Hi there...Currently anchored off a small island called Foa in the Ha'Apai(middle group) of Tongan islands. There is a nice resort here run by a German fellow and his Kiwi wife. They have been very kind to us...first day let us borrow 6 bikes (great to not have to get our folding ones out of the foc'sle and dinghy them in) and we rode 15k to Lifuka, the biggest town in this island group. Pretty funny to ride right across and through the airstrip on our way (obviously FAA regulations are a bit laxer here than the US) Saw a few villages, lots of pigs, including a new species we have named belted galloway pigs...yes they look just like the belted galloway cows in Rockport, a graveyard that was decorated with the most amazingly gorgeous quilts...apparently a tradition here in Tonga, then over a bumpy causeway that must be underwater when there are storms at sea. The town was not much but we had pizza out and checked out the small stores. Next day went back to the fresh market (thanks to Boris's offer to give us a lift to and from town) and bought a few other items as well. Slim pickings but finally our food is diminished to the point that we are actually looking for things to supplement the canned goods and bits of dried goods we still have. Yesterday was a rainy day and Gram and I decided it was time to try to redo our food storage and get everything out of the shower as we will soon be in cold enough weather that an indoor shower will be the preferred method of bathing. So we have gone from 5 big storage boxes (2 ft x 1 1/2 ft x 1 ft) full of food in the shower to it all fitting in the cupboards and deep storage that is more generally known as boat stores. For us this is an event to be noted!!! We are so grateful to our friend Connie on Better Days who turned us on to this method of storage in Panama as I know we saved a small fortune and ate alot better for having devoted all that space and at the time expense to oodles of food!
To backtrack a bit...just before we left the Va'vau group we realized we had been there a month and needed to renew our Visas so headed back to the big town of Neifu one last time...because we were so close to town we decided to try to get together with our Tongan family (Coletti, Tupai and kids) one last time so had them all over for dinner. We invited 2 other boats as well so we had dinner for 13(a new record). Had decided on spagetti and meat balls as when we had been invited to their home they kept apologizing that they were serving us Tongan food and not spagetti..of course Tongan food was quite what we wanted from them! So it was an easy dinner however when it started to rain at 5:30 we realized that dining al fresco using the whole front deck as our space was out and had to eat inside in shifts...still lots and lots of fun and since it was still pouring well after we had eaten we invited the Tongans for a sleepover. The two teeenage girls slept in Zak's cabin, Gram gave up his berth to Colletti and Tupai and slept in the pilot house and we put the 2 little kids in the main salon on the bench and settee. Full house(or rather boat) but it was probably an experience of a lifetime for them. Hard to say our goodbyes the next morning as we had become quite fond of their family. The most remarkable memories of these travels will surely be the relationships we have been able to develop with the locals. That being said the beauty and splendor of the places runs a tie for first place!!
Left Va'vau after a few more good dives and some more snorkeling on Sun the 10th. We had to motorsail the 60+ miles but seas were down so we made excellent time. We caught 3 fish along the way...1st a bonito, then a yellow fin tuna, and last a Mahi Mahi. Apparently my begging forgiveness of the gods of neptune worked as I had cursed our tuna catching abilities a bunch of weeks ago when I declared I was sick of tuna and just wanted to catch some Mahi or Wahoo...For weeks all we caught was whitefish and Bill and Gram were very upset with me for jinxing us so I did a forgiveness ceremony and lo and behold tuna again the next day!! YUM SUSHI!!! 1st anchored off Ha'Ano and did some reeef exploration, including one OK but not extraordinary dive. That is the last I have dove as apparently the congestion remaining from my sore throat episode caused a block in my ear and I am still trying to get over that. Really angry as Bill and Gram have gone on a few more dives including one with a dive shop today and I just can't risk it. REALLY really hope that I can clear this up before we leave Tonga (3 wks) as I think this will be it for diving. It will be too cold in New Zealand for much in the way of watersports I'm afraid. This time of year is like May or June for us in the northern hemisphere. We have visited a few other islands (remote ones)...Lofunga,Ofalanga and been out on the water sailing about a bit. In between Lofunga and Ofalanga we had our best ever whale experience where 3 of them were playing about 200 ft from the boat. One of them was jumping completely out of the water and we could see his entire (HUGE) body...what a sight!!! Even more awesome than the usual tail flukes and breaching we have previously experienced.
Have had a bunch of group dinners with Jules and Louis on Simpatica and will have one last eve. with them tonight as they will begin heading to Figi. We will probably move further south with a few more stops along the way before setting ourselves up in Tongatupu (the last island group) where Ralph will fly in to take the boat to NZ with the boys. Hope fall has treated you all well and that life is settled and slowing down in Maine(tourists being just a memory at this point)