Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tonga - a post by Mary Grose

Shayna, Steve and I have been home for almost two weeks and are settled back into life in Maple Ridge. It is hard to believe that we spent a month on board Malachi never mind that we actually went sailing, in the Kingdom of Tonga of all places.

Steve, Shayna and Mary, sharing a yummy dessert.

From the moment we arrived, the Crandell’s welcomed us with open arms, making us feel right at home. Jay and Marg gave us their cabin, Jenny shared her room with Shayna and Jocelyn gave up her room, thank-you again! We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into having not spent much time on a boat. Well there are so many things about sailing that we truly understand now. There is work to be done and it takes longer to do anything. Things break down and you can’t just run to home depot or the grocery store when needed. I must say we have a new appreciation for what Jay, Marg, Jocelyn and Jenny are doing. They all have different roles, each one an integral part of being successful on the deep blue sea. I hope we helped them out some and gave them a break from some of their ‘chores’ – the famous saying on the boat was “Steve will do it.” Marg cooked us up some magnificent meals, it was amazing what she could whip up in the galley and not just food, she makes a mean iced cappuccino!

The highlight was definitely our swim with the 3 humpback whales. But there were so many other wonderful moments that we shared; like seeing the joy in the Tongan children’s eyes when they held our hands and looked at the pictures we took of them (the beauty of digital cameras), sailing to many different islands and having beaches and sometimes the whole island all to ourselves, the sound of the water as we gracefully sailed along at 8 knots with just the spinnaker sail(Jay sure knows what he is doing), talking with villagers and being invited into their home, snorkeling, enjoying God’s creation on land and sea. But most of all the fun we had in just hanging out with all of them; we shared some good laughs. We also met some wonderful people on different boats who are on a similar adventure to Malachi. It was very special to be so welcomed by them and see how this community of cruisers is so helpful to each other; they are like a neighborhood that is constantly changing its location.

We are very thankful to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to spend a month with the Crandell family. The time we spent with them will forever be treasured. The memories we created will never be forgotten. Thanks again Jay, Marg, Jocelyn and Jenny. Below are just a few of the 2,500 pictures we have.

Steve & Shayna on the bow of Malachi. Steve's favorite spot!

Mary & Marg on the beach

Having dinner at the Aquarium Cafe with our new friends from O'vive and Orca III

Shayna loved sun tanning lying on the Malachi's boom

Enjoying island paradise together

Steve helping Jay put up the Spinnaker sail. Steve loved helping and learning about sailing from Jay.

Mary & Marg in the Tongan jungle.

I will miss my swimming partner

Shayna loved steering Malachi and brought her right into the harbour at Nieafu

I liked this photo because the thought that this family from O'ua will hang this photograph in their home and treasure it brings tears to my eyes. We have such an abundance in our lives and we take for granted so many things, like having a camera to record our memories.

One of the many dingy rides we took to our very own island

It was hard to leave Jenny behind when we went to go exploring and snorkeling

Still enjoying paradise together!!

We will miss these Tongan sunsets

....and sunrises!

Thanks to the best host couple ever. They sure look good together. They are doing what God has called them to do. We will miss them!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Still in Vava'u Tonga

Well, we’re still in Vava’u Tonga where it’s easy to hang out because of all the restaurants and supplies that are readily available.

One of my lastest finds...a store with American cereal!

Best store for bread and cheezie type things.

Watermelons, watermelons, watermelons!
Another look at the market.

We’ve done a few interesting things in the past week. We arranged for Olivia, one of the ladies from the market, to teach us how to weave.
Our weaving class! Emilie, Nathalie, Olivia, Maya, Marg, Jenny & Jocelyn

Jocelyn, Jenny & Nathalie

Kyle and Alec sailed “Peanut” Orca III’s little sailing dinghy, in the Friday night yacht race and they won a pizza! Way to go guys!

We’ve done some more scuba diving at split rock – be sure to see the video that Jocelyn took.

Other than that, I guess everything is pretty well the same. Summer is approaching and the temperature in Tonga is rising, it is currently +30 degrees in the boat and it’s difficult to sleep at times.

I’ve spent all day creating, reducing and posting videos to youtube. Please be sure to check out the link at the top right of our blog to see all our videos.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Vava'u

It’s been almost a week since Steve, Mary & Shayna left and we really miss them – Tonga is just not the same.

