Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
By Cheri Davidson
18-39 S, 178-59 W
Sunday September 8, 2013
After a rockin’ and rollin’ motor from Palmerston Atoll, we have arrived in Tonga!
The beautiful islands of the Kingdom of Tonga came into view for the crew of Picton Castle on Friday morning. After a rolly few days of motoring at sea, they were a welcome sight. Green and lush with foliage, coming straight up out of the sea.
The passage in to Vava’u and our port in the town of Neiafu took us past many islands and peninsulas and coves. As we got closer there were a few cargo ships, some small ferry boats taking people from town back to the small outer islands they call home, and many, many yachts. Even though there are so many boats around, people always watch us closely as we go past. We are the only tall ship in the harbour and have to get used to the attention. Lots of folks on the ferries and yachts stand up and wave at us going by, and we happily wave back.
We came alongside at the quarantine dock just after 1730h and tied up for the night. It was a little too late in the afternoon for us to clear in, so we’d have to be patient and wait until morning. We had a yummy dinner and played some music as we cleaned in the scullery and galley. With all hands on board for the night, it gave us plenty of people to share night watch. Everyone got one hour on deck and plenty of sleep!
Saturday morning came with a little drizzle and grey skies, but the sight of the Customs and Immigration officials perked us right up. We cleared in and that meant we could go out to anchor and get ready to go ashore! Port watch was stood down just after lunch and took the skiff into town.
Neiafu has all the things a sailor on shore could want: cold drinks, ice cream and cakes, internet cafes and laundry service! After getting the essentials sorted out, we are free to explore, swim, make new friends or just sit and take in our new surroundings. We all love the ship, but it’s also nice to put on clean clothes and get some time away as well.
Starboard watch is off today. We have been told that nothing nothing nothing happens in Tonga on a Sunday. So I’m sure our crew are enjoying a relaxing and simple day ashore. I’m sure to hear a story or two when they return to the ship later tonight. On board we are getting ship’s work done as usual. There are always things to do. We emptied the entire galley and sanded everything down, preparing to give it a nice fresh coat of paint. Ninja and Fiona painted topsides. We repaired and replaced some planks in the deck midships. These are the kinds of things we just can’t do when we are at sea. We’ll finish up these projects on board over the next few days and be ready to sail again!