sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery
Sail-World.com : Timeless Tonga - Charter sailing in a Polynesian paradise
Timeless Tonga - Charter sailing in a Polynesian paradise

'Maninita Lagoon is an extraordinary day anchorage unsurpassed in serenity and natural beauty.'    Larry Macdonald    Click Here to view large photo

When one thinks of Tonga in the South Pacific, the mind conjures up images of a Polynesian paradise – white sand beaches on lush tropical islands, sprinkled like emeralds on a turquoise sea. Supplement that image with quiet anchorages, warm breezes and crystal-clear waters and its understandable why Tonga is considered one of the world’s premiere sailing destinations. (This article courtesy of Canadian Yachting Magazine

Tonga’s remoteness, about 1300 nautical miles northeast of New Zealand, may be partly responsible for the islands retaining their unspoiled beauty and timeless character. But for North American charter sailors, it’s a long way off: 17 hours flying time from Vancouver on three different airlines for instance. We know, we’ve been there – and would return in a heartbeat. It’s amazing how quickly travel fatigue is dissipated by the anticipation and excitement of visiting a new culture.

Larry, Sandy, Joan, and Barry aboard their Mooring's charterboat Sirocco. -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

My wife Sandy and I, with our friends Barry and Joan, scheduled a bareboat sailing charter with The Moorings for two weeks in March. Our flight departed from Vancouver, via Los Angeles, to the main island of Tongatapu where we spent a few hours exploring the bustling capital city of Nuku’alofa. It's numerous small shops and markets interspersed with palaces and temples was a world away from life back home. Our one-hour flight on Real Tonga airlines to the Vava’u Islands would take us even further back in time.

After a restful night’s sleep at Boathouse Apartments overlooking Neiafu Harbour, we walk to The Moorings dock, where Sirocco, our 41’ Beneteau gleaming in the sunshine, is awaiting our arrival. After stowing our gear, we receive a thorough boat and chart orientation; then take a short cab ride into downtown Neiafu to purchase provisions. The experience is enlightening – and most likely amusing to the locals. Following a visit to the ATM to obtain Tongan currency, we fill the trunk with items from several small grocery stores, a bakery, meat supplier, wine store, and an outdoor market. The sun is hot and the pace slow. We enjoy practicing the language and learning the currency, which initially involves holding out a handful of cash and allowing vendors to pick the correct amount!

Neiafu Harbour -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

Vava’u is a cluster of 50 islands scattered across 15 miles of ocean, protected from swells by outlying reefs. The Moorings’ navigational chart of this area identifies 42 designated anchorages, half of which are approved for overnight in prevailing southeast winds. The area is small enough that one can sail from one end to the other in just a few hours. Yet, it’s impossible for us to see it all during our two weeks. However, we do manage to visit a few villages and more than a few deserted islands for beachcombing, snorkeling and replenishing our souls.

Waves lap softly against our hull; a rooster crows; church bells ring. I peek through one eye at my watch. It’s 5am. What? Who goes to church at five o’clock on a Sunday morning? In the village of Matamaka, everyone does – all 350 islanders, young and old, attend church at 5am, again at 10 am, and then again at 4pm. Religion is a very important part of Tongan culture.

Fa'aki and Ben's family -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

Anchored just off a crescent beach bordering the village, we tie our dinghy to a coconut tree and amble ashore to explore. Almost immediately, we receive a warm welcome from Fa’aki and her husband Ben, who live in a small house with their five young children. In very good English, they graciously offer to show us around. Six churches, a school, playground, Kava House and an array of small houses line the dirt path that meanders through the village. Only the churches and the Kava House have electricity; which means there are no refrigerators, stoves, washers or any other electrical conveniences that we Canadians take for granted. Domestic pigs, dogs, and chickens wander about; columns of smoke rise from outdoor cooking pits. Everyone we meet smiles shyly and says hello ('Malo e lelei'). Captain Cook, in 1777, called Tonga 'The Friendly Isles' and it’s obvious why. We feel like we have been transported back a couple of centuries when people lived off the land and sea, bonding together to ensure survival.

