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Soren Vavau_palm.jpg (10664 bytes)Voyage Crew Monica Halverson recounts their voyage from Nuku'alofa through the Kingdom of Tonga.

PART 1                    For Part 2 Click here
Part 3 click here

(see also 2003 Voyage reports & picture gallerys - here)

Having spent four full days in Tongatapu enjoying the King’s birthday celebration, tasting the infamous kava and local foods, swimming in a cave by candlelight, watching the sunset over a coastline of blowholes, and listening to the loud and harmonious singing from the ubiquitous churches, it was time to set sail again.
The new VC boarded on the morning of Monday, July 9th and we set out that afternoon headed for the Ha’apai Group of islands within the Kingdom of Tonga. We anchored between Nomuka and Nomuka ’iki Tuesday morning haapai1.jpg (10586 bytes)and spent the day exploring these islands. Nomuka is a small island with a large lake on the interior and about 500 inhabitants. The youngest group of these inhabitants proved to be the highlight of our visit. As we landed on the beach, we were immediately greeted with several eager, smiling young faces. Although Tongan is their native language, a few were very fluent in English introducing themselves and insisting that each of us do the same. They escorted us wherever we went on the island asking questions all the way. They were very eager to learn as much from us as possible in the short time that we had together. Their eagerness, energy and vibrancy proved contagious as Dave and Nick got swept up in the juggling competition and foot races. (The only way we could distinguish Dave and Nick from the group was based upon their relative heights.) It was refreshing to see these kids having so much fun without the influences of commercialization. Their enthusiasm peaked when we took out our cameras. It seems having their photo taken is quite a thrill! These children were absolutely beautiful in every respect and left a long-lasting impression.

Tonga_map.gif (14052 bytes)Nomuka also has some interesting history. It was here that the HMS Bounty last took on water prior to the infamous mutiny. Walking by the small lake where the water was obtained left us feeling like we were reliving a bit of history. This was also the first landing for Capt. Cook on his third voyage to the South Pacific (1777) where he was directed by Chief Finau of Ha’apai to go to Lifuka to take on supplies. (You will read later on why this is noteworthy.)

Nomuka ’iki is a former prison site but is uninhabited today. It provided us with a white sandy beach, an intriguing shipwreck, swimming and snorkelling. We took advantage of the calm anchorage and spent the night, pulling up anchor at 0630 on Wednesday to head towards the northern end of the archipelago.

There was virtually no wind and the ocean was as calm as a sheet of glass. There was a perfect reflection of the jib boom and headsails looking over the bow. We had to motor our way through the labyrinth of 62 islands that comprise the Ha’apai Group. These islands vary a lot in size and landscape making for a very scenic route. We came through the northwest corner of the Group past Tofua and Kao. Tofua_Tonga.jpg (15563 bytes)

Tofua’s active volcano, Lofia, was smoldering as we passed. The small island of Kao contains Tonga’s highest mountain (1109 meters) the peak of which was covered by a cloud. As we were admiring the view of these adjacent, contrasting islands, a school of large dolphins approached. They joined us and swam across our bow (and through the perfect reflection of the jib boom) for some time which created a magnificent photo opportunity.

haapai4.jpg (16365 bytes)As we enjoyed this postcard- perfect view, we thought about the less serene event that took place in these very waters on 28 April 1789: the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. In fact, when Capt. Bligh and the 18 men that joined him were set adrift by the mutineers, they immediately landed on the southwest coast of Tofua hoping to secure some provisions. Unfortunately, they were attacked by the locals who killed Quartermaster John Norton. Bligh and the other 17 men narrowly escaped. From here they embarked on their famous journey to Dutch Timor.

haapai3.jpg (11153 bytes)We continued to weave our way through the picturesque islands until reaching Uoleva which is just off the south coast of Lifuka. As we approached the anchorage, a large marlin jumped completely out of the water - twice! (Previous VC Mike & Gil from Minnesota would have loved it!) Uoleva is a small tranquil island with beautiful white sandy beaches. We spent the afternoon walking along the beach, swimming, snorkelling and just enjoying the laid back atmosphere.

