On Sunday, October 15, Johno and I arrived at daybreak at the entrance to the Phia Passage on the eastern side of Tongatapu. We took our sails down and motored quite a long way through the passage until we arrived at Pangaimotu island. Many cruising boats were anchored there and we joined the crowd.
Pangaimotu near Big Mama’s
The anchorage is in front of what was once Big Mama’s restaurant, before the Tsunami. Now Earl and Mama offer services to cruisers who anchor there. They will shuttle people a mile into town. They offer their BBQ, tables and chairs for cruisers to picnic. And they help out in many other ways.
That night, after we had afternoon naps, we joined many cruisers, included Blue Beryl, Szel and Second Set in a potluck BBQ at Big Mama’s. We met new people, including Kristel and Philipe on Amae, and remet people such as JB, Ana and baby Olivia. We had previously met JB and Ana in the Marquesas, before Olivia was born.
On Monday, October 16, Johno and I went to shore and joined up with Alex and Yvette from Blue Beryl on a walk to find the offices where we could check into the island group. We first went to the Port Authority office to pay the port fee. Then, we went to the Customs office across the street. There we got the paperwork that we would need for when we cleared out of the country. From there, we walked just over a mile to town. We checked out the public market and then had lunch at Friends Café, in the oldest building in the city.
Friends Cafe in NukuAlofa
After walking back to the dinghy, we motored the mile back to the anchorage. On Aldabra, we baked brownies that we took that night for a pizza dinner on Blue Beryl with Amae and Szel.
On Tuesday, October 17, we took 10 jerry cans and boarded Second Set for a ride to the wharf. Chip had permission to pull up to the wharf and, with the help of local “fixer” Olini, shuttle jerry cans of fuel from the gas station to the boat. We then syphoned fuel into Second Set and refilled the jerry cans to take back to Aldabra. Amae was there with us to do the same thing, and Jamie on Szel was there for moral support. We then all returned to the anchorage on Second Set and took our filled jerry cans back to our boats. Later that afternoon we had beers on Second Set with Chip and Kristina. It was really windy.
On Wednesday, it was still really windy so we stayed on the boat all day. That night, we had drinks and dinner on Szel with Jamie and Fiona, a delightful evening. Blue Beryl was on their own that night because Yvette was flying out early the next morning and the new crew, Fred and Isabela, were joining the boat.
On Thursday morning, we took our dinghy over to Szel and tied it on, joining Jamie and Fiona for a trip to the harbor. With much help from Johhno, we got Szel secure inside the harbor, anchored with a couple of lines to shore. Johno and I then took the dinghy to the dinghy dock and walked into town and had lunch at Friends Café. Jamie and Fiona joined us a bit later. From there, Fiona took a taxi to the airport to fly to Australia to see her son. And shortly after that, Jamie’s new crew, Steve and Sharon, arrived from the airport. While we were in Friends, we started meeting people. Karenza, whom we had met in Neiafu showed up on her way to the airport to go to Fiji to join a boat. We also met Uili Louisi, who runs a climate change NGO. Our trip back to the anchorage was very wet because the winds and seas continued to be whipped up.
On Friday, we stayed on the boat and did some projects. Johno cleaned a large portion of the boat bottom, which would need to be very clean before arriving in New Zealand. We then had drinks and appetizers on Yuva with Jim and Perry to celebrate Jim’s birthday. We had a lovely evening with them.
On Saturday, October 21, Johno and I took the dinghy back into town. We shopped and had lunch at Friends. We saw the folks from Traveller, Saorise, Amae and others. Jamie and Steve and Sharon from Szel joined us later. We walked the mile back to the dinghy with our provisions and stayed on the boat for a bit before returning to shore to pick up Pat, who was coming from the airport by taxi in the late afternoon. After Pat showed up, we helped Szel tie there lines at the wharf and then headed back to the boat so Pat could get settled in.
On Sunday, the day to be discreet if you are going to work on the boat, Johno and I worked on cleaning the boat bottom. I used one scuba tank to clean the keel and rudder and another to clean the prop and shaft. Johnno and Pat replaced a diode on the windass motor. That night, we joined other cruisers for a BBQ at Big Mama’s, which included, Amae, Sea Wind, Yuva, Taku, Midnight Breeze, Susimi, Pangea, Traveller Saorise and Tin Lizzy.
Looking out at the anchorage from Big Mama’s
Cruisers at the potluck
With Pat on the boat, we were ready to head to New Zealand, but the professional weather routers were telling us it wasn’t time yet. So along with the other boats, we waited. On Monday, we sewed new telltails on the mainsail and finished cleaning the boat bottom. On Tuesday, we stayed on the boat all day and made preparations for a passage. On Wednesday, we went to shore with two dive tanks to get filled and one propane tank. We were successful with the dive tanks but had to wait to get the propane tank filled. Next, we walked the mile to town so Pat could see it. We stopped at the post office so Johno could send a postcard and Pat could buy a stamp. We then had lunch at Friends before stopping by the market.
Shopping at the market
Walking with our grocerie along the waterfront
That evening, we had drinks on Szel with the Blue Beryl crew. Pat and I were home by 10:00 p.m. but the party itself went well into the night.
Party on Szel
From Thursday through Sunday, we just waited for the illusive weather window. We all found ways to amuse ourselves, some projects, some exploration, some reading.
On Monday morning, October 30, we got up early and went to shore to check out of the country. We started by walking to the fuel station to get a couple of jerry cans filled. And we went to a bakery we had just found out about. We bought all kinds of yummy things. Then we went back to the dinghy to drop off the jerry cans and got the propane tank to refill at Tonga Gas. Once that was taken care of, we went to Customs to check out of the country. That completed, we walked back to the bakery to buy more goodies and then went to Friends for one last smoothie. We bought a few last-minute provisions and then took a taxi to the dinghy. Once again, the ride back to the boat was choppy and windy and we got drenched.
Final lunch at Friends
On Tuesday, October 31, our weather window still had not materialized so we went back to town again to shop at the bakery and the market and the butchery. We had lunch at Friends and then returned to the boat. That night was very windy and one of the boats in the anchorage was dragging and about to hit another boat. Paul on Susimi alerted us by radio, and Johno and I got in the dinghy and woke up the dragging boat by pounding on their hull. They managed to get their boat moving forward just in time. We were never able to wake up the boat that was about to be hit.
On Wednesday, November 1, we were all set to leave the anchorage at the recommendation of our weather router. But it was super windy and we weren’t sure it was a wise decision. Szel left at 6:00 a.m. and reported adverse conditions outside of the pass. But by 10:00 a.m., the winds had abated and we pulled up anchor. Several other boats left around that time, Amae, Taku, Blue Beryl, Susimi and Midnight Breeze. Following a bit later were Elixir, La Vida, Blue Marine and Kaia.