May 20, 2012

Vavau Group, Kingdom of Tonga

Our sail across from Nuie was uneventful with light following winds and a few rain showers. We tried fishing on our way across but did not have any luck. We radioed ahead and customs, immigration, and the heath department were waiting on the dock to clear us in. Clearing into Tonga was much easier than on our last visit here and Daria for some reason did not even need a visa this time? May is the beginning of their high season here and we were only the 13th boat to clear in of the 170 or so expected boats for the season.


Steve hit the ground running and had a plane ticket bought for Saturday which could not come soon enough for this X-High seas sailor. His new dream is of a cabin firmly settled on a mountain side.

We were able to get internet at the Mango Café and had a nice dinner while sharing stories of the passage with other sailors that had arrived.

The Vavau Group is the northern most part of Tonga a country that lies roughly 200 miles north to south and consists of several island groups and hundreds of smaller islands.


The main town sits on the NW side of the harbor and looks a little shabby. The wharf is where they unload containers and supplies. Next to that is a huge shed where the vegetable market is held daily. The main staple is taro root, sweet potatoes, bananas, coconuts, and limited amounts of fresh veggies. This season's vegetables were hit hard by a recent cyclone so there was not much to choose from. Next is the local craft market where you can buy locally woven baskets ,carved whale bone necklaces and a native grass skirt Daria just had to have.









We gave away some toys and kids were very happy and we whatched them playing with them for the next few days.







If you continue walking to town there is a small fish market along the seas wall where the local fishermen have their igloo coolers full of just about anything that swims on the reef. It is kind of strange to see the colorful fish that swam with you on the reef with all their beauty laying here dead on ice.

Tongans's are very friendly people and appear to have a minimalist lifestyle. It would be hard to find a car here with out a dent in every panel or less than 100K miles on it. Saturday fills the streets with all the locals who are in town for the supply boat from New Zealand. There are several grocery stores that have their dust covered goods on cluttered shelves. There are no prices marked and I think everyone pays a little more or less the same? But I think we pay more?

We spent a little over a week in the surrounding islands with our friends Bob, Bob and Debbie on Braveheart. One of the islands we went out to was one owned by a couple Ben a& Lisa who left San Francisco 7 years ago to sail around the world and fell in love with Tonga 5 years ago and bought and island. They are in the process (a very slow one) of building a home on this little piece of tropical paradise. We all had a potluck and poker game (Bob won!) along with Kim and James off "Doin It" who also seem to have fallen in love with Tonga and are having a hard time raising the anchor to leave.




 The next day Braveheart and Downtime set sail for another island and were able to dive in some calm weather. The diving here has some really good coral but lacks structure to hold fish, so we were not able to catch lunch on our dive.



We had some great dinners aboard Downtime and one night Daria made a amazing roasted leg of lamb with roasted pumpkin and potatoes. Another night Bob brought over some roasted pork and we had taco night and made fresh tortillas in the tortilla press my son Pete Jr. bought me for Christmas. Another night we had pizza night and we made one of ours first homemade pizzas. On the way in from the dive site we snagged a Skipjack tuna by the tail and had a fresh cevichi appetizer.













There are some amazing caves along the shores of these islands and we to Super Dink on an adventure to see them. We found two that we could fit into and see the limestone formations and the arched ceilings with skylights into the jungle above. Most the islands seem to just rise up from the ocean depths and have sheer walls that drop strait down hundreds of feet below the surface.




















We spent a little over a week In Vavau and decided to go to our favorite part of Tonga the Haapai Group.



