Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

The Pacific 2005

Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu, then down to Australia

Another New Zealand based rally, this time the Royal Sunset Rally to Tonga.  We then explored all four of the archipelagos of Tonga before heading up to Samoa, visiting Savaii by ferry.  Wallis followed then Fiji - Savu Savu and Suva, where we got Australian visas. Finally on to Port Vila, meeting friends from 2003 and onwards with the Port to Port Rally to Bundaberg.

Tauranga to Opua

In early April we prepare to leave Tauranga. We sell the car and say goodbye to friends.

Aiming to get to Opua by mid-April we day-sail up the coast, stopping at Slipper Island, Great Mercury, Great Barrier and Tutukaka.

Oddly, we took no photos!



Preparing to go offshore again after 18 months was great! We were to join the Royal Sunset Rally organised by the Island Cruising Association and there were some events and briefings to attend.

Usefully there is a floating dry-dock facility in Opua, enabling a scrub at a very reasonable price. We availed ourselves of this to get rid of the various growths that had attached themselves since we antifouled in Tauranga.

Royal Sunset Rally 2005

The trip up to Tonga is characterised by light winds. Having used quite a bit of fuel in the first few days we have to abandon our planned visit to Minerva Reef as we would be likely to be faced with light headwinds from there.

We have a banging noise on the hull under Richard's bunk for five days. We think we were dragging a piece of rope of other debris caught around the skeg. When we look later there is nothing there but a patch of antifouling has been worn off.

The rally destination is the Royal Sunset Resort on Atapi Island in Tongatapu, where special arrangements have been made to check in to Tonga.

After a few days of relaxation at the resort we head over to Nuku'alofa to complete formalities and get our permit for the rest of our route.



Time in Nuku'alofa is spent stocking up on supplies, water and fuel, as well as completing customs formalities.

There is a government reception for the rally participants in one of the local restaurants.

We take a tour of the island of Tongatapu, which has some fairly ancient ruins, caves, rock arches and blowholes on the south coast. The blowholes must be impressive on a really rough day.


A few days berthed stern-to in the harbour at Nuku'alofa is long enough and we take Sea Bunny over to the nearby island resort of Pangiamotu, which has a bar and restaurant and where most of rally boats spend some time before heading off. There is a wreck just off the beach giving some interesting snorkelling and for further exercise the walk round the island takes about half an hour.

We make an abortive attempt to go and anchor off one of the more remote islands. Visibility is not good so we decide trying to navigate in coral is not a good idea.

Pangiamotu to Kelefesia

Pangiamotu to Kelefesia

The shortest passage from the Tongatapu group to the Ha'api group is from the island of Malinoa to Kelefesia. This reduces the distance to about 40 miles and permits arrival in good light.

We therefore leave Pangiamotu and spend a night anchored in the lee of this uninhabited motu of Malinoa. The walk around tis island takes about 15 minutes and there is a shallow sandy lagoon fora nice warm swim. We are in company there with the American yacht Manu Kai, with Harley and Jennifer, who are on a very rapid circumnavigation.

We leave early in the morning. Despite this we are behind Catenza, which has left from Pangiamotu.



By the time we arrive off Kelefesia Catenza is well in. We call them up for advice about running the gauntlet of the "blind rollers" flanking the passage on either side. In fact it is not really a problem, but one certainly wouldn't want to get amongst them. (Blind rollers are large breaking seas forming over certain seabed features in an otherwise apparently calm sea.)

We find a good slot to anchor close to Catenza and take the dinghy ashore together with Sheila. On the beach we are welcomed by two locals from the nearby island of Mango, who are spending a few days on the island to tend the plantations. As it is Sunday they are dressed in best clothes and not working. They promise us some fruit tomorrow.

Octopus and fruit

Octopus and fruit

The next morning our friends from the island are alongside early in their dugouts. They offer us freshly caught octopus, which we accept although only Richard really likes it. By the time it has been prepared and cooked the boat smells very fishy which makes Susan feel sick and even less keen than usual.

When we go ashore for a walk we are presented with a large baskets of fruit, one for each boat. We try to walk round the island, but the cliffs go straight into the sea in several places.

The fridge breaks down but we are not running back to Nuku'alofa - we are staying in the Ha'apai islands

A worrying night

The wind shifts round to just S of SE and blows 20-25 knots, which means it is coming into the anchorage round the SE corner. While the anchorage is still protected by the reef Sea Bunny is sailing round the anchor and is rather close to Catenza, which is herself rather close to the reef on the other side.

