ALL I NEED
16 September 2010 - 7 December 2010
Written January & February 2011 – New Zealand
Those of you who follow Migrations closely... well, I mean to say, those who occasionally visit this website when you should be doing your work... will be surprised that Migrations #16 follows so soon after #15. Usually it takes me four or six months to get around to the next update. This update's timeliness is not due to any extraordinary effort on my part. It's because of the temperature. Here in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand it is currently 58°F (14°C). It's grey and drizzly and not exactly snorkeling weather. We're spending a lot of time inside. Thus, plenty of time to work on the update.
Alene and I have decided that snorkeling weather -- a sunny 80°F (27°C) with a water temp of about the same -- is something we need. The last five years in the tropics have thinned our blood. We are weather wimps. Those of you who live in upstate New York, or on the blustery coast of Scotland, or in Alaska or Norway, or any of those locales that make one wonder how anyone can ever live there (until the glorious summer days that then make one wonder why everyone doesn't...), you need not write to remind me that 58° is not considered very cold in many parts of the world.
I bring this up only because I now realize that I need warmth.
Warmth... and Alene. Just warmth and Alene..., and Migration. Just warmth, Alene, Migration..., and a protected anchorage. And family. And friends. And...
I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll take this one step at a time.
...IS A FISH, $50, AND AN ADVERTISING CONTRACT
Though we were sad to leave Niue (Migrations #15), we were looking forward to spending time with our friends Melaia and Sio in Lifuka in Tonga's Ha'apai group. We had a great two-day sail from Niue to Tonga, crossing the dateline for our third time.
The next morning we sailed to Lifuka to check in. I ferried the officials aboard in Plover. Three big Tongans pushed the limits of our little dinghy. We had to pay the 100 pa'anga (about US$50) health certificate fee again even though we'd only been out of the country for just over three weeks.
Our check-in went smoothly but we were sad to hear from the officials that Lesieli, Melaia's mother whom we had met on our last visit, had passed away two days before. We unfolded our bikes and headed to Melaia's house.
... IS A LONG LIFE
Lesieli was 85 years old. She'd lived on many of the Tongan islands (her husband had been a minister), raised 10 children, and was a respected member of the community. She had a kind, unassuming and quiet honorability about her.
Alene and I had just finished reading "Mariner’s Account of the Tonga Islands" by John Martin; a fascinating look at Tongan life in the early 1800s. William Mariner was a 14-year old ship's clerk on the British privateer Port au Prince when it was overrun by Tongans in Lifuka in 1804. Most of the crew were killed, but Mariner, and several other crew, were spared. Finau, the Tongan chief of the area, adopted Mariner into his family. Mariner learned the Tongan language and customs and lived amongst the Tongans for four years until he was able to return to England aboard another ship.
As I said in Migrations 15, Melaia and Sio taught us a great deal about Tongan culture. Now, reading this 19th century account of life in these islands, it was clear how many of the customs and attitudes were little changed.
The influence and prestige of one's connection to royalty dominated life 200 years ago and still plays an important role in Tongan society. But the continued critical importance of family and family ties impressed us the most. This became apparent over the next few days as we participated in the funeral and mourning of Lesieli's family.
There are similarities in grieving across cultures throughout the world, and they were evident here. However, the differences also stood out. Now, as in Mariner's time, a funeral is the most important of all familial events. Relatives must attend and, as Tongans are now spread around the world, Lesieli's children and grandchildren came from all parts of Tonga, the United States, New Zealand, and Japan. We were not the only palangis (white foreigners) in attendance. Two of Lesieli's grandchildren had American husbands. Because we were not immediate family, Melaia asked if we would take photos for her. It felt strange being the typical foreigners with cameras but everyone was very appreciative that someone was taking pictures. Weeks later we created a DVD for the family with a montage of the photos, video and sound we recorded.
As is common in so many cultures, food is an important part of the funereal custom. Family arriving from overseas had to be looked after, as well as the friends who sat with Lesieli's body. The day before, and the day of the funeral, the choirs of the various churches of the island (and there are many), sat outside the porch singing for hours. They were all fed as were the hundreds of friends and family on the day of the funeral.