As we pass the Kava House, Barry asks: 'What goes on in there?' Ben invites us into the small building occupied by a half-dozen men sitting in a circle on the matted floor. Kava is a brown, watery drink made from the dried roots of a pepper plant. It is widely used as a ceremonial drink throughout most of Polynesia. The Kava House serves as a meeting place, mostly for men. After introductions, we are offered half coconut shells as cups and invited to try it. We describe our first taste as bitter with a slight tingling of the lips and tongue. The men smile approvingly with stifled laughter. Apparently, after a few drinks, the effect is a feeling of calmness, which to Tongans represents renewal. After our drink, some conversation, laughter, and an awareness of the importance of this tradition in the daily lives of Tongans, we bid farewell and return to the boat.

Timeless Tonga - Charter sailing in a Polynesian paradise -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

On the most western island of Hunga in front of Ika Lahi Lodge, we tie to a mooring buoy for $10 Tongan (about $6 Canadian). In anticipation of a visit to the village school the next morning, we gather up some school supplies and children’s toys we had brought with us. Our visit is delightful. The principal holds an impromptu recess and invites us inside. Although the children are initially reserved, Sandy and Joan, both teachers, soon have them gathered around, intent to learn some Canadian English (eh?) and to sing along 'If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands….' Later, we meet an elderly woman who proudly shows us her beautiful flower garden and then offers us a few mangos. She reluctantly accepts our handful of change. Tongans, we discover, are extremely generous, preferring to give rather than receive.

Sailors from around the world enjoy a Tongan feast. -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

During our chart briefing, we were advised about a centrally located Tongan Feast, which is attended by a score of sailors from various countries. Guitars and drums accompany graceful young dancers, followed by an authentic meal of local foods. Conversation mostly involves things to see and do in the islands. Everyone has his or her favourite snorkeling reef or secluded sandy beach.

One of our favourites is Maninita, a small island furthest south, designated as a bird sanctuary. Under sunny skies and brisk easterlies, we beam reach for a couple of hours with two other charter boats. Along the way, a school of Spinner dolphins play in our bow wave. Upon arrival, a serpentine turquoise path leads through a matrix of coral to a sheltered lagoon.

Boobys, petrels, terns, and various other sea birds circle the forest canopy as we respectfully explore this special place blessed by nature. The shallow reefs are teeming with colourful fish; the beaches look and feel like granular sugar. Designated as a 'day anchorage,' we reluctantly weigh anchor and retrace our route to picturesque Taunga Island, with its tidy little village in which a young man named Joel proudly shows us around, Alice gives us a bag of mangos, and Betty sells her handmade woven baskets from a panga (small boat).

Betty's panga -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

One of the more breathtaking experiences, literally, is Mariner’s Cave. The entrance to this submerged cave is three metres down, four metres horizontally beneath an overhanging rock, and another three meters up into a cavernous limestone grotto. Some local knowledge and commitment are required for this dive. Two fellow charterers, who had dove it last year, supply the local knowledge. Since there are no signs indicating the entrance, they dive first and don’t return, which means either that this is the right spot or they’re never coming back! I take a deep breath and commit – popping up inside with a desperate gasp for air. Standing on a ledge, our ears plug each time the misty air is compressed by the incoming one-metre swell. Going out is less intimidating as sunshine streams through the opening. Incidentally, you can practice for this feat by diving, with mask and flippers, underneath your sailboat’s keel from one side to the other.

Swallow's Cave, a cavernous home for nesting swallows, can be explored by dingy. -  Larry Macdonald   Click Here to view large photo

Nearby Swallow’s Cave is another popular natural feature, so named for the swallows that reside therein. This large cavern at the waterline can be entered and explored by dinghy, which suits my non-committal crew just fine!

Each morning on VHF Channel 26, sailors are provided with tide and weather information. Most days we get a mixture of sun and cloud with 10- to 20-knot breezes providing comfortable sailing. On our last day, 30-knot 'breezes' prompt a reefed jib and main. Charging back to The Moorings base, we’re totally pumped and at the same time saddened as we approach the end of our adventure.

After lifting off the runway and gaining altitude, we peer out the window at our now familiar playground with the hope that this pristine paradise will always remain timeless and welcoming to future sailors.

