13 October 2016 (+12 on UTC)

Dear Friends and Family,
We did the trip from “New Potatoes” as the cruisers call Niautopotapu in about 25 hours and covered 175 miles – all of it motoring into light southerlies.
We beat the re-establishment of the trade winds which was our goal as it would have made this trip very uncomfortable. The trade winds will start to re-establish late this afternoon. No whales so far!

We’ve already caught up with several old friends on the radio and many of the boats we came across from Panama are here as well as many of the boats we met in French Polynesia. This is sort of a collection spot for boats prepping to go south to New Zealand. About 85% of the boats will be headed that way within the next 6 weeks, the rest of us will call seasons end between Fiji and Australia. A few are heading north for the Marshall Islands.
For us, it will be Oz. Still another fun filled 2200 nautical miles to go!

We’re on a mooring, settling in and we’ll go ashore in the next few hours to check in and see the lay of the land.
KIT,
All well onboard.
Scott and Nikki

AIRMAIL YOTREPS
IDENT: N6ABC
TIME: 2016/10/12 22:06
LATITUDE: 18-39.74S
LONGITUDE: 173-58.97W
MARINE: NO
WIND_SPEED: 9
WIND_DIR: SSE
CLOUDS: 0%
VISIBILITY: 25
BARO: 1013.8
AIR_TEMP: 30.6C
COMMENT: Beach House – MOORED – Neiafu Harbor – Vava’u, Tonga

12 October 2016 (+12 on UTC) Not across the date line yet, but “politically”, we’re in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Dear Friends and Family,
We had brief 4 days in Niautoputapu (Forbidden or Secret Island), but it was quite interesting. This island only gets about 20 visiting yachts a year and that’s a lot more than they used to get. We’re probably the last to visit this season as Cyclone time will be upon this area soon.

This is an island that was badly damaged in the 2009 Tsunami and we got to see the evidence and hear some of the stories first hand.
We’ll blog on that with the photo blog when we can catch up on the internet.
We left this morning around 8:30 a.m. local time and are about 1/2 way to Vava’u, 165 miles due south of Niautoputapu.

We met a lovely young couple while we were there, Mana and Bulu and their two young children born after the Tsunami. They survived by being on the neighboring “Volcano” island. Their home on the main island was destroyed in their absence. Only 800 people inhabit this island.

We also weathered a pretty severe low pressure system and had a bit of a hurry up to relocate the boat in a 30 knot squall. All went according to plan and after that and a bit more rain, the weather has turned down right delightful. We had to make the decision to leave this morning as if we didn’t, we’d be bucking against the trade winds trying to get to our next destination, Vava’u. This is the where most of the cruising boats head too along the main “milk run route” and the now, lack of wind after the storm is allowing us to motor the 165 miles overnight to arrive there tomorrow before mid day.

Tonga stretches about 600 miles, north to south in 4 island groups. Niuatoputapa is the most northerly and most remote. The Vava’u are the second most populated and most interesting for the “yachties” due to their extensive cruising grounds, whale watching opportunities and good anchorages. Next further south is the Ha’aapi (my favorite) and finally, the jumping off group is Tongatapu; the Capital and most populous.

These islands are one of the primary humpback calving grounds in the entire southern hemisphere and I’ll be surprised when we arrive if we don’t see several whales as we are now arriving at the height of the season. The Ha’aapi usually has the most whales and for some reason, cruisers don’t often stop at this most remote group. I suspect it is because the anchorages are not as well protected and the reef systems are more complex. It’s also one of active underwater volcanic areas on Earth. Pumice can frequently be seen on the surface. The second deepest part of the ocean in the world is adjacent to these islands, the Tongan Trench. This is where the earthquake and volcanic activity arise from. You could fit Mt. Everest in the Tongan Trench and it would still have water above it.

We hear there is a lot of boats now in Vava’u, mostly waiting to get a weather window to head South toward New Zealand for the coming South Pacific Cyclone season. We and some of the other boats will continue on West into Fiji before heading to Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Lord Howe Island and finally into Sydney, Australia.

Vava’u is noted as the best “hurricane hole” in the South Pacific as it’s completely isolated from the ocean with 300 foot hills ringing in the 1/2 mile long by 1/4th of a mile wide bay.

There is supposedly decent internet available and if so, we’ll try and catch up with some photo blogs. Hope springs eternal.
KIT,
Scott and Nikki

AIRMAIL YOTREPS
IDENT: N6ABC
TIME: 2016/10/12 07:50
LATITUDE: 17-15.88S
LONGITUDE: 173-57.07W
COURSE: 185T
SPEED: 6.6
MARINE: YES
WIND_SPEED: 8
WIND_DIR: SE
SWELL_DIR: E
SWELL_HT: 1.3M
SWELL_PER: 6
CLOUDS: 30%
VISIBILITY: 20
BARO: 1013.6
TREND: 1
AIR_TEMP: 28.3C
COMMENT: Beach House – EN Route – Vava’u, Tonga

Dear Friends and Family,
First, congrats to all our friends in Florida for surviving Hurricane Matthew. We had a report of about 100 mph gusts in Stuart, Florida!
Another bit of excitement, we heard a medical emergency on another boat about 500 miles west of us. He was being assisted by the ever present and ready Pacific Seafarers Net (Ham Radio 14300 at 0300 UTC). We’ll find out the hopefully happy resolution this evening if we are on the net.

We had a pretty rough night. Wind on or just forward of the beam with a short sloppy chop, winds 17-25 knots.
Crew had a few reefing drills. We were told the channel here would be very narrow with a few bommies right on the leading marks.
It wasn’t that narrow and the bommies are properly marked – not on the leading marks. Navionics Charts were spot on as were the “leading marks”.
Just before we entered the channel, we had a bit of a start when our port engine wouldn’t start. We think the battery is the issue and were able to start it with our cross connect from the starboard engine and the chargers on. I’ll keep it charged now daily when we use the generator.

As we expect a “blow” here (top of the tail from what will develop well south of us), we will move to Motu (small island) “Hakautuutuu” and hide behinds it’s southern flank. Go ahead and say that name 10 times real fast.

Nice depth over there and completely ringed in a large swimming pool of a reef. I don’t expect more than 30 knots and that only briefly, but who knows!
The weather models don’t agree. We should be about 550 miles north of the system and “best of” to our friends in Tongatapu which looks to be more or less ground zero (so far?). If the weather cooperates, we may move the one day sail down to Vava’u, Tonga (after the blow) as Nikki really wants to see “whale country”.

We’re the only boat here and we’ve got to go scrounge up customs/immigration as it’ Saturday and no one seems to be much around ashore.
KIT,
Full Reports later,
Scott and Nikki

AIRMAIL YOTREPS
IDENT: N6ABC
TIME: 2016/10/07 21:39
LATITUDE: 15-56.50S
LONGITUDE: 173-46.09W
COURSE: 206T
SPEED: 0.6
MARINE: NO
WIND_SPEED: 15
WIND_DIR: ESE
CLOUDS: 15%
VISIBILITY: 20
BARO: 1016.6
AIR_TEMP: 31.7C
COMMENT: Beach House – ANCHORED – Niatapatopu, Tonga