I delayed writing this dispatch until we were underway so I could type the words; “We are sailing to Tonga.” Those few words have caused me a lot of regret. We’re being tossed around so much that it’s very difficult to type at all. I spend an inordinate amount of time banging on the backspace key. And, trust me – it’s no fun to be down in this cabin when all the hatches are shut (the boarding waves make closing up the boat imperative). It makes it hot and stuffy and the green gills creep up rather quickly. That led to my latest mistake. I’ve only been seasick once. I was 15 years old and my father had taken my brother and me on a deep sea fishing trip out of Mazatlan Mexico. I lost it all, but that was 25 years ago, and I thought it would never happen again. Well, I felt it coming on so I took a tablet and now I can’t keep my head off the pillow.
We are sailing to Tonga! We’ve bid adieu to the peaceful beauty of French Polynesia. Now the question has become: “Will we go direct or stop off at an island or 2 along the way”? The voyage from Bora Bora to the northern chain of islands that is the Kingdom of Tonga is 1250 miles as the crow flies. In reality it’s more like 1400 for my wandering vessel. I can sail in a straight line, but it isn’t always the most comfortable and I decided long ago that I’ll take comfort and safety over speed. Along our path there are the options of a few atolls in the Southern Cook islands (named after Captain Cook), or Niue (which Cook originally named “Savage Island”). I’m pointing Barraveigh toward Niue but will decide whether or not we stop based on conditions. Tonga is only another 200 miles and I’m excited to get to the only kingdom in the South Pacific. Originally I was going to take the northern route and stop in Suvarrow which is in the Northern Cook’s but the conditions ahead didn’t look favorable so we altered course. It’s important to stay flexible and with all these island adventures to choose from, it’s easy to change one’s mind.
Back in French Polynesia (that was so 4 days ago!); Raiatea is visible from Huahine and was a pleasant day sail. The main reason for anchoring there was to fill our propane bottles as we were about to run out and then Suzi’s baking would come to an abrupt halt. I can’t have that. From Raiatea you can see the high volcanic mount of Bora Bora, and once the propane was replaced with butane, we were off to embrace it.
Bora Bora – What a place. It’s too hyped to be that good. Or is it? The water is perfectly clear and teaming with life. I did numerous dives and snorkels. For the first time I saw the little Nemo fish hiding in the anemone. We borrowed bikes and cycled around the east side of the island. Its hotel after resort on the most tranquil clear water beaches you’ve ever seen. The bungalows over the water are rather cliché but adorable none the less. Yes – it’s a honeymooner’s paradise, and that’s all you’ll meet too – Honeymooner’s and sailors, but it is stunning. We spent our time near Bloody Mary’s, which is a restaurant / bar that has built a beautiful dock, put in free mooring balls, and gives away free water and ice. They’ve done this to attract the yachties. “Yachties”, in this case, doesn’t mean the cruisers on budgets who catch rainwater and ferment their own booze. It refers to the mega yachts that are all over the place. Some even have helicopters on the deck.
Yes- Bora Bora is really that good. I didn’t want to leave but the bottom was scrubbed, the extra chain was cut and stored in the stern, the SSB radio had been repaired, and our tanks were topped off. I was out of excuses. So it’s once again into the great abyss.
We’ve got 587 miles to go until we decide whether we stop in Niue or push on to Tonga. You can bet I’ll keep an extra reef in the sails and my harness on at all times. The furling line for the headsail chewed thru again and that put me at the pointy end of the boat tying knots as she crashed headlong into the next swell. It was much easier this second time around. Harken has a big design flaw with that drum. We’ve got very confused seas. The waves look like Keystone Kops running around and colliding with one another. No order. Chaos is the norm. The wind is 25 with gusts to 30 and the moon has turned his back on us. These black nights always unhinge me. Wish us luck.
Update – The previous entry was written 6 days ago. Shortly after, the wind piped up to 40 and the seas grew to become 15 foot breaking waves. All the fuel jugs I keep lashed on the port side of the boat were ripped loose from a giant wave that exploded on our broadside. All the fuel jugs I keep lashed on the starboard side were ripped loose an hour later when another wave knocked us over so far that Barraveigh’s right side was completely immersed. The wind was so strong that it ripped our mainsail and the bimini. It was 48 hours of hell. The final night, we were so exhausted and the conditions were so dangerous that I closed up the companionway and we both laid down below to rest. We put all our trust in the autopilot as we screamed along at 7 knots falling off of waves. We had no plans to stop in Palmerston but “any port in a storm”, so I radiod ahead as we entered the anchorage and a boat came out and 2 friends jumped aboard to help furl the headsail with the broken line. Finally – we were safe, and at anchor.
I’ve repaired everything and in a few hours we will go back to sea and head to Niue.
In the next entry I’ll tell you about Palmerston – the most amazing place I’ve been yet in the SPac