Canadian Yachting magazine is Canada's premiere source for compelling boating lifestyle experiences, travel destinations, boat reviews, tips on gear, marine events and breaking news for sailors and power boaters. Enjoyed by readers in digital, online and print formats six times yearly. Have a look now at www.canadianyachting.ca


by Larry MacDonald


  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=125863

6:04 PM Fri 22 Aug 2014GMT


Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.


Related News Stories:

14 Aug 2014  Galley Guys on the Malty Seas
07 Aug 2014  Galley Guys meet the Spice Lady
31 Jul 2014  Lobster Thermidor - Making Julia proud
23 Jul 2014  Northern Scotland: Voyage to Orkney and Shetland Isles (Part 2)
22 Jul 2014  Northern Scotland: Voyage to Orkney and Shetland Isles, more photos
20 Jul 2014  'Flankly' Speaking - how to prepare a great steak meal onboard
20 Jul 2014  Tranquil, colourful and funky, Genoa Bay is a must stop for West Coast
11 Jul 2014  Northern Scotland: Voyage to Orkney and Shetland Isles (Part 1)
11 Jul 2014  Northern Scotland: Voyage to Orkney and Shetland Isles, photos
10 Jul 2014  The Galley Guys' favourite shrimp recipe
MORE STORIES ...




News - USA and the World

2014 12 Metre North American Championships - Two days of a northerly (first strong, then light) and one day of a building southwesterly put six 12 Metre yachts to the test at their North American Championships, which were held off Newport, R.I. over September 26-28. Gunther Buerman’s (Newport, R.I.) KZ-3 and Dennis Williams’ (Hobe Sound, Fla.) Victory ’83 defended their titles ... [more]  

Photographer Eugenia Bakunova of leading Russian website www.mainsail.ru was on the water at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez on the French Riveria , and provided this gallery of images of the classics and other yachts racing ... [more]  

2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne - Don’t forget to enter the ISAF Sailing World Cup – Melbourne. There are only two days left to take advantage of the discounted entry price offer. ... [more]  

After Gmunden, Austria, in 2011 and Cala de' Medici, Italy, in 2012 and after a pained second place, same points with the Portogues 'Credite Egs' in Portosin, Spain, last year, the Italian crew coming from Puglia 'Euz II Monella Vagabonda', with Sandro Montefusco at the helm and his brother Paolo as a tactician, confirms for the third time the Platu 25 World Championship title. ... [more]  

Carlo Borlenghi was on deck for the first day of competition at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez to capture these images. ... [more]  

Photographer Ingrid Abery was on site for day one of racing at the 2014 Les Voiles de Saint Tropez to capture these images. ... [more]  

The final day of the 2014 U.S. Team Racing Championship ended up being a half day of sailing due to a complete shutdown of the wind. However, the fleet completed enough races to count Gold Round Robin 3 and crown Ladies and Gentlemen as the back-to-back Team Racing Champions. ... [more]  

Michigan, the Great Lakes State, was a fitting location as The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) gathered for the fourth time in the organization’s history to fulfill its mission to recognize Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing. ... [more]  

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has published guidelines for candidates bidding to host the 2016 ISAF Youth Match Racing World Championship. Bids to host the 2016 ISAF Youth Match Racing Worlds must be received by Friday 24 October 2014. ... [more]  

The onboard medic-sailors competing in the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race have completed their last medical training. More than a basic first aid refresher course, the mandatory medical training each Volvo Ocean Race team had to carry out in the last few months and days are key to survival while at sea. ... [more]  

Erik Simonson was on the water at 2014 Melges 20 Pacific Coast Championship to capture these images. ... [more]  

2014 J/105 North American Championship - Light air ruled the J/105 North American Championship hosted by Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada—and so did Rod Wilmer and Terry McLaughlin on Mandate. ... [more]  

The Extreme Sailing Series event in Istanbul seems to have only just finished, but already the containers are in the Ville de Nice set to gear up for this weeks penultimate regatta. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are back onboard this week, fresh from their 49er World Championship win and looking to make it two wins from two events for Emirates Team New Zealand on the ?Extreme Sailing Series ... [more]  

