Monday, June 25, 2012

Vava'u, Tonga

I have rejoined the milk run route and am now (back) in yachtie playland.  Six megayachts in the main anchorage here in Neiafu.  I am used to having other cruising boats worth three or four times what I paid for Pelican but when another boat's tender is worth that what is the mother ship worth???

The Mermaid Bar/Vavau yacht club burned down and the Tongan partner has passed on....  Also the building with the friendly island bookstore, Bounty Bar, etc has also burned down.  The vibe of too many expat owned business catering to a very small yachtie market is strong.  The ones that didn't burn down were the higher end ones and they now dominate so it is almost too easy to say it is sliding towards "it was better back in the day".  Polo shirts with the boat name are standard attire.  You can feel the current batch of business owners (average time spent doing the "cool bar in Tonga bit" is 2 years) impatient for the airport to become international.  They were waiting for this the last time I was here.  Which batch will win the lottery and make real money before pulling out because it will have become too disgusting to be around?!?  To their credit, the Tongans are as low key as ever and the rule most everywhere else applies here as well, walk fifteen minutes away, not five or ten, from those expat hangouts and it starts to become cheaper and a bit more genuine.

I met an early thirties couple here in Vava'u on their second year of cruising on a budget.  They echoed a sentiment I have heard many a time, "We thought there would be more younger people on a budget and not this overwhelmingly posh scene!"  I realize now that when I first did the South Pacific in 2007, because I stayed on the milk run route, I felt the exact same way.  In Raivavae a total of six boats (three more showed up after my post) passed through while I was there and every single one were deliberately avoiding the main fleet.  There was even a report of at least two boats sitting in the Gambier waiting till June before heading to the Marquesas.  The flip side is that it can be fun to do the yachtie thing.  I have a nice polo type shirt I found in a thrift store in the states when I visited last year.  It was an expensive Nike golf shirt where they were a bit more tasteful and made the swoosh symbol a lot smaller and just put one on the short sleeve.  Easily removed with an exacto blade but no, haven't gotten around to sewing PELICAN on the breast...

I had this thought that since it takes so long to sail around the world, you could on subsequent circumnavigations, only visit places you previously stopped to take in all the changes.   Because you would have something to compare it against you would have a deeper understanding.

I paid the check in fee so I guess I will stay for a little.  (With only one polo shirt it is hard to go out on consecutive nights.)  I would have sailed straight to Fiji but they are strict about their 48 hour advance notice by email.  I heard of one boat that arrived in Fiji and realized they had neglected this important step.  They snuck ashore, found an internet cafe, went back to the boat and stayed put for 48 hours anchored right off!  What you have to do to follow the rules...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Headed to the islands

Looks like I am out of here after this low passes.  SE winds forecast for Monday finally...

Rapa will just be a spot on the map.  It is ok.  It feels good to leave something out there that I missed.  You aim high because you must, knowing you cannot call all the shots.

This should be the last long haul passage.  I will skip a bunch of common stops.  I have already been to a bunch of them.  The reality of going for the tough untouched destinations that get only a few boats a year is that I am at a big disadvantage singlehandling.  No one to keep lookout for coral heads and how about places that flat out donot have an anchorage...  You have to have someone onboard trying to hold position while the other braves a landing.  You cannot leave the boat unattended.

I will look for crew in the islands and also maybe start advertising the boat.  I have been making this trip up as I go along.

Here is Raivavae upon arrival;