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 Café 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.

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