2014 Buddy Melges Challenge - In Sunday’s final matches in the Buddy Melges Challenge, Stephanie Roble and Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen showed the crowds on the bluffs of Lake Michigan how top class match racing should be sailed. It took five absolutely thrilling matches for the Danish crew to secure their first WIM Series event victory since last summer’s Danish Open. ... [more]  

America's Cup: Oracle Team USA's AC72 takes to the streets by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
Oracle Team USA's winning AC72 takes to the streets of San Francisco, one year on from the Team's successful Defence of the America's Cup. This week the AC72 catamaran Oracle Team USA raced to victory is going to be a special guest at Oracle OpenWorld 2014 in San Francisco. ... [more]  

Matches between the world’s top two match racing skippers are always aggressive affairs on the Alpari World Match Racing Tour (AWMRT). In the pre-start of the first match, Canfield stuck two penalties on Williams, leaving the British boat playing catch-up. ... [more]  

Pantaenius, the world’s leading specialist yacht insurance company, has been at the forefront of yacht insurance for more than 40 years, earning a reputation for transparency and commitment to customer service that provides round-the-clock international support and reliable, speedy claims settlement. ... [more]  

What a great day for kiting at Kite Foil Gold Cup Australia 2014! 10-15 knot North Easterly and slight seas. Kites zooming around like supersonic mosquitoes but mosquitoes buzz whereas foiling kites are completely silent! ... [more]  

At the time that we are writing this, it is almost exactly a week since the first race took place at Wakatere Boating Club in New Zealand, followed by hundreds of races across the globe that we have been told attracted record numbers of sailors to your clubs ... [more]  

2014 U.S. Team Racing Championship - It was a picturesque day on Marblehead Harbor with plenty of sunshine for the second day of the U.S. Team Racing Championship. Once again, a lack of consistent breeze made for a challenging day for the Race Committee, umpires and competitors. Nevertheless, PRO Susie Schneider and her team were able to complete Round Robin One ... [more]  

2014 Buddy Melges Challenge - Saturday’s racing in the Buddy Melges Challenge on Lake Michigan, USA, saw more breeze than ever before during the week. Stephanie Roble used her local knowledge to show a clean sheet for the day, going in to Sunday’s conclusion with a one – zero lead over Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen in the final, sailed as a best of five match series. ... [more]  

2014 U.S. Adult Sailing Championship - A balanced field and limited racing usually leads to close races and a crowded leaderboard. This was the situation on Eagle Mountain Lake for the last day at the U.S. Adult Championship, hosted by Fort Worth Boat Club. ... [more]  

2014 J/105 North American Championship - Five races are now in the books, and just three points separate the top three teams at the J/105 North American Championship hosted by Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ... [more]  

Photographer Eugenia Bakunova of leading Russian website www.mainsail.ru was on the water at the 36th edition of the Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai, and provided this gallery of images of the classics racing off Cannes. ... [more]  

Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai: Cannes at its best by Eugenia Bakunova, www.mainsail.ru
The 36th edition of the Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai drew to a close on Saturday. Photographer Eugenia Bakunova was on the water at the 36th edition of the Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai, and provided this second gallery of images of the classics racing off Cannes. ... [more]  

David Gilmour was the only skipper to keep a clean sheet in today’s light-air action at the Dutch Match Cup in Lelystad. Team Gilmour swept aside their fellow Western Australians in a 3-0 Quarter Final against Keith Swinton and Team Alpari FX. The young Aussies then took the first match of their Semi-Final against the reigning ISAF World Champions, Taylor Canfield and US One. ... [more]  

Ian Williams and his GAC Pindar crew responded to a challenging qualifying session on Friday in Lelystad, to win a tense quarter-final against Phil Robertson (WAKA Racing), 3-2 and book a fifth consecutive semi-final in the Alpari World Match Racing Tour at the Dutch Match Cup. ... [more]  

