We left Thursday evening for the 320 mile sail to Tonga. Just under two weeks after our arrival in Samoa, we found ourselves in and out immigration offices and bustling to and from the grocery store, yet again.
Our efforts were rewarded with our most pleasant voyage to date. The winds were stronger and lasted longer than predicted, and our sails were full with 20 knots behind us until the last six hours of the sail. There was minimal swell, and Helios stayed at a steady 10 degree heel. The days were clear and sunny, passing quickly, and the nighttime stars were only muted by an orange gibbous moon and its waxing rise.
We arrived Sunday morning, happy that work is forbidden on Sundays in Tonga, and spent a serene day anchored at the beach in Port Muerelle, finding it the silent crescent of sand we’ve been sailing for. A handful of other boats were anchored in the shallows around the sapphire depths of the jungle mantled bay; two boats were old friends, and we had visitors giving us the rundown on Tonga check-in procedures within minutes of dropping the anchor.
After saying hello and brunching on biscuits and eggs, I wiped the salt from the brightwork and stainless and took an exquisite three hour nap in the cockpit. Then I woke up, went swimming, made dinner, and went to bed, at ease after a glorious day in the life of cruising.
Monday morning we returned to reality, cruised into the main town of Neiafu, and got Helios tied up to a high cement dock to commence the customs processes. We were again boarded by the quarantine, customs, and health officers. Two wore lavalavas; one wore long pants and a button down shirt, both black, and a large woven grass wrap extending from his waste to his knees.They offered fishing advice ("use the lure with the red eyes”) and, after dropping a few hints as to their thirst, accepted our refreshments of Diet Coke and pineapple juice.
We went to the ATM to get cash so we could make our return bureaucratic calls and pay off the necessary parties. We went to the Tropicana Coffee Shop to buy mango smoothies and a new flag, revealing only slight confusion about our whereabouts to the barista.
"Do you have Tongan flags? Samoan flags? We would like a Samoan flag, please." "No, we want a Tongan flag." "You’re right! We’re now in Tonga. We want a Samoan flag." “Nope. Tonga. Tongan flag."
A proud red flag, for Tonga, we now have, adorned with a red cross on a white background in the top right corner. She’s a beauty and we’ll wave her as long we can. We left town this morning and are anchored off one of the larger islands now, Kapa. Tonga is our last stop before New Zealand, which is an easy six to eight weeks away. We have 41 anchorages to explore in Vavau’u, the northern island group, and plenty of fishing, whale watching, snorkeling, swimming, and friends in the neighborhood to keep us busy.