Sea Bunny spends most of her time veering around an attitude that is beam on to the wind. Richard is in the cockpit most of the night. At one point he starts the engine to try to change this odd position, only to end up with the other beam to the wind. A most strange phenomenum!

We leave the next morning. The blind rollers are even more impressive, occasionally appearing to come very close to the passage out from the reef entrance. Catenza goes first with us following some 15 minutes behind.

Nomuka Iki

Nomuka Iki

The next destination is Nomuka Iki island. The anchorage on the west side is quite exposed to the southerly wind that is now blowing. We head for the lagoon on the east side, which is well protected from the south and east by a reef and a large expanse of shallow water and from the west by the island. Many other boats are already here, several from the rally.

There are walks on the island, and a wreck on the shore.



It is about threequarters of a mile from the Nomuka Iki anchorage across the strait to the larger, inhabited, island of Nomuka. Together with David and Sheila we take two RIBs over and explore on foot.

We collect the usual entourage of children eager to practice their english and be photographed.

The supply boat arrives while we are there and supplies are loaded for Nuku'Alofa, including live turtles.


From Nomuka Iki Catenza and Sea Bunny head out to the main barrier reef and the motu of Limu, another uninhabited islet. The anchorage is some distance out from the island, with a few coral heads scattered around.

It is a pleasant walk around the island and excellent snorkelling on a large coral head. Susan starts her Tongan shell collection.

Unfortunately when the wind swings round towards the south the anchorage becomes more exposed and uncomfortable and once again it is time to leave. We can see several other yachts anchored a couple of miles to the north. We know from VHF traffic that they are mostly from the rally. At present their bit of reef is giving them good shelter, but this would change in a few days.



From the chart and pilot books it looks as if the island of Oua affords good protection from the unsettled weather that is being forecast. The anchorage is completely surrounded reefs, with an inner reef giving improved protection from the east.

On arriving we find a few boats already there, leaving space at a bit of a premium. We find what seems to be a good spot.

On going ashore to explore we are greeted at the villlage gate by two elders from the Mormon church. Further on we pass the school where the joint principal (a Peace Corps volunteer) organises children to show us around, together with David and Sheila from Catenza and Bjorn and Barb from the Canadian boat Freya.

The children take us around the village, through the plantation and to the much decorated graveyard. The graves are apparently decorated not only at the time of the funeral but also at birthdays and festivals.

Haafeva - West side

Haafeva - West side

As the wind strengthens it becomes apparent thet the sheltered anchorage off Oua may not be such a good idea. It is a fairly small area, surrounded by very hard reefs on all sides, not leaving much swinging room. It would also be very difficult to leave if it became untenable.

With some westerly weather forecast on Buoyweather a few days off we move again. This time to the island of Haafeva, which has shelter on both sides. Initially, as the wind is still from the east, we join other yachts anchored on the west side.

Some entrepreneurial villagers offer to sell produce from their plantations, an offer we gratefully accept. The village is on the east side of the island but there is a road from the jetty on the west. We can actually choose our fruit from the tree. The village also has a small store, with somewhat variable opening hours.

Haafeva East side

Haafeva East side

The weather deteriorates and swings through north towards west. The change is accompanied by heavy rain and squalls. The fleet decides it is time to move. Manu Kai heads off first and gets hit by one of the squalls before anchoring safely on the east side. The rest of us, thinking we have missed the squall, leave a bit later but are proved wrong as we also get hit by 45 knot winds and very limited visibility in torrential rain. Fortunately we have sea-room to sit it out and all are soon anchored in the shelter of the island.

The westerly gale does not fully materialise until the next night. We are all anchored on a fairly narrow shelf with deeper water to leeward. Catenza drags her anchor during the night and apparently misses us by a couple of feet before catching her anchor on a bommie in 35 metres, which holds her for the rest of the night. Fortunately they are able to retrieve the anchor OK in the morning, as diving for it in this depth was not particularly attractive.

Several of the other boats from the rally that were in the Ha'Apai group at the time sit out the gale inside the eastern reef, a lee shore with significant fetch. They had a pretty uncomfortable night, as did the boats in the boat harbour at Pangai, where they had to lay second anchors during the night to hold them off the wall. We were in the best place!

For some reason Susan is fascinated by the pigs that are everywhere on the islands and is taking numerous photographs!

Farewell to the Ha'Apai Group

As the unsettled weather looks as if it will continue we take the opportunity of a weather window to head north to the Vava'au group, an overnight trip. This group has the advantage of anchorages offering protection from all directions.

Initially we head for Neiafu to check in.


