We left for Tonga after enjoying Samoa for a very short week. We continued our no-engine departures and arrivals since Maui and sailed out of the harbour in a beautiful morning and ran downwind towards the other island of Samoa, Savai’i. With more time, it would make a great place to visit by land to see “the real Samoa” – a cheap bus and ferry ($3 and $6, respectively) takes you there.
Between the two islands of Samoa we sailed near some friendly fishermen in canoes on a reef and lagoon, next to some fantastically steep small islands. Near the reefs were sea turtles – we would see a brown shape under the surface and as we approached at 6-7 knots the turtle would flee and dive away. They can swim surprisingly fast!
And then, true to all of our passages, we were becalmed in the lee of the island. Maybe it’s a sign that we will have our typical passage. In any case, in less than an hour we were on our way again at 7-8 knots. We sighted land in the morning and reached Niuatoputapu’s barrier reefs and lagoon close to noon.
Our excellent charts, courtesy of New Zealand, showed an entrance length of ~1 km and a width of 60m to get inside the reef. This was our first time getting so close and passing inside a reef. The sky was clear around noon and we could easily differentiate the deeper water (dark to light blue) and the dangerously shallow water (yellow and green). Piggy sailed through without problem to an island devoid of other cruisers and we comfortably anchored off the village of Falehau and began our entry procedures. The kingdom of Tonga has simplified the cruiser’s great dilemma and ambiguity of food/agricultural products/potential invasive species/pests by adding a clause in Customs: “we will not take anything food-related to shore.”
Nuiatoputapu (pronounced new-yah-tow-poo-tah-poo) is small, isolated and was walloped by the same tsunami that struck Samoa in 2009. Now there are many pre-fab disaster relief houses in the three villages though the population is under 1000 people. A supply ferry visits once per month and provisions the one store. We felt free to walk and bicycle around and chat a little but didn’t exactly make friends. Everybody was friendly, but maybe weren’t comfortable speaking english and seemed reserved and busy with their subsistent household duties. A very different experience from Samoa!
Many horses, dogs, and pigs. And friendly kids.