Apsara's Log: Tonga! pt 3
===================== Third of Three Tongan Logs ==========================
The Ha'apai Group
A dawn start from the Vava'u islands takes us on a 60 mile beat down to the
Ha'apai Islands of Tonga, the third and last group we visited. These are
great islands with wonderful beaches, few other boats, and our first look at
extensive soft corals. The islands are a bit like the Bahamas but more
tropical with coral, palm trees, whales, deeper water, and no one but a few
scattered local villages. Friends on "Pazzo" also swam several times with
humpbacks here but we never saw them any closer than a mile away.
Historically, few sailors have come this way because the reefs are not well
charted and there has been little information about good anchorages. Now a
new cruising guide provides some of the needed information - although, as
always, we navigated the reefs and anchorages primarily with our eyes. We
loved it here and enjoyed about ten days in a half dozen anchorages. These
islands make great isolated land-based vacations as well.
We had one troubling moment when as we hurried to our last anchorage in
dying wind and failing light, the engine, and the generator which we were
running for refrigeration, both stopped and suddenly we were slowly drifting
toward one of those poorly charted but clearly visible reefs. With the
water too deep to anchor, until we would be on the reef, and too little wind
to make much progress against the swell, we repeatedly tried to bleed and
restart the propulsion engine but no go. Finally, we determined that an air
leak in the generator fuel system was allowing air to get into the
propulsion system, mechanic Nancy figured out how to isolate the problem and
we were able to restart the propulsion system and nervously power into the
empty anchorage in a bight between reefs just as the sun set. (Had the
problem continued much longer and the reef gotten closer, this would have
been a good time to drop the sea anchor and try to hold position until the
wind came back.) We stayed at anchor several days troubling shooting and
finally determined that the cause of the air leak in the gen-set was a
faulty primary fuel filter housing which we rebuilt. The closest real
mechanic or parts were at least a 100 miles. Sure am glad that Nanc took
that three-day hands-on diesel course in New Jersey.
And that was Tonga. worth coming back to.
The Faithful Crew of Apsara
PS - this is two weeks old. After a week in Savusavu, Fiji getting
provisions, fuel, and special cruising permits for some remote islands, we
are now back in the Lau Group with one more whale story to tell.