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The Two Captains



2C Update #142 - Back Home in Vava’u  (May 23-July 9, 2006)

Masthead View to the East from Tapan

Coming back to the boat in Tonga was more like coming home than any “return” since we left to go cruising. To start, there was returning to living aboard Tackless II, which no matter how slick the RV is, it can’t yet compete. Then there is the comfort of our mooring off the Ark Gallery at Tapana (Anchorage #11). Here we can snorkel-swim every day (“we” being I), the boat sits steady in almost any wind, we have undemanding neighbors in Larry and Sheri – who occasionally invite us over for home-brew at sunset, interesting people come and go from the anchorage, and when we need to go to town, we can usually get a free ride in the Ark’s Tuk-Tuk, a three-wheeled nine-seater open-air vehicle that drives like a motorcycle! Life doesn’t get much easier than life at Tapana!

If our first night back aboard was a little Spartan, things got better quickly. Almost first thing the next morning, Larry and Sheri brought us out three pails of rainwater which allowed us to promptly graduate from the pissy little half cup of instant coffee we’d started the day with to a full-blow drip pot of the fresh ground beans we’d brought back with us. Ahhh.

After that we got our first good look at the boat, and the news was good. Other than being still being packed to the overhead with all the stuff we’d stowed below before departure in November, she was in far, far better condition than when we returned to her a year ago in Raiatea. We owe that to Larry and Sheri’s dedicated attentions, every day of which was documented in a little school booklet on the nav station. It seems they were able to open the boat up probably eighty percent of the time, a figure that amazed us given how rainy we imagined the cyclone season to be. In contrast, in Raiatea I think she got opened four times!  When a little mold started appearing on the overhead, Sheri arranged for Kato, daughter of Noa, the Tongan who works with Larry in his charter business, to come out and clean. When Larry learned that only one of our bilge pumps wasn’t operational, he and Noa changed out the bilge hose! And when during that endeavor they found a little diesel in the bilge, Noa undertook to clean that all out and track down the leak! Even the bottom was clean thanks to the deal we set up with Peter and Sandi of Otama Song, who’d kept after it while we were gone in exchange for use of our dive compressor.

The Ark Gallery's


Plus I think the old girl was just happier all round sitting in the water than being up on the hard! Of course, she’s a lucky girl. It was a very light cyclone season, by all reports, with only one small storm coming close enough to pump up the wind to fifty knots or so.

We spent the first three weeks getting Tackless II put back together again. Even at the leisurely pace we went, that was half the time we spent on her in Raiatea. There was a little suspense in getting our ground tackle recovered from where we’d added it to the Ark’s mooring grid, but even the 60lb CQR which we’d left set in about 110’ of water (and over which Don had fretted much of the time we were away) came up like spaghetti on a slurp thanks to the new batteries. Oh, that was a bit of excitement, buying a new engine start battery and a new windlass battery from Sonny’s Automotive in town and carrying it to Tapana in the Tuk-tuk and thence to the boat by dinghy. This should give you an idea of how uneventful our lives were.

Then we spent a week in town. Then we came back to Tapana. What else can we say? The weather came and went. We read a lot of books. I wrote a lot. I swam a lot. Don tinkered. We helped a few boats with Sailmail problems, and we socialized with a steady parade of old friends, including, ironically Denis of Bobulona, the boat we’d expected to see more of in Fiji, (who changed his plans to take his boat back to Hawaii and diverted to Vava’u store her with Larry and Sheri!)

Before we knew it June was slipping by fast! Although we had no complaints about our laid-back lifestyle, I think we were a little embarrassed just to be sitting on our butts like this. So we started laying plans to sail down to Tonga’s Ha’apai Island Group, which was one of the reasons we stayed in Tonga the second season. We studied the guidebook, went over charts with Sandy of Impetuous (veteran of 14 years of charter here),

Sandy and Terri, crew of charter yacht Impetuous

we carted home more and more stores until our lockers began to recover some of their former glory (Vava’u is not the dream place to be reprovisioning!) until almost before we knew the weekend of our departure loomed.

Just before we bestirred ourselves to take off, we did have one big event on the social calendar…July 4th, which was not, as you might jump to conclude, a day we celebrated American’s Independence, but a day all of Tonga celebrated the King’s birthday. The big event in Neiafu was a food fair set up in the parking lot behind the “new” “marina” (a facility built for Vava’u by the European Community, but not to a scale useful for cruising boats). This event married booths from all Neiafu’s eateries with traditional dance and music performances resulting in a most festive afternoon.


Don w/ new video-camera film our departure from Vava’u

Everybody who was anybody was there, and we all ate sample plates from pretty near every vendor! Afterwards there was a fundraising auction at the Mermaid (Neiafu’s primary yachtie hangout) to raise money to send an adorable three-year-old girl and her mother to Honolulu to take advantage of free surgery being offered to correct the child’s club foot. Much beer was drunk and many dollars donated. I swear the next day, the whole town had a hangover.

In this mood, we cleared out of Vava’u and made ready to sail south to the Ha’apai.




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All text and photos on this site Copyright Gwen Hamlin 2007


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