15 – Tonga Passage

We were leaving Niue anyway…

Niue has been a rolly anchorage the last few days, as has been the landing at the quay. The swell has been from the south and rolled through the anchorage and onto the wharf. Since there is no harbor here, there is no place to leave even dinghies in the water. Every time we go ashore we raise our dinghy onto the concrete wharf with the provided crane. The last few days, with 4-5 foot waves rolling past the crane and breaking 10 feet away our landings have become the stuff of Olympic legends. Yesterday we decided we’d had enough rolling and checked out, planning on leaving today for Tonga.

At breakfast this morning Niue Radio broadcast a Tsunami alert to all the yachts on anchor. We quickly raised and secured the dinghy, started the engine, and cast off our mooring. We followed Nine of Cups to deeper water, ourselves followed by three other boats. In case you didn’t know, Tsunamis are virtually unfelt by boats in deeper water, it’s only when approaching a shoreline that the wave achieves its potential in height and power. The bottom quickly dropped off to hundreds, and then thousands of feet. Safe once again.

We are now hearing bits and pieces about the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. With friends on sailboats in both Samoa and American Samoa we are anxiously waiting word on how everyone is doing, and how the local communities are fairing. Tsunamis can travel as fast as 600 miles per our, so American Samoa wouldn’t have had much, if any, warning. On Niue we had twenty minutes of warning, our warning was slow enough that we were actually still on our buoy twenty minutes after the earthquake hit. Whew!

Today on Yohelah we’re happy the tsunami went the other way and praying all is well for our friends in Samoa….

Rob and Teresa

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15 - Tonga Passage

Passage to Tonga, Day 1

Miles traveled day 1: 116
Miles let to Vava’u: 134

IMG_5837Today is one of those spectacular days when I love being a sailor. We’ve got 11 knots of wind on our starboard beam, and are flying the full mainsail, jib and staysail. We’re making 6.6 knots in the direction we want to go under clear blue skies. Our friends Neville and Catherine on Dreamtime (a beautiful Cabo Rico 38) passed us last night in very light air on my 11-2:00 watch and had this morning renamed us “Slowhelah”. Since then the wind has come back up this morning, we’ve hoisted our sails up all the way, and we’ve made up over a quarter mile on them in the last 90 minutes.

It’s weird for us being out here with so many sails around us. This is the first time ever on passage we’ve been physically in the company of other boats. Seven of us left Niue yesterday morning and are on the same straight line to Vava’u. When I came off watch at 8:00 this morning I could see two boats directly ahead of me, about 2 and 4 miles away, and one about 2 miles behind me. Right now the one that was behind us is about 1/2 mile abeam – it had been passing until the wind came up and we sped up finally! We’re on track for a late morning arrival into Tonga tomorrow.

Rob and I both have hoped for the last three years to actually get to see a big fish strike our lures. This morning it nearly happened. I was sitting on the toerail behind the helm drinking coffee and I noticed a huge dorado about 20′ off our starboard beam swimming towards our stern. We have two handlines trailing behind us, and it made a beeline for the closest one. Sadly, it took a strike at the lure, passed on it, and swam off. Needless to say, that lure got changed out about 5 minutes later.

As much fun as we’re having sailing today, though, is tempered by the sadness we feel for the folks who were affected by the tsunami and earthquake yesterday. The most tragic story we’ve heard is about Danny from the boat Mainly, who was trying to untie the boat from the dock in Pago Pago when the tsunami wave hit. He was swept off the dock and killed yesterday. We had just finally met Joan and Danny in Bora Bora, after seeing their boat off an on since Ecuador last year. Our hearts go out to Joan as she deals with the unimaginable loss of her cruising partner so far away from home.

OH – FISH ON. Gotta go. Mahi on both lines!!!!

Rats, lost them both. But the funny thing is that Maya knows the sound of getting the gaff and net ready. She came from a dead sleep into the cockpit to help with the catch.

The boat is here

15 - Tonga Passage