Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wreck Diving in the Haapai

Nuku'alofa, Tongotapu group, Kingdom of Tonga
21 07S/175 10W

Wreck diving or snorkeling is always interesting, but somewhat sobering when it is also current events. We were just in the remote southern anchorage of Kelefesia and spent three cloudy and rainy nights.One day we snorkeled a short distance from the anchorage to the entry pass and the location of S/V La Tortue - a 32 foot ferro cement ketch that went down only 2 to 3 weeks ago. We were in Va'vau at the time, and it was a topic of discussion amongst cruisers, but details remain obscure. All on board were rescued, the ship was eventually scuttled, and friends of the crew salvaged as much as they could. The mast was removed and the vessel was laid down in a ridge beween bombies on the edge of the channel. It is not a navigational hazard.

It was erie to be over the boat, peering down into 30 feet of water or so. The port quarter was holed and the boat was mostly upright. Sea fuzz was already covering the decks, fish were already taking up residence, and there was a coffee cup snuggled in the cockpit. Open hatches almost seemed to beckon but we did not put on tanks and dive inside. We were not friends with La Tortue, but we knew of the boat as contemporary passagemakers... and visual memories of the sunken ship will linger and will always be a cautionary influence for this skipper.

Kelafesia is a stunningly beautiful island, even in clouds and rain. We had fine and adequate protection with winds east of 110 deg. T, and SE swells under 8 feet. Wind from 120 deg. T or more, or swells larger than 9 feet would probably bring some roll and swells over the surrounding reefs. Coral is not colorful, but shapely. The beach is beautiful as well. A small family group of 6 - 8 individuals live on the island in a very basic fashion - certainly no frills such as lights or electricity. The rain we had provoded much running water though.

Now in Nuku'alofa, we left Kelefesia yesterday as several more cloudy days were predicted and there was concern that the wind would shift further south, making the anchorage less comfortable. We have finally arrived at the last port before NZ, and we are here with 25 other boats or so. Talk has shifted from sites to snorkel and dive towards conversations (and rumours) centered around weather windows, departure times, who you have for routing assistance, and little else - save for the occasional mention of provisions and clearance procedures.

Crew will join us next week and departure is not immenent; we have the luxury of watchful waiting with ample time to prepare. There is a big resort hosted going away party tonight, and then boats will begin to leave in droves. We will plan departure in about10 - 12 days or so...assuming there is a good weather window, of course.

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