We just realized that somewhere between Niue and Tonga we cross the International Date Line. The Longitude should be 180° but Tonga moved it about 8° to the east to incorporate all their islands so their country is all on the same day. This also gives them the distinction of being the first in the world to greet a new morning. The time of day does not change, just the date. For us this means not just loosing an entire day, it means we have one less day to reach Nukalofa in time to pick up Steve's dad.
|Sept. 18, 2002 - Alofi Niue to Nukalofa Tonga 320nm
6:30AM. There is a strong wind warning between Niue and Tonga. S/v Amonetus had 36 hours of 30kt winds near Vava'u, the northern most of the three island groups of Tonga. Most of the cruisers head for the Vava'u as it is a much better wind direction out of Niue. I motor up on the mooring as Steve leans over and releases the snubber line. Motoring out of the lee of the island toward a double rainbow as the sun comes up. There is a ENE strong wind warning.
8:30AM. Wind 15 - 20kts. Mizzen up and reefed, pole out on port side, motor off. Sailing 8.2kts.
11:00 - 1PM. Wind 15 - 18kts. Boat Speed 8.8 - 9.1kts. If these conditions continue we could arrive in Nukalofa at 10PM tomorrow. Good news BUT.....
5:30PM news on Russell Radio warns of a Low and possible NW wind which is not good for us.
6PM - 9PM Ate eggplant parmesan and coleslaw as we sail on into the night taking our 3 hour watches with no sign of the front. The sky is partly cloudy during the day then a beautiful night sail with a full moon.
Sept 19, 2002
Heading 223 off by 10°
Wind light 10kts
12:00 midnight still no sign of the front. Boat speed
is 7.5kt by sailing 10° off our Heading but need to catch the wind.
My second nightmare is REEFS! Hitting a reef would be devastating with the possibility of loosing the boat not to mention a major problem for us. So now here we come, both scenarios in play, along with the fact that we are now in dense fog and heavy mist zig zagging through the narrow winding pass just minutes before we reach the most crucial area. There is no turning around in the narrow passage, and slowing down any slower is not an option as the boat would have no steering power. We try to come in on the range lights but only one of them is on. We use the GPS and radar almost totally. Just as the dim light and mist rises, we come into the narrowest area. Steve calls me away from the radar and GPS to come topside. I can not believe my eyes. On either side just below the surface is the reef. Steve is at the helm steering s/v Ariel along, right smack down the middle of the narrow pass with all the confidence in the world. He never once felt in danger, perhaps due to all his experience and perhaps my fears are due to not enough. None the less, later we hear from the captain of s/v Lord Jim that in Tonga some of the charts are wrong, the reefs are in places not marked and etc. From my view we were either very STUPID or very LUCKY. As for the captain he felt the entire entry was just a formality coming in at the right time in the right place, "it was just fine".
Perhaps I should have stayed in bed this non-existent day to allow my body to catch up. Everything is moving in slow motion. The Customs agent finally answers us hailing on VHF only hours before we must get to the airport to pick up Bill, Steve's dad. Another hour passes before Simon from Customs picks up Steve on the dock to take him to check in. I am left sitting on a bollard on the dock smacking flies. Even a fly landing on my hand did not have a chance, he was just too slow. Four hours I am left sitting on this bollard wondering what kind of a time warp I have landed in. Eventually Simon returns to inform me that Steve has disappeared!!! He was last seen entering the bank to withdraw $110 for custom fees. We are not checked in yet and Steve is out there somewhere!
Gayla's story: I am driven back to the Customs office and held there while the search continues for Steve. It is now way past the time for Steve's dad to have arrived so I have them call the airport to reach his dad. That is when I find out the plane has been diverted to New Zealand due to bad weather and unable to land. This must be the front we just barely missed by hours of coming in. In the back of my mind I have a feeling Steve has left all protocol behind and skipped out to get his dad. I also have the feeling, while sitting in the Customs office, that I am being held as a sort of ransom until Steve is found.