The 44th Hobie 16 North American championships concluded on Friday with Jason Hess and Irene Abascal from Club Los Sauces, Guatemala taking the title. Mark and Grace Modderman from Long Branch, New Jersey followed in seond place and Pedro Colon and Monica Cabrera from Puerto Rico in third winning the tie break over Dan Borg and Liana Giovana from Canada. ... [more]  

The seven One Design VOR 65s were built by a consortium led by Green Marine in the UK. The first of those for the Team SCA women wad delivered in October 2013, the last was supplied to Team Vestas Wind in August 2014. ... [more]  

Over the last year we have interviewed Knut Frostad, the CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race four times, at times the stress has shown but yesterday just eleven days before the start of the 2014-2015 Race, he was like a different person, when we met with him again, at Volvo Ocean race headquarters portside in Alicante ... [more]  

NBC Sports Network, which was critically acclaimed for its 2013 coverage of the 34th America’s Cup, has signed on to provide full broadcast coverage in the U.S. of the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, the world’s premier offshore sailing race. Outside Television will also air complete TV programming – in addition to full digital coverage – of the nine-month long race from October 2014-June 20 ... [more]  

2014 J/24 World Championship - With just a few points between Will Welles Cougar (USA) and Mauricio Santa Cruz Bruschetta (BRA) there was no room for error in the final two races of the 2014 J/24 World Championship hosted by Sail Newport. ... [more]  

2014 Buddy Melges Challenge - Friday’s racing offered even less breeze than the previous days of the Buddy Melges Challenge. Lotte Meldgaard Pedersen won all her four matches of the day, to win the round-robin stage and secure her slot in the semi finals. ... [more]  

2014 U.S. Adult Sailing Championship - Day 3
2014 U.S. Team Racing Championship - Day 1 + Video
America's Cup: Then and now - Coutts on why Oracle won, and the Venue
Byte CII World Sailing Championship comes to Royal Varuna, Thailand
Dutch Match Cup: Canfield wins Qualifying, six set for Quarters battle
12 Metre North Americans - A blast from the America’s Cup past
2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup qualification system published
Volvo Ocean Race: Mapfre named as Spanish team sponsor + Video
Extreme Sailing Series returns to Nice for the penultimate Act of 2014
ISAF invites bids for 2016 Women's Match Racing World Championship
2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup, Melbourne - Teaming up
Mascalzone Latino Jr. named 2014 Melges 20 European Ranking Champion
2014 Buddy Melges Challenge - Le Berre keeps winning in Sheboygan
Hobie 16 Open North American Champ and Pan Am Games Qualifier - Day 4
2014 U.S. Adult Sailing Championship - Day 2
J/105 North Americans - Wilmer and McLaughlin master light conditions
J/24 World Championship - Will Welles hangs on going into last day
Open 2.4mR World Championship on the horizon
Bart's Bash - Top photographers gain special entry
Platu 25 Worlds - EUZ II Monella Vagabonda is still leading in France
St. Barth Cata Cup - Olympic duel on the island   
Dutch Match Cup - High winds and big wipeouts in Lelystad   
Route du Rhum - Yann Guichard to sail Spindrift 2 solo   
Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image - Best sailing photo of the year sought   
Volvo Ocean Race - Yann Riou, getting you up close and personal   
Marseille One Design concludes GC32 racing season + Video   
World Yacht Racing Forum - Seventh edition to take place in Barcelona   
Record number of entries for the Sailing Champions League   
Platu 25 World Championship - Euz II Monella Vagabonda still leading   
Rolex Middle Sea Race Record - A possibility for Esimit Europa 2   
Richmond Yacht Club's International 14 Nationals: Return of 14 footers   
Buddy Melges Challenge - Le Berre leading, undefeated, in Sheboygan   
2014 J/24 World Championship - Will Welles holds advantage   
Etchells Lobster Bowl Regatta - Rob Hitchcock overall winner   
US Wabbit Nationals at Richmond YC   
YCs of Long Beach Charity Regatta - Local area sailors turn out   
U.S. Team Racing Championship to serve as Qualifier for ISAF Worlds   
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final - Champions confirm Abu Dhabi attendance   
Dutch Match Cup - Top three keep perfect score   
Second Star Sailors League grand finale to take place in Nassau   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News





Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT