We had a wet and wild passage from Niue to Tonga. We knew that the seas would be relatively large when we left (3+m) but descending and we would have solid wind. The sailing was excellent but unfortunately we had showers most of the time which made for a wet cockpit. And let me tell you, after a few years of acclimation to the tropics we find the winter here down at 20S to be chilly!
We made landfall in the Ha’apai group in Tonga – a remote part of the country, relatively undeveloped. We had a fast and painless check in, with all of the normal published fees, and even found a currency exchange in the small village with quite good rates. Almost everyone we have talked to who checked into Vava’u this month was asked for “gifts*” from the officials and we didn’t have any of those shenanigans to deal with.
Unfortunately we ended up leaving the Ha’apai group after only seeing that first town and one other anchorage. The reason is that you need good weather to navigate visually in that region, into a lot of gorgeous (but tight) spots and we had a solid week of grey and rain, with more crappy weather forecast. We decided that we would make the 60nm sail up to the Vava’u group and at least have restaurants, cruiser company, and internet to go with our rainy week. We definitely feel we have unfinished business in the Ha’apai group because our short time there gave us the impression that we would love it.
Of course, after having made that decision and having a nice overnight sail to Vava’u our time in Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga was full of sunshine. Neiafu is quite an interesting place and after some more time there I’ll write about it separately.
After 4 days in the main town, buying produce, filling our dive tanks, using the internet, meeting up with people, eating out, attending some happy hours and socializing with other cruisers, we headed into the outer islands to get a taste of what Vava’u is all about…and to check out 3 kite spots we had been tipped off to.
So far, the outer islands have been full of really picturesque sand beaches, a lot of uninhabited islands on which to have beach fires, and a few really nice kite spots. We love the fact that the distances are short and so we sail everywhere whether it involves short tacking or not.
It’s also fun to see other boats sailing between islands as well. Somehow, despite the fact that there are a fair amount of cruising boats here, there are so many anchorages that we haven’t felt crowded yet. We don’t have a full sense of the place yet and we haven’t found much underwater beauty (yet) – but of course we’re still in the initial impressions phase of a new landfall.
Weird fact: After over a week here we have seen at least 30 boats underway in between the islands. While more than half of the monohulls have been sailing, not a single catamaran we have seen so far has been sailing**. Isn’t that weird? And they aren’t charters… This hasn’t been our experience with cats normally so it is odd to see here.
*So far we’ve heard of boats being asked for alcohol, WD-40 and cookies among other things. Weird, huh? The boats that declined weren’t given any hassle about it.
**Between the time I wrote this and the time I posted it, I saw several catamarans sailing ;)