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Tonga

July - August 2003

 On passage to Tonga we crossed the international dateline.  One second it was 10:15 am on July 6, and the next second it was 10:15 am on July 7th.  The dateline should be exactly at 180 degrees longitude but Tonga has moved it a bit so their country is all on the same day and is the first country in the world  to greet each new morning.   We had spent time in Tonga making a sailing movie 11 years previously and were looking forward to seeing it again.  We were also anticipating the arrival of our friends Muriel and Sue from Colorado who were visiting us for 2 weeks.

 Muriel and Sue timed their arrival to coincide with an unbelievable period of bad weather.  Dee and I felt responsible for the weather in paradise but could not deliver- in 13 days with us Sue tallied about 6 total hours of sunshine.   Nevertheless we enjoyed ourselves with Tongan feasts and visits to the schools.  Muriel and Sue are both teachers and upon return to Colorado they put together a project to ship over several caseloads of elementary school textbooks and even a computer for the Vavau library. 

Our arrival in Tonga also coincided with the stranding and sinking of a sailboat on a reef in southern Tonga.  As Rob was the net controller for the daily radio net he assumed the task of communications director for the rescue effort.  This entailed a 2-3 times per day radio schedule with the people from the sinking boat  plus putting together a rescue effort with dozens of other cruising sailboats.  In a further stroke of ill luck the bad weather prohibited any rescue efforts for over 10 days and the vessel was ultimately abandoned - a total loss.    Over the next several weeks we attempted to assist the boat's owners  in putting their lives back together.  They had spent 2 years refurbishing the boat to better than new condition and were on their very first passage of what was to be a multi-year sailing voyage.   The cruising community gathered together to try to help them but there was nothing we could do to restore their shattered dreams. 

When the weather improved Dee and I were able to explore more of Tonga including renewing our acquaintance with a fisherman we had met 10 years earlier in our trip here.  Last time he had invited us to his humble home for a meal and this time he was equally hospitable bringing us bananas, taro and papayas.   We were able to assist him with enough fiberglass resin from our spare parts bin to rebuild a portion of his small fishing boat.   It was a special treat to have him on the boat and show him the video we had made with him as one of the stars. 

Vavau is well known for its whale population and we were not disappointed as we came with a few hundred feet of large humpbacks with new born calves on several occasions.  One night at anchor Dee was awoken just after midnight  by the sound of a whale spouting nearby.  She woke Rob who sleepily staggered  on deck to see what the commotion was, and just as he came topsides he was sprayed by a whale sounding about 10 feet from the boat.   

After several weeks in the Vavau group of Tonga we headed south to the more remote Hapaii islands.  The people here were rather shy and obviously had not seen as many foreigners but the kids as everywhere were very curious about us.  The islanders here had plenty of food growing on the trees but very little of anything else.  We emptied our cabinets to hand out extra tee shirts, shorts, books and magazines, toys and whatever else we thought they might be able to use.   From here it  was on to Fiji.

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