September 2010-Page 2

We had Cari’s 6th birthday party in Apia. What a fantastic day, the highlight of which was going to the Papaseea Sliding Rocks. These are natural rock formations that you slide down into fresh water pools. The highest one is 5 metres (thankfully nobody slipped and hit their head!). In the evening we went to the Aggie Grey Hotels to see very energetic Samoan fire dancing. Cari ended up falling asleep before we left!

Some woodcarvers were working outside during the Festival so we were able to see them at work. The create some amazing pieces. Next to the woodcarving tent there was a tent where someone was lying down with a bunch of people surrounding them. We went over to have a look. It was a tattooing tent where a local man was receiving a traditional Samoan tattoo. This is (and looked) a very painful procedure where the tattoo artist uses a tool (used to be a sharpened shark tooth or boar tusk) and hammers it into the skin. The traditional tattoo covers the man’s body from the waist to the knees. While the women’s tattoo is only on the thighs. It is a long procedure and non-completion would cause shame to the person and his or her family. I couldn’t even watch this procedure. The people sitting on the floor were fanning the man and holding his hands.

Some last pictures of Samoa:

Too many rules at the Marina Enjoying a pitcher of Mojitos on the big boat Samoan Dancers

September 12, 2010 Apia, Samoa to Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga -- 186.3nm

On this passage we sailed across the international date line and so skipped forward a day. We missed the 13th of September! How strange.

Niuatoputapu at first was too much of a mouthful to say and many cruisers just call it New Potatoes for ease (especially when talking on the SSB)! However Niuatoputapu means Very Sacred Coconut and I’m sure the locals aren’t too impressed with our English choice of words.

Niuatoputapu is part of the Niuas group and is the most Northern group in Tonga. The Kingdom of Tonga was never colonised and is still run by the Royal Family currently King George Tupou V. The monarch has near absolute power appointing the Prime Minister and a 12 man cabinet for life. However changes are coming. The King has agreed to hold an election so the people can vote in a more representative parliament . Some locals we talked don’t think much will change but I guess only time will tell. The elections are happening next month.

Niutoputapu was really hard hit by the September 2009 tsunami, it was in the tsunamis direct line of fire. In fact the new houses are still being built by the Red Cross. If you look on the North side of the island you can see where it hit. There are no trees there, they were just all wiped out.

The islands only VHF radio is in a lady’s house near the anchorage which was donated by a cruiser. Sia and her family organize cruiser events like Tongan feasts, pot lucks and kava drinking ceremonies. The first day we arrived we went to a Tongan pig roast at Sia’s house. She wrapped many different meats in taro leaves with coconut milk such as canned corn beef, canned fish, and fresh fish. There were many root vegetables as well and of course the couple of pigs that were just running around the island the day before!

One day one of the cruisers organized a day for us to go and help build one of the Red Cross houses. Lots of cruisers went and were able to get one whole house up. The local whose house it was seemed very pleased.

Another day we borrowed a few of the local horses and went for a horseback ride around the island. The kids absolutely loved this so much that we went back the next week and did it again. Unfortunatley Ryan's horse got spooked by a local boy on a bike and he flipped Ryan off. Luckily thank God! Ryan was not hurt just badly scared. I was never such a proud mama as when we convinced him to get back on the horse and he did and rode it all the way back.

Even though the village is absolutely tiny, there is nothing here, not even a bank, but there are three churches to choose from. We chose the Tongan one. Sia showed us the way or we never would have found it, it was simply a rusted out shack – but the Tongans were using it as their church. We sat on the floor on mats and enjoyed the acapella singing. This is a picture of the church:

September 21, 2010 - Niuatoputapu to the Vava'u Group - 176.1 nm

This turned out to be one of our fastest passages ever, we averaged 7.3 knots.

We arrived in Neiafu just as the registration for the Regatta Vava'u was starting and we anchored right beside our friends on TyeeIII. Let the party start!

The next seven days was a blur of event after party after event. Cornhole tournament; Whangarei Marina Group free bbq aboard the ship Marnis; Pub Crawl; Endangered Encounters Kids' Day; Endangered Encounters Kis Parade; Whangarei marine’s Skippers’ Meeting; Whangarei Marine’s Friendly Island Yacht Race; Sunsail’s Vava’u Cup Skippers Meeting; Sunsail’s Vava’u Cup Race; Full Moon Party; Island Meet and Eat Potluck and Jam Session; Tridecagon-athlon; Humpback Whale Presentation; Chathams Pacific Airlines Prize Party. It was exhausting!!! One of our proudest moments was when Andrea won the cornhole champion for the kids game!. We raced Stray Kitty for the first time which was a lot of fun. We even came in third in the second race.

What a difference the Vava'u group was to it's northern neighbour. Basically all the waterfront stores and restaurants are run by ex-pats. There is a radio net every morning with "commericals" for the local businesses. There is even a Moorings base here for charterers. The Moorings has come up with it's own chart and has given numbers to all the anchorage. This is a great way to go and so much easier then trying to prounounce all the Tongan names. "We are in anchorage #6 then going to anchorage #11 - we will meet you in Anchorage #5 for happy hour!" - Very civilized.

There are many great, sheltered, calm anchorages. It is definatley a place one could hang out for a while.

Here are some pictures from Vava'u: