Stormy Trip to Ha’apai

Map of northern islands of Tonga including Ha'apaiWe finally left Vava’u – the northern group of islands in the Kingdom of Tonga – after nearly a month of cruising. We really enjoyed that place! After we got cleared out and got our fuel, we spent the next morning finishing up Internet tasks and getting the fresh fruits and veggies at the market. We finally left in the afternoon and planned to move to a southern island for the night and leave early the next day (before dawn) to make the 12 hour or so passage (70 miles) to Ha’apai – the middle group of islands in Tonga.

We chose to go to Euakafa again because we had never found a trail on the island that led to a tomb on the top of the island. Someone had told us how to find the trail. We called Northfork, and they also wanted to join us for one last visit there. Mark and Dana plan to stay in Vava’u and leave for New Zealand from there.

We had a nice, but slow, passage down from Nieafu to Euakafa about 10 miles. We arrived around 3 PM and Northfork got there about 4 PM. It would be a late afternoon hike. We quickly jumped in the dinghy and got to the beach. Some locals had set up a tent site on shore and we confirmed our train information with them. We soon found the trail and made the walk. I took the lead on the trails and used a stick to knock down spider webs. The climbing part was kind of steep, but we made it with only one stop for water.

Finally, the trail led us right to the open tomb of a queen from many years in the past. No one knows what happened to the body of the queen. We then hiked back straight away so we could be back well before dark.

Mark and Dana came over and we had a nice BBQ dinner and said our goodbyes afterwards. They knew we planned to get up and leave before dawn, and so left before too late.

We got up and left at 4 AM as planned. It was pitch black out due to it being cloudy. There was even some sprinkles going on. At first the radar didn’t start up properly, but after I restarted the unit it was working. The chart, radar, and sonar were all critical as we negotiated through several small islands and shallow reefs in the southern part of Vava’u. As dark as it was, we could easily have gone to ground without accurate data. We put the sails up, but we were running the motor as well. The winds were too light.

Around dawn the winds died and I dropped the sails. It was very cloudy out. There was a weather front that was supposed to have moved east in the early hours, but apparently it hadn’t left yet. Sure enough, a bit later, it started raining and the wind started picking up. Suddenly the winds got much stronger – about 25 knots. Sinc we had sails down, the main consequence was that we slowed down and the water got choppy. But, the winds kept getting stronger. We were seeing 35 knots and gusts to over 40 for a while! Waves got VERY choppy and we felt like we were in a washing machine. It slowed us down to less than 2 knots and I even started another engine to help keep us steady.

Suddenly I saw lightning and heard a loud thunderclap! Uh oh, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm – not just a squall! Fortunately, that was the only lightning burst. But, this was a large and slow moving storm. It took nearly two hours for us to slowly move out of the storm. The winds slowly clocked around and eventually it dropped below 20 knots. At that point we raised our sails and had a good sail for a little over an hour at 8 knots. But, the winds died off – and thankfully the seas calmed down – and we eventually dropped the sails and motored again. The weather system finally had moved east and we were seeing the sun and spots of blue sky in the west.

We arrived to the Ha’apai group area in the early afternoon. The water was calm, and the islands looked beautiful! We heard lots of boats we know on the radio and everyone seemed happy. There was some discussion about boats having experienced a rough night when the weather system came through earlier in the day. We finally dropped anchor at the main island of Lifuku in the mid-afternoon as planned. Several other boats came over at the same time as us to park outside the main town. Everyone who arrived over the weekend plans to check in with customs on Monday morning. Hopefully we’ll find Internet and get this post out then.

This entry was posted in News, Passages, Sightseeing, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *