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2009 Logs

September 2009


September 12,  2009 - Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga

The crew of Imagine arrived in the beautiful protected anchorages of Vava’u Tonga on Sept 2.   Although there were so many reasons to be excited to be in Vava’u like gorgeous beaches, cruising friends, fresh veggies, and whale sightings, we were initially just thrilled to have a nice calm anchorage to finally get a good nights sleep after rolly anchorages and passages for the last few months.   After catching up on much needed sleep it was time to enjoy Tonga. 

The Kingdom of Tonga is the only Kingdom in the Southern Hemisphere.  Capt James Cook nicknamed Tonga ”The  Friendly islands” when he visited them in 1773 and 1777.  Some believe that the friendliness was just a ruse to lull Cook into a false sense of security before they would attack and eat him.   The story goes that they could not decide whether to attack by day or night, and Cook safely sailed away again before a decision was made.   Well, since we don’t have to worry about anyone eating us, we have decided that the people here are just very friendly.

Tonga is divided into four general island groups.   We will spend most of our time in the Vava’u group which is one of the northern groups and is now known for its abundance of gorgeous islands, perfect beaches, and calm, protected anchorages.  This little piece of paradise was actually kept a secret from Captain Cook who never even sailed to Vava’u on his visits.   The story goes that while Cook was anchored in the Ha’apai group of Tonga (which is 60 miles south of Vava’u), he became good friends of Chief Finau who was the Chief of the Vava’u group.   Cook expressed an interest in visiting Vava’u but his friend, the Chief, discouraged him.  No one will ever know why the chief did this maybe he was concerned that the white man would take over his beloved Vava’u.   But all that is known is that Cook stayed in Ha’apai recording sadly in his journal that in Vava’u “there was neither safe harbor or anchorage” which has proved to be one of the greatest historical lies of all time.  Although, Cook never made it to Vava’u, it was discovered by Francisco Maurelle of Spain just four years later.  

Although we were eager to check out all of the fabulous islands, anchorages, and beaches our first week in Vava’u was mainly spent socializing.    Tonga seems to be the cross roads for all cruising boats traveling in the South Pacific.   After leaving French Polynesia boats choose either a northern route (through the northern Cook Islands and Samoa) or a southern route (through southern Cook Islands and Niue - like us) but whether you take the high road or the low road or if you are going to Australia or NZ, cruising boats go through Tonga at this time of year. 

This year it was even more pronounced as most cruising boats were in Tonga participate in the first annual “Vava’u Sailing Regatta”.   Of course, the crew of Imagine joined in the fun and we had a great time.  The regatta consisted of almost a week’s worth of activities including a full moon party, corn hole tournament, kids’ day and kid’s costume party, and the Governor’s Race to another island.  Although Imagine participated in almost everything (we opted out of the pub crawl with the kiddos), there were some areas where we really excelled.


Kid’s Day - It just happened that Kid’s Day for the regatta fell on September 4, Grant’s 9th birthday - What a great way to celebrate!   They played kid’s games like throw the wet sponge at “Sponge Bob”, ring toss, face painting, and lei making.   There were clowns singing and walking on stilts.   The highlight was, of course, having 50+ kids (cruisers and locals) singing “Happy Birthday” while Grant stood on top of the table.   We treated everyone to homemade cookies and the kids on the boats “Lucey Blue and Vagabond Heart” pooled their winning tickets for the day to give Grant a boogie board.    After a great time at Kid’s Day we celebrated Grant’s family birthday cake with our buddies, Seth and Elizabeth on Honeymoon.  It was a special day for Grant.


Cornhole Tournament - It’s hard to believe but the tailgate game of corn hole is planoahcornhole.jpgyed in Tonga.   The regatta sponsored a tournament for both adults and kids.   Of course, the kids of Imagine joined in the kid’s tournament and Grant and Noah made it to the championship game against a team of 12 year old boys.   The game was close throughout the contest and the teams were locked in a 20-20 tie.  The 12’s had one bag on the board and Grant was up with only one bag left to throw.   It looked impossible for Team Imagine but Grant was determined.   He threw the bag and made a perfect hit!  His bag knocked off his opponent’s bag but stuck on the board awarding Team Imagine 1 more point to the Magic 21 to win the game.    Who says cruiser kids can’t be good athletes……

Kid’s Costume Party - At the awards banquet after the Governor’s race, the regatta held a kid’s costume party and contest.   Again the kids of Imagine faired well as Caroline and Noah were awarded “The Best Costume Award”.    Noah’s costume was a caveman but the judges took the liberty to name him “BamBam” from the Flintstones.  Caroline created her own custume by taping rolls of Smarty Candies on her black leggings to become “Smarty Pants”…..creative girl.