We were grateful to Melaia for allowing us to bid her mother farewell, and to help in our small way. Though she spoke no English and we spoke only a few words of Tongan, we enjoyed meeting her and getting to know her a little. She was kind and cheerful and very, very welcoming. Melaia shared many stories from her life with us. To live a full life until 85 is not a bad thing.
... IS AN ISLAND PARADISE
Sio had expressed an interest in sailing to the uninhabited island of Limu about twenty miles south of Lifuka. A few days after the funeral, we were happy to have him aboard Migration for the two-day trip. Sio's son, Selesi, and Melaia's nephew, Mika, came as well.
... IS AN ADVENTURE WITH WHALES!
We sailed back to Lifuka to drop off our guests. Though we liked being close to our friends, the Lifuka anchorage is not our favorite. The town has a generator that runs all the time and its hum can be heard everywhere, even out at the boat. It's a bit tiresome so we decided to sail seven miles north to the beautiful anchorage at Foa. Besides, our friends Scott and Cindy on s/v Beach House were anchored there and we hadn't seen them since Fakarava in French Polynesia.
Whenever we sailed in Tonga, we kept a lookout for reefs and whales, often seeing many of both. But we'd yet to get in the water with a whale except at Niue. A few miles north of Lifuka, we found a mother and calf calmly hanging about. We furled the sails and Alene immediately jumped in while I let the boat slowly drift away.
It was clear the mother was teaching her calf how to fin slap, tail slap, and breach. Alene and I took turns in the water, keeping Migration away from the whales and letting them approach us. Alene's second turn in the water was the most spectacular. The mother was tail slapping, the baby breaching and attempting to fin slap, and then the mother did a full out-of-the-water breach. Amazing!
It was an incredible hour. You can read Alene's impressions in the says ADR below.
Ecstatic from our encounter, we continued on to Foa and anchored. What a day!
The next morning we went diving with Scott & Cindy aboard their catamaran Beach House. Since we usually take everyone out on Migration, it was such a pleasure to dive from someone else's boat; especially Beach House as Scott & Cindy have set it up as the perfect dive boat. We had two nice dives on Crawshaw Reef, then returned to Foa for a Chinese dinner aboard Migration.
... ARE FRIENDS
Our friend Ella had sailed aboard Migration many times in California (often with her son, Jelte), and Alene and I were looking forward to having our first onboard visitor in a long time. Ella's a fanatic about sailing so we knew we'd be piling on the canvas.
VERY INTERESTING NOTE: One of the crew we picked up in the bar was a guy named Pete. He's the one in the middle with the black t-shirt and shaved head. When we asked Pete if he had any sailing experience he said "No, but I have some experience with power boats." I was so preoccupied before and during the race (racing doesn't bring out the tranquil side of me...), that I didn't have a chance to get to know anyone. But hanging out afterward, I find that Pete's "some experience" is holding the world record for the fastest time around the world in a powerboat. He was the captain (and creator) of Earthrace, the biodiesel-powered trimaran that set the record. Pete was also the captain of the Ady Gil, the re-named Earthrace, which was rammed by a Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean while working with the Sea Shepherd Society. Pete had just returned from Japan where he'd spent 6 months in a high security prison after being arrested for boarding the whaler to conduct a citizen's arrest on the captain. How cool is that? Pete had the idea for Earthrace and just created it... out of nothing. I have great admiration for those who accomplish so much. Good on ya, Pete.
... IS 24 HOURS
Though we haven't seen it, we know half the world is addicted to the television show 24. Our activities are certainly not as crucial to saving the world (or city or country or something?), but here's what we did with Ella's last 24 hours with us.
With no intention of letting her rest, the next morning we hiked to the top of Mt. Talau before it was time to head to the airport. We enjoyed Ella's visit immensely. She was still smiling when she left, so we're pretty sure she enjoyed herself as well.
... ARE FRIENDS SUBLIME
Back in the Ha'apai, Ella's visit coincided with my birthday. I received beautiful handmade cards and thoughtful gifts from Alene, of course. Ella brought me two bottles of single malt scotch. We three went snorkeling at one of my favorite spots along the reef at Uoleva. Then we shared dinner with our great friends from s/v Navire. Dessert was an absolutely delicious cake which David baked & decorated. And I got my own personal birthday song composed by David and sung by David and Janet. Alene read Dr. Seuss's Happy Birthday to You, and we finished the evening by inviting everyone in the anchorage over for a sing-along movie night of The Wizard of Oz. It was an excellent celebration.