Steve's story: He was driven to Immigration which was not open yet so taken to Customs to fill out necessary paper work. He was then driven to the Bank to get money for the check in. Simon told him he would be waiting outside. However when Steve came out of the Bank, Simon was no where to be found. He hailed a taxi and made for the airport. One thing we were all to discover is that the speed limit is only 25MPH and the airport is on the other side of the island 15 miles away. There is a fine of $1US for every mile per hour over the speed limit. Every car, truck and taxi is driving at a snails pace. When he finally arrived at the airport, he discovered the plane had been diverted to New Zealand. It took over an hour at 25MPH each way for him to get out to the airport then back again. On the way he had the taxi stop at a market where he loaded up with vegetables and fruit as everything would be closed on Sunday.
Bill's story: The plane was unable to land in Tonga due to the weather and after circling the airport several times they were diverted to NZ to refuel. This unexpected stop caused a delay and by the time the fuel trucks arrived the pilots shift time had run out and a new crew had to be summoned. Once the new crew was summoned they were unable to leave because the fuel truck broke down in front of the plane. Finally after hours sitting on the plane all the passengers were able to disembark and taken to a hotel for the weekend. Since there are no planes allowed to land in Tonga on Sunday, a very Christian island where everything shuts down on the Sabbath, Bill had to wait until Monday to fly into Tonga.
day lost crossing the International Date Line.
Today was a most unusual day where TIME seemed to go backward. All
incidences were about waiting to go nowhere. Once we got it all
sorted out, Steve and I settled down to enjoy this new island country.
Tonga Royal Palace built over 130 years ago
| The community
is built on twin foundations of the monarchy and Christian Church.
The Chief of State, King Taufa'ahau has been in power since Dec. 1965 and is a position from heredity. There is a prime minister and deputy prime minister who are appointed for life by the monarchy.
| Wesleyan Church of
Tonga King Taufa'ahau Chief of State of Tonga
|Sunday is a day of rest. It is against the law to do almost
anything including laundry on Sunday in Tonga. We decide to go to church
as it turns out the Queen is giving the sermon today. The
Centenary Church (Free Wesleyan) is packed. In the center, 25 pews
are reserved for the choir. We are ushered to a side room reserved
for visitors and seated directly across
from the King who is in attendance today. He is a huge man, 6 feet
tall and about 350 to 400 pounds.
The Queen gives a few words in English to welcome us then proceeds through the sermon in Tongan. During the sermon several songs were song in a four part harmony by the choir. The singing was OUTSTANDING!
Steve dressed for church and Simon with suit jacket, tie and customary skirt or kilt called 'vala' and a fine woven pandanus leaf mat wrapped around the waist called 'Ta'ovala' tied with a coconut cord.
women wear the same pandanus leaf woven mats around their waists only
called 'Kiekie' and worn over a double layers of long skirts.
Most wear shoes or sandals to church but many are barefoot.
Gayla being greeted by the Queen of Tonga Steve's dad, Bill, being greeted by Steve and Gayla
Bill arrives in Tonga to join s/v Ariel on her sail to NZ
| Downtown Nukalofa on a Sunday Campaign for healthy living on a billboard
|Food markets with abundance of fruits and vegetables grown and neatly packaged by locals|
|Local craft market of basket weaving, wood carvings and pounded Tapa cloth from breadfruit trees|
| There are three major island groups of the 170 Tongan islands, 36
of which are inhabited full time, the capital
island of Tongatapu in the south, the Ha'apai group in the center and
the Vava'u group in the north. We have decided to visit the
Vava'u group before heading off to New Zealand.
Weather forecast is for NE winds increasing tomorrow night so
we decide to head out now and make our northern sail in lighter winds.
|Sept. 24-25,2007 - Nuku'alofa Tongatapu to Neiafu Vava'u 170nm
Wind NE 10kts
Bill, Steve's dad arrived today and other than a slight cold
hanging on he is all settled aboard. We sit him topside to
breathe in some fresh sea air and load him up with vitamin C.
|3:30PM we are motoring in 10kts of wind out into the open from the
channel surrounded by small islands. A whale breaches off our
huge mammals migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic
to mate and give birth here in Tonga's warm and protected waters. Fortunately the King banned
whaling in 1979.
We set up our night watches on three hour shifts as to hit a whale could be disastrous for it and us. Although Tonga is the last place on earth sightseers are legally allowed to swim with humpback whales, we have no desire to do it now. We hear that in the months of Aug.-Sept. the whales swim up among the anchored yachts.
