S/V Crazy Love

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Tonga, Part 3: 14 September - 29 September 2018

Nieafu, Anchorages 11 and 30


Bella Vista Birthday with David Keely Josh Helen and Jean.

Friday, September 14th I was lucky to have a birthday shared with friends from Kuan Yin and Shamata at the best view in town as its name suggests, Bella Vista. A bottle of wine and lunch and in true Crazy Love style moved on to a mini pub crawl. Hey you only turn 42 once. The night ended with dancing at Basque Tavern with the Danish ladies.

Dave and I followed lunch with a drink at the Dancing Rooster.
And on to Refuge followed by Basque Tavern for dancing.

Saturday we recovered and then caught another rugby game at Refuge (those Springboks actually won against the All Blacks), ate more fish and chips, and were invited aboard Desiderata for Sunday roast with Stuart and Julia. These folks know how to put on a 3 course dinner and let me tell you it was the most delicious meal I had in Nieafu - crab topped with caviar over fresh tomatoes and a pork roast that makes my mouth water as I write this. Monday the country celebrated the Prince’s birthday (all government offices were closed) and yet another friend from Samoa came through Tonga, drinks and games aboard Charabia with Mark and Helen.

A view of the Nieafu Moorings from town.

Our visas were due to expire soon, therefore on Tuesday we made a quick trip to immigration for an extension. Granted quite easily for $60 TOP per person per month. We extended an additional month through Oct 23. Some provisioning and we were ready for a few more anchorages away from town.

Anchorage 11, Tapana

Anchorage 11 with Dave rowing Mr. Albert.

Wednesday, September 19 we headed out to Tapana, a highly recommended spot by a number of sailors. We arrived and felt at home immediately. There are a few boats moored here year round and a few moorings up for grabs for a price. Anchoring away from the crowd seemed like a good plan. Anchor set in a somewhat sandy bottom and a swim was in order. The next day greeted us with the most rain I’ve seen come down in a day. Between buckets and pots we collected 6 or so gallons of the best tasting rain water. The sun came back out Friday and the swimming was great, although not much coral. A school of squid swam by and looked completely surreal. Friday night ended with a lovely happy hour sunset with the local crew - Sherry, Larry, Carl and Mike as well as MIke’s friend Margot. The next day Dave dinghied us ashore and we took the 3 or so mile walk back to town (Neiafu), mostly to get a feel of this side of the island. There were cows...lots of cows, beautiful vistas and so many helpful Tongans stopping to offer us a ride, looking quite baffled when we were content to walk on. An additional rum bottle acquired, lunch and we trekked it back.

Excellent drinking water collected.  One bucket at a time.
Just one of many beautiful views walking to town.
After our walk it was a bit of a long row back to the anchorage.  Good thing Dave has become a bit of an expert rower.

Sunday the 23rd through Wednesday September 26

We were so content at this anchorage we stayed a few more days.. doing some boat chores, but mostly relaxing in the Tongan sun. The stove was cleaned, the topping lift replaced with the line we bought in town, and the v-berth reorganized … watched some movies and visited a little more with Sherry and Larry. On Wednesday we decided it was time to make moves and we headed over to the next anchorage.

Anchorage 30, Kenutu

A large anchorage with only a few boats at Kenutu.

The sail and motor sail over was a little daunting through the reefs but the Navionics and the clarity of the water were right on. There were a few nail-biting shallow spots - but we only have 4 foot draft. Another advantage to a small sailboat. It was a large anchorage able to fit many boats. There were just a few already anchored.

The beach on this island is absolutely beautiful and the row in super easy. A quick hike to the other side and you are rewarded with breathtaking crashing waves.

Paradise found.  Post card picture perfect.
Just a short hike to the other side and stunning crashing waves.

We spent Thursday and Friday hanging on the beach - enjoying the rare beauty of an undeveloped coast.

Almost our own private undeveloped beach.

As much as we would have loved staying a few more days, it seemed some weather was moving in toward the Vava’u Group and it was either stay at anchor for another week or move in toward town. Rum provisions were low so we figured we better head back to Neiafu.

On Saturday the 29th - The sail was as good as it gets. The town was getting ready for the start of the Blue Water Festival so as expected there were no open moorings. We dropped hook in front of the big hotel between coral heads and moored local boats. As always the cold shower felt amazing, almost as amazing as the cold beer and pizza at Refuge. Bonus we ran into Zensation, Aloha and Love (all boats we’d first met in American Samoa).

A view of Crazy Love at anchor from the beach.

Tonga, Part 2: 1 September - 13 September 2018

Another beautiful sunset in Tonga.

Anchorages 5, 7, 16, and 15

Well rested, well provisioned and ready to explore some of the outer islands we headed out to anchor. Many of the charts available in town and in various cruising guides has the numerous anchorages numbered and all the cruisers refer to these numbers.