Although time did not permit us to visit Lifuka itself, we were still quite enthralled by being so close in proximity to more historical events. It was here that Capt. Cook came, upon the urging of chief Finau, to take on supphaapai1boat.jpg (9863 bytes)lies. Cook and his men were welcomed by the locals with a feast and entertainment. Based upon this warm welcome, Cook labelled the Ha’apai Group the "Friendly Islands". Approximately 30 years later, the privateer Port-au-Prince anchored off of Lifuka receiving a comparably warm welcome to that of Cook’s. Two days later, however, the ship was attacked and taken over by 300 hostile Tongans with most of the crew being killed. One young survivor, 15-year-old William Mariner, haapai2boat.jpg (10038 bytes)was taken in by King Finau himself. Mariner spent the next four years travelling around the island group with the king learning the language, culture and protocols. One very insightful piece of information gained by Mariner was the Tongans’ plan to kill Capt. Cook and his crew back in 1777 during their visit. They had used the warm welcome to throw Cook off guard. Due to an internal dispute, the Tongans did not carry out their plan and Cook left completely unaware of the conspiracy. Mariner’s four-year adventure in Tonga is recapped in the book entitled "An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands" which is considered the classic narration of pre-Christian Tonga.

We awoke Thursday morning to rain so abandoned our plans to stay at Uoleva through lunch. We headed towards Ofolanga, the northernmost island of the Ha’apai Group. We arrived midday. The rain was persistent so again we altered our original plan for a beach lunch and began our journey to the Vava’u Group of islands in northern Tonga instead. In spite of the rain, the sailing was quite good. The moderate seas with Force 5 winds provided for smooth sailing at speeds of up to 8.5 knots. The rain continued until shortly before we arrived in Vava’u late that night. Ian H Vavau.jpg (9286 bytes)

As if almost by some miracle, the skies began to clear as we began our entrance into the archipelago. As the clouds gradually cleared, the moonlight became correspondingly brighter revealing a landscape of silhouetted islands of varying sizes, shapes and distances from the ship. The 50 or so small islands of the Vava’u Group are south of the significantly larger main island. As we sailed through this maze of islands toward the Port of Refuge, we could see why this is considered one of the yachting capitals of the world - and it wasn’t even daylight yet! The morning light confirmed everything we observed through our night vision. We anxiously went ashore to experience the main island on Friday.

Niafu_Church.jpg (10053 bytes)Some of the VC rented scooters to explore the thickly wooded interior, enjoy the scenic views from the lookout points of the north shore, and create a diversion for the local kids. Others took in the sights of the harbor village of Neiafu. We had a bird’s eye-view of the local yacht club race that afternoon as we were anchored adjacent to their course. Evening festivities included a visit to the local kava club.

Saturday morning we pulled up anchor and made our way to Nuapapu island to visit underwater Mariner’s Cave which is named after William Mariner who was the first European to see it. marinerCave1.jpg (10341 bytes)
The cave is located at the base of a cliff on the coast of the small island with the entrance below the sea’s surface making it impossible to locate without some landmarks to go by. Once we spotted the right combination of rocks, coconut palms and markings on the cliffs, we were making our way by dingy to the entrance.
To enter the cave, you must dive down about one meter and swim through an enclosed channel for about three meters. Looking into the cave from the seaside you can see only darkness. This created a huge psychological barrier for many of us wanting to see the interior.

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Fortunately, the strong swimmers amongst us (i.e. Dave, Jimma, Nick, Joost, Barry, Rich and Martin) blazed the trail and even returned to escort the rest of us through the passageway. (Just one more example of how the more skilled and capable so effectively teach and coach others to excel beyond their current limitations - one of the trademarks of the Soren Larsen crew!)
Euphoria immediately set in upon surfacing inside the cave - we had overcome our imbedded fears and achieved something of great significance. marinerCave4.jpg (10143 bytes)After the elated cheering subsided, we began to take notice of the cave itself which was quite impressive. Light enters through the entrance so the visibility inside is very good. The area above the water level is about 14 x 14 x 14 meters. The water we were swimming in was perfectly clear displaying the contours of the floor of the cave some 25 meters below.
An interesting thing happens to the atmosphere inside the cave. Swells surge through the entrance of the cave compressing the trapped air inside. When the sea recedes, water vapors cool and condense into a heavy fog / mist as the air expands. Mariner_Cave3.jpg (12102 bytes)
You can feel the resulting change in pressure in your ears. This clearly proves to be a highlight for all of us (Joe, Ray, Colin, Sally Ann, Wendy, Andy, Tina, Thor, Anton, Charlie, Monica) who made our way inside!
(Hey Troy, even Sally made it through and was absolutely elated by the experience!!!!! You’d be proud!!) 

SwallowsCave1.jpg (10151 bytes)After (pizza) lunch on the ship, we move over to Kapa island to explore Swallow’s Cave and a second unnamed cave. The entrances to both of these caves are above (and below) the water’s surface and large enough for us to enter with the dingy. The unnamed cave has a large skylight with trees and other vegetation growing over it. The interior of Swallow’s Cave is covered with names and dates of previous visitors some dating back to the 1800’s.