Until then, Live your dreams!! Peace!! Pete & Daria

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May 9, 2012

Two days on Nuie

We are sailing for Tonga after a short break on Nuie with following winds and seas. Downtime feels like a baby cradle compared to out last trip rolling along downwind at 6 to 7 knots.
We spent two days in Nuie a 100 square mile pinnacle of land that rises up out of the depths of the ocean. It is amazing that just 1/2 mile off shore it is over a mile deep!
We had just a few things to repair on Downtime and on Sunday Steve paddled the kayak to church while Daria and I relaxed in the calm anchorage. On Monday I went for a dive with Nuie Divers and they took me to two really cool cave dives along he shore, The first part of the dive was like swimming over the moon since all the corrals were scrubbed clean during the cyclone of 2004 a storm that battered the island with huge waves that even destroyed many home and building sitting 60 feet above sea level!
Most the island is made of limestone and where water seeps through over the ages dissolves the rock forming these spectacular caves. They both had entrances about 20 feet below the surface and a 200 foot winding tunnels to get into them. We had flashlights to find our way in and saw schools of fish hiding in all the nooks and crannies along the walls. It was breeding season for sea snakes and there were heaps of them swimming with us! These snakes are 2 to 5 feet long and are poisonous! The good thing is that they are non aggressive and have a mouth that is too small to bite a human. They are just curious and come swim right up to you until shoo them away. They are making their way into the caves to lay their eggs, since they can not lay eggs in the water. They go into the cave and climb up on the jagged walls and after laying their eggs they simply plop back into the water.
These are the darkest caves i ever dove in and when you shut off your light it was pitch black! Hmmm take a minute in your mind and go for a swim in a pitch black cave with sea snakes all around you....a little creepy!
On our way between dive sites we encountered the local talent, a school of spinner dolphins and I jumped in with them holding onto the boat and they swam along side me as we motored slowly forward.
While I was diving Daria and Steve went on an island tour with one of the locals Steve met at church. Nuie is a beautiful island that at one time sustained over 5000 people but now there are barely 1500 living here. There have been attempts to teach the natives to farm and ranch but no sign of any of these activities were going on. In my mind growing at least fresh fruits and vegetables in this tropical paradise would be a no-brainer. Nuie is owned by mother NZ and appears to give most of this nation government jobs and plenty of subsidies. While we were there the supply ship was unloading and at least 40 men were involved with this two day process. Customs and immigration had a few full time staff to clear the 30 to 50 visitors a week(the only plane comes in on Friday)
But all bureaucracy aside we found the people here genuinely caring and friendly and enjoyed every minute of our short stay here.
I am sure Daria has lots of pictures to post when we find internet in Tonga, until then please be
patient.
Sailing along to Tonga, Downtime and her crew

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May 7, 2012

Land Ho!!!! and another fish story...

Nuie!!
On our last post we were 48 miles out and still being tossed around like a cork in a 55 gallon drum!
When we were 26 miles out we hooked a submarine or a REALLY huge fish!! the 2000 feet of line never slowed down as it screamed off the Shimano 60 TLR!! We finally turned the boat around and started chasing this monster that had my favorite bait in his mouth. The line went slack for a second and then SNAP!!! The beast broke the 200 Lb. leader! It had to be one huge marlin!!



An hour later we had another "Fish On" but luckily this one was much smaller in the 200 pound range. Thankfully we were able to let this beautiful fish go and fight another day because I REALLY did not want to eat marlin for the next three months!





Niue
                                                                              We were tied to a mooring ball by noon and were able to clear in with little hassle. We used a couple hundred gallons of fresh water to put the pounds of salt we had been collecting on our way here and by 5 steaks were smokin on the grill. The trip will not soon be forgotten and we are happy to finally be somewhere warm with clear blue water under our keels.
Pedro is paddle kayak to clear in



We will spend a few days here in Niue diving and then it will be off to Tonga
Downtime and her crew

May 6, 2012

Day 8

Hello from Downtime day 8
We are down to 48 bottles of beer on the wall just 48 bottles of beer! The winds have finally calmed and are down to just 20 knots with 3 to 5 foot seas and we are just 48 miles from our destination!!
We are still flying a triple reefed main but have the jib all the way out pulling us along at 8 to 9 knots on a beam reach. We will have covered a little over 1450 miles in under 8 days, some kind of record for this sailor! This is the 2nd longest leg I have sailed on Downtime and lets face it 8 days is still too long to not see land!
We had continuing rain squalls all day yesterday with crazy seas. We would be sailing along and then it was like the chaos cycle was pushed and things got really rough and then 15 minutes later it would moderate. Squalls came through like clockwork all day and the cockpit was no place to be unless you needed another set of soaked salty clothes.
The way I see it is that if you can make a passage like this and not hit shore and run like mad away from anything floating then you are a sailor! It was just another one of those passages like back when I sailed to Bermuda and lost two crew when we tied up. They both swore that if they got back on the boat they were going to DIE!! It will be interesting to see if Steve still wants to go home and buy a boat and sail the Pacific? And to all you wives out there...if Hubby wants to buy a boat send him this way for a week and we will make sure he "REALLY" does!
Day 8 was a good day for Downtime with only minor breakage, the only thing was a batten (20 foot fiberglass rod) started sliding out of the sail cover I just had repaired in NZ.
We should be tied to a mooring ball and cleared in by noon and I am sure wont take long finding our way to land and do what sailors do best, find a bar and tell lies! ARG!!!!
Watch out Niue here we come!
Peace!! Downtime and her crew

