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Revisiting Niuatoputapu

August 25, 2013

Once again we are posting from Vava’u, Tonga, where we have Internet, but this post covers Niuatoputapu (lat 15 56.4S, long 173 46.5W) to the north. Although this island was a favorite 25 years ago we had decided to pass it up in favor of Niue which we missed last time. The conflict between the two destinations stems from the trade winds which blow from the SE (typically). Vava’u lies due west from Niue and is a comfortable sail whereas Niuatoputapu lies to the NW making the trip to Vava’u a beat into the wind.

The trip to Niuatoputapu was a two-night run dead downwind with sails set wing-‘n-wing. On the second day we caught a nice wahoo which Brian cleaned on the back deck while sliding back and forth in a rolly seaway while brandishing the filet knife. Fortunately only the wahoo suffered.

We entered the narrow pass on what we thought was noon Thursday when in fact it was Friday. We had forgotten that the King has re-drawn the dateline so that the sun first rises on the Kingdom of Tonga. We were met at the pier by Sia who works for the Ministry of Tourism and is a great friend and resource to visiting yachties. She drove us 2 km to the customs official to check into the country. We had just missed by one day a visit by the King and each village was adorned with banners and flowers welcoming him.

Since our last visit the island has become a regular stop for many cruisers passing through Tonga and we shared the anchorage with seven other boats. Sia arranged a traditional pig roast on a small islet on the reef where we reacquainted with cruising buddies and made new friends as we feasted while watching the sun set. Fun was had by all.

Niuatoputapu is a calving ground for humpback whales which we watched from the cockpit each evening while enjoying “sundowners” with other boaters. Several times while snorkeling outside the reef we saw a mother and her calf but never got close enough for the GoPro. It was great to be serenaded by whale song while diving. We also saw lots of turtles in the anchorage and diving.

The island was devastated four years ago by a tsunami that originated in Samoa and swept away villages along the lagoon killing nine people. The cruising community was a big help in the following weeks to those who escaped with only the clothes on their backs. The government has helped to re-locate families to higher ground although many have opted to forfeit the aid and re-build along the water.

There isn’t much need for money on the island where people share whatever they have with whoever has needs. The cruisers did a great job in filling some needs of the villages; coffee, tools, rope, school supplies, clothes, etc. Thanks to Randi who crossed the Pacific with us Sandie was able to distribute 100 tooth brushes to the school children. The villagers were equally giving by opening up their homes to us and making us feel like friends rather than outsiders.

We met Patsy and Stuart from Australia who had arrived on the ship with the King and were stranded on the island when the once-a-week flight to Vava’u was canceled indefinitely. They joined us for an over-nighter aboard Persephone as we plowed uncomfortably to windward. Things picked up on the second day when the winds moderated and Stuart caught his first ever mahimahi (cross one off the bucket list!). They were great fun and we enjoyed having them on board.

We are now in the Vava’u group of Tonga where we plan to spend a month or so exploring before heading south along the Tongan chain and ultimately to New Zealand.

Whaoo!

Whaoo!

Sandie off watch while under way

Sandie off watch while under way

Fresh water spring

Fresh water spring

Sunset

Sunset

Kids at Ala’s house where we were invited to lunch

Kids at Ala’s house where we were invited to lunch

A rainy day with Petra and Atmo aboard Elfrun

A rainy day with Petra and Atmo aboard Elfrun

Low tide with the volcano island in the background

Low tide with the volcano island in the background

Villagers collect fish trapped by the falling tide

Villagers collect fish trapped by the falling tide

Horses and pigs have the run of the island

Horses and pigs have the run of the island

Sunset in the anchorage

Sunset in the anchorage

Sandie gives tooth brushes out at the school

Sandie gives tooth brushes out at the school

Pig roast on the motu

Pig roast on the motu

Traditional oven at the pig roast

Traditional oven at the pig roast

Pig roast

Pig roast

Sia presides over the pig

Sia presides over the pig

Diving outside the reef

Diving outside the reef

Diving outside the reef

Diving outside the reef

Sandie and Patsy fix food prior to the trip to Vava’u

Sandie and Patsy fix food prior to the trip to Vava’u

Stuart supervises as Atmo borrows some propane

Stuart supervises as Atmo borrows some propane

Sandie, Patsy, and Petra enjoy a pancake breakfast

Sandie, Patsy, and Petra enjoy a pancake breakfast

Stuart gets his first mahimahi

Stuart gets his first mahimahi

Farewell lunch with Patsy and Stuart in Vava’u

Farewell lunch with Patsy and Stuart in Vava’u

From → Travel

3 Comments
  1. Randi B permalink

    I am so glad you found good homes for those toothbrushes, but I can’t take the credit for them. They were provided by Global Grins a wonderful nonprofit organization ( http://www.globalgrins.com ) out of Irvine California.

  2. Cora Lee Jckowski permalink

    Sandie and Brian! I admire your courage and zest for life! I’m learning so much from you and enjoying every minute of reading your posts and seeing your wonderful photos. Be safe & happy. I’m traveling vicariously with you!
    Cora Jckowski

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