7:30PM Wind ENE 12kts switching more to east so jib out to
port, all sails flying, engines off and we are sailing 6.5kts
7:15PM Anchored between Utungake and Kapa Islands at #6 anchorage in
the Vava'u group with 7 other boats.
In the wee hours at 4AM in the morning I hear someone in the cockpit. As I poke my head up out of the aft cabin hatch I see a man silently entering the companionway into Ariel. I jab Steve awake and whisper into his ear to HIT THE ALARM!! All hell breaks loose when the spreader lights come on and a loud siren like a police car echoes throughout the anchorage. Steve runs forward, half awake, and as he cautiously reaches the companionway he is met by his father sitting on the steps. "Is everything ok, son?" he inquires. OH NO! I have forgotten that Bill is aboard. It was he who so silently exited the cockpit after retrieving his water bottle.
Next morning on the VHF net, I apologize to all the other boats in the anchorage for such a rude awakening.
Not to take all the credit for being so forgetful, Steve forgot the
alarm was ON one night at anchor, when he stepped out on the deck to
relieve himself. The alarm went off, the spreader lights came on
and there he stood in the spot light stark naked with very surprised
look on his face.
Described as one of the South Pacific's great harbors, The Port
of Refuge harbor in Neiafu, Vava'u provides a beautiful sheltered, deep
anchorage and one of the most favorite ports of call for cruisers.
Many cruisers come here and never leave during cyclone season as it is
well protected and is known as the closest thing to a hurricane haven.
|Hurricane anchorage off Neiafu,Vava'u Cruisers help Ariel tie up to a mooring bouy|
Greetings in Neiafu by the friendly natives bearing gifts...for sale!
There are about 4000 Tongans and 100 palangi (foreigners & ex-pats) on the island. The town sits atop a bluff about 2 miles long and 3 miles across. It has a small town atmosphere with only a church, a couple bakeries, a few stores and restaurants and a great produce market also full of handicrafts.
Local houses bearing signs of distinction Local ladies of distinction on their way to the church
|Cruiser hang out at Ana's Waterfront Bar - a place to relax or get up and dance with the locals|
| Meeting up with other cruisers at the big 'Puddle Jumper's' party
held at the Paradise Hotel.
16 of the original 60 boats that left the west coast of the USA in 2001 have made it this far. The British from s/v Odyssey and s/v Scott Free have come even further! Any excuse to get together and cruisers bring out the musical instruments and a party begins!
|Bill never misses a chance to teach the younger generation about computers. These cruiser kids are home schooled aboard and are always eager to learn.|
|From March to November the anchorage is a haven for yachts. But looking across the harbor are the low green hills of a multitude of deserted islands with white sandy beaches where one can escape into quiet solitude.|
| Swallows cave, 8nm from Neifu, off the north tip of Kapa Island.
Most islands have a limestone base formed from an uplifting coral foundation while others are limestone overlying a volcanic base. Here the cave cuts into the cliff above and below the water line. You can snorkel right inside for a close look through the clear blue water or dinghy in above for a look at the brilliant colored limestone walls.
Passage From Tonga to New Zealand
Cyclone season begins November 1st and with the exceptionally warm waters this year around New Zealand, the season may even begin earlier. S/v Ariel will be one of the first to leave Tonga for the long passage to Opua New Zealand along with s/v Corelbe who is already as far out as Minerva Reef. S/v Fidelio will be following soon behind after stopping first in Nukalofa. There is lots of talk about leaving among the cruisers. It is a tense time. Fronts move through about every three days which means we are bound to hit some. No one really wants to be first out but then no one wants to be the last. Many boats are planning to head for Fiji or New Caledonia first then south. Generally once a weather window presents itself there is a mass exodus. This time we are virtually striking out on our own.
Dez, on Russell radio, reports a high over N.Z. which
looks good for weather to Minerva Reef. There is a strong wind
report E to NE 25kt. then the outlook easing SE 15kts. S/v
Fidelio, a good weather watcher, gives us a position of S29°W173'
directly north of N.Z. and about 350nm out
that is good to hove to in case of a front. We take down the
position just in case.
