May

20

Ahoy there all land lubbers, sorry we haven’t done an update as we have been enjoying the simple pleasures of being on land.

We have also learnt the art of patience.  Everything is in Tongan time. So you don’t rush, only when they’re ready and in their own time.

We arrived into Pangaimotu Island Harbor about 0200 hours Friday 14th May, after a trip of motoring for two days from North Minerva Reef.

We traveled about 7 knots most of the way heading into a northerly wind with a moderate swell.  The clearing of customs was a very interesting experience. As we were one of the first boats to be cleared we had them come to visit us on the boat.  After the third boat clearance with a very hot and humid day (probably about 30 degrees), it got that hot that the customs guys decided it was easier to get all the boaties to go to meet them on the island at the bar.  Need i say more….

Pangaimotu Island is a small island about a 15 minute ride by ferry from the mainland.  You can walk around this island in about 15 mins, a very exotic getaway with a small bar called “Big Mommas”, and no she is not big at all.

The hospitality of the locals and the culture is certainly inviting here. You feel very safe walking around the mainland.  We did a tour of Tonga itself yesterday and we drove around it in about 4 hours visiting the tourist spots and seeing the country side and how different it is to New Zealand.

Heaps of coconut trees, taro plants,breadfruit, and other varieties which I couldn’t even pronounce let alone identify.  It’s quite lush and green here with much tropical fauna. We visited the famous “blow holes” on the coast, the Kings family tomb, how they make tapa cloth, Captain Cooks Landing and flying foxes (these a bat like birds) very cute and noisy.

The tour guide asked a local kid to climb a coconut tree for us.  In turn we were given a coconut each to drink out of and eat the pulp, not too bad.

Saw the Tongan Kings residence.  There are alot of partly built homes here, that is because the families who have members overseas send them money which in turn goes towards building parts of their house, so in essence this could take a while.

There are houses that stand derelict, trees, grass overgrown, with windows boarded up with corrugated iron if your lucky, these belong to families who have managed to move overseas to get ahead.  Apparently they come back every six or seven years or if a family member has passed away.

An interesting thing here is how the Republic of China has been given some leeway to establish themselves here in Tonga.  They have funded a number of causes here, e.g. roadworks, buildings and the like. There is a bit of controversy amongst the people with this, but they certainly need the money.

Unemployment is extremely high, in turn they live in poverty. You can see how and why the norm is to live with great grandparents, grandparents, parents, mums, dads, kids, cousins etc.  No matter what they are a very happy culture.

We managed to go to church here for the musical experience. The religion was Weslian (this is the Kings church).  The princess graced us with her presence, and no she is not at all what you would imagine a princess to be. We sat, they sung, it was almost like you had died and gone to heaven listening to angels sing. Bloody awesome.

The Mormons also have a very strong holding here. They have a temple and a very huge university campus with acres of land set up for farming their beef.

Refueling the boats was interesting. Everything was hand pumped, with no metre so you could imagine the kaos this caused and how time consuming it was. The fascinating thing were the rats running around the wharf with these cockroaches in harmony… bizarre.

The rally organisers held a pirate party for everyone. Everyone certainly went all out for this occasion.

Ye Scurvey Dogs from Sol Maria,  Pirate Party at Big Mommas

Ye Scurvey Dogs from Sol Maria, Pirate Party at Big Mommas

This was a huge presentation night, with first boat in, last boat in, best brag, best protest, the best song which had to include all the yacht names (might I say Diede and Shae did a rap to “I’m on a boat” which was fabulous it bought the house down), I’m unsure of the copyright issues though!  Shae was presented with the “Best Brag” trophy which was a full on detailed blow by blow account of Pauls encounter with a shark at North Minerva Reef.

Shae's Brag Award

Shae's Brag Award

Needless to say Paul survived, his spear gun took a beating though and he managed to keep his fish.
We sadly sent Paul back to NZ on Tuesday 18th, Diede is now saying he has big shoes to fill, he is trying to catch fish and keeps saying I need to take over from Paul now.

Farming Tonga Style

Farming Tonga Style

Rauol Island

Rauol Island

Deide enjoys Fresh Coconut, Nice shorts pretty boy

Deide enjoys Fresh Coconut, Nice shorts pretty boy

Good Morning Tutukaka

Good Morning Tutukaka

Little Sister Duet - There's one just like ours Dad.

Little Sister Duet - There's one just like ours Dad.

Team Fountaine Pajot

Team Fountaine Pajot

We then upped the anchor and headed to an island called Atata Island. We stayed here overnight so we could get an early start.

It is now Wednesday 19th May 0300 hrs.  Gav set his alarm for supposedly 0400hrs so we could get away to the Ha’afeva Island, don’t know what time his time is, but Diede and I were not impressed, this is a walking the plank offence!!

So with the sails up and in the dark we are off again on another journey.  We should be there by 1000hrs now!!

We have many photos to put on our page, but the internet has been very challenging you might say.
So until we get to Va’Vau you will then get to see what we’ve been up to.

We are all well and enjoying the lovely warm weather and doing heaps of swimming.

