Published: August 6th 2010August 6th 2010
Neiafu is a small seaside town of a few thousand stuck on the sides of a very deepwater harbour.
I don’t understand the geology of Vava’u (the main island seems to be called Vava’u and has lots of islands to the south). There is obviously volcanic activity plus tectonic uplifts and lots of coral reefs; however, I have no idea why this area has such deep water. Neiafu Harbour, for example, has 37 metres in the middle. This means that when you are underway generally there is plenty of water under the keel though it often does means that the only area for anchoring is a very narrow strip close to shore or the reef. A bit like the Sounds at the top of the South Island.
We are using “Ken’s Comprehensive Cruising Guide for the Kingdom of Tonga” which is a very good book with useful charts for each of his anchorages. To begin with I had some difficulty with the guide until I released that it is in feet (Ken is from the USA).
Now back to Neiafu. It is an interesting place with lots of cafes and services for cruising yachts, including a half hour
radio service every morning for the yachties, including commercials from local businesses, such as the two guys who are great welders and mechanics.
Many of the cafes are run by expiates. I have enjoyed a couple of long visits to the Café Tropicana, which is run by a Kiwi couple. It is funny to hear the lady running the place yelling all her instructions, including bits about the stuff ups, while he is serving out front. They do make great fruit and ice cream smoothes and fish cakes.
Most cafes have Internet either via their or your own computer. The service is good though a little slow, a good reason for another banana and mango smoothe.
The supermarkets are fun through they never have quite what you want, unless you want big cans of corned beef. We have not yet tried any of the local meat. That’s next I think, given our poor efforts are catching fish to date.
The weather while in Neiafu was a strong Southeaster with lots of showers. This usually meant a wet trip across from Hakura to the town (it was always wet for me on the windward side of Ethelred).
On Thursday 29th we moved across to the town to fill up with water (not fuel as they had run out - tomorrow) and then headed out for the rest of the Vava’u. On the way out we saw a couple of whales in the main channel, though only from a distance.
Just before 2 pm we dropped anchor in Port Mourelle on Kapa Is. I had my first snorkel while Tom and Aileen took Ethelred ashore. A few fish around and the water was warmish. Overall it was good to be out of the high life of Neiafu.
Next day we headed of to Nuku Is for a snorkel and lunch and then onto an anchorage just north of Vaka’eitu Is. Tom and I did more snorkelling. For dinner we had sausages as no fish had been caught yet.
On Saturday I dropped Tom and Aileen off at Matamaka village for their inspection. People friendly and much cleaner than Neiafu. I, meantime, headed off around the bay trolling two lines after that fish for dinner. Saw nothing and got no bits.
After picking up Tom and Aileen we headed out of the bay. This
time we did see several signs of fish activity and trolled through most of them. I saw two near misses on the lines; still no fish.
We headed south to the Island of Ovalau (the place where we anchored on our way in a week before). Tom and Aileen swam ashore while I had a short snorkel around Hakura.
Later, Tom wanted to catch fish so I got out the “fairy lights” for him to catch some bait while I did some soft baiting. I got a couple of light bits and Tom got nothing. Aileen then said why didn’t we fish out there where the fish were working, so off we went.
Two hours later and after more signs of fish working, including a few leaping tuna, still no fish. It would be sausages again and these were the last of our Whangarei sausages so fishing was becoming more important. I have discovered that Germans are not willing vegetarians.
During some rain Tom raced around collecting as much water as he could for drinking and washing. It was fun to watch. Then, Aileen and he had a freshwater shower while the rain lasted. I did
not watch this part.
Sunday started with a bright morning and I headed off to visit the big boomie near Hakura. Ken mentioned it in his guide. The boomie had been hit by a cyclone by its look, as most of the coral had been broken. There were a few new corals starting its recovery. The fish life was good with both small mid water species and larger bottom fish. I though I saw a Moorish idol, my favourite reef fish.
I then swam ashore and enjoyed sitting on the beach for a short while.
On the swim back to Hakura I did see a Moorish idol, a beautiful fish.
Tom was still keen to fish so I suggested that he take the “fairy lights” over to the boomie as he might get a few of the mid water fish. Off he went and in no time he had caught the boomie. Back he came minus the “fairy lights”. I get a fresh set and a stronger rode and off he went, again. After about an hour he had managed to catch the boomie twice and only lost the skinner.
I had been soft baiting
and had one good bit that took big bits out of the bait, however, still no fish.
Well, we decided that somewhere else was where the fish were so we should go there too.
First we headed west cause Aileen had seen a whale over there. We did see it a couple of times then it disappeared, so back east we came right across half of Vava’u. Just as we passed through a narrow area between two reef systems the reel on the big rod started to sing (just a little bit though).
