we want to use the Spinnaker....



Looking good...



The week ended with a pize giving and a few more fun events - Roger made it through to the third round of finding the "Yachtie with the least hair". Luckily, a bunch of "Uncle Albert" lookalikes appeared when needed...






Vicki, on the other hand, got down to the last 5 in the "most suntanned Lady" competition only to be beaten by an Indonesian Lady - how unfair was that !!!!

All we really needed was a competition for the boat with the 2 most badly behaved Dogs on board and we would have won...



We also attended a Tongan Feast on Lape Island with a bunch of other Cruisers. The locals host a Feast on the Island every fortnight.



The donations received are then used to help the Community. They were in the process of building a dock on the Island to encourage more Visitors. The whole island is involved - from those roasting the pigs to the little old ladies making the flower garlands.



After all the frivolity, it was good to get away again and we tootled off to explore more anchorages looking for nice beaches for the boys combined with good snorkelling for us. We ended up visiting 11 different spots in the 2 months we were there although our favourite remained Kapa Island...













Wet & tired...


Off exploring...

Wait for me...


Somebody clearly had a sense of humour...







Still intrepidly exploring...


We found lots of bananas which we swapped with the Islanders for a jar of coffee...

Pick your own...



Papaya also plentiful...


It was a wonderful cruising ground as there were so many Islands all within a few miles of each other.




Stunning scenery was everywhere... This is the entrance to Swallows Cave



A private paradise...



Local Sailors drifting by...



Fisherman hard at work in a laid back kind of way...



Islanders off to do their shopping...



Exploring inland again...

This time we found a Goat..

...and a Foal


Just Cruising around...



We went back to Neiafu from time to time for some supplies and while we were there we went to a Traditional Tongan Night at the local Marina Bar.









We also went to see a performance at the "Baby Grand Theatre" - the only live theatre in the whole of Tonga.... This was like a very small cupboard with 12 seats, a small stage for the performers (flea circus) and, indeed, on the night we went, there was a power cut and the audience had to assist with the sound effects - all good fun !!!


The highlight of our stay however was spent in the water when we did the "touristy" thing and went on a day trip to swim with a Humpback Whale and her Calf. It was an absolutely amazing experience and totally “awesome”.

 WOW !!!


The humpback whale is a species of Baleen Whalse. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16m (39–52 ft) and weigh about 36,000kg (79,000 lb). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head.


Vicki was a little nervous at first...



...but, not for long !!


It was almost at the end of the season when we went on the trip and the Whales were starting to migrate back to Antarctica but our Skipper managed to find a really laid back Mum and her playful calf.... The Mum was so cool and quite happy to allow us to swim around her calf who was jumping around all over the place.
 



This is a major Tourist attraction for Tonga and the Operators are very well trained to ensure that the whales are not distressed at all by the Swimmers in the water. Our Mum was so relaxed – she had clearly got used to all the oglers over the Summer and was just casually keeping a vague eye on her baby.






As we were the only Whale Watching boat out on the water that day, we ended up staying in the water for almost 4 hours in short bursts of 20 minutes at at time. I think the whales were quite sorry to see us leave...


What a BRILLIANT day...


All too soon, it was time to be thinking of leaving this South Pacific paradise to get to New Zealand before the Hurricane season started.



We really didn't want to leave but New Zealand was beckoning so we left Vaka'eitu Island for the last time on 11th November for our seventh and final leg across the Pacific.......

Leaving with a good supply of fresh bananas...