Opua to Tongatapu 2016

After arriving in Opua (New Zealand) on April 29, I was joined by a couple of Australian friends,
Kayla and Kara.



Both are artists and (more importantly!) GREAT cooks... specialising in amazing vegetarian meals...



The girls did a lot of bushwalking ("tramping" in NZ) around the Bay of Islands. They walked to the Cape Brett lighthouse, where the NZ Department of Conservation maintains an overnight walker's hut.


Here's a typical New Zealand story:


Monday. Went to Kerikeri, agricultural supplies shop.
Bought two small taps, one 13mm and one 19mm.

When I got back to the boat, only one tap in  my bag. I couldn't believe it.
I had somehow lost the 13mm tap.
Friday: Went back to Kerikeri, same shop.
"I lost one of the taps I bought last Monday. So I'll have two 13mm taps thanks. If I lose one, then I'll still have one left."
"So you lost a tap on Monday?  In the Mall?"
"I guess it could have been the Mall"
"One of my friends picked it up and gave it to me.  Here are your two taps, but one is already yours, so you only have to pay for one!"
"Wow!  Thanks very much!"




Dorothy Bateman is one of Opua's gems. The girls decided to cook for her. The telephone conversation went like this:


Hi Dorothy. It's Kara here.

Hello Kara! So nice to hear from you.

We would like to invite you to dinner.

That sounds nice. When?



At your place. We will cook.

Perfect! What are we having?

A vegetarian main, with pumpkin pie desert.

My favourite!



True to form, the girls turned on a wonderful meal for Dorothy.




One of our first expeditions (using my faithful little green Honda Logo) was to Abbey Caves (Whangarei).


The caves are muddy and of course we were wearing old clothes...  The day before, Kayla had been searching for a nice piece of cotton to sew up a small money-purse... you can see where she found it...



The caves were beautiful and exciting...


On our excursion we encountered dangerous animals, like this giant freshwater crayfish...


And savage water buffalos....


Back on board Ocean Child.

Usually I hate working in the engine room... it's so cramped and there's no fresh air...


But sometimes it's actually a pleasure to work there...            

Samantha Klein, from Brazil.  I had hoped....   but she found another boat, going directly to Fiji where she was meeting a friend...



We were invited to Toni and Bill's place for dinner, and of course the girls found a great opportunity to cook. Ted and Karen, and a friend Alan, were there too. Here Kayla and Kara are helping Callum and Ella prepare the meal...  Yes, they do all look a bit strange, but I can assure you that Callum and Ella are perfectly normal...




We left Opua for Tonga at 1pm on Monday 30 April, after clearing Customs and Immigration formalities. 


Our send-off was special.... we were not expecting anyone to say goodbye. First, Ted and Karen were there waiting to say goodbye to us at Customs... Chris and Vicky came from across the river. Then Bill, and later his two children, Callum and Ella walked over from Bill's office. We didn't have time to call in to say goodbye to Dorothy, so we tried to contact her by radio.


The weather outlook was good for the first three days, and indeed we did have good winds from the west and southwest. The fourth day was calm, which left us at the mercy of the ocean swell.


We had been advised by Pat Price to try to get east of the Kermadec Islands, to place us in a good position to deal with any easterly or northerly winds. I felt this advice was good, and each day we pushed east as far as practical under the wind of the day. There were constant squalls, day after day, but not savage ones.



Weather fronts overtook us, like this one, but overall winds were favourable and not too strong. The little grey blob is Raoul Island, the largest of the Kermadec Group.



We had lots of interesting clouds.

And sunsets.


When we were 40 nm west of Raoul Island, where the NZ Department of Conservation has a station, we spoke to DoC staff via VHF. I had assumed that humpback whales, on their winter journey north, follow the Kermadec Ridge, which as it gets further north is called the Tonga Ridge. This enormous geographic feature, I guess the result of tectonic plate collision, would seemingly provide a 'road' for whales and other sea creatures.  According to Ocean Child's instruments, there is a north flowing current on the west side, and a weaker south flowing current on the east side. As an aside, once we cleared this later current after a day or so, we were again in a current flowing north. But returning to my original point, DoC staff told me that they saw very few whales on their winter migration, but they did see a few in September and October, on their return journey to Antarctic waters. So... what route do Tonga's whales follow on their northward trip? If any reader knows the answer, please email me.


Here are the girls practicing their storm tactics....


Except for one day becalmed, we had favourable winds during our nine day passage from Opua to Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu. Tongatapu contains 75,000 of Tonga's population of around 100,000.


We arrived at the Customs Wharf at midday on Wednesday June 9, with weather predictions forecasting a storm (wind and rain from the north) the following day. This storm kept us tied down at the wharf, which is exposed to northerly winds. Jon had an accident on Thursday June 10... he slipped and fell while stepping from the boat (which was bouncing around under a large swell). After waiting two days in Nuku'alofa Hospital to see a doctor, he was advised: "a displacement fracture of the clavicle".  The doctor recommended a return to Hobart for further medical attention.


The storm put a lot of water over the small island:


James and Lana took us around Tongatapu... to caves, beautiful ocean cliffs and beaches, and a giant calendar stone, which apparently was used to identify the year's longest and shortest days... and perhaps much more besides...





James and Lana


Jon bought an air ticket to Hobart, and the girls decided to take the ferry to the Vava'u Group, 200 miles to the north. Kara intended to look for another yacht heading west, while Kayla thought an air ticket to Hobart from Vava'u or Fiji might be a good idea. Ocean Child lay at anchor in a quiet part of Nuku'alofa Harbour, waiting Jon's return.