Charm - Tonga 10


The big story in Tonga at the moment is the weather. Since about 2 pm today, it has been raining more or less steadily, with gaps for heavy downpours or brief periods of dryness, lasting about 15 minutes each.

We are rafted (tied up with) Nikitoo, a fabulous Oyster (brand of boat) whose owners are Hugh, Scottish and Mariana, Bulgarian, with crew from the UK, Spain, and Brazil.

When the bay ran out of mooring buoys due to a large number of boats, they kindly invited us to raft with them. This means that they are tied to the mooring buoy and we are tied to them. Mooring buoys are some heavy item that is sunk to the bottom, with a rope tied to it and a buoy with a loop to attach to tied to the top. Some places have heavier things at the bottom than others.

We rafted with them yesterday and this morning a boat came out and told us that we shouldn’t have two boats on the buoy because it wasn’t intended for that much weight. We had planned to leave this afternoon after Joe helped Selene fix their engine and told the people from the dive company that manages the mooring balls that we would be leaving.

We were going to do a family hike with Aurora B and then head to an anchorage at Port Maurelle, nearby. Joe and I did some last minute shopping while Aurora B finished lunch. As we were about to head back, it started raining. We stopped for shelter under a tree and asked a local if he thought it would be a long or short rain. He said, “long,” and I concurred, based on the look of the skies.

Joe and I chose to get wet and we are glad we did because we only would have gotten wetter. For the rest of the afternoon, CH 72 on the VHF radio was filled with chatter from boats calling back and forth to get rides back from shore or to cancel or reschedule plans.

Our hike was called off and we decided to stay rafted to Nikitoo since the winds were light (therefore putting very little pressure on the mooring buoy). We reasoned that the dive company would probably not venture out in the miserable weather so we could get away with it one more night.

Plus, it’s really fun to be rafted with an agreeable boat. It’s like suddenly having a next door neighbor when you used to be 10 miles from anyone. The girls went over for a while and said they were given hot chocolate, Oreos, and peanut butter. Did I mention they like children and spoil them rotten?

This evening, they invited us over for rum drinks along with the occupants of another Oyster (it’s an elite ownership group) in the bay. Nikitoo has a unique feature in its rum tank - the only boat we have encountered that has a filling location in the deck for diesel, water, and rum. I suggested we expand the evening to be taco Tuesday and game night and therefore created a perfect rainy evening retreat.

All the other boats on the radio called off plans to visit each other because of pouring rain but we just had to step across our lifelines and we had a great evening waiting for us. Cobin brought over his Nintendo Switch and got the 20-something visitors on Babe (Oyster with UK owners, based in New Zealand) engaged and the rest of us watched them. We all played a fun game of Empire (great game that can be played by all ages and number of people) and enjoyed tacos, wine, and rum.

We are looking forward to a surprise party for Mariana (shh!) in a few days. Hugh drive around today in the pouring rain, delivering invitations. The location is an anchorage somewhere near here. Part of the fun will be finding it!

My mother has said that some of you wanted more details about the night Joe took everyone’s watches when we left Niue. The easiest answer is that if you know Joe, he will do whatever he wants, regardless of what anyone else says. In the end, he is the skipper, responsible for the boat and everyone on it, so he gets to make the final call.

However, we are also I n a part of the world where there are no shipping channels and very few geographic challenges (I.e unexpected shallow spots or islands) in the long passages. So it is a relatively “easy” area to keep watch. The winds were light and we were motor sailing.

Joe decided he wanted to leave at night rather than early morning as he had told us earlier. Our guests, new to sailing, got seasick on passages. Joe said that since he wanted to leave at night, he would be in charge of the night passage. Usually this means that he sets his watch to wake him every 15 minutes. He does a quick check of things and goes back to sleep. This is how single and double-handed sailors regularly operate and how Joe and I will sometimes operate when we are on our own. So it was not unreasonable for him to take the whole night not for us to let him. And, as I mentioned, he would do it anyway so there was no use trying to dissuade him.

Tonight I leave you with glassy waters, concealing masses of moon jellies that Tully delights in catching and releasing. Land harbors multitudes of pigs and piglets, dogs and doglets, and the omnipresent free range chickens (but no free range eggs). Boys and men wear skirts here when dressed for school or formally and all the kids say “Bye” with enthusiasm and giant smiles whenever we pass them.

“Thank you” is “Malo apito” and goodbye is a two-part greeting in which I say Nofua and the other person says something else. Thankfully I don’t have to remember that part! Most people speak English other than (oddly) the Chinese shopkeepers who get Tongan customers to translate for them. They seem to have learned Tongan but not English.

Since Niue, we have had mostly cool nights, which has made sleeping truly delightful. Instead of sweating through our sheets, we actually had to dig through our storage and find blankets! A welcome change although we still prefer warmer days for swimming and snorkeling.

Although we have enjoyed gathering gallons and gallons of rainwater to fill our tanks, we hope the deluges come to an end tonight so we can dry Charm out and do some activities off the boat in the next few days.



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