We made landfall in Neiafu which is the second largest town in Tonga, although it only looks as a village to European standards. The anchorage is very well protected and made up for the past quite uncomfortable anchorages we experienced on the way from The Society Islands. The Vava’u Group islands are very beautiful and there are many good places to sail to and anchor, which makes it a very popular location for charter boats.
The local population is slightly different from the other Maoris we have met on the way. They are proud looking, heavier built and bigger, and may be a little darker in the skin. The dress code in Tonga is also different. They wear mostly black clothes and a ta’ovala (a mat made of natural fibres wrapped around the waist and tied with rope). Their friendliness and hospitality is however as outspoken as we know it from other parts of Polynesia.
On the way to the main island of Tonga, Tongatapu, we stopped at a small uninhabited island and wanted to visit the active volcano island Tofua the following day, but it was raining heavily and low clouds prevented us from this experience.
Nuku’alofa is the capitol of the kingdom of Tonga, the last kingdom in the Pacific with only around 100.000 inhabitants. You tend to get the feeling that the king and his family run the small country as a family business and Tonga seems poorer than the other Pacific states we have visited. Nuku’alofa is charming and busy with a number of construction projects going on. It has a large harbour with many fishing vessels, and you meet many foreign tourists in the streets. We did not have enough time to explore this island, because a favourable “weather window” for the New Zealand passage showed up and off we went.
Pacific passage, Tonga to New Zealand (Dec 2008)
This passage can be difficult because you can expect at least one front on the way, which can be quite strong. Therefore we initially headed towards the Minerva Reef, which is a partly submerged atoll belonging to Tonga, and the only bad weather refuge on the way. Based on a good weather report received only 20 Nm from the reef, we decided to head straight for Opua in New Zealand. We were late in the season, so the weather south should be better, however you can risk hurricanes from early November. We had only one front passage with 40 – 50 knots of wind for approx 4 hours, and the rest of the time we experienced light to fair E – SE – NE – NW winds.
The 1068 Nm passage took 6 days with 20 hours of motoring.