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May 5, 2012

Downitme day 7

Hello again,

Day 7 will be one that will never be forgotten. The relentless seas only grew bigger and rougher during the day and by 4 pm the waves were 20 feet high with winds gusting to 35 knots! We had the third reef in the main and the jib rolled up to the size of a handkerchief and were still doing 7 knots and rolling down waves at over 9 knts. at times in pouring rain squalls.





It was all good until huge west bound waves developed and started broad siding us and washing over the helm station! Free saltwater massage in the cockpit everyone! Not fun!! a few of these we turned west to smooth out the ride, which put the wind on out stern sailing 160 degrees off wind.

The highlight of the day was getting soaked at least 3 times and then finding out all the fresh water went down the drain out a deck valve that was somehow opened with the jib sheet on the foredeck! I turned on the trusty water maker to find a Low Pressure pump fault! I had just tested the system and put new primary filters in so I was baffled at what could be causing the trouble?





 An hour later I finally traced it to a broken sending unit wire that decided to part on wave 12432? or 33 I am not sure which, but A simple wire splice solved the problem and hot showers we ordered for all. Daria cooked up a tasty mahi diner with a fresh salad and we ate recounting the days events.







By now we are all more than ready to get to land and take a few days off. We have spent 4 of the 7 days in rough seas and covered 1200 miles.
 To our dismay we received an e-mail from the Comadore of the Niue Yacht Club telling us the only landing dock on the island will be blocked for several days as the supply ship starts unloading on Saturday. What luck! Our friends on Braveheart diverted to Vavau, Tonga due prior commitments but my opinion is like when the settlers first saw the Indians, "I didn't come all this way to turn and run with the first signs of trouble" So, we will be in Niue in 24 hours waiting on the supply ship to move.

Our position at 4 am as I write this is 23.20 S 172.10 W and we are on a heading of 003 N doing 7 to 8 knots under triple reefed main and jib in moderate seas (calmer than yesterday) 234 miles from Niue.

For those of you just joining our adventure you can read it from the beginning at:downtimecat.blogspot.com and track our journey at yotreps.com with user ID WDF2560

Out living the dream (sometimes a scary one) on Downtime,
Capt. Pete, Daria and Steve
Peace!!!

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May 4, 2012

Day 6 on Downtime

Hello from bouncy Downtime!


We were smooth sailing covering an amazing 209 miles in 24 hours and I guess mother ocean wanted us to slow down some. In our path she thew the wickedest waves I have seen in a while. The ocean looked like the pool at a Jenny Craig belly flop competition! Waves literally coming from every direction encouraged us to put another reef in (shorten Sail) and bring our boat speed down to a manageable 6 to 7 knots. All the time I swear Downtime was singing Chumbawumba's (I get knocked down but I get up again)
We have been bashing along ever since and it looks like the last 350 miles to Niue will more of the same. As I am writing this the winds have kicked up over 30 knots and we have shortened sail again. So much for fishing....I doubt it would be any fun cleaning them while waves wash over the transom!

It looks like we will arrive at first light on Saturday (with full diesel tanks Bob)

The highlights for the day started with a small electrical fire in my cabin in a light dimmer switch that was somehow was taking a saltwater shower without my permission? The old saying is there are boats that leak and boats that are going to leak! Luckily it was a small fire and we got it put out immediately...hmmm? small fire on a boat 500 miles from land? never good! Other than the small leak that started the trouble Downtime has been holding her own and doing a great job keeping us safe on this crazy passage!
This area of ocean is noted for having crazy weather and rough seas and I believe it now that we experienced it first hand, but I would have been just as content watching the discover channel version and having a smooth sail across.
Our position at 8 am was 24.51 S 172.18 W with 380 miles to destination.

Peace, Downtimes Crew, Pete, Daria,and Steve

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May 3, 2012

Downtime day 5 Fish On!!!

Hello from Downtime!

