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
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.
Tournament - It’s hard to believe but the tailgate game of corn hole is
played 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.