Oct. 1, 2002 Neifu, Vava'u Tonga to Opua New Zealand 1179nm First day 88.1nm
Wind E 15kts
Seas calm between islands
|10:00AM Capt. informs us we will be leaving in approximately 10 min.
I scramble to get laundry off the lines, finish making a salad while the
dinghy is being hoisted to the foredeck and tied down. 10:18AM
Moving off the mooring while s/v Motion is notified it is empty and will
take our place. Bill takes the helm as we motor out through the narrows.
10:30AM Engine off, jib rolled out, mizzen up on a double reef. BS 4.4kts. Our course will be 201 once around the island heading for the Ha'apa group before heading out to Minerva Reef.
For most of the day Bill and Gayla are topside both keeping a watch and resting as the first signs of seasickness set in, a dull headache and tired, while Steve stays below doing last minute checking of the course and then settles back to read, a way for him to relax.
4:00PM to 6:PM Seas up from 4ft to 6ft as we leave the Ha'apa group. On a port tack, rolling a lot as sailing close to the wind. Wind 15 to 18kts. Watches set up for Bill 6 - 9, Steve 9 -12, Gayla 12-3AM. Had a carrot and zucchini lasagna and coleslaw for supper.
7:00PM Main up on double reef as we settle back for the long first restless night.
Oct. 2, 2002 - 133.9nm
Wind E 15 - 18kts.
|12:00Midnight Lat.19°50'S 175°02'W On a port tack passing an island to
starboard. Very dark night, no moon. It is very different
than the passage across the first part of the Pacific when we were on
the 4030 radio Net knowing there were other boats around. Now it
feels we are all alone out here. S/v Ariel is rolling a lot in the
4-6 foot seas and sailing close to the wind. Gayla at controls
below watching radar and checking topside every 10 - 15 min. while
steering with the autopilot to come up when rocking gets too severe.
1:47AM Wind down to 8-10kts. Heading 215. A constant vigilance is necessary at the controls to change headings as wind indicates to stay close on the wind. If we were at the wheel we would be hand steering constantly. By using the controls below we are able to keep an eye on the numbers and change position accordingly. Running up and down the companionway for a visual lookout keeps us alert and awake.
2:20AM Sails luffing. Wind changed to the NE. Engine on as heading changed to 225 to a waypoint port side of Fonuafo'cu, a submerged volcano on our starboard. Last activity of the volcano 1993. New volcano's are erupting under water all the time in this very active volcanic area. We keep a post-it note of new ones emerging as we hear them reported.
*See Birth of an Island in Ariel's Logs.
6:15AM Wind up to 17kts. Engine off.
10:00AM Sunny, warm sailing on a broad reach. Seas 2 to 4 feet. Breakfast and showers out of the way we all settle in to our own routines, resting and relaxing on a fine day with light air, blue sky
2:15PM Wind down to 9kts. Heading 210 into the wind so jib rolled up, mizzen down, main jibed. Engine on. It is a quiet afternoon and calm with the seas 1 to 2 feet. I take the opportunity after lunch to prep for the evening meal while it is calm. Is this the calm before the storm? ETA to Minerva Reef is early Friday AM.
6:00PM Radio sked with Dez, on Russel radio, informs us the way it looks now we should "go for it" meaning head straight to NZ. We have curried lentil and vegetables with chicken satay in peanut sauce. Rotating through our shifts, glad it is calm but hoping for more wind, we can not motor all the way to New Zealand even with our tanks topped off at 1200 liters.
Oct. 3, 2002 - 136nm
Seas 2 to 4 feet
|12:00 Midnight Lat.21°29'S Long.176°38'W
Motoring throughout the night. Praying for wind!
5:00AM We get our wish. Daybreak we see a cloud bank in front of us. The wind comes up and QUICK out of the SE at 20 - 25kts. Radio Net gives us the weather report and also that s/v Zarko found a floating deflated orange raft. Radio Maritime is asking them to call them on another channel. We like to know the weather but not a good sign finding a life raft especially an empty one. The jib and pole are put away. We are rocking and rolling. From behind a rain spattered dodger I watch Steve on the foredeck as he lowers the pole alone. I notice for the first time ever he has on his harness and is hooking on. Perhaps having his father aboard makes him more responsible and the fact that he has asked him, "do it for others if not for yourself". A relief comes over me that is overwhelming.