Underway to anchorage 5 - Lotuma Bay
Rowing practice for Rosie in Lotuma Bay

Anchorage 5, Lotuma Bay - This anchorage still very close to town was an easy first and very peaceful. Kuan Yin joined us the first night and we had the entire anchorage to ourselves on Tuesday night. I practiced my rowing, Dave cleaned the bottom, we enjoyed lovely swimming.

Busy anchorage in Port Maurelle. Crazy Love is the second boat from the right.

Anchorage 7, Port Maurelle - We arrived early Wednesday afternoon with just 3 other boats. It cost yachts a one time anchorage fee of $15 TOP so we felt we should at least stay 3 nights. We felt great with all the space we had as its a rather large area. This was short lived and soon the kid boats all arrived in force. The parents like to travel together so the kids can entertain each other. The way the kids jump from boat to boat with ease and confidence is rather heartwarming. Along with the kids our friends on Avalanche arrived and they came over to Crazy Love for sundowners (this turned into dinner as often happens, good thing I made a pretty large pot of chili). A fellow small boat invited us over for drinks the second night and we met Mark and Flec on Excel (they still had a good 5 feet more than us). This couple is from New Zealand and had been cruising around the islands since May and had lots of great advice and suggestions for the remainder of our trip. We also took a little walk around Kapa Island and found a lovely spot for cold beer at the Reef Resort. This resort is beautiful, 5 fales (individual huts -these quite luxurious) as accommodation and with a boat ride required to the island it is very private and would make for a lovely get away with close friends (or perhaps not). Dave and I hope to make it back to this lovely spot some day.

In search of a cold beer.  We didn't really know where we were going.
Cold beer found! And an amazing view.

Anchorage 16, Vaka’eitu - We met up with our buddy Kuan Yin again at this anchorage on Saturday afternoon. There is only one family that lives on this island and invited us for a Tongan feast that night. They do not have electricity and take a boat into Nieafu for provisions when putting on the feast. The children also require a boat ride over to another island for schooling. The family uses proceeds from the feast to cover fuel costs for the children’s school. The amount of food and different flavors was impressive. There was sweet and sour fish, cabbage and vegetables, chicken terriyaki, taro, potatoe salad and more. Some clouds and rain filled in and we stayed close to the boat Sunday and Monday.

The high tide parking lot at the Tongan feast on Vaka'eitu
The whole school at Matamaka.  They were gracious enough to stop school for this photo.
Matamaka school kids in class. Rosie asked before taking this one.

Anchorage 15, Nuapapu, Matamaka - On Tuesday we headed across the way to yet another island, Nuapapu. This anchorage had a few moorings and we grabbed one. We were the only boat. Wednesday we saw more rain and a bit of wind. Being on the mooring here it was a little rolly but not terrible. We were hoping for a break in the weather to row ashore when we were visited by a boat from the island with the principal of the primary school and his kids. The school maintains the moorings and collects fees for support of the school. We were happy to make this donation and had taken a box of art supplies from HI to give to schools along the way. We asked if it would be ok to come ashore with these donations the next morning. The next day we rowed in and followed the path to the Matamaka Primary School. There are only 10 children who attend all ages from first through eighth grade. All boys but one girl. The school has a large common area with shelves of books and two classrooms. One teacher in addition to the principal. They were very welcoming and offered us breakfast of fish cooked in coconut milk with taro. The older boys were studying for the exams to get them into high school. High school means moving into town with auntie and uncle as there are no high schools in the outer islands.

September 13th we headed back into town to get ready for a birthday celebration. A mooring was available and we were set to spend some more time in Nieafu.

Tonga, Part 1: 24 August - 1 September 2018

Sunset view of the harbor from Neiafu.

We spent 7 weeks cruising the Vava’u group of Tonga and I can’t quite figure out where the time went. The islands are beautiful, each less than a day sail away. Neiafu is the primary town with shops, a very nice market, and multiple restaurants and bars along the harbor set up to cater to the cruising yachts.

August 24 - September 1 - Moored Neiafu

Once arrived and checked into customs we hit the market and breakfast to begin planning our stay. It was lovely being on a mooring with a quick row to shore. Even I was able to row us in and back and made just a few trips on my own. We took advantage by participating in many of the bar activities, Rugby at Refuge (lots of All Black fans), Movie Night at Dancing Rooster, Electricity and WIFI with a view at Bella Vista, laundry by Tropicana, Fish and Chips at the Hideaway.

Fresh vegetables and the best tomatoes I have had in a very long time.
View while we were charging our devices.  Thank you Bella Vista.
The little blue houseboat moored in the harbor called the Hideaway.  Best fish and chips this side of the equator.