In all we spend two months in the Vava'au group. We moved around, choosing anchorages according to the wind direction and strength, returning periodically to Neiafu for supplies and to get rid of the non-biodegradable rubbish. As rubbish disposal is difficult for the locals yachts are encouraged to throw any food waste into the sea. This does not seem to create a particular problem on the beaches, even in the busiest anchorages.

As we returned to many of the anchorages several times, the following are not necessarily in chronological order.

There is a Moorings charter boat fleet based in Neiafu. Anchorages are generally known by the numbers assigned to them in the charter company's guide.


As the main town, Neiafu is the commercial centre. Indeed there are few shops elsewhere. The produce market has much improved since our last visit in 2002, but other enterprises, including our favourite restaurant, are no more.

Tapatua Island (#11)

Tapatua Island (#11)

This is a very sheltered anchorage where there is a gift shop run by an American lady on a houseboat. The villagers in the next bay produce a "traditional" feast for tourists. Getting back into the dinghies at low tide and in the dark after the feast is a bit of a challenge, but we are assisted by the locals.

Kenutu (#30)

Kenutu (#30)

Kenutu used to have a small resort and restaurant but this has been abandoned, leaving little trace where it has been reclaimed by the undergrowth.

The island is on the outer reef, so the western side is well sheltered while the full force of the ocean breaks on the eastern side. It is one of a string of islands, between which it is possible to walk at low water. Snorkelling is, however, not particularly good, despite statements to the contrary in the pilot books. Shell collecting is quite rewarding.

Ofu (#28)

The island of Ofu, just to the west of Kenutu, is inhabited and is reputed to be excellent for beachcoaming for shells. It appears that many have read this and been before, but Susan makes some good additions to her developing collection, with the help of some of the local children.

The pilot book recommends anchoring off the red roofed church, which is conspicuous. It is quite difficult here to find a sandy patch between the coral to anchor, but we achieve it. For an inhabited island the coral is quite good for snorkelling.

Fonoua Fo'ou

Fonoua Fo'ou

Getting to the island from Kenutu was interesting as the route is across one of the passes through the outer reef, with strong currents, exposure to the ocean swell and uncharted patches where the depth suddenly and unnervingly comes up to about 7 metres.

This is one of the outer motus on the barrier reef. We visited and went ashore but another large yacht was in the best position, leaving little room for us. As the weather was fairly unsettled we decided it was prudent to seek a more sheltered anchorage.

Vaka'Eitu (#16)

Vaka'Eitu (#16)

The anchorage, which we returned to several times, is fairly sheltered except from the northeast. It is close to the "coral gardens" snorkelling site which has, unfortunately, been severely damaged by recent cyclones.

There is, however, reasonable diving and snorkelling on the reef extending from the small island in the entrance.

There are walks on the island itself, one of which crosses to a pleasant beach. Another leads to the Popao Island Resort, which we found has closed down. It is being redeveloped, but this looks like a long term project.

Ovalau (#40)

Ovalau (#40)

Ovalau gives another sheltered anchorage in easterly sector winds. There is a large expanse of very shallow water to the south which helps protect it from this direction and the island of Ovaka to the west also gives some protection. The anchorage is quite deep, about 20 metres, quite close to the beach. It is another island which can be walked around at low tide, the sandy beach at the southern end providing good dinghy access.

There is a very large coral head in the south of the anchorage, providing good snorkelling.

Again this is an anchorage we returned to several times.

King's birthday, Neiafu

The King of Tonga's birthday falls on 4 July, convenient for Americans. The Mermaid bar was the centre of most activities for the yachting fraternity.

The high spot of the day was the yacht race in the harbour. We take part on Catenza which astonishes the Moorings team by outpointing them on the upwind leg and winning easily. The finish was to get a member of the crew to the bar at the Mermaid, so Richard volunteered to jump overboard and swim, so that the boat could pass at speed. He nearly blows it by swimming for the wrong jetty!

In the evening there is a charity auction. We bid for a night in the Mounu Island Resort, one of the better ones, which we get for less than cost as no-one else bids. It was perhaps unfortunate, from the point of view of collecting money, that the auction did not start until after the owners and guests from the superyachts that were in harbour had left.

Port Mourelle (#11)

One of the most popular anchorages, Port Mourelle has room for 20 or more yachts and is sheltered from all directions except west. It gets very crowded in strong conditions from the east.

It is a good base for snorkelling around A'Ai island, which is steep-to with a good drop-off. Also for visiting Swallows Cave or for walks on Kapa Island.