5:00PM The wind has been up all day. Bill, Steve and I have had our heads down when not on watch. Steve finds solace on the floor in the pass through near the navigation station, quiet, not wanting to be disturbed. Gayla, in the crew cabin, curled up in the fetal position and Bill in his bunk not feeling too well. Adjusting to this new situation after the calm reminds me of one definition of passage making. It is either very boring or very exciting. We give Bill a naturopathic Hylands Motion Sickness tablet before dinner and he says it actually worked.
6:00PM We are able to only eat double baked cheese potatoes and fruit but glad Bill is eating and seems much better. Waves have been 6' till now when they are down to about 4'. We are all feeling a bit better. Main back up all the way without the reef.
8:00PM - 12:00Midnight Sky clearing and some stars out. Pleiades and Orion are the 2 major stars consolations guiding sailors into NZ. When the Southern Cross appears high in the sky then we will know we are near New Zealand.
Oct. 4, 2002 - 138nm
12:00 Midnight Lat. 23°03'S Long. 178°23'W
|4:00PM I hear a loud crack and the jib banging. I yell out "what was that?" Wrong thing to say! Nerves are on edge and asking questions is not something Steve likes to hear. He tells me not to ask questions that if I want to know... go look. Turns out the screws came out of the roller furling jib and a repair was needed. The jib would not roll up. I felt I did not deserve to be chastised for a 'quick response reaction' to a loud noise that frightened me and went off to sulk in the crew cabin swearing to myself I would never ask another question.|
|6:00PM Sun actually came out and everyone feels better.
Steve and I talk about the jib and I try to explain that I value his
opinion on boat matters and think I am helping by bring things to his
attention. A good hot pesto pasta and salad for dinner and
we feel back to normal.
8:30PM We cross over the International Date line where the Longitude 178°WEST now becomes 178° EAST. This seems incredible and could be a great topic of conversation....... but I keep quiet and don't ask any questions.
8:00PM - 12:00AM. After a beautiful sunset Steve and Bill take their watches into the night.
Oct. 5, 2002 - 131nm
Wind variable at 12-20kt
12:00Midnight Lat. 24°34S Long.179°46'E
Started the engine to keep up boat speed and stay on course and motor
well into the night.
Oct. 6, 2002 - 129nm
Wind E 13
12:00Midnight Lat.26°21'S Long.178°25E The movement of the boat is becoming more routine as we settle into our routine watches through the night. Seems like we are not getting any closer to our destination yet we are now about 4 days out from NZ.
7:00AM The 4 foot seas feel different as if the waves are longer. There is a 3/4kt current.
12:00 noon We pick us speed as we loose the current. The winds remain variable so when up, our speed is good. Then when the wind dies we need to motor to keep the boat speed up to 5kts. The sound of the waves rushing past gives the impression of being in a speeding car out of control. That and the body constantly trying to adjust to the movement leaves us always on alert which is tiring. Then boredom sets in. Steve reads, I cook brownies and Bill rests. At least is it a bright sunny day although cool.
3:00PM A beautiful brown bird with white markings flew along side of us for awhile and relieved our boredom. We are just so anxious to get to NZ as time seems to drag on and on.
8:00PM We miss our sked with Dez on Russell radio. A boat s/v Genesis hears us calling and informed us that NZ moved to day light savings time and Dez was on an hour earlier. It is difficult enough to keep track of the days and times now we are missing the skeds. But we are encouraged hearing another boat and know we are certainly getting closer to our destination.
Gayla and Bill adjusting positions to stand upright in a heeling
Oct. 7, 2002 -138nm
Wind E 13T
Seas 4'- 6'
|12:00 Midnight - Lat.30°21'S Long.176°21E Today is my mothers birthday! I think about her all day and wonder how her day it going. Here in the middle of the ocean time seems to run together. We keep our watches making our lives fit together like little patches, weaving the day together with each passing shift. We are SO ready to be in New Zealand where our minds are distracted by our surroundings, where anything but the vastness of our watery environment gives us something to contemplate. Basically we are getting bored! Throughout the night and early AM the wind howls, the boat heels over and the port lites on starboard side are submerged, green water racing past.|
|11:00AM Dez, on Russell Radio, continues to announce SE winds so we
continue on a close reach. Wind up, engine off and sailing.
