Day 348, Year 1: Passage to Tonga, Day 1—Happy Birthday to Heather
Date: Saturday, September 30, 2006
Weather: The Calm Before the Storm
Location: Passage from Apia, Samoa to Tonga, Day 1

Today is our daughter Heather’s birthday. She emailed that she would like to go sailing tomorrow, so we sure hope she gets her wish. She and Jed are completing a move to a new house, and I’m sure they are both exhausted. Heather, we hope the move is completed and we hope you had a wonderful birthday.

We left Apia at about 2 o’clock this afternoon and as the sun is getting ready to set, we are approaching the Apolima Strait between the islands of Upolu and Savai’i. We left with another boat, Splashes, also headed for Tonga. We had hoped that Windcastle would be leaving with us, but they are resting today and will follow tomorrow. We just had a radio conversation with John and Janice on Splashes and they are sailing. The wind is coming from the northeast and is right behind us. After struggling with a downwind sail with not much wind, we decided to motor-sail until we get through the strait. We will then head more to the south and hope that we can get on a tack where we can sail without the motor support. After seven weeks in the Samoas with only an overnight sail from American Samoa to Independent Samoa, it feels good to be underway again.

We are headed Vava’u in northern Tonga and how long we stay there will depend on just how much we like it. It is definitely a country in mourning and we have not heard how that is affecting visitors. First the Crown Prince and Princess were killed in an automobile accident in the United States and then just before Justin and Lynn arrived in Samoa, the King of Tonga died. Right now the entire country is in the middle of a month of mourning for the King. Our tourist information tells us that actually the country mourns for a full year. We have been asked to wear black when we go ashore. So this stop could be most interesting.

Last night when we went to Cruiser’s Night at the dock we found out from Doug on Windcastle that there was an earthquake between Tonga and Savai’i on Wednesday night. He knew because he and Sylvie were at Aggie Grey’s Fia Fia Night. During a particularly rambunctious Samoan slap dance, the floor started vibrating and the shell chandeliers were swaying. Since volcanoes are Doug’s expertise, he realized sooner than others that the vibrating and swaying were not caused by the dancing, but by an earthquake. As it turns out, the quake location was185 miles southwest of Pago Pago. It was a 6.7 on the scale, but was 27 miles below the surface of the sea. A tsunami was generated but the quake was too far away from land for the tsunami to cause a problem. There was a volcanic eruption in northern Tonga a couple of months ago and cruisers are still having to avoid the huge pumice field that is floating about between Tonga and Fiji. Add this to the strange weather we have been encountering, and it makes for an interesting cruising year in the South Pacific.

Mark and I went into town to do our final shopping this morning and spend the last of our Samoan talas. When we finished, we got into a cab and the song playing was Kokomo from the Cocktail CD. When I heard this, I knew it was time to move on!

The sun has set and darkness is moving in, along with a little rain. We learned this morning that there is a low sitting on top of Tonga that is causing cloudy and rainy weather. We expect a fair bit of rain on our trip south, but hope that the low will have moved on by the time we arrive. I understand that the water is crystal clear and that the snorkeling is fantastic in Tonga. We’ll just have to put up with a little rain between here and there. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get too stormy.

Day 349, Year 1: Passage to Tonga, Day 2—Looking Back
Day 347, Year 1: Getting Ready to Leave Apia