Never leave port on a Friday - where did I hear that before?
Well - another abysmal but short trip (Friday to Sunday from NP to Vava'u) done and finished with, thank goodness!
The dinghy engine quit in the last port - it's in for repair now, but as the King of Tonga has died who can tell when it will come back to us. Everyone is in mourning, everything is closed. And to cap it all - it’s raining.
On the way here we had consistent wind on the nose - every time we tacked we went back up the way we had just traveled - at one point managed to do 2 miles while actually covering 12 over the ground in a couple of zig zags. I was queasy - again - most annoying as of course I feel rotten. To add to our woes we lost the main engine power and Mike had to bleed the fuel lines several times before it would run again. Very frustrating and not pleasant knowing it can by unreliable. In addition the Icom radio (SSB/Ham) turned itself on and then off without human intervention, so we couldn't tell anybody where we were or how we were managing. This resulted in several boats getting quite anxious about us, especially when night came – they knew we were struggling against head winds and had no engine.
Just a little thing added to our misery - a small nut dropped into the electric toilet – putting that out of action - what a joy! You can imagine the consequences!
At the tail end of the day we arrived at the entrance to the northern Tonga islands, the Vava'u group. We crept slowly along the shoreline in the dark until we were eventually able to talk to friends on the local radio (VHF, not working very well as some of the co-ax cable at the top of the mast has corroded. We lost the aerial out at sea some time ago.)
Nick on Tartufo and Bernard from Est Ouest came out to meet us in a dinghy and to guide us into the main harbour. This was wonderful because we would have had huge trouble finding our way in through the entrance buoys alone at night. CMap, our electronic chart program, (taken from the equally erroneous paper charts) was well off and we were dangerously close to shore in places. It was also very dark with no chance of a moon to help us see things.
Members of the royal family at the coronation
We received a great welcome the next morning - all kinds of boats came by as they had heard we were having engine problems and had also lost the radio so were very concerned that we would arrive and be safe. I was sooooo pleased to have come into harbour instead of anchoring out somewhere (the alternative and usually the most sensible solution for a night time arrival) as if we had tried to anchor in the dark and in the extremely deep water (20 - 40 meters here) and also lost engine power, we would have been in a very serious pickle.
However - all is well, we are happy to be safe and sound, and the list of to-do's in New Zealand continues to extend!! I have calmed down and have decided that I won’t catch the next available flight out quite yet.
We’ve explored a little around the islands – we hesitate to use the engine much as the shaft problem gets no better and the hole is elongating. Friends arrive all the time and we have had a couple of very congenial happy hours and bonfires on the beach. I went whale watching – chose one of the nastiest days of the season, but did get one chance to swim with a momma whale and her calf for an unforgettable and all too brief moment.
The first cyclone of the season has faded away before doing any damage. Lucky for us, as Xavier was forecast to pass quite close. The urge to leave is strong - boats are sailing out every day and we hear that about 8 or 9 are arriving in Opua, in the North Island of New Zealand every day. Some of our friends have started the trip down island to be ready for escape further south but we will leave from these northern islands, and try to make the trip in one leap Others have left completely, maybe to make a stop over at Minerva reef; the rest of us are havering and dithering around here. Shall we, shan’t we? The lows are zipping by fast – one every three or four days at least and we don’t like those as they hold high winds, rain and squalls. The highs are almost as frequent and almost as bad, as they have no wind in them and we don’t want to use the engine more than we have to. A quandary. Anyway – the latest buzz is not to depart before November 5, so we should try not to be impatient and enjoy the rest of our time here.