Beach House – En Route – 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.
Scott and Nikki

TIME: 2016/10/12 07:50
LATITUDE: 17-15.88S
LONGITUDE: 173-57.07W
SPEED: 6.6
BARO: 1013.6
COMMENT: Beach House – EN Route – Vava\’u, Tonga