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Saturday, September 8, 2012

August 29th 2012 Tonga

August 29th 2012 Neiafu, Vavau Tonga Story Problem 1 In order to arrive during daylight hours sailing vessel Island Bound plans to depart Pago Pago American Samoa at 5:00pm Saturday 25 of August bound for Western Samoa 80 nautical miles N/NW of their current anchorage. Winds are expected to be 15kn from the NE for an expected average hourly speed of 5.5 knots. What day and time will Island Bound make landfall in Western Samoa? Answer: Landfall, Vava'u Tonga Wednesday August 29th. As to the change of plans, well we do make changes to our plans. One of our close friends once commented that she never knew when she would see us. “Island Bound always follows her own drummer, one day there you are right there in the middle of things with everyone having a great time and then I look up and Island Bound is gone! In other words we change our minds. A lot. We had been planning our next hop on to Western Samoa for a couple of weeks. As soon as our all of our packages arrived we would stock up on fresh produce and then leave at night fall for the short 80 mile passage and then surprise surprise ...arrive after sunup. Instead the final lost package had arrived, the groceries were all stowed and then as we sat an McDonald’s checking email and looking at weather forecasts and inter-island mileage Bill decided we should skip American Samoa completely in favor of extra time in Tonga. The passage difference: a mere 250 miles. The next morning we hustled around with a few last minute details and said our good byes before lifting our anchor out of three weeks of mud and muck and motoring out into the stiff breeze. There is a fundamental difference between an 80 mile passage and a 330 miles passage. It's OK to leave without fresh eggs or missing bits of produce if your going to be in another town in less than a day. A “one night” is a piece of cake and requires relatively little planning. Psychologically an overnight is simple: you know you are looking at only one night of interrupted sleep and Apia, Samoa is not much of an unknown after our time in American Samoa. I knew we would easily find anything we might run out of and if the weather tanked we would only have a few short hours to endure. But Tonga? A whole other story. We would need to officially check in on arrival and would likely be tired. I hadn't looked at the books on Tonga in two months and not at all with the eyes of imminent arrival. Did we need to get currency? We left without knowing. Did we need to arrive with kava root for the Chiefs or the King? We didn't know and so left with none. Where was my passage rotisserie chicken? No time to cook one up myslef and no dinners precooked and packaged up, only a handful of ripe bananas and almost out of homemade yogurt. Plus and probably most disconcerting was that we had been blissfully ignoring weather reports while we were tucked in safely deep in Pago Pago's anchorage. As amateur weather forecasters there is always much more to any forecast if you have been closely following the local weather patterns and trends than what you can deduce from a single spot check. Regardless we left in a hurry Saturday morning and expected to reach Tonga by night fall 2 ½ days later. Weather wise we didn't exactly get what we had expected. Instead we had 25 to 30 knot winds at 60 degrees off our bow -almost sailing upwind- which came with big clunky 10-12 foot seas. For the first 48 hours we were surrounded by squalls which kept us reefed down, wet and rocking and rolling our way through our four hour watches. Trust me when I say a four hour watch lasts a very long time when the rain sheets down on you and the waves are crashing along and pouring tons of sea water over the boat for hours on end. We sprang a new leak around the main hatch and that along with the water we drug in on hair and clothing soon every towel in the boat was lying in wet salty heaps on the floor and still everything inside was damp to the touch and the floors dangerously covered with slick (and weirdly sticky) saltwater. The night watches were down right cold and I broke out tennis shoes for the first time in I don't remember when along with wind pants and long sleeve shirts and rain coats. It was too rough to shower and 330 miles is far enough to leave anybody a bit fragrant. Add to that nothing to eat that couldn't be put in sandwich or stuffed in a bowl while you hunkered into the corner of the cockpit So, we left at 11am for Tonga expecting 15 to 20 knot winds for the 330 miles passage. At 6.5 to 7 knots we expected to arrive at Vava'u some 55 hours later on Tuesday morning August 27th. Instead we beat upwind in high seas and arrived around 200am -the middle of the night again. We did attempt to drop our anchor in a tiny bend just outside of the island but the poor lighting, offset charts and the whale we apparently woke up were were once again left hove too waiting for first light. Our official check in was 9am Wednesday August 29th after passing over the International Date Line and loosing an entire day. So we lost a day, arrived in the middle of the night and had cruddy weather all transpiring to add up to one of the worst passages of all times. Total time for passage, 70 hours give or take the lost August 26th. Oh and for special measure how about three abscessed boils from a fungal skin infection caused by the wet conditions that left me achy and feverish and now unable to get in the water with the whales until the skin is completely intact again. Welcome to Tonga! Kat

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