Both caves provide nesting grounds forSwallowsCave2.jpg (9724 bytes) hundreds of swiflets, a bird common to this area. The floor of the cave is up to 80 meters under water. The strong shafts of light through the large entrance and the clarity of the water allow us to see the floor as well as the walls and ceiling of the cave. Although not as challenging to enter as Mariner’s Cave, every bit as beautiful on the interior.

From Kapa island, we make our way to Ano Beach on Pangaimotu island where everyone goes ashore for a Tongan feast and entertainment. It is dark as we land on the sandy beach and are greeted by a few locals holding a lantern and singing a welcoming song. Several locals have their beautiful handicrafts (tapa cloth, baskets, wood carvings and shell jewelry) on display and available for sale. The evening begins with children performing traditional Tongan dances accompanied by a string band with vocals. Following this performance, we partake in tasting many delicious local dishes: raw fish marinated in coconut milk, octopus, fish and corn beef baked in spinach leaves, taro, noodles, chicken, papaya, bananas. The table is covered with large leaves. The food is served in coconut shells, seashells, and what looked like giant celery sticks; and, is eaten with your fingers. To accommodate us westerners, they did deviate from their traditional ways and provided us with napkins. The meal was followed by kava drinking and more music. We drank and listened until midnight returning to the ship under a star-filled sky. Clearly a full, rewarding and entertaining day!......"

   [Part 2 Click here ].

V146 : see pictures  - on deck through French Polynesia! Here.

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Here is 1st Mate Sally Anderson's Weblog report of the voyage from the Cook Islands:

"The Cook Islands were an absolute delight. Tranquil, easy going, relaxed and inexpensive. V.B at the bar and a cinema!!! The crew were ecstatic. MORE....

VC John Anderson's account Part 2 of the previous voyage from Bora Bora to the Cook Island and their stay in Rarotonga HERE "Visually Bora Bora is magnificent. It is probably the most photographed island in the South Pacific, and rightly so. Entering the lagoon is stunning, and as we did the cloud cleared revealing the island in all its splendour.......

Also here  is Voyage Crew John Anderson's account (Part 1) of the  voyage from Papeete to Bora Bora - Click here!

But click here for new shots of Soren in dry-dock at Tahiti.

Bora_anch.jpg (10289 bytes)Bora Bora
anchored off the Bora Bora Yacht Club.

 

 

 

 

(A word about Crew Mail here.)

Click here for the Web Log report Pitcairn / Henderson to Marquesas.

Click here for  the Web Log report Easter Island - Henderson.

Below are links to Sally Anderson's Web Log reports from the Galapagos to Easter island:
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Part 1 tells of their passage from Panama to Cocos island - 7/12th Feb. Click here.

Part 2 covers from Cocos Island to the Galapagos - 13/18th Feb.  Click here: 

Part 3 recounts their journey between Galapagos and Easter Island, and their experiment in traditional navigation methods,   22 - 28th Feb:

Part 4: Continues the passage to their arrival at Easter Island, 1st-19th March: Click here.

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VOYAGE CREW RETURNING HOME:  Scan and email or post your pictures of your voyage! If you have an account of your trip or a special moment then let us a know. Your tales can be included in the Voyage Log!

Email to escape%40sorenlarsen%2eco%2enz (send max 4 or 5 picture per email)

Soren Larsen Voyagers Log: P.O.Box 310 Kumeu, Auckland 1250 New Zealand

For a Feedback form to give us your thoughts and suggestions on the voyage click here.

Contact our Auckland HQ:
Phone 00 649 411 8755
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Email : escape%40sorenlarsen%2eco%2enz
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Sally's reports:

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20 Tonga-Fiji
19 Cooks -Tonga
18 Tahiti Drydock
17c Pics Society I
17b Bora-Cooks
17a Tahiti-Bora
16a Tuamotos
16 Tahiti
15 Pitcarin Island
14 Easter Island -Pitcairn
13 Sally's reports,
Panama-Easter I.

12 Pieter's Report
11 Galapagos 2
10 Galapagos
9 Panama
8 Panama Pics
7 Venez Islds

6 Grenadines
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4 Mid Atl 1
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Paul Huisking reflects on his
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Ian Marshall's Atlantic Crossing Voy 142, Dec 2000
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See pictures of the Curacao - Panama voyage at V. Crew Bob Lewis' own webpage

 

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See pics from John Homes and Alan Murphy of the Grenada-Curacao leg.
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UK Refit 1:
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Archived Voyage Logs:
A look back on our Year 2000  Global Odyssey from Auckland to the States and Europe...


Auckland to Easter Island

Easter Island to Panama and Miami

Miami to New York

NY, Halifax to
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London Voyagers Club reunion
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