... ARE MORE FRIENDS
After Ella's departure, we spent a few days in Neiafu provisioning and saying goodbye to friends that would be heading off to different ports. Then a few more days among the islands of the Va'vau group and an easy overnight sail back to Ha'apai. We'd meant to anchor at Lifuka, but when cruising you always have to be ready for the unexpected. That could be severe weather, an uncharted reef..., or new friends met in the middle of the sea.
We'd first had contact with s/v Visions of Johanna via email about a year before. Bill had emailed us with some questions about the Tuamotus as they were going to be visiting some of the atolls we'd been to. We stayed in touch and knew we would meet up some day. Today was the day. As we passed Foa, we found out by VHF radio that Visions was anchored close by and planning a diving expedition to Lafalafa Reef. We just happened to be four miles away from Lafalafa! We anchored at the reef just as Visions arrived. There was nothing visible above the water so we were counting on the information Bill had received from the local dive outfit. Bill, his wife Johanna, and Johanna's son Gram jumped in their dink and tied to the small mooring ball marking the dive site. We jumped off of Migration to swim the 100 meters. The current was ripping and we had to swim hard to make it. We were pretty knackered by the time we got to the buoy. But our dive partners were patient and waited for us. They jumped in and we shook hands, floating in full dive gear three miles from shore; this was our first meeting! A great way to begin a friendship.
We had a great dive and then, in company with new friends Lewis and Jules on the catamaran Simpatico, we decided to head to Ofalanga Island.
Two miles south of Ofalanga is the island of Moungaone. And beneath the island is the Arch of Ofalanga -- a 15 by 20 meter arch that leads to a cave inside the island. It sounded like an exciting dive and we wanted to do it.
The next day was flat calm; perfect for shooting across the channel between the islands in the dinghies. It took a lot of exploring to find the arch, but Alene, fish that she is, was finally successful. As we didn't know how long the cave was, I volunteered to go last and trail a line behind us so we could find our way out if we didn't find the exit going forward. No sooner had everyone entered the cave than I found myself fighting with the line as if it were alive. Thankfully, Alene returned to rescue me. We could easily see the exit from halfway through the cave so we didn't need the line after all.
It was a good dive and a good adventure although not as spectacular as we thought it would be. The scores of lobsters that were supposed to live in the cave must have been out for the day.
The next morning we dived on the reef at Luahoko Island. Three dives within 24 hours of arriving from our overnight passage! It wasn't what we expected but it was a lot of fun.
We spent the next week saying goodbye to Melaia and Sio and family in Lifuka, and working our way south through the Ha'apai group.
We spent a few days at Uoleva waiting for snotty weather to pass, then had a rough upwind sail to a quick stop at the lonely island of Lalona, just northeast of Kelefesia.
... IS A SAFE ANCHORAGE
We had heard about Kelefesia, the beautiful, southernmost island of the Ha'apai. We were unable to stop on our way north because the wind was too strong from the south making for a dangerous anchorage. Recently, a French sailboat, La Tortue, which we had seen in Niue only six weeks before, had sunk there; caught without a working engine in rough conditions.
The weather was grey. The wind was blowing hard, but not too hard. We threaded our way through the reefs and rendezvoused with Visions of Johanna in the small lagoon.
... IS A GOOD PARTY
Big Mama's end-of-the-season party on Pangaimotu was only a few days away. We didn't want to miss it as it was a blast in 2009. The wind was blowing strong from the east-southeast. We headed south.
The cyclone season was soon to start which meant the tropical cruising season was coming to a close. Time to head further south. We were pleased to be able to see Sio one last time as he was in town. He kindly invited us to his family's Sunday afternoon umu (feast). There, we saw a strange sight:
... IS ALENE
On 3rd November we left Tonga proper. Later, looking at the log we found it was the same day we'd departed a year earlier. Both voyages had the identical destination: North Minerva Reef. In 2009, it was the site of our wedding (Migrations #13). This year, we'd spend our first anniversary there.