Aileen jumped up with her eyes shining - A fish? In came the other line and boat out of gear. Unfortunately the reef was no longer singing. Nothing! We were getting closer but still no fish.
We had now reached our next anchorage of a little headland on the southern side of Pangaimotu, a truly beautiful spot. It looked like interesting snorkelling, but lunch first.
Tom saying, “There’s a whale just there”, interrupted this. Sure enough a humpback was just going around the headland to our immediate north. We waited and it came spouting past us, about 150 metres away.
I have become convinced that Aileen is a fish caller she choose the next two rigs we were going to troll. While getting this already we heard a long loud thunder clap (whale farts according to Tom) and yep, there were some big black clouds coming our way.
Instead of action, I sat there and thought - I should get the sunshade down. Wrong!
Lesson of the day: act now if you think there will be strong winds don’t sit and consider it.
Wham, we were hit with some big gust. Hakura was pulled over while the anchor dug in. The sunshade just folded up (the 2 steel rods supporting it bent and one broke in the middle). We got it down after cutting some of the lines and then turned to pulling up the anchor so as to move to a quieter anchorage. Tom and the anchor-winch worked well together, with Hakura’s motor going flat out. We got the anchor up and shot off around the northern headland into quieter waters.
Half an hour later we were re-anchored and able to get out of our wet gear and have another cup of tea (for me
We had a good safe night with the wind dying in the early hours. Hakura did not move her anchor. During one of my frequent anchor checks I notice some really bright large bioluminescence. We managed to locate one of the creatures in the touch light and could see this little fella which ejected this luminescent liquid which stayed in the water for several seconds and was about the size of a can lid. They were all around the boat.
The morning was bright and still. A great change from the evening before. After breakfast we motored back south to the island of Taunga for lunch. We saw our first turtle while leaving the overnight anchorage and the 2nd turtle on arrival at the lunch spot. No sharks have been seen yet.
Tom and Aileen took Ethelred ashore to another village while I just enjoyed the comfort of Hakura to myself.
The wind had got up so I did not wish to stay in this slightly exposed spot so we motor sailed to the west aback to Vaka’eitu Is. Saw one whale and two whale watching boats. No fish though another soft strike. Better
though still not fish. Will go back to the good old NZ plastic rigs tomorrow.
To make up for the loss of the fish I got the oven working and we had shepherds pie for dinner.
We had another quiet night as we lay in the shelter of the island. The wind died before dawn and later picked up as the morning progressed. We motored out to Nuku Island for an excellent midday of snorkelling. Saw our first cloud fish.
Later moved sailed south towards Ovalan Island. On the way we passed through an area where birds were working and got a huge strike. Tom grabbed the big rod with the fish on it while I brought in the other line and Aileen steered Hakura.
I saw a big tuna leap a couple of times. What with the excitement of a strike and me instructing Tom in the art of game fishing, it all got too much and we lost the tuna. Not sure if we would have been able to have landed it anyway. We spent the next couple of hours trolling through several lots of birds working but no further strikes.
red bean chilli and we had tortillas, very nice and no meat.
That night was very lumpy and that seemed to get to us all. I did not get to sleep till 0200 and Tom and Aileen had a “disagreement”. Next morning (the 4th) was not a good one. Thank goodness I didn’t speak German, so I was able to stay ignorant of what was going on and they were able to let fly freely.
We headed out to Lua Ui Island. This is a small circular island surround by a beach and it was where Tom wanted to make is “running around a tropical island” video. It was not to be as the sea was too lumpy and the reef too close for me to anchor.
We headed back north into the more sheltered waters and had lunch while anchored to the north of Euakafa Island. The wind was less and there were few clouds so the day was heating up and Aileen and I enjoyed our swims.
We motored back to the nice anchorage off the headland to the southwest of Pungaimotu Island, where we had been for the start of the big blow.
This anchorage is my favourite as it is so quiet and still. A bit like being in Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier though a lot warmer right now. The snorkelling along the reef to the south was also the best with lots of fish and some nice coral.
The evening was warm and still with heaps of stars. All round a great location. I will be back before I leave Vava’u.
The 5th was to be Tom and Aileen’s last day on Hakura and to celebrate it properly I caught a small tuna for lunch. Fresh fish again and I don’t have to give back my fishing badge.
It was a smooth motor back into Neiafu while Aileen and Tom collected their gear together. I am sure there is no way Aileen will be able to carry her pack. It’s so huge, almost bigger that she is.
Well I was wrong. After dropping them off, I watched Tom and Aileen head into town to find a place to stay.
After heading back across the harbour and anchoring, I went below and just lay down. I have to do all the work myself now. No
Tom to drop and raise the anchor and have Aileen to make me another cuppa. Even worse there will be nobody to call me when breakfast is ready tomorrow morning.
There are more photos below