So until later
Gav, Lica, Shae & Diede
solmaria.co.nz

May

11

Tuesday 11th May – Still in North Minerva Reef, weather has been raining quite a alot with the wind now gusting 25-30 kts North East, it’s just amazing that we can be way out here and quite safe, very surreal.
Gav, Paul, Shae & Diede went diving yesterday with fish for dinner again.  The colours of the fish are out of this world.

Very brilliant deep blues,rich aqua’s, yellows, striking oranges, mixed stripes and dots and then there’s the coral (the heads look like big puffs of cauliflower with iridescent colours). The kids would love it here.

Parrot fish, a snapper like fish, marble trout not to say the reef sharks.
Paul had an encounter with a reefie – I’d say the reefie will be nursing very sore snout and hurt pride.

We are just waiting for a nice southerly to come on by so we can be pushed along to Tonga instead of fighting against it.  Thank goodness we have all the time in the world and are not pressured into being at a place at a certain time.  The 15 yachts that are here are all doing the same thing, so with a bit of luck Wednesday may be our departure date…yet again weather dependent.

It appears that the high’s and lows out off Fiji and Noumea are having a song and dance out there, so we just sit put and wait.
Gav orgainised a game of trivial pursuit amongst the yachts here last night.  What a hoot.  There are some real characters amongst us here,they are bigger kids than kids, and very competitive, especially when bottles of wine are put up for the winner.

Well we are all well and are looking forward to Tonga and land.

Gavin, Lica, Shae, Deide and Paul
SolMaria.co.nz

May

10

Hi Everyone,

Today is now Sunday 9th May 20th 2010.
We’re at North Minerva Reef – anchored.

We left Opua on Saturday 1st May with a fleet of 33 yachts of all shapes and sizes.
Gavin was ready to start the RACE, Shae and I had to keep reminding him we were in a rally and that we didn’t need to crank the boat up to it’s maximum (old habits die hard).

Heading out with the fleet was amazing.
Headsail’s and mains set, we all fly out the Opua Harbour with the wind up our date (for the non nautical people, wind direction blowing from the back of the boat). With a breeze of 15-20 knots we were off.

It’s a surreal feeling sailing and not seeing any other yachts in the distance even though there were 33 of us.
Paul caught two skippy tuna which were promptly readied for our evening meal.

Gavin set our watch’s for 2 hour cycles starting from 20:00 hrs to 08:00 hrs.  Thank goodness there were five of us to share the load, Gav, Shae, Paul, Diede and me.

The seas have been kind to us.  A very smooth and comfortable trip to date.
We were heading to Rauol Island (part of the Kermadec Group, this is about 535 Nautical miles from NZ (4 days of no land).
A marine reserve with the fish life out of this world.

You have to obtain permits to land, but as we had already advised DOC we were able to drop our anchor and sit still for a day and night.  Gav, Shae, Paul and Diede were in the water with their snorkels and cameras all set and ready.  Diede found out that having flippers is a good thing, especially when the reef sharks like little white toes dangling in front of them for a quick and tasty snack. I’ve never seen anyone walk on water like Diede did!!

Imagine swimming with reef sharks, kingfish and kahawai sucking on your face mask.
An amazing and tremendous experience with the colours of rainbows in the water from the marine life.  These guys were ever so friendly.  What a privilege to be able to do this.  The water was so clear you could see the bottom at 21 metres, unbelievable.

The DOC workers were thrilled to have new company as they hadn’t had a boat come and stop for over 7 months (imagine that). Our next stop was South Minerva Reef, Thursday 6th May.

We stopped, we looked and then moved on to North Minerva Reef.  We have been here for a couple of days, enjoying the snorkeling,fishing, watching DVD’s,eating and resting before we hit the water again and head to Pangaimotu Tonga.

North Minerva Reef is another fabulous place.  A reef stuck out in the middle of nowhere.
The water is so clear and the shades of blue are just awesome.  Swimming with the fish and obtaining dinner has been awesome.

More exotic fish with the reef sharks a little more testy.

The shells are huge and just an abundance of colour.  Shae and Diede have enjoyed being glued to their computer games to pass the time away whilst traveling.

Sol Maria is traveling well.  We blew our screecher pole out which then in turn took out our navigation lights.
So a rather quick tie down and sort of fix, she’ll be right mate until we get to Tonga.  Having the radar is a very comfortable thought.

We are very small when you come across a rather large container ship bobbing out there with you.
Thank goodness for radio contact with them.

We have been averaging about 200 nautical miles a day.
A couple of occasions we have had to reef the main (only 1 reef) and run with a bit of rag (Genoa sail) to keep us trucking along nicely.

Getting use to the bangs, squeaks and the rushing of water is now almost the norm.
The salt water pump spat the dummy so Paul is sorting that out for us.

We are all well and enjoying the days.  We’ll be in Tonga in about 1.5 days.  Until then…….

Gav, Lica & Shae
Sol Maria
Tairua, New Zealand

Fishing and Diving at North Minerva Reef

The one that almost got away at North Minerva Reef

Shae's Catch Diving North Minerva Reef

Shae's Catch Diving North Minerva Reef

Look at this beauty

Look at this beauty, it's got legs