Day 349, Year 1: Passage to Tonga, Day 2—Looking Back
Date: Sunday, October 1, 2006
Weather: Overcast, Rainy Morning with Clearing in the Afternoon
Latitude: 15 degrees 28 minutes S
Longitude: 172 degrees 49 minutes W
Location: Passage from Apia, Samoa to Tonga, Day 2
Miles to Go: 209

Just about midnight, the official beginning of this day, the winds increased enough to allow us to sail. Since squalls and heavy wind gusts have plagued us all season, it is standard for us to have the mainsail double-reefed, with a full headsail. During the night the wind was from the northeast which is right behind us. It seems like it has been like this on every passage we have made, no matter what direction we are going. I’m beginning to think the wind gods check to see where we are going and decide to push us along. As night gave way to dawn, the sun tried very hard to shine through a totally overcast sky, but all it could do was produce a few streaks of hot pink for about five minutes just as the sun was rising above the horizon. After that, the sun has stayed hidden all day. We had rain all morning and in the early part of the afternoon. But as the afternoon progresses, the rain has subsided and we are starting to see some blue on the horizon in front of us. It appears that we have gone through the Convergence Zone south of Samoa and possibly the low that is hanging over Tonga is starting to move eastward. That would be nice, but we will just have to see. We heard the first radio weather report this morning admitting that we are in the beginning stages of a weak El Nino. All those of us out here cruising really know is that it has been a challenging weather year.

During night passage, I started reading James Michener’s Return to Paradise. It was written in 1950, only a few years after Michener had served in the military in the Pacific during World War II. It immediately became fascinating to me just how much some things have changed in the intervening 50 plus years. Papeete is no longer the romantic port he describes, and yet some things have not changed at all. Sitting in Tahiti and watching a golden sunrise over Moorea is as beautiful today as it was then. He speaks of American Samoa as a “jovial little island three or four generations behind the rest of Polynesia in cultural advancement.” This is certainly not the case today due to United States intervention in the 1960’s. Whether or not that was a good thing will be debated for years to come, but the point here is that the South Pacific is a very different place in 2006. It is still beautiful, still fascinating, but ever changing. We have seen so much that it is hard to digest it all. When people ask which island is the most beautiful or how the people are different from island to island, it is hard to answer. The Samoas certainly get the award for being the hottest, and in the end, I think they will also end up to be the most beautiful. They also still live Fa’a Samoa, the Samoan way, even while listening to hip-hop music and eating at McDonald’s. We loved Moorea and thought it’s beauty would be impossible to top. And before that, Fatu Hiva and Ua Pou in the Marquesas had won our hearts. Once we reach New Zealand and look back on the whole of the South Pacific, I think we will have a clearer view. But now we are studying a whole new culture, that of Tonga. And if we decide to go on to Fiji, we will add that to our repertoire of stops along the way of the voyage of Windbird.

So far this passage has been a calm one with moderate to no wind and calm seas. And still I find it challenging to maneuver in the cabin on two legs. How I ever made the rough passages from Raiatea to Rarotonga and then Rarotonga to American Samoa on one leg I will never know. Although I can now walk on both legs, my right leg near the break area tends to swell terribly. In fact, my whole foot swells, but when I put it up and ice it, the swelling does go down. I walk with a bit of a limp as I still do not have the full range of motion in the ankle area of the broken leg, but I think I just need to keep exercising and be patient. In Tonga, we should be anchoring in areas where I can just jump off the boat and swim and snorkel. We have not had that luxury since Bora Bora, so we look forward to that. I know that kind of exercise will be great for the leg.

We are keeping in regular radio contact with John and Janice on Splashes who are heading south with us and tonight at 5:30 we hope to check in with Doug and Sylvie on Windcastle. On this morning’s net, they reported that they would be leaving Apia today for Tonga. We should arrive in Neiafu in the Vava’u group on Tuesday morning and Windcastle should arrive on Wednesday morning. We also heard Sherri and Randy on Procyon on the net this morning. Evidently they are back from their trip home to the US and are sailing to Rarotonga. They should arrive there tomorrow morning. I’m not sure we’ll see them until we get to New Zealand, but it was great to hear their voices.