Crew Monica Halverson recounts their voyage from Nuku'alofa through
the Kingdom of Tonga.
For Part 2 Click here
Part 3 click here
2003 Voyage reports & picture gallerys - here)
four full days in Tongatapu enjoying the Kings 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 Haapai Group
of islands within the Kingdom of Tonga. We anchored between
Nomuka and Nomuka iki Tuesday morning 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.
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
Haapai to go to Lifuka to take on supplies. (You will read later on why this is
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 Haapai 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.
Tofuas active volcano, Lofia, was smoldering as we passed. The small
island of Kao contains Tongas 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
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.
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 supplies. Cook and his men were welcomed by the locals with a feast and
entertainment. Based upon this warm welcome, Cook labelled the Haapai 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 Cooks. 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, 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.
Mariners 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 Haapai
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 Vavau 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 Vavau late that night.
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 Vavau 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 wasnt 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.
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 birds 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
Saturday morning we pulled up anchor and made our way to Nuapapu island to visit
underwater Mariners Cave which is named after William Mariner who was the first
European to see it.
The cave is located at the base of a cliff on the coast of the small island with
the entrance below the seas 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
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. 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.
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!!!!! Youd be proud!!)
(pizza) lunch on the ship, we move over to Kapa island to explore Swallows Cave and
a second unnamed cave. The entrances to both of these caves are above (and below) the
waters 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
Swallows Cave is covered with names and dates of previous visitors some dating back
to the 1800s.
Both caves provide nesting grounds for 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 Mariners 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
2 Click here ].
: see pictures - on deck through French Polynesia! Here.
Here is 1st Mate Sally Anderson's Weblog report of the voyage from the Cook
"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
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!
here for new shots of Soren in dry-dock at Tahiti.
anchored off the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
(A word about Crew
here for the Web Log report Pitcairn / Henderson to Marquesas.
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:
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
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.
VOYAGE CREW RETURNING HOME: Scan and email
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