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Tonga: Nukualofa 13.-26.10.2002

updates: 13.10.  20.10.  26.10.  

13.10.2002 Nukualofa, Tonga
We spent a whole week on Nomuka before we started our last Tongan leg, 60 miles to Nukualofa. The weather was holding us, mutta at last we hoisted the anchor although the wind was still from the nose. Four days earlier we got company from Andy and Lisa (s/y Indefatigable from Alaska), and we had really good time together, but despite that we were impatience. The human mind is odd, even we had time, we wanted to move forward - being well aware that at sea it's the weather that takes the last word, no matter what the plans are. The impatience gave us a wet and rough 60 miles, the wind was almost from the bow, very gusty, blowing 25-35 knots. The wave height was not remarkable, but still the sea was flushing the deck and pouring into the cockpit time to time. Because it was a short distance, we motorsailed making 6-7 knots. We didn't want to stay out there any longer than necessary. Auli was lying seasick inside and Hannu was saltbathing outside. It was a very good reminder how the sailing is most of the time, we have forgotten it during the Pacific "holiday".
In the end we got a 7 kilo tuna, saw a humpack coming up several times and almost hit a big turtle. It was as deaf as its friends on Galápagos, only when we were beside the turtle, it startled and started to rush away. Tongans eat turtles, so they better run away.
It was still blowing hard in the Nukualofa harbour and we got to get Kristiina in a place on side wind: the bow to anchor and stern lines to land 10 meters away. It was a bit of a task, Kristiina has a lot of wind area sideways. Fortunately one sailor came to help us with his dinghy, taking the lines ashore and pushing us from side when we were manouvering to the place. We were able to give him tasty thanks, a half of the tuna. A couple of hours went before we got another anchor out from the bow and everything settled. The day had begun at 3 am, so after a fish meal we were at sleep already at 7 pm. Finally on our soft Bodyform-madrass in the bow, after a week's runaway on the saloon sofa (The bow cabin was so rolly at Nomuka that we couldn't sleep there).
On Sunday the wind turned east and weakened - of course. Indefatigable arrived in the afternoon after a smooth sailing. Impatience makes you suffer!
Here in Nukualofa we will prepare the boat for the last Pacific leg - at this time. New Zealand is 1000 miles away and we can expect anything from storm to calm, from tail wind to head winds.

20.10.2002, Nukualofa, Tonga
Tonga doesn't make much an effort for the capital's small craft harbour despite hundreds of visiting yachts. There is a container harbour, fishing harbour, ferry harbour and a wharf in a same place. Noise and traffic are quite lively. Presently, it is a pumpkin season, and the ships are coming for the "royal pumpkin" (will it turn to a carriage in the midnight?), we were told by a retired Irish pilot. There are no cranes in the container harbour, cargo is loaded by the ship's derrick. An endless panging is heard from the wharf, there is no sandblasting equipments.
Services for the visiting yachts are near to nothing, only a dribbling cold "shower" in a dirty tiled box. In the other end of the house is a line of sinks, where you can do your laundry, but water will come out only from one tap at the time. Many boats fill up their water tanks from here, because there is no other arrangement for the yachts. It takes 15 minutes to fill a 25 litre cannister...
Surroundings are untidy, rubbish and used fridges lying around. Rats are running on the wave breaker and some boats use rat-hinders in their ropes. Most of the boats are anchored outside, although there is free space inside. During couple of last days a plenty of boats have arrived. At the moment, there are 15 boats outside and seven inside the harbour.

Boats tie up to the wave breaker with long lines in the Nukualofa guest harbour.

The 20.000 inhabitant's capital of Tonga is like a village or a small rural town: a couple of shopping blocks from where the houses spread out. The market place with a vegetable stalls is the centre. There is one western style cafe in the town, with a tasty variety of food and drink - four times the normal price. We were sitting there on Monday, reading our mail from Finland, when suddenly all this, people sipping their ice tea and espresso in a nice and tidy café, felt unreal. In my head the filthy children, corrugated iron huts, digging pigs, wooden outriggers and shabby people of the islands were rolling around. The enourmous differencies of Tongan living conditionds concretised there, in a ordinary café, in front of a cup of coffee.