I spent two days completing my PADI Open Water dive course, the one I started in California. You may remember that Jay and the girls were certified last October but I just couldn’t do the ocean dives at that time. I must say, that Tonga is a much nicer place for ocean diving as the water is warm and clear.

Jay, with the assistance of our good friends Dave from O’vive and Steve from Orca III have been working around the clock, it seems, to resolve the problem with our auto pilot. After numerous diagnostic tests and troubleshooting, they replaced the hydraulic pump which seems to have “Otto” working happily once again. Good thing, because none of us wanted to hand steer all the way to New Zealand. Special thanks go to Tom from Warm Rain and Dave from Baraka for their help as well – you guys are great!

The kids have been thinking up ideas to occupy themselves such as swimming at the Paradise Hotel, doing a photo scavenger hunt and going for hot fudge brownie sundaes at the Aquarium cafe.

Jocelyn & Emma at the Bounty Bar
Jocelyn & Alec at Tonga Bob's
After spending a few more days in Neiafu, we decided to return to a nice, clear secluded anchorage just a couple of miles out. We’ve had a few very nice days and the kids have been swimming and playing on the beach as well as flying kites and sailing Orca III’s little sailing dinghy. It’s been a very nice change from the busy harbour.

Jay, Dave, Nathalie, Jocelyn, Emilie and I have been out scuba diving which has been really fun. I have sure enjoyed pointing out some of the things I saw on my test dives. Going with a guide who has local knowledge is great as they can point out some very cool things that would otherwise be overlooked.

A couple of things I really liked were the sea feathers which open up when you tickle their legs and the sailor’s eyeball – both things I’ve never seen before.
Sailors eyeball
Sea Feather - when you touch the leg the feathers bloom open.

Emilie & Jocelyn

Jay comes face to face with a protective clown fish.


Straight up from 75 feet deep!

It’s been kind of tricky for us managing our provisions while here. New Zealand really restricts dry goods such as grains and cereals, crackers and pasta as well as popcorn and spices. As a result, we’ve all been trying to use things up and not buy replacement supplies. In anticipation of our week long crossing from Tonga to New Zealand, we’ve ordered an assortment of meals from a local restaurant so we won’t have to worry about cooking and having supplies on board. We’re looking forward to the yummy lasagna, quiche, chicken pie and sausage rolls from the Crows Nest Bakery. It’s a nice consolation since we’re not particularly looking forward to the passage.

One rainy day, Dionne and I along with Sally from the Dorothy Marie had planned to walk to the “American Store” (don’t get too excited, it just means they have Cadbury Chocolate and a few Costco items but it’s still a very small store) to get some munchies etc. and while on our walk, we decided that we may as well swing by the “German Store” as well. As usual, this small shopping trip which yielded me eight chocolate bars, four bags of chips, a pack of chicken breasts and a piece of salami, took us three hours. Just like Mexico, everything takes longer than it does at home and I’m envious of Steve and Mary who have written about shopping at the Langley Market and Save on Foods…..LUCKY!
On Monday, two crews of kids: Jocelyn, Alec and Maya and Jenny, Kyle and Emilie took shifts sailing Orca III's little sailing dingy on the three hour trip back to Neiafu. They had a great time and did a great job of sailing that little boat without incident right up until the final 100 metres. Just before they arrived at Orca III, the mast snapped! I think that will be today's repair job.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Steve and his first Mahi Mahi.

Jay & Steve with a yellowfin tuna.

Our final day in Ha’apai was spent at Ha’ano where we visited a tiny little beach with the softest sand I’ve ever felt. We snorkeled in crystal clear water and wondered at the flying foxes (bats) that hung in the tree nearby.

Our passage between Ha’apai and Vava’u was a very nice sail although the seas were a little lumpy. Upon arrival in Neiafu we received a royal welcome from many friends we haven’t seen in a while and for the Grose’s, it was quite a contrast to the solitude of the Ha’apai group. Our friends made reservations at the Aquarium CafĂ© for the night we arrived so all the adults enjoyed a nice dinner out while the kids had dinner and a movie on O’vive. Steve, Mary and Shayna are sure getting a taste of many of the different aspects of cruising and sure seem to be enjoying themselves and we’re sure enjoying their company.

In the harbour here, there are vendors who paddle out to the boats selling their wares.

Vava’u has a moderate sized market where you can buy some fruits and vegetables as well as a good selection of handicrafts. The stores; however, have a very poor selection of groceries and the meat supplies are terrible. The Tongans seem to eat mainly tinned corned beef and mutton flaps (sheep – yuck), while us Canadians would really prefer steak and boneless skinless chicken thighs which are difficult to impossible to find, we’ve been eating a lot of rice and pasta.

