Thursday, 18 October 2018

Cruising in Vava'u - Camping, Mega-Super Yachts, Sailing and School

After sorting out our logistics and admin in town it was time to head out into the super easy and pretty cruising grounds of Vava'u.  Moorings has published a guide to the islands numbering each anchorage so many of the yachties referred to each spot by its number vice its name.  Compared to the Ha'apai and places we normally visit it seemed really busy to us but it was a nice place to visit and the kids enjoyed having more "kid boats" around.

Heading into Nuku anchorage.

Johnathan checking the route for us.

Kid boats !  Camping ashore at Gau.

Benjamin enjoying being ashore

More kid boats and more camping.

and some school too.
and more school.
and chores.

and trips to the Barber Shop.

Benjamin making "creature power discs" modeled after his current favourite show: Wild Kratts

I also had a chance to go racing.  I showed up at the skippers meeting hoping to get a crew position.  A catamaran with a massive and loud crew offered me a position but there was a quiet couple who were not seeking any crew.  I asked if I could go with them and what a good call that was.  Not only did we win - which is always nice - but the boat was really well set up and run extremely well by the husband and wife team.  Later I found out why they were such great sailors - the husband used to be the professional skipper of Steinlager II and the wife is the daughter of the late Sir Peter Blake.  Great folks.  The rest of the crew were some great Tongan guys who were good sailors and had great stories from setting up the whale watching industry in the early days.  The race flowed into a few after race beers to a full blown party ashore.

There were quite a few whales in Vava'u but we did not see as many as we saw in Ha'apai.  When we did see them though they were usually being pursued by at least one, if not two, whaling boats.

We detoured a bit to cruise closer to look at this ketch.  She is the largest performance ketch in the world.

and a few hours later she anchored next to us.  Look at the crew member on the main mast to give you an idea of the scale.

Look at the crew member on the main mast to give you an idea of the scale.

An interesting neighbour.
We were anchored there to see the "Tongan Feast".  The show was okay and the food good but the highlight had to be a glimpse into the megayacht world

The German owner of the yacht prefers German beer and wine so he has it flown in.  Here the Chief Engineer is trying to set up the keg ashore.
There was a minor crisis when it did not work so more engineers were recalled from the yacht to help.  Anyway, the owners were very nice and interesting people to talk to for the evening.  And they shared their tasty beer and wine ...
On the other end of the spectrum ... Trickle out sailing near Gau
Nice beaches.
One of our favourite anchorages was off Kenutu.  Here is the view from the windward side.

and the leeward side.

Fluenta anchored off Kenutu

and on the sandbar near Kenutu.  A great kiting spot which I cover in another blog post.

And some kiting on Gau in a westerly wind.  Most crowded spot we kited.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Into Mariners and Swallows Cave

Two of the "must do" activities in Vavu'a are swimming into Mariners and Swallows Cave.  Liz will write about the experience later but here are some photos.

At Mariners you need to freedive down about 6 feet and swim in about 14 feet to come up into a big cavern. It is pretty dark as you start the tunnel but then there is an interesting light in the cavern itself. As the swell surges in the pressure changes and the caverns fills and empties with fog.  Only poor Benjamin was unable to dive into the cave.  Swimming in is initially a bit intimidating as we were not sure if it was the right location and it is totally dark ahead swimming through the tunnel.

Swallows Cave is different in that it is big enough to drive the dingy into.

Johnathan swimming into Mariners Cave

Almost there.

Victoria leaving the cave.

Liz swims in with a flashlight.

Johnathan and Liz on the surface.  I went down about 15' to try to frame this picture.

Victoria and Liz on the surface in the cave.  As the swell pressures the cavern fog forms and dissipates.

Lots of soft coral along the edges of the cave.  Hard to photograph as free diving and considerable surge.

Victoria checking out the fish in Swallows Cave.

and Johnathan climbing and diving of the walls of Swallows Cave.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Heading to Town - Neiafu

After our first trip through the Ha'apai we headed up to the capital of Vava'u: the town of Neiafu.  With population of 6,000 it is the second biggest town in Tonga and the centre of most of the "yachtie" and tourist activities.  A bit of a shock after the quiet Ha'apai.

The mooring field

At this point we are by the blue fish and chips house run by a guy from Winnipeg.

Essential repairs to Benjamin's F-14 Tomcat

and repairs to my toys - fixing the SUP pump.

and lots of laundry.

I remember STS Picton Castle was in the news a bit with a Transport Canada report when I was posted to Halifax so we were keen to see her close up when she arrived in Neiafu.  Although registered in the Cook Islands she is based out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and doing a circumnavigation.

We did not mean this close up though.  Our anchor chain actually runs under her stern and then off to her starboard side.  They needed to use their tender to push their stern aside when we decided that they were just too close for our comfort and needed to reanchor further away.  Johnathan went out in our RHIB too in case we needed to push Fluenta off that steel hull.

Kind of close.  Was impressive to watch them do the downwind anchor drop though.  One of the crew actually stopped me on the street to apologize for anchoring too close but I never did get a reply back from my polite note to the ship.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Reef Photos

As family we spend a fair amount of time in the water snorkeling or spearfishing.  This year I have tried to take more detailed photos of what we see.  Here are some of the photos of the small fish and coral on the reefs.  Leopard sharks to follow in a later post.

Little fish are hard to photograph freediving as they just do not stay still and cooperate.
The kids are easy to photography even if they too rarely stay still
My favourite Christmas Tree Worm photo to date.
More Christmas Tree Worms.  If you get too close they close up.

Giant clam

Coral close-up

Soft coral.

Details of a starfish.

Coral close-up
Coral close-up

Coral close-up

More giant clam