Taunga (#21)

Taunga (#21)

THe anchorage south of Taunga Island gives access to the sand bar linking Taunga to Ngau, which is another pleasant walk.

We feel our way into the reported pool in the reef, but fail to find a comfortable spot and withdraw. This is the site for Richard' birthday lunch.

After lunch we retire to the anchorage to the east of Taunga, where we get the anchor to hold at the third attempt.

Maninita (#31)

Maninita (#31)

Maninita is a motu on the barrier reef in the far south of the group. The lagoon has a dog-leg entrance, somewhat difficult to see until very close. Once inside there is a small anchorage (one or two boats), surrounded on all sides by reef.

As a wind shift is likely we set two anchors to restrict our swinging circle.

The island is quite open. People have been setting traps for rats.

There is good snorkelling in the lagoon.

We are visited by inquisitive cuttlefish and a small turtle.

At dusk a yacht calls us up to enquire about the anchorage. We advise about the nature of the entrance and that it is safer with good light. They attempt the entrance anyway but come to a sudden stop as they hit the reef. We offer to go out in the dinghy to guide them in but they decide to proceed to Lautefito, the next island upon the reef.

The next day a Moorings yacht attempts the entrance. They too appear to bounce on the reef but proceed and anchor in the entrance channel. We go over to see if they want to be guided in, but they are happy where they are for their day visit. The charter boats are not allowed to stay here overnight and must always leave someone on board.

A week or so before our visit one of the Moorings boats stuck fast on the reef here and had to be pulled off.

Mala (#6)

Mala (#6)

Mala Island has a recently fairly developed resort, with a good restaurant and bar overlooking the anchorage. They do an excellent rum punch which, if bought during happy hour, is quite good value especially if poured by the American manager rather than the barman.

We meet up with the American yacht Indigo here and resolve a number of computer issues which have been bugging us for some time. They are very keen on fishing and deliberately seek out chart markings of volcanic action for the good fishing often found there.

Swallows Cave

Swallows Cave

Accessed by dinghy from Port Mourelle, Swallows cave is a large sea cave, very deep and full of small fish (and probably large ones like sharks, although we didn't see any). It is a very popular snorkelling location and numerous tourist boats visit.

At the back of the main cave a scramble up a rocky slope leads to a further cave, dry this time, with an opening to the sky. Apparently feasts used to be held in here.

The swallows of the name are actually swiftlets.

Mounu (#41)

Mounu (#41)

We pick up one of Mounu's moorings for the night in the resort we bought in the King's birthday auction. The resort is very well organised, with much care taken to protect the environment. The meals are very good and our stay is very enjoyable and a good break.

The owner advises us on the best snorkelling locations in the vicinity and gave Susan a copy of "A Guide to the Birds of Fiji and Western Polynesia", on which he had collaborated.

A couple of weeks later we return for a meal. It is the owner's 60th birthday and the resort will then be closed for a week for a gathering of family from around the world.

Hunga (#13)

Hunga (#13)

Hunga has a totally enclosed lagoon with one narrow entrance passable by yachts. There is a resort where several boats meet up for a meal ashore. Very good, but on leaving we find most of the carcass of the marlin we have been eating thrown away on the beach.

There is good snorkelling close to the entrance, best done on the rising tide close to high tide, so that the flow is into the lagoon.

It is possible to take the dinghy through from Hunga into the Blue Lagoon. We try this but are not impressed by the snorkelling here. This is possibly because it was exposed to a stiff breeze and rather choppy.

Whale watching and Mariner's Cave

Whale watching and Mariner's Cave

July and August is the time humpback whales visit Vava'au. We see them at a distance on several occasions.

One day we go out on Catenza specifically to watch them. We are fortunate to find a couple, together with a calf, which stay with us for an hour or so. Shelia's son Nathan swims with them.

When they move away we go to Mariner's Cave. The entrance is about a metre under water and about three metres long. Beyond this is a large totally enclosed cave. The change of pressure as each wave passes outside causes a mist to form and clear in the 100% humidity.

Susan is determined to do the long duck dive at the entrance. She has been practicing for days. When push comes to shove Sheila's son Nathan gives her a weight belt tow.

Vava'au to Niuatoputapu

Vava'au to Niuatoputapu

We stayed somewhat longer in Vava'a in the hope that the first ever public servant's strike would finish and we would get the mail and courier package we were waiting for. Fortunately the spare control board we needed to fix the fridge arrived before the strike. The delayed courier package contained a controller for the wind generator which had blown in the gale in the Ha'apais

Eventually cut our losses and sailed north to the remote Niua Group and the island of Niