Writer’s Notice: Regardless of just about shedding our vessel ‘Nudge Nudge’ at the rocks, ‘Captain Crunch’ and his staff loved a pleasing 5 days in Niuatoputapu, the northernmost island workforce within the Tongan archipelago. Mountain climbing, swimming, breakfasting within the lagoon – feasting with the islanders who ready a scrumptious dinner party for us.
We traded fishing equipment for recent fruit and veggies and paid money for finely woven pandanus leaf mats and in the community grown kava – a lot to our hosts’ pleasure, as they generally should look forward to as much as two months to receives a commission. Items are despatched by way of send each and every month to the mainland, they usually obtain cost most effective at the go back commute the next month.
The 3 primary islands of Niuatoputapu are far flung, fantastically unspoiled, and reached most effective by way of sea. Hoisting our orange quarantine flag, quickly two younger guys with lengthy hair tied again in pony tails motored out to us in a Zodiac – the customs and immigration officers.
Pulling along-side, they greeted us and right away prompt we deliver alongside the booze (that they assumed we should certainly have on board!) explaining that they might give you the coconut water for mixer.
Rookie govt officers from the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa on their first task – therefore, this far flung posting, they usually had been reasonably prepared to wreck the monotony over some beverages with the few yachties passing via.
Historically a matriarchal society, the ladies seemed robust, sensible, obviously in price — and enterprising. Quickly once we arrived, and to boost some money, they presented to place on a standard Tongan dinner party for us for a cheap charge. One of the most older girls nonetheless wore the normal wrap round skirts made from woven pandanus leaves, or ‘tapa’ fabric produced from pounded bark, and flamboyantly painted.
Exploring the primary island, we hiked to vantage issues above the village for panoramic perspectives around the sea to the volcano emerging above the within reach island of Tafahi. Eddie used to be overjoyed to find a number of adze ‘quarries’ and different archaeological websites, indicating the early Polynesians’ migration to those islands.
Rested and completely stocked with provisions and recent water, we headed south for the central Tongan island workforce of Vava’u, a well-liked yachtie hangout. However a low drive device whipped up top winds and huge 14-foot seas that hammered us for 3 days.
Striking on and doing the whole lot one-handed, the jib safely reefed and mainsail decreased to the tiniest patch of hurricane sail, we battened down the hatches and rode out the top winds and waves — punching incessantly, laborious into the wind for 3 hard days and nights.
It used to be a ways too tough to prepare dinner, and any more or less restful sleep used to be out of the query. Tossed by way of the winds and the ocean, a ways from land — no less than there used to be not anything to crash into.
However with each and every monstrous wave that crashed down on best folks with a convincing hole bang, all of the boat shuddered because the hull strained to resist the large weight of the water dumping on us — and we puzzled if the following large one would merely break up us in part.
Thankfully, the welds held, and our self assurance within the integrity of our vessel in truth grew as time went by way of. However we sooner or later gave up and grew to become downwind in opposition to Fiji.
Positioned about midway between Tonga and the primary islands of Fiji, an island republic consisting of 330 islands, of which 110 are completely inhabited, the Lau Islands have substantial Tongan (Polynesian) affect, in spite of being technically a part of the Fijian (Melanesian) archipelago.
Navigating during the maze of Jap Fiji’s Lau Island workforce, we weren’t out of threat but – as top winds and white capped seas persisted to force us ahead, browsing down the again facets of the swells.
We reached the archipelago at evening, and had been quickly bearing down on Ngau Island. As we rounded the island, tiny lighting fixtures of a coastal village twinkling during the pouring rain got here into view. Tacking into the wind, following the beach, we slowly made our means across the island.
Within the darkness of the evening, shall we listen the sound of waves crashing on a reef within reach, however couldn’t see anything else. Our charts indicated a big hook-like arm of land to get round, and this required turning additional into the wind, and extra tedious tacking maneuvers.
I used to be on the helm. Captain Eddie used to be beneath learning the charts. The surf sounded dangerously shut. However Eddie insisted we proceed on our provide heading, and that additional tacking would now not be vital to get across the sticking out land mass.
Throughout the rain and wind-slashed gloom, I started to make out a faint line of white foam pounding the coastline. All at once, the surf wreck that we concept used to be smartly off our starboard bow used to be now useless in entrance folks!
We had been headed at once into the middle of the fatal wall of white spray – for sure crisis. On the closing minute, I disobeyed the captain – and our inaccurate charts, grew to become laborious to port and infrequently have shyed away from the reef.
Regardless of never-ending breakdowns, together with two damaged winches, damaged rest room, damaged alternator — thus, no option to generate energy (no intensity gauge, no lighting fixtures, no radio, no batteries) we had been in the end coming near the primary Fijian island of Viti Levu, when any person referred to as out: “I’m hoping we don’t desire a lifeboat.” One whole facet of the leaky dinghy had completely deflated!
An unpleasant climate device used to be bearing down on us, and we had been being driven perilously with regards to a leeward reef – and naturally the engine had damaged once more. Membership, gaff, cushions – all misplaced overboard. However as soon as once more we controlled to live on, and had been thankfully munching on sun-dried fish after we put the boat up ‘at the laborious’ in Lautoka, Fiji for the hurricane season.
Keep tuned for Section 3, coming quickly!
You’ll learn extra about Jim’s backstory, right here and right here.