Passport Compeitition - All participants in the events were given a passport.   Stamps were awarded by participating in the events and also by visiting local businesses.   As you can guess, Caroline made sure that the Crew of Imagine received as many points as possible.   She visited almost every business in town and rallied our team to participate in almost all of the events.   She was successful and made it to the top 5 of almost 100 participants.   Her award was a Dune Buggy Trip for the family around the island.   We are all very excited.   

We had a great time participating in the events of the Regatta.   But what we have enjoyed most  so far in Tonga is seeing our friends.   We were so excited to get back together with Honeymoon, Monkey Feet, Vagabond Heart, Lucey Blue and many more.   It was great to spend time with Seth and Elizabeth on Honeymoon and play more euchre……….Marc and Elizabeth have officially won the Pacific tournament.   Although Tonga is the crossroads of the Pacific, most boats at this point either head to NZ or Australia so we also had to say good-bye to many boats that are not sailing our way.  It was sad for all of us to say goodbye and we know that we may not see them again in the cruising circuit but we have definitely made good friends that we see again somewhere soon.   We also said hello to some new friends and we are excited to spend time with them as we cruise the beautiful islands of Tonga for the next couple months before heading for New Zealand. 

September 27, 2009 - Neiafu, Vava’u Group, Tonga

One of our favorite times on the boat is when we have family and friends visit us. It is so exciting for us to spend time with our loved ones and share our lifestyle and the wonderful places that we see with them. Not to mention, we also love getting boat parts, supplies, and goodies from the states. We feel so fortunate that Marc’s parents, Fred and Margot, were able to make the long trip to visit us here. Although Vava’u was a perfect place to host guests, it is not the easiest place to fly to so it took Fred and Margot 35+ hours to travel from FL to Vava’u. Now this may seem like a long trip for most of us but not for Noah who stated, “Thirty-five hours, is that all? It took us a lot longer than that”!

Caroline and Marc picked Fred and Margot up at the small airport in Vava’u and with the pigs and cows running through the streets it was quickly apparent that they weren’t in Florida anymore. They came loaded with everything from Pokemon cards and school books to an alternator for the generator and spare water pump and we greatly appreciate everything.

Although Neiafu is a nice town, we wanted to quickly get out to the nice beaches and anchorages for them to really enjoy the beauty of Vava’u. We started out by attending a native Tongan feast on one of the local beaches. It was a great time watching the children perform the native Tongan dancing which even included a fire dance show by some of the young boys. Tongans are very religious and conservative. Therefore the traditional dancing is much more reserved than the French Polynesian dancing but it was still quite beautiful. After the show we were treated to a native dinner. There were no plates or utensils and we sat at a long table tonganfeast.jpgon benches with about 30 other people. The table cloth was palm leaves and the serving pieces were made of banana leave, tree stalks, and everything natural. The food was definitely different than we’d had before but we all found some favorites. Grant’s favorite was the octopus, Noah’s was the fish cakes, and, of course, Caroline’s was the dessert.

The next morning we attended a Tongan church in the tiny village about a 30 minute walk from the anchorage. Although we had heard about the unique services and beautiful singing at the Tongan churches, nothing could have prepared us for this. As I had mentioned previously, Tongans are a very religious people which was quickly evident by the three large churches in this tiny village. A woman that I had met the week before selling baskets in her boat welcomed us to the Church of Tonga. There were many things different about the Tongan church: The women and children sit in the front of the church and the men sit in the back which we believe allows the men to sneak out and drink Kava juice. (Kava is a sort of natural narcotic derived from tree bark) The children are incredibly well behaved which is probably because the minute they don’t behave they are beaten silly with the reed fan that the mother holds. When you kneel, you kneel on the cold cement floor toward the back of the church - no cushy kneelers. Each family brings up their offering separately by name and at the end of church they read how much each family contributed (we were glad it was not in English). But the most memorable part of the service was the music. It was just incredible. There were no instruments, no hymnals, and no choir director. An old man at the back of the church would just start tapping his leg and began singing and the rest of the congregation joined in with perfect pitch and harmony - the beautiful singing could be heard from well outside the village & would send chills down your spine . Even though we couldn’t understand a word of the music or service, I think that it will stay with us forever.

Fred and Margot also participated in one of our favorite cruiser activities - a beach BBQ with our friends on Monkey Feet and they were treated to a fire dance of sorts by all of the kids with glow sticks. We spent time exploring the beaches, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and even relaxing.

The animals even cooperated to make the week special. We were treated to whale shows and even got to witness a mother humpback teach her baby to breach. As we were cruising back to Neiafu to spend our last night together, we caught a three foot wahoo to enjoy for our last meal together. It was a very special week together and we are so thankful that they were able to make the long trip to see us. Now we prepare for our next visitors, Marc’s sister and her family who will meet us in New Zealand for Christmas.