Thursday was a busy day at Euakafa Island (#32). Dallas and I awoke early and climbed 300’ to the plateau at the top of the island. It was a fairly quick and easy hike to the top amidst a forest of varied foliage that characterizes the islands of Tonga. Near the top we located the open tomb that was mentioned in the cruising guide. Apparently it was the final resting place for a Tongan queen whose life was cut short by the chief’s henchmen as a result of her infidelity. We headed on up to the viewpoint at the top where we could see our boat and two others anchored in the clear aquamarine water surrounded by the deeper blue sea dotted with green islands. Unfortunately, we neglected to put the camera battery back in the camera after charging it, but Wes and Tiff hiked up the next day and snapped some really nice shots. I have to agree with the cruisers who refer to the Vava’u group of Tonga as the most idyllic cruising grounds.

DSC_0644_thumb2 Fit for a queen

DSC_0671_thumb2 Pura Vida in Paradise

DSC_0688_thumb2 Neighboring islands of the Vava’u Group

We returned to the boat to grab a quick snack and get our snorkeling gear, and then it was off to join the guys from the other two boats in trying to spear some fish for lunch. We all came back empty handed, blaming it on the dwindling fish population in Tonga, but Wes proved that it could be done by spearing a grouper later that afternoon.

DSC_0592_thumb2 Freshly speared grouper

Next it was time to get serious about preparations for the passage to New Zealand. I volunteered to do one last bottom-cleaning before the infamous bottom inspection by the NZ officials. (For the land-lubbers who may be a little perplexed right now, I’m talking about cleaning algae/barnacles off of the bottom of our boat, not scrubbing my backside!) I assumed that this would be relatively easy since we just cleaned the bottom in Niue, and it was, but after another couple of hours in the water, I was exhausted! Dallas was as well after rounding out the day by changing the oil on both engines. If we can keep this up, though, we should be ready to set sail early next week.

On Friday we continued our preparations by finishing up the bottom cleaning and practicing deployment of the sea anchor, a small parachute that is extended from the bow of the boat on 600 feet of nylon line. Its purpose is to keep boats virtually in place for reasons such as providing crew with a break from sailing and preventing collisions with reefs. We have never considered using it before but anticipate that it could be useful en route to NZ by allowing us to wait for rough weather to pass before proceeding.

Next it was time to head back to Neiafu for the final regatta of the 2009 cruising season. The local yacht club has been coordinating these friendly races on a weekly basis throughout the season, but this particular one was quite hyped up, leading 15 boats to participate. We weren’t planning on racing initially but were lured into it by an official challenge from our Swedish friends on S/V Disa. We recruited 13-year-old Lisa and her father from S/V Anyway and another friend to crew for us, and they were not only great sailors but really pleasant company as well. We sailed quite nicely upwind, topping off at about 7 knots, but as expected, most of the other boats were much faster in light winds. Those of us at the back of the pack (basically us, Disa, a couple of larger but heavy monohulls, and a tiny one) weren’t able to finish before the wind died altogether. There was not so much as a breeze as we struggled to cross the finish line, so it wasn’t very glorious but fun nonetheless.

DSC_0736_thumb2 Catching up to Disa just ahead

The subsequent Halloween party at the yacht club lived up to the hype as well. Of course costumes were encouraged (especially for the ladies…wonder why?), and Tiff and I made use of our limited available resources to dress up as the "Bob Sea Twins" with pigtails and matching tanks/jeans. It should have been adequate to get us a free rum punch were it not all gone by the time we got there. It was another late night for she and I as we whiled away the hours dancing to overplayed American top 40.


We met the crews of S/V Avel Mad and S/V Rusalka in Aitutaki

We’ve taken it pretty easy today, getting small tasks done (printing boat documents, going to the market) and going out to lunch with the brothers from Disa. Leo was a little bummed about losing his home-made lobster cage, thought to be sitting on the bottom 20′ below their boat. He would have gone to look for it were it not for his eardrum perforation problem, so I offered to fill in. The poor visibility (much different from the clear water of the uninhabited anchorages) prevented me from seeing the cage from the surface, so I used one of our scuba tanks to explore the bottom and located the cage just 10′ or so from where it likely went down. Leo was really pleased to have his cage back, and I could understand why after seeing the craftsmanship involved. He is hoping to use it to attract some unwitting lobster using Vienna sausages as bait. He was advised that dead fish might work better, but none of us have any laying around at the moment. With any luck he can snare a  lobster with a diverse palate.

Tomorrow we will get more use out of our scuba gear, as Dallas and I are going to make good on our offer to help out the couple living on the floating house/art gallery at anchorage #11 by working on their moorings. I’m sure we could find plenty to do here in Tonga for many weeks, but we have to wrap things up and get ready to move on.