Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 3- Malolelei from Tonga!

Time: 0035 Zulu Thurs 8/16 (1335 Samoa time Thurs 8/16)
Position: 18-deg 40-min S 173-deg 59-min W
Rig: moored in Neiafu, Vava'u

Day 3 euphoria held true, we both felt amazing as Tao cruised along swiftly all afternoon in barely existent seas. Chris checked into the PacSea Net and after the net frequency cleared, he managed to upload/download. We have been doing this about 12 hours later as the sun rises, so when Shawn got up early to cook dinner she ended up doing an early weather analyses instead. Conditions looked stable, but sometime between 1900 and 0100 local, winds were forecast to drop from a manageable 7-knots to 3-knots and not expected to fill in enough to sail on again for the next 24-hrs (Thursday night). We had seen this drop in winds in the forecast since before we left Apia, and were hoping either the forecast would change, we would sneak in just before the calm got to Tonga, or that Tao could sail on the light breezes. The GFS model turned out to be correct. The last few hours of Shawn's night watch we moved along in the right direction on breaths of wind of 4-knots or so. It was so calm that we could hear the screech of birds hunting nearby. But winds continued to drop. Once poled out, the jib helped us gain some speed, but the mains'l in its full glory, started to flog loudly from lack of wind.

Decision point. Do we wait for the 24-hr lull in wind to pass as we wallow around a mere 50-nm from our goal and hope it picks up in time for a Friday landfall, possibly chancing not making landfall by close of business for the weekend? Or do we fire up the iron genoa and have a motorboat ride allowing us to be all checked into Tonga by Thursday afternoon. In the past, our MO has been to wait for the wind. Our journey has been about not being in a rush, going with the flow, living by the weather. However, with the short amount of time we have to spend in Tonga on this trip, we decided the time gained was worth it to motor the final distance in. Yannie needed the exercise anyway...

In order to make landfall in plenty of time for the rigmarole of checking into a new country, we decided to start the engine around 0300 for a 10-hr motorboat ride (which we'd jump off of if winds filled in enough to sail, which unfortunately it did not). It always amazes us how calm the ocean gets when wind disappears for any length of time. It has been a long time since we have motored for any sustained period. The wind indicator spun atop the mast, confused without any normal flow. The rhythmic hum of the engine reverberated through the cabin and not quite as loudly outside in the cockpit. Closer to civilization, throughout the night, several boats appeared on the AIS and quickly passed us by. Dawn brought beautiful displays of clouds and land as little Toku Island appeared out of the clouds off our starboard to the West and the Vava'u group of Tongan islands rose straight ahead to the South. As we drew closer, we tuned in to listen to the morning net check in, and still, we motored. Chris went forward to reattach our anchor and found the teak plug would not come out (he had used the back up one that was not as well worn, put it in dry and it had swelled.) After pulling all of our packed gear out of the Vberth to try to access from inside, we decided it was best attacked from above. So, instead of getting a pre-landfall nap, he had to rig a directional to be able to use our windlass to pull out the haus pipe plug. It was a sweaty job, so we decided to rig up the solar shower and take advantage of the comfortable conditions and privacy that a busy harbor wouldn't afford us and enjoy chilled celebratory Coca-cola. Decedent!

As we past our noon point, we were just entering the channel to Neiafu, the Vava'u port of entry. The small swell immediately vanished and it was hard to believe we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at all. We were surrounded by land, numerous waterways weaving around small islands everywhere jutting out of the water all around. Strangely reminiscent tropical mix of Penobscot Bay and the St. Lawrence River all at once, yet so different. We slowly continued to motor inland, farther and farther, until we reached the range and channel markers that denote the entrance to Neiafu. A nearly hour long ride in, it was an easy entrance using daylight and eyes, but our electronic charts are indeed about a half mile off. Another boat flying their Q flag passed us as we were between the markers and raced ahead to the public dock to start their check in. A boat with much more freeboard than Tao, they docked in the lower section and we were left with a very high section of dock (made for container ships to tie up to). However, Chris managed to bring Tao right alongside at the perfect spot and Shawn launched herself up the five feet to tie up to the cement dock. We moored her tight to fend at our beamiest part and Shawn stayed aboard while Chris went ashore to visit Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Health. Overall relatively quick, after 2-hours of checking in, in the end, our less desirable dock spot deterred the Health Inspector from coming aboard Tao and visiting, so our check in was complete while the inspectors lounged on the boat that had raced ahead... Now, time to explore our surroundings and find a place to call home for the night.

1 comment:

  1. Great post - love that the boat who raced ahead was rewarded by a lengthy hosting of the health inspector! :)