Just a few hours after our arrival we were surprised to see a naval vessel approach from the north. It anchored outside the pass and launched a RIB. We were even more surprised when they came over and identified themselves as the Fijian Navy. We had been under the impression that Minerva Reef was part of Tonga. The Fijians were very polite and asked to see our boat papers.
We stayed at Minerva Reef for 10 days. At times, there were up to five other boats. For two days, it was just us. We stayed because we loved it, and because we wanted to wait for good weather for our voyage to New Zealand. We'd heard too many reports of boats heading south and dealing with 30 knots forward of the beam. Why do that when we could explore Minerva? There was so much to do.
When we had the reef to ourselves we didn't have the best weather. It was cool and rainy and blowing hard. Still, Alene suggested a swim. We donned our wetsuits, mask, snorkels, and fins, and jumped into the water which had lost its gorgeous blue as the grey clouds spread over the sky. The huge breakers crashing hard outside created a strong current against us which grew more powerful -- to nearly 3 knots -- as we neared the reef. It took all our strength to swim from coral head to coral head and not be swept away. We'd sprint for ten feet and then hold on as our bodies flailed behind us as if in a rushing river. Finally, exhausted, we let go and were swept back toward Migration.
Afterward, sipping a cup of tea, I marveled at the woman I was lucky enough to meet. Here we were, all alone, in the middle of the ocean. The place we got married! No fear, great enthusiasm, and a inspiring love of life and adventure. What more could a sailor need?
... IS A FAIR WIND
The 800 nautical miles between Minerva Reef and the Bay of Islands in New Zealand can be nasty. Or, if you wait for a while and are lucky, they can be wonderful. Our first day was blowy and bumpy but most of the trip was awesome. With winds on, or aft of, the beam, we zoomed along in fairly smooth seas. With each mile we added more layers of clothes, but we were happy to be making great progress. We arrived in Opua, New Zealand in just under five days.
... IS CRANBERRY SAUCE
As soon as possible, we headed out of the marina and into the Opua anchorage. We were suddenly busy. Every day brought new arrivals from Tonga, Fiji, The Cooks... and each group had friends we hadn't seen for months. How could we sort out the year's projects and plans and start the first batch of repairs on Migration when there were so many people to see? Luckily, after last year's hard work, there wasn't too much to do.
We made plans to spend Thanksgiving with Visions of Johanna out in the Bay of Islands. We weren't sad to leave the busy anchorage.
... IS FRIENDS (Did I say that already?)
Back in Opua we continued our plans and projects and socializing.
Back out in the Bay of Islands, we spent some great days with good friends Derek & Allison from s/v Kalida, new friends Lisa and Lester from s/v Obsession, and Whangarei friends Kurt (our carpenter from last year) & Sue on their beautiful s/v Kailua. We collected fresh oysters. We fished, explored, and spent heaps of time catching up. It was hard to get any work done.
Good friends and beautiful cruising. But the holiday clock was ticking. We wanted to be in Wellington before Christmas. And Wellington is at the other end -- the south end -- of the North island. Just across from the South Island. (And yes, we know the geographical descriptions are a bit confusing). That would require a long sail through what are sometimes stormy waters, and across the notorious Cook Strait. We hugged everyone goodbye and sailed away. Not quite into the sunset, but there was sappy music playing, I think.
As David sang in his birthday song, the things I need are not many.
Some are pretty easy to find: a bit of sunshine and whales (if one happens to be in Niue or Tonga).
Some are a bit more a state of mind than an actual possession: to never grow old.
Some can be hard to find, but I've been lucky in love: Alene!
And then there are "friends sublime". This sailing life is fairly conducive to making friends; though not as favorable for keeping them since we are always moving around and also far from our families. I'm fortunate, though, to have found and kept a good few.
Yes, there are always other things I think I need. But the truth is, I don't. None of us needs everything we think we do: all the stuff, all the gizmos, the toys and gadgets, the new cars (or boats), the bags and boxes and glittery this and thats. We don't need them.
We need food and water. We need shelter. We need health.
We need happiness.
And to find happiness? Try "friends sublime".
It works for me.
This site was last updated 09/02/13