Here's a picture of the food court, it seems as though this building may have once been a stable.
In the food court you can buy drinks, but they are served in baggies!
Jenny got her cast off here in Vava'u but first we needed to take her to the hospital for an x-ray, then it was off to the Dr.'s office to see if everything was ok then it was back to the boat to soak the plaster in the ocean to soften it. After the cast had been soaking for 1/2 an hour I sawed it off with a steak knife.
Marg in the hospital waiting room.

We spent two nights in a nice anchorage where there was a tiny little gallery called the “Ark Gallery” where I purchased a very sweet painting of two Tongan boys drinking a coconut.
It was here that Jenny celebrated her birthday with her cruising buddies. Thanks to the generosity of our friends, the kids enjoyed a progressive dinner and sleepover in honour of Jenny’s 15th birthday. While the kids dined on spaghetti, the adults had a potluck dinner of yellow fin tuna which Malachi caught and O’vive barbequed, Nathalie’s French bread and veggies and Orca III’s tomato basil salad and chocolate cake. We had a great time as usual!

On thing we had all been looking forward to was a Tongan Feast which we finally enjoyed last Saturday at Ano Beach. The evening started with a browse through the handiwork of many local artisans and was followed by a dance show put on by a local family, followed by the feast. We tasted pig on a stick as well as many other interesting Tongan foods that were cooked in the umu (oven in the ground) such as banana bread pudding, corned beef/chicken/pork wrapped in banana leaves. Many other dishes graced the table: clams, octopus, fish cakes, crab salad, chicken salad and poisson cru. Thankfully, the Tongans broke tradition by serving the food on a table but they did adhere to tradition by not having utensils. It was quite a culinary adventure.
Vendors selling their handicrafts at the feast.

Feast preparations start early in the day.

Roasting the pig for the feast.

Musicians at the feast.
Steve eating octopus!
Alec and Jenny enjoying the feast.
Dancers at the feast.

Shayna drinking a coconut during our whale watching trip.
Sunday night we had a big storm with winds gusting to 38 knots accompanied by wind and rain; this gave Steve and Mary a bit of an idea of what it’s like on a night passage. Our anchor held firm and we woke the next morning to glorious skies of blue and flat calm water, what a contrast. The Vava’u group has many cool caves to explore and O’vive, Orca III and Malachi took two separate excursions to visit the Swallows cave, where we were able to take our dinghies inside and swim.
Next it wass of to the Mariners cave where the underwater opening is the only access. It took some courage to swim into the Mariners cave but, inside we experienced a glow on the walls from the light that filtered in through the water, as well as a fog that came and went with the waves. Since there is no other opening, the air compresses and releases creating a fog – no fog effect and you feel the pressure in your ears, much the same as when you dive or when you go in an airplane – very interesting.

Yesterday was the best day of all as we spent the entire day swimming in the ocean with the humpback whales. It was such an awesome experience that my words will never begin to touch on the all encompassing emotional exhilaration that we shared. It’s so amazing that these huge mammals would tolerate humans in such close proximity allowing us a glimpse into their serene world. We loved watching the mom gently nudge her calf to the surface, teaching it how to breach while the male escort observed from a deep distance.
Jocelyn and David from Melbourne swimming out for a closer look.

NOTE: all of these photos were taken wide angle - no zoom.

After about four hours straight of swimming with this pod of three whales it was time for our day to end. As if on cue, each of the three whales we had been swimming with breached one after the other in an exciting and dramatic finale! It was a very moving experience as the whales seemed to be bidding us adieu after a day of play, everyone on our boat cheered and applauded this rare display. As we were all back on board and preparing to depart we looked out and saw all of ‘our’ whales slapping their pectoral fins on the surface, something they hadn’t done all day, as if to wave goodbye and everyone instinctively waved back. It was an outstanding encounter which will be hard to beat in this lifetime.

Thanks to Moa and Connor from Beluga Diving for a remarkable day.
I think our whale encounter inspired all of us to explore the underwater world more - even Steve gave it a try. We sall all kinds of cool things beneath the surface.
Every trip to the beach involves a dinghy ride, some are more wet than others.

We've had a really great time with Steve, Mary and Shayna and are sad for them to leave, but we've just sent them on their way and they'll have one day back in Tongatapu before flying to Fiji where they have about 10 hours to explore.