We soon discovered it was cheaper to drink out as opposed to buying ice that would melt before we got it back to the boat. We took walks out of town with many local kids asking us where we were off to along the way (if only we knew). We discovered the Kilikilitefua rock wall and also found and hiked up to the tallest spot on the island - Mt Talau. The legend of Mt Talau is pretty entertaining.

The sign kept promising a historical site. Can you see the wall of lava rocks?
Kilikilitefua rock wall.
View from the highest point Vava'u.
If you are up for an interesting story about a woman using all her assets to protect Mount Talau check out the link above.

We did some excursions from town as well. Our buddy boat and moored neighbor Kuan Yin took us out to Swallow’s Cave for a day sail and snorkel.

Our friend Keely from Kuan Yin and Dave.
Heading into the cave from Kuan Yin.
Looking out from inside Swallow's Cave.
A lovely day sail and snorkel on Kuan Yin.

By far one of the most amazing activities and experiences in Tonga is a whale swim. Although expensive, the excursion was more than worth the money ($400 TOP/ person). Tonga is one of a few rare places that allows this close interaction with the humpback whales and the water is so very clear. They arrive July through October to give birth and mate. We spent an entire day out with Captain Easy and our guide Meddie. Check out the charter’s website with pics of the whales and the boat.

We didn’t take our camera with us, we really wanted to enjoy the moment. There are a ton of great pictures from Tonga Instagram and really show how close and personal you get with these amazing animals.

We spotted whales fairly early in the day in the southern part of the island group. These were males and it was a quick in and out in our snorkel gear as they swam by in a hurry. They were in no mood to put on a show or slow down for us. Hours later we were fortunate to come upon a mom, baby and escort. The guides are careful to only take in 4 people at a time and very respectful of the whales. My heart nearly stopped when we came face to face with mom and baby. Dave was scolded for stopping too far back and away from the group as he was intrigued by the very large male escort below mom and baby. Baby was asleep and using mom as a guide to surface very frequently in order to breathe. We were told the calf was about 2 weeks old. Truly breathtaking and a moving experience.

After such an experience on Friday we used the weekend to recover and provision before heading out to some anchorages away from town.

American Samoa to Tonga: Finally a good passage

19 Aug 2018 - 23 Aug 2018

4.5 days, 350 nautical miles

Sailing south from Pago Pago.  Tough to say goodbye & excited about new adventures

Perhaps it was the prospect of only a 5 day sail, perhaps we were blessed with an excellent weather window, perhaps it was comforting to have a buddy boat in Kuan Yin, or maybe just maybe we have our sea legs back!

We checked out on a Friday thinking we would head out on Saturday afternoon. There was still a bit to do on Saturday after one last stop at the Chinese market in town, good byes to our friends, call the family, secure Albert, reorganize the v-berth and secure everything after 4 weeks at anchor. In the midst of this it began to rain... hard and steady. Sunday at first light seemed a much better option.

We gave a shout out on the VHF to the port captain and pulled up anchor around 7 am, Aug 19. Motor sailed oh so slowly out of Pago Pago (did I mention 4 weeks at anchor, no bottom or prop cleaning?). Waved to Pam as we passed Pied a Mer and heard from Kuan Yin they would be right behind. As we exited the harbor we passed a rather large shipping vessel waiting for the pilot, turned the engine off, set the sails and we were off in light winds and clear skies.

Beautiful sunset saiing south to Tonga.

We had a daily check in with Kuan Yin. Lucky for us they had access to up to date weather. Although they left ahead of us they quickly pulled ahead and then stayed about 10-20 miles ahead. They also seemed to run into a few more smaller squalls than us.

Winds never more than 15 knots, waves never much higher than 1 meter, decks were dry and even more importantly the crew stayed dry.

Beautiful sunset saiing south to Tonga.

Land Ho on Day 4! Arrived mid morning Faihava Passage on Aug 23. We lost a day again as Tonga is one day ahead.

Motored as fast as possible to get to customs before they closed at 4 pm. A quick visit with quarantine on a very scary customs dock and a promise to return next day with all our paperwork we were free to find mooring. The harbor has a large number of mooring balls but a quick call to Moorings and Beluga Diving said none were free. Fortunately Kuan Yin spotted one near them, unfortunately we didn’t know if it belonged to anyone as it was not marked. Our luck held when a yellow Beluga ball came open just feet away. $15 TOP per night and worry free of anchor drag or worse yet someone anchoring on top of us. We celebrated with dinner out and a cold local beer or 3.

No rashes, no illnesses, in fact rather rested and ready to take on Neiafu and the island group of Vava’u.

Four weeks in American Samoa, Tutuila Island

View from Crazy Love's Home in Pago Pago Harbor for four weeks.

After reading Dave’s previous post with his very raw notes from our passage - I feel the need to emphasize how much fun we’ve been having since. As mentioned to us by another cruising couple it is important to check in on the fun to suck ratio. Our time and most importantly the people we met in American Samoa definitely balanced out this ratio.

