Niuatoputapu, Tonga (say that 3 times fast!) Ginger
We left Apia, Samoa yesterday morning, Tuesday. Our trip lasted only 27 hours but we arrived in Tonga at noon on Thursday. We lost a day but gained another stamp in the passport and a notch in our cruising belt. Neither of us has ever crossed the dateline before. The trip here was fast. We were on a beam reach most of the way with 8 foot seas on the beam. It was a bit salty but as we got close to our destination the rain squalls washed off most of the salt. We saw two whales breach in the
distance as we approached the island and as we threaded our way through the pass it was a welcome relief to enter the calm blue lagoon. We're anchored in 30 feet of beautiful water and are reminded of our time in the Tuamotus. We're enjoying the first cool breeze through the boat we've felt in weeks. The water is clean and inviting and we're finally away from the big city again. There are 3 villages on the island and we are looking forward to going ashore to explore tomorrow.
We were warned by email from several boats ahead of us that the island is out of cigarettes. Well, as anti smoking as we are, we understand that they are marooned here on an island and the next supply ship isn't due until Sept 25th. So, we bought 5 boxes ("packs") of cigarettes. Interestingly, the cab driver in Samoa told me proudly that they will never run out of cigarettes in Samoa as Pall Mall cigarettes has a plant in Apia, Samoa. So, there are only 2 kinds of cigarettes available in Samoa;
Pall Mall regular and Pall Mall menthol. The things one learns while traveling! The only problem is that the WHOLE islands seems focused on this problem. Apparently when the last supply ship was here a month ago all of the cigarettes they delivered were smoked within a week. We're not sure if they couldn't afford to buy enough to last or if willpower wasn't very strong. Probably a little of both. As the Marcy crew does not have an unlimited budget we couldn't even supply one cancer stick for
each person on the island so we brought our small supply with the best of intentions. We were grilled by the customs/immigration/agriculture group about our cigarettes. Actually the subject came up as Peter was filling out the declaration form for customs. He looked at me and innocently asked "Do we have 4 or 5 cartons of cigarettes?" You can imagine the pitter patter of the happy hearts around the table with that kind of talk (10 packs to a carton!) I quickly corrected that it was only 5 packs
(20 cigarettes per). The group around the table asked if we smoked to which I replied no. They asked if we brought them to trade and I replied that we brought them as a gift. They said they would take 4 boxes and leave us 1 for someone else. I suggested they could split 2 boxes between the four of them and they were happy as they munched on their cookies and anticipated those smokes. We had been forwarned to have cookies and beverage available for customs agents and it's excellent advice. They
were happy to see the cookies as they came aboard.
We enjoyed our stay in Apia, and it was spectacular to see the opening ceremonies of the South Pacific Games. The city was beautifully cleaned up and EVERYTHING that could be painted was. I know, some of it is still on my pants! The fruit and veggies currently on Marcy are the best we've stocked up on in the South Pacific. The people we met in Samoa were friendly and welcoming and it was a fine stop. Apia has a nice bay for anchoring with a mud bottom and perfect holding. Unfortunately, anchoring
for free is no longer an option there right now as they have just opened a new marina and are enforcing a nightly fee whether anchored or at the dock. The harbor master in Apia is a bit of a control freak who wields his power with a heavy hand. He was constantly on the radio. This is usually a job delegated to lower employees in other ports but he seemed to enjoy the interactions with boats. He played favorites or rather, anti favorites. We heard some incredibly rude exchanges where he repeatedly
denied dock access to one boat who had gotten off on the wrong foot with him. He made promises to many boats about discounts on marina fees and charged full price to the next boat. Normally this behavior wouldn't be so obvious but most of the exchanges were carried out on channel 16, the hailing channel. Further, as yachties are a tight gossiping community a good deal had by one will be discussed by all. As the marina was opened to yachts last Saturday we were there for the move in festivities.
The Harbor Master called all yachts at 7AM on the radio and informed us that he needed our boat information and we would be moving our boats that day. We were the 3rd boat into the marina and the first (of several) to run hard aground on the way in. After several minutes in reverse Peter was able to back out of the mud and we were placed at the end of the dock. The mosquitoes were happy to have us closer to shore and the sun came out for the 2 full days we were at the dock. The temperature inside
our boat on the two hottest nights was 85F or more. It's tough to stay covered to avoid mosquitoes on those hot nights. The marina rules were extensive and are sure to be relaxed over time. There were 4-6 guards on duty. No visitors are allowed on the docks. No laundry, no washing and many rules for things they don't even have there. To leave the dock one must have the ID card which cost approx $2 US but was to be turned in before departure with no refund. The number on the card as well as
our names and the boat name had to be recorded by the guard in a book. Each time we returned to the dock our leaving entry had to be located so they could check us back in. After all of that there was usually someone a few feet down the sidewalk wanting to know where we were going in town. Like any new system the details will probably be worked out as the reality of their business becomes clear. Peter reminded me again that we are visitors and we are just passing through. We felt fortunate to
experience the excessive officialdom for only a short time and then be able leave it behind and head back out to sea.
Our time at the marina was great social time. We visited again with Cap'n Fatty and Caroline and we met several new boats that we look forward to seeing in future anchorages. We also were invited to dinner aboard Salena, homeport Vancouver BC with Carol and Michele. She is a retired Canadian Coast Guard chef and he is a cruise ship captain. They sail for 3 months and then they meet his ship and he works while she goes along for the trip. It sounds very deluxe from where I sit, they even have
a bathtub in their cabin. But, he does have to go to work so we decided it's still a good deal to be out here full time. Peter didn't think it sounded like such a great deal if he had to work and I enjoyed room service during the cruise.
We had planned to go to the internet cafe before we left Samoa but did not get there before they closed on Monday evening. If you have written to us on our email@example.com email we apologize for not replying quickly. We'll have internet access again in Fiji.
Labels: 2007 - 08 - 09 Tonga