Monday, September 10, 2012

The Kingdom of Tonga

We are now checked into the Kingdom of Tonga – it is the sole remaining Polynesia kingdom – though in recent years it is undergoing democratic change. Tonga is comprised of more than 170 islands, spread over four island groups. We are in the Vavau Group in the port of Neiafu We arrived on Saturday morning and were required to stay aboard the boat until we cleared into customs, health, immigration and quarantine on Monday morning. We did so and were glad to have to stay aboard. It was a longer trip than we had anticipated thanks to either no wind or way too much wind. We are still fighting an engine problem so we chose not to motor at all and sail the entire way which did take a bit longer.

Upon arrival on Saturday morning, we made our way into the harbor by many beautiful rocks and islands. This harbor is way back and well protected. It is one of the few places they say you can actually sit out a cyclone. Not that we'll try! We were tired upon arrival but decided not to crash and kept going all day by tackling our dinghy repair project. The rubstrake had pulled off the dinghy and we needed to clean it up and re-glue it on. Because we needed to stay on board – it was a good excuse to get that done and let it set over the weekend. On Sunday with the dinghy completed, Michael tackled the engine project. We were still getting diesel fuel into the crank case – so that's not a good thing. He already replaced the lift pump that didn't seem to solve the problem entirely. With help from a fellow cruiser, Michael checked all the injectors and they were fine. So the mystery continued until he discovered the possibility that the diesel was coming in through the "diesel heater" for cold weather (something we don't really need). So Michael diconnected that line and capped it.

On Monday (today) morning, we left our repaired dinghy on the mooring and went to the customs dock for the formalities of clearing in to the country. We were visited aboard by four different officials – all very pleasant. After many, many forms and lots of stamps and signatures, we were done – or would be after a visit to the bank to get some Tongan money. The currency is a paanga and it currently is about .61 US cents to $1 paanga. The clearance fees (so far) were $100 paanga for health and $25.20 for quarantine. We will have to pay for a second thirty days on our Visa here and a departure based on the tonnage of the boat per month.

So today was the day to scope out the town, the markets, the local laundry options, telephone, internet etc, We had lunch where the locals eat (less than half the price of the cruiser restaurants) It was good to walk around and explore a new town. This is a popular spot with cruising boats and there are probably about 40-50 boats in the harbor right now.

We'll stay in town for a few more days until we are sure the engine is sorted out. After that we'll explore some of the islands in this group. We'll look forward to that...the snorkeling is supposed to be terrific and there are lots of whales here as well. First we'll complete our projects, then get out of town.

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