Sunday, October 22, 2006

Niuatoputapu to Vava'u Tonga passage

Sail to Vava’u Island, Tonga
S 18 39’ W 173 59’

The weather window didn’t end up being too good, but it was the best we would have for maybe a week, so we resolved to go although it would be a rough ride beating the entire one hundred and eighty miles south. The wind was blowing about twenty knots when we left and was right on the nose making for an extra uncomfortable and wet ride. The sun was shining as we pulled anchor, raised sail and began to tack our way clear of the island. The wind as I mentioned did not cooperate and required us to sail well off the rhumb line just to keep moving, crashing and splashing along. Julie spotted a pair of submerged whales less than a boat length off our beam and woke me from a nap with a joyful shout of “I see whales”.
We did not make as good of time as desired, and on the second day we started the engine to assist the sails in the battle against the head winds and waves. The hope was with the addition of the engine we could make Vava’u before dark; however, the plan was thwarted by plugged fuel filters which caused the loss of key daylight hours. We arrived at the north of the island and anchored close in to some five hundred foot-tall cliffs in ninety feet of water. The anchorage was not too nice as it was still rolly if well protected from the wind. I was pretty exhausted having gotten little sleep on the 39-hour passage due to the crashing and shuddering of the boat as we beat through the waves.
Once the anchor was down and we were nearly squared away for the night, I thought I heard the sound of whales blowing, but initially thought it was just my overtired brain confusing the sounds of the pounding surf at the base of the nearby cliffs. I repeatedly heard the sound of a “blow” and then went on deck with Julie, and we heard it again many, many times as apparently a whale was sleeping nearby. In the morning we spotted more “blows” and one actual whale we believed to be a humpback as we made our way the remaining ten nautical miles into the inner protected anchorages. So far the scenery is beautiful and we look forward to seeing the sights and enjoying the great anchorages.

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