Day 367, Year 1: Looks Like A Weather Window
Date: Friday, October 20, 2006
Weather: Windy and Partly Cloudy
Location: Port of Refuge, Neiafu, Vava’u Group, Tonga

Tonight we went into Tongan Bob’s Cantina for Mexican food with Sylvia and Doug from Windcastle. We knew there was going to be live music at 8:30 so we stayed to hear the group. They were amazing musicians. They played everything from Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Under the Dock of the Bay” to songs by the Beatles and the Grateful Dead. I asked a waitress from the US that I had met earlier in our stay here where these guys were form and she said that as far as she knows they are from here and have been playing in Vava’u for seven or eight years. We couldn’t figure out how a group from Tonga could learn to play this music so well, but as we left and they were playing, we tried to let them know how much we enjoyed the music. They responded with a, “Thank you, mate.” And that made us think that they might be Tongans who have lived in New Zealand. However they came here or however they learned to play the music they play, they are really, really good. When we are out here we always want to hear traditional music, but more often than not, what we hear is American popular music. That seems to be the world music of the Pacific.

After listening to the weather this morning and comparing what we heard to all of our grib files and other forecasts, we decided that next Tuesday or Wednesday might be the time to leave here and head for New Zealand. We might stop in Minerva Reef, which is about 400 miles southwest of here, if we need to get out of the weather. Or if things are still looking good when we get there, we will trudge on. We listened so others this morning that left here a couple of days ago and they are really finding the sail physically challenging and exhausting. But they close-hauled and are fighting 30 to 35 knot winds. We hope not to do that, especially in the first couple of days. We also have the option of stopping in southern Tonga if the weather doesn’t cooperate. We will try to avoid high winds, but we know that on this passage that might not be an option.

After listening to the weather, we decided to head to town to do the final provisioning. We saw Quantum Leap, Wind Pony, and Procyon and shared our plans. They had all decided to do the exact same thing based on the information they were gathering. Then Gdansk and Windcastle came along, and they too are leaving on Monday or Tuesday, so it looks like we have our window. That could change, however, so this decision is tentative-totally weather dependent. And we all know how dependable weather forecasts can be. The New Zealand Met Service has the worst weather forecasting record in the world, but that is because they are trying to forecast some of the worst weather in the world. We will take information from all of our sources and make the best decisions we can. Then we will just have to live with the weather thrown our way and do the best we can.

Despite the fact that one of the four or five cruise ships that stop here each here was in port today, we were able to do our final shopping. We plan to head out to an anchorage tomorrow morning and then come back here on Monday or Tuesday to check out and get fuel. We are going out to an anchorage to get in more bit of snorkeling before heading to New Zealand. The air temperature is cooler this week, but we will use our dive skins and be very comfortable. As the winds from the south have increased this week, we have had cooler and cooler weather. We actually wore “regular” clothes into town tonight and that made me very sad. We had on long sleeve shirts and long pants for the first time in a year. I guess we’ll have to add real shoes when we get to New Zealand, but I surely am not looking forward to that! It is spring time here and in New Zealand, so sometime in the next few weeks, it will start to warm up again. It was 72 degrees F in the cabin this morning and I was very cold. In the Samoas the cabin temperature was almost always in the 90’s, so a 20 degree drop is quite significant. I don’t even want to think about having to adjust to the temperature in New England when we fly home in December. We might just freeze to death!

061020 Day 367 Tonga, Vava'u–Last Trip into Neiafu (Bakery, PO, Trees)