Wed, July 21st, 2010
17:30 LTY time (UTC +13) = 04:30 UTC
Location: Anchored at Niuatoputapu, northern most island of Kingdom of Tonga
Position: 15 56.485 S, 173 46.180 W (cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
Wind: 15-20 SE
Seas: bit of wind wave inside harbor
Air temp: 85.2 F 29.6C
Sea temp: 83.3F 28.5C
** See photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/wayne.hodgins/NiuatoputapuTonga# for more pictures
I finally finished up all the repairs in Vava’u. The weather was back to being gray, overcast and rainy so it was a good time to be down in the engine room and I spent two whole days down there doing a number of jobs that I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time. Of course I finished installing the newly welded SS exhaust pipe and then tracked down a small exhaust water leak that had been avoiding me for months. Turned out to be some small pinholes on the welded seam of a SS 90 degree elbow that goes through the aft bulkhead. After trying some spot repairs I ended up just cutting the whole thing out and replacing it with a new fiberglass elbow and some new 3” exhaust hose I had on hand. Then I tracked down a transmission oil leak that had also been eluding me for months and finally found it on the hose to supplies pressure for the shaft brake that keeps the propeller shaft from turning when sailing and the engine is off. A very weird problem as it appears that there has been a fitting missing all along and the maintenance guys that did the overhaul when I bought the boat had somehow just threaded the hose into the transmission case. The proper fix requires a new fitting and hose which I don’t have but I was able to repair it with some epoxy “steel”, some SS wire and a hose clamps to be holding well so no more transmission fluid dripping into the bilge!! At the end of the day I was a greasy grimy mess from head to toe but an hours worth of scrubbing with lots of citrus hand cleaner had me back to being clean and smiling, though I was sure rather beat up with lots of scrapes and cuts on both hands and my upper body from squeezing into the transmission and exhaust area. Will be good to get back to sailing and beat myself up in different ways!
And so yesterday, Tuesday here, and as per the other updates you can see, I released the mooring ball lines and motor sailed out of Neiafu and out the NW pass into open ocean. I used the motor to give it a good run and be sure all the leaks were gone, which they were, and then shut it down and settled in for the sail up to Niuatoputapu, the northernmost island of the Tongan archipelago.
As we left the lee of Vava'u the wind picked up and continued to build the whole trip. The forecast had called for 15-20 but in the end it was up to gusts of almost 35 knots by the time I got to Niuatoputapu. I had sun for leaving Vava'u but the clouds continued move in and by mid-afternoon it was fully overcast and looked like rain storms up ahead to the north and west of us. The wind and seas continued to build all night, nothing too bad but certainly a fast, wet gray ride with wind over 25 most of the way. This speed had us arriving in Niuatoputapu just about 13:30 which was what I had hoped as I wanted to have good light overhead for the entrance through what is a narrow and shallow pass but I was a little bit concerned as the weather really closed in with rain and low visibility as I sailed up the eastern coast of this tiny island. However as if on cue, a long blue patch of sky came along just as I was approaching the NE corner and stayed around for the rest of the afternoon and made for perfect lighting as I negotiated small but well-marked little pass on the NW corner. The small natural harbor offers reasonable protection from the SE trades that are really blowing right now, but the land is mostly just coconut jungle and so not too much height and the wind is blowing quite strong where I'm anchored, but we are well protected from the seas and the wind is all the better for the wind generator. With my new bank of solar panels (now have six for a total of 780Watts) plus the wind generator I only ran the generator once since leaving Niue almost 3 weeks ago and so my new energy setup is working very well.
Once inside the harbor here at Niuatoputapu Island, I motored over to the very small concrete dock that some of the guides said you could tie to while checking in but it was too small and the wind was too strong to tie Learnativity up there so I just anchored in about 35 feet to a nice sandy bottom. This is a VERY small island with only about 800 total population and they lie off the beaten path for most cruisers with Western and American Samoa off to the East and Vava’u to the south and I wasn’t sure what they would have ashore for officials. I tried to call them on my VHF radio but didn’t get any response so was busy tidying up the cockpit from the passage when someone called “the big sailboat in the harbor” and it was a gentleman who introduced himself as “Nikko” and could he help me with checking in? So ashore I went in the dingy and Nikko picked me up in his 4x4 and took me into “town”. It was a big help as it turned out for the official building was about 4 or 5 kilometers away and would have been a bit of a walk. There really isn’t a town per se, just a lot of people living along the one main road here in small houses and shacks with lots of pigs, horses and dogs about. The official buildings are all grouped together including the school buildings for about 400 students apparently, and I had a great conversation with the people who were looking after immigration, customs and health and soon had both my check in and check out papers all done and my passport stamped for leaving Tonga. Not sure how long I’ll stay here, will depend on how the weather up ahead but you can’t check out on weekends so I wanted to get my exit papers looked after today and be able to go, likely either Friday or on the weekend.
As he was driving me around Nikko mentioned, not that he needed to, that his truck wasn’t running very well. Basically it seemed to be running on about two of its six cylinders and he wanted to know if I knew anything about motors or if there were other cruisers headed this way that might. After all the checking in was done we stopped at his house and I had a look and was able to find out that his distributor cap and rotor were a real mess with only two electrodes left showing inside the distributor cap. I cleaned it all up as best I could and wrote down the parts he would need and he will try to order these and have the next supply ship that comes about once a month bring them for him.
During this time I met his wife and three teenage boys. They try to help look after the yachties that arrive here; only about 100-125 annually he says and they try to help find some local fruit and vegetables if they can some well water and also offer pot luck on Sundays at their house. As I said this is a VERY small and remote spot so no stores or services to speak of. But tomorrow Nikko offered to take me around to the other side of the island where his plantation is and get some papaya and bananas. He assures me he has more than enough for him and his family and if that’s true I’ll take some on board for the next passage up to Wallis and Futuna islands.
Well, I’m a still feeling aches and pains and bruises from the repair work down in Vava’u and the raucous passage up here so I’m going to head down below for a quick diner and then off to bed with Miss Ruby. Will explore here more in the next few days and enjoy what is apparently one of the only genuine Tongan islands and population left. Great to be back underway and I’ll be back with more after explorations here and when we take off for Wallis, another very remote and rarely visited country island NNW of here.
Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog
Aboard s/v Learnativity
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