ловись рыбка большая и ооочень большая!!!
We will start with the highlights of the day! At about noon a nice sized Mahi-Mahi took hold of one of our yellow and green squid baits and we had "Fish On!". We gave Super Steve the pole for his first ever Mahi experience. The fish was striping line off the Shamano 60 TLR with ease so we knew it was good size! Daria and I slowed the boat the best we could and Steve started working the fish. 30 minutes later we had a nice 30 pound Mahi on the deck taking his first and last shot of whiskey to put him down. (the fish not Steve). Steve was saying "Thank goodness it wasn't a marlin!"

that's nice! :)


Later we had a nice baked Mahi lunch about the same time we crossed the half way point of our journey with 720 miles under our keels.
At 5 am during the end of Steve's watch the winds started shifting to the south which was a welcome site and by 8 am we had the boat pointed north again. It was still bumpy but at least we were heading the right direction. By noon the seas had calmed and the winds were moving us northward at 7 to 8 knots, and apparently at the perfect fishing speed.
We have been sailing due north for almost 24 hours now with a 20 to 30 knot wind blowing us along at speeds up to 12 knots! (HAULLIN ASS!) Our position at 4 am this morning is 173.43 W 28.20 S and we have just under 600 miles to go until we reach Nuie.



next morning :)

Steve was not the only one to catch a fish today, At 11 pm Daria was hit in the neck with a nice sized may I add, flying Fish! You should have heard all that commotion!









Pedro is having fun with my fish )))

The last 12 hours have been a sleigh ride and we have averaged 10+ knots surfing down waves and making amazing miles. When the boat is moving this fast you hear the roar of the sea going by and waves gurgling under the belly as you pass over them while rooster tails are being kicked up behind.
The only bummer is that we will arrive on Saturday afternoon and have to wait until monday for customs...so why hurry? Because we CAN!

We hope you enjoy the adventure, until next time, Peace!
Downtimes crew: Capt. Pedro, Daria, Super Steve
You land based friends can track us at yotreps.com used id wdf2560

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May 2, 2012

Downtime day 4

Hello from Downtime!

Day 4 found us arriving early for our weather window...sometime going fast is not a good thing at sea. Day three we traveled 194 miles in 24 hrs. and Downtime has done this many mile only a few time since I owned her. The southerly winds had not built yet and we sailed into 12 hours of north winds which promptly turned our course due east.

For those of you just joining us here is a recap of the last few days.

We left NZ Sat the 28th Friday your time just before noon and set sail for places unknown.(to us anyways) The first few days were awesome sailing and then it turned into well...not so awesome... the wind was in our face out of the north and we turned east since we had to go north ...go figure. at one point the wind could have changed any direction and it would be better than what it was!
The north wind was not as bad as what it created...south bound waves!! It has been like driving over VW's for the last 18 hours! 1000's of them! At 2 am on the 4th day the wind finally changed back from south but forgot to tell the waves!! they are still heading the wrong way!
I guess the highlight of the day was that nobody puked! We have had the main and jib double reefed trying to keep the boat under 8 knots n 20 to 28 knot winds. (not easy) The fishing lines were out all day bouncing on top of the water but we had no luck landing a fish.

We will keep you posted, until then, Peace!
Downtimes crew, Capt. Pedro, Daria, Super Steve
You land based friends can track us at yotreps.com used id wdf2560

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May 1, 2012

Downtime day 3

Hello from Downtime!
sunrise, 6am

We are on day three of our adventure and moving east again with a north wind that developed at 1:00 am this morning. We had a nice west wind pushing us along a course of 040N for 24 hours strait and we covered just under 200 miles in 24 hrs. We would have hit that 200 mile day if the winds did not let up around 4 to 6 in the afternoon. We took that opportunity to rig the poles and give the lour's swimming lessons for a few hours in the crystal clear blue water.



sunrise, 7am
It is slowly warming up and we are 900 miles SSW from Nuie at 32.26 S 177.50 W and feeling confident we can made our destination with this much easting under our belt. We hope to be in the trade winds by this evening and continuing a more northerly course . As I write this we are cruising along at 8 to 10 knots on a NE course flying a single reefed main and a full jib sailing a beam reach in amazingly calm seas! The engines have been off for two days and we are having a clear warm weather.
The only highlight is that it is Steve's birthday again today! and we hope to be catching fresh fish for dinner!


We will keep you posted, until then, Peace!
Downtimes crew, Capt. Pedro, Daria, Super Steve
You land based friends can track us at yotreps.com used id wdf2560

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