In early September, we set out on a daylight passage north from Foa in the Ha’apai Group to Neiafu, Vavau (Tonga) in early September. The distance is about 70NM.
Only one piece of mahimahi dated May was left in our freezer. We hadn’t caught anything other than small mackerel tuna (skipjack) for about 2 months. I convinced Monty to put out the fishing lines. We were luckier this day, catching two yellowfin tuna. Of course, the strikes happened at the same time! The fishing lines got crossed and it was a bit of a S_ _T SHOW, but Monty somehow pulled off bringing both in!
One was caught with the purple lure that JJ (Matafonua Lodge) gave us. Unfortunately, the lure broke just as Monty gaffed the fish. One fishing line looked like spun wool and reel had to be put into retirement after this struggle.
Several whales, young and old, were checking out our activities as we were reeling in the fish. They were curious about what we were doing, no doubt! Under sail at 7 knots and busy with bringing in our fish, but it was great to catch a glimpse of them.
Whales are a common sight around Tonga. We had to steer around them resting at the surface at times, or so we thought. Someone told us that even while they are sleeping, half their brain is still “on” and they can hear our sonar, so they would move out of our way. We never heard of any boats hitting whales, but we tried to avoid sailing at night. The idea of hitting a whale in the dark at 7 knots was not our idea of a good time for us or the whale!
While at anchor or cruising in Tonga, we became spoiled with regular sightings of humpbacks surfacing for a breath, a mom playing with her calf, breaching, slapping its flipper, flaking or lobtailing. The whales in Tonga are magical, absolutely unforgettable. We highly recommend a visit to Tonga for whale-swimming. August or September are the best months to go, giving you the best chance of having a good interaction on an organized whale-swim.
Tongan Customs decided they would not let our boat stay more than 4 months plus an extension of 3 weeks without paying 30% duty. It was happening to a number of cruising boats that applied around the same time. We had to leave by September 30th.
After we arrived in Fiji, we heard from the Vavau Boatyard that the CEO of Customs who had stopped issuing extensions to cruising yachts had left his position to run for Parliament. They expected that extensions would be given in future. We just had bad timing.
We decided to take the first reasonable weather window for Fiji which came around the middle of September.
We found ourselves expecting to see more whales on passage to Fiji, but after a few miles outside of Vavau, we had no more sightings.
Easterly winds meant the wind was astern, which is not an easy point of sail. We tried several sail configurations as the winds changed direction and speed. We had to be very attentive to avoid a jibe. It was a tiring 3 days.
We fished, though only briefly.
The freezer was now full, so the fishing line was not put back in the water.
As we were coming through the Lau Group, this little fellow (see below) decided he would try to take the squid-like lure off our rod resting in the holster. Despite yelling and swinging our arms, he kept swooping down toward the lure, so Monty took the rod inside. Then he decided we were his taxi ride to Savusavu!
He was very indignant that Monty would not let him ride on our solar panels!
A short while later, he tried to take up residence on our mainsail. Monty quickly put the cover on so that we would not end up with bird-dodo all over our new main. He certainly was not afraid of us! We think these birds are pretty accustomed to hitchhiking on yachts.
Our next day passage in Fiji was from Savusavu on Vanua Levu to Makogai where we anchored for a few nights (more on Makogai soon). We sailed along side Mustang Sally on a lovely broad reach through some reefs to Nananu-I-Thake on the NE corner of Viti Levu. Thanks to Outsider Australia for the waypoints!
From time to time, we pass a super yacht. On our daysail from Makogai to Nananu-I-Thake, this yacht made us feel like underachievers.
More on Fiji coming up!