It did take two weeks to recover. Dave mentioned our rashes - his healed up quite nicely and quickly, mine on the other hand landed me at the LBJ Medical Center for antibiotics. Apparently staph infections amongst cruisers in the tropics are not that unusual. A 10 day course of antibiotics and good as new .. just a few scars as a reminder. AND $20 to see the DR and $40 for oral and topical antibiotics -no insurance required.

Our first day we met Pam and Eric who host a cruisers pot luck every Sunday on their beautiful catamaran Pied a Mer. This was the most fantastic way to meet the others in the anchorage and talk story. Pam and Eric are working on getting their mast and rig back up after a dismasting south of Pago Pago. They are nearly ready and we hope they catch us in Tonga or Fiji before the end of the season.

We met so many other great cruisers who I look forward to running into again over the next few months…Esther Frances, Apex Predator, Summer, Westy, Love, Zensation, Kuan Yin, Bella Chao, Tiki, Counting Stars, Aloha caught up with us too… just to name a few…

American Samoa is the stop all cruisers say they love to hate..the anchorage, a natural well protected harbor is really quite beautiful - however the holding is well known as terrible, the cannery across the way wafts fishy smells on the right breeze, the power plant is brighter than the sun at certain angles even in the middle of the night, and come to find out some cruisers have absolutely no anchoring etiquette (just ask Dave about Two Moons). That is the bad. The good I believe far outweighs with awesome people, excellent provisioning options, US mail, and as US citizens we’re welcome to stay as long as we like. The island itself is beautiful and stunning and though not set up for tourism I would encourage a visit.

Western coast American Samoa.
Eastern District of American Samoa.

Highlights of exploring the island include a Samoan feast at Tisa’s Barefoot, First Friday at the market in Fagatogo, snorkeling at Sadie’s, pizza at Paradise Pizza, and a ferry trip out to Aunu’u.

Umu oven at Tisa's feast.
Another beautiful sunset.
Paradise pizza and a cold beer.
Ferry to Aunu’u with the crews from Zensation Aloha Bella Chao and Tiki.
Bushwacking across Aunu’u.
Western coast of Aunu’u.
Spot our four legged tour guide.  He followed us across the island and took a swim with us too.

Just riding the bus around for $2 was a great tour. And the buses… well pictures say it all.

The busses in American Samoa are colorful loud and cheap.
They're all different too.

We also met Kat - she was on the island working for FEMA and became such a big part of our stay. Adventures included a drive out to Fagamalo, hiking in the National Park and of course $2 Beach (which was really $5), not to mention sampling all the Samoan style chips and junk food. Kat is awesome and we even spent one night at Sadie’s hotel because of her awesomeness. Did I mention warm showers??

One of the views from our Saturday drive with Kat.
We drove to the end of road Western District.
Shark and turtle beach where Auntie will call to the shark and turtle.
Patty from Love with Rosie and Kat on the far right.
American Samoa National Park.
Sunday hike in the national park.

I feel its necessary to mention the WiFi situation. I was very much not impressed, and must say miss Mexico cruising a bit. When we first arrived it was known that McDonald’s had a decent WiFi connection. It was a very nice air conditioned WiFi lounge and who can resist a McDonald’s breakfast? Unfortunately they cut off their WiFi access soon after we arrived. This very much saved some of my figure :-) However the other options were slow and expensive. We did end up getting a SIM card and the data was ok as long as you were fine without downloading some new movies. This in part could be why we might be behind a bit in these blog entries. As a side note Tonga is actually worse….

Because we were staying in an American territory the US Postal Service was able to accept our mail forwarding at general delivery without much trouble or cost. We found out we did get the full deposit back from our apartment and the marina slip - more beer $$$ for us. Because it was so easy to receive this package we thought an order from West Marine would be a breeze. We needed a few parts to make a better fix for charging our devices on the boat. Well we thought wrong, in their infinite wisdom West Marine decided to ship UPS (very different than USPS) and it took quite some tracking down on our part to find out where in the world this package would arrive. A few phone calls and trips to the airport later and we received our package just in time - the Friday of our check out.

This looks like the United States.  If someone could please inform West Marine to send packages USPS.

Check out was not nearly as painful as checking in, it did cost a bit. Costs they failed to mention up front but what can you do and it really could have been much worse.

We visited the harbor master, the cashier at the harbor, customs and immigration.

Check In / Check Out

  • $100 (customs)
  • $50 (rat and pest cert at arrival)
  • $58 (port)
  • $40 (immigration).

For four weeks not bad. If it was a shorter stay this would seem a bit steep.

Now off to Tonga, and we have a buddy boat as Kuan Yin is headed the same way leaving the same day, 19 August 2018. We're off to the Vava’u group!