This season, we have sailed several times up and down Tonga’s chain of island groups. We arrived in Tongatapu on May 9th. Our routes have taken us to Ha’apais, Vava’u, Haa’pais, Tongatapu, Ha’apais, Vava’u, Ha’apais, Vava’u and back to Ha’apais, where we are now. Since leaving New Zealand, we have logged over 2,000 nautical miles (900 miles in Tonga) and only run our engines about 135 hours (100 hours in Tonga which was generally in and out of anchorages).
We have tried to pick good weather windows for each of the 10 to 12 hour trips between island groups. We do our best to avoid sailing with the wind forward of the beam as it can be rough when the seas are up. We also prefer to “sail” instead of “motor” which is noisy and expensive.
Refuelling is only practical in Vava’u where a truck can deliver fuel to the wharf. The minimum order is 200 litres. When you “clear out” of Tonga, yachts can purchase duty free diesel fuel at a cost of $1.31/l TOP versus the regular price of $2.30/l. We have been in Tonga for three months and are still on our New Zealand fill up. Hopefully we can hold off refuelling until we clear out, whenever that might be.
When sailing between New Zealand and the islands, we rarely have downwind sailing conditions. We struggled sailing Whistler with the wind between 160 and 180 degrees apparent. Our swept-back spreaders inhibit the main from sailing well wing on wing and the screecher likes to have a wind angle higher than 160 apparent.
A Parasailor was included in the quiver of sails when we bought the boat in 2015. While Christian, the former owner, was on the boat going over all the equipment he left with us, he had wanted to take us out to sail the Parasailor but conditions were too windy. We had never tried to fly it. One light wind day in the Ha’apais, Monty decided it was time. Monty read up on how to rig the Parasailor and ran the sheets through the blocks and back to the winches. We raised and lowered it a couple times on anchor before we set off for a day sail from Foa Island. We sailed it for a few hours and practiced raising and lowering it underway a couple more times. Everything ran smoothly and it was easy to sail.
It was nice to let the pretty yellow sail see the light of day! Another tick in a box for getting to know our boat and equipment.
Discussing downwind sailing with David and Amy on Starry Horizons, they told us that, instead of flying their spinnaker, they often use two head sails. Our last trip from the Ha’apais north to Vava’u was going to be a downwinder with 12-15 knots from the south. It was time to give the twin head sails a try. Monty rigged up the two sails so they would have a “tweaker” to keep the foot of each sail down. Our genoa flew on the starboard side and our screecher on the port. The boat performed beautifully and was a lot faster with the two sails. We had to reset the autopilot several times as the wind altered too much for it to keep up but it was not annoying.
The seas were following, which made for a comfortable ride. We had our most pleasant passage yet! Thanks to David and Amy for the suggestion and rigging tips!