12:00PM Wind reaches 25-30kts a couple times. Mizzen dropped.
2:00-9PM Wind down so mizzen back up and double reefed. Main remains on first reef as it has for most of this trip. We hear on the radio that s/v Coralbe goes into Auckland NZ tonight, s/v Oyster Catcher in the AM. We hear other boats in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Vava'u are ready to leave. We are leading the pack!
9-12PM Starting to feel as if I have lost weight although all we seem to do is eat and sleep. Had pumpkin soup and hummus for lunch and Calico Bean casserole with cucumber salad for supper. Wind comes up as usual on Steve's watch so had to reef the jib. It is getting colder the further south we go, and into the darkness it is like going into a cold dark hole.
Oct. 8, 2002 - 136nm
Wind 23kts gusting to 32kts.
Seas 4' - 6'
12 Midnight Lat.32°17'S Long.175°02'E Today we hit the 1000nm mark. This means we are less than 200nm to our destination, Opua New Zealand. I feel better already, out of the slump of just trudging along beating into the wind. It also takes the edge off knowing we are within range of help should any major medical problems arise or boat problems occur. Although I do not focus on these possibilities they do creep into my mind while staring out into the open space of blackness during my night time vigil.
6AM-12noon Russell Radio reports s/v Corelbe and s/v Oyster Catcher made it into port in Auckland. s/v Ram and s/v Kiss are now about up with us expecting to arrive in Opua around the same time. Dez also says we will get lighter air but they seem to progress higher as the day wears on. It is sunny but we do get a few sprinkles today. We have a nice hot mushroom musaka and apple sauce for dinner.
5:00PM Winds are up to 25kts. The dinghy comes loose from the davits and is chaffing back and forth. Steve is past me in a flash, out on the stern deck securing the it to the davits. I try to get into the cockpit to retrieve the cushions but the pitching and rolling is too much for me to stand yet Steve is out there with no harness on for safety. Then I realize because I am not used to these conditions I get frightened and feel I need the safety of a harness. Bill tried to explain to me that with more practice I would feel more secure when I reach that level that Steve has reached through years of experience.
6 -9PM Gusts are up to 32kts with jib full out, main on one reef, mizzen on two. It is going to be a long night but then.......the guys found a way to set the auto pilot or rudder to stay in one or three positions using weather helm. This made our constant vigils on watch much easier by only turning the auto pilot up or down.
Oct. 9, 2002 -153nm
Wind 26 - 29kts gusting to 32kts
Seas 4' - 6'
|12Midnight Lat. 34°45°S Long. 174°20E It is
blowing hard. We are heeled over to port, jib all the way out
and boat pounding into 6 foot seas, the rail buried. The sound is
like a sludge hammer on a 55 gallon steel drum. Inside s/v Ariel
it is deafening. I am so tense from the noise and a feeling that
the boat will break apart any minute. By the end of my shift and
one hour into Bill's I ask Steve if we can ease the sheets or do something
about the pounding. This time he puts on his safety harness and
goes topside. The wind up to 32kts. sustained.
He eases the sheets and reefs the main allowing s/v Ariel to come up
into a more upright position. The horrible pounded lets up some
what and we all relax for the rest of the night.
6-9AM We get a call from s/v Kiss on VHF who is now just behind us and is coming into Opua also. They have entered NZ before so know the routine and give us some instructions on going to the quarantine dock. Then... a big surprise! The crew of Kiss gets on the radio and it is our friends from the boat s/v Anja K that we had aboard in Malpiti. They delivered s/v Anja K in Fiji and are now crewing on s/vKiss. They will be in the quarantine dock about the same time. We are thrilled to be arriving in New Zealand with a Kiss!!
12 -3PM By afternoon the winds have come around more to the east and drop considerably so we are sailing comfortably. All in a good mood as the end is in sight as we figure our arrival to be early AM tomorrow.
6-9PM We have a celebration with a big Mexican meal of chicken enchilada's and quesadilla pie.
Father and son make a final and successful last sail together