Streetlife in the Tongan capital

It is always a nice supprise when the mail is found where it should be found

In Nukualofa we found internet at last, it doesn't exist in the other islands. For our big supprise it was very fast, the best we had used in the Pacific. We had been out of news for two months, and had updated the home page with the satellite phone, which is very expensive. It was great to get into internet again, although the news from Finland were not so great, a young guy had put a bomb in one shopping centre killing seven people including himself.
The state of Tonga has media monopoly, there is only one internet operator. The royal family is involved also in satellite business, princess  Pilolevu started the TongaSat, which is doing well nowdays. The rumours say that the company has made the princess a multimillionaire. We haven't seen the king yet, but visited the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace

On Sunday we walked to church hoping to get a glimpse of the king, but only one princess was sitting in the royal loge. The dressing code is strict especially in the church. Men have to wear either the skirt and taovala in a Tongan style or trousers and a collar shirt. Women have to wear a skirt under knees and a blouse that covers shoulders. All the local women had either a taovala or a kiekie on their dress. Hannu put on his sailing shoes after he had cleaned them of thick mould. They started to chafe before we were out of the harbour and the last part he walked bare footed. My better sandals did the same, a blister on toe. It was a 40 minutes walk to the church, no taxis on Sunday, because working is forbidden. I have one dress, short and sleeveless. What to wear then? I put on my best shorts, and on the church yard I wrapped round my waist an anlöe length cloth bought from Thailand long ago. The local boys were doing the same, putting on their taovalas not untill on the church yard.
The ceremony had a lot of singing: sometimes the choir accompanied by the wind instruments, sometimes the whole congregation. A young girl was reading the words of the hymn to a microphone and after that they were sung. The priest spoke partly English, about the bomb in Bali that killed 119 Australians. He expressed his condolences for the high commissioner of Australia and for all Australians that work in Tonga.
After the church there was a lot interesting to photo on the yard, people wearing their best clothes, but the batteries run out  and the spare batteries turned out not to be charged. We got only one photo of the boys:

Skirt and taovala, a cloth made of pandanus leafs, is the official
clothing of the Tongan men, like tie and suit in western countries.

26.10.2002 Nukualofa, Tonga
We are now ready to leave; storm jib is on the deck, oil stove is back in its place and warm clothes are taken out. On Friday we managed to buy tax free diesel (0.35 euros per litre) after several tries. It's still unclear how it was possible, because according to the law, pleasure craft has to be over 30 tons to get tax fee fuel. Via some persons we got the needed customs stamp on our paper, even it told our real tonnage, 11. Also one Swedish boat had managed to get tax free fuel a few days earlier. We paid the harbour fee (20 pangas, 10 euros), cleared out and anchored outside the wave breaker. All this took the whole day. Harbour office and customs are located in the harbour, but the immigration in town. The diesel came one hour late. While Hannu was filling up, Auli went to the customs office just before they closed. Next clearing-out day would have been Monday.
The weather is holding us, but this time it is a calm. There are about 15 boats anchored by an island in sight, most of them have done the same than us, cleared out but still waiting for the better weather. VHF calls have became a bit mysterious when some of the boats do not want the radio traffic to reveal them, they are using code names such as Big-R and Big-D.
Our hectic day was ended by a nice dinner onboard Indy, tortillas filled with Alaskan deer meet. Andy has shot the deer by himself and also prepared and conserved it. Delicious!
According the weather chart we should be able to start on Sunday or latest on Monday. We'll first head to Minerva reef 250 miles from here. It is only a washing reef without any dry land, but you can anchor inside the round reef. We hope that the weather allows us to stop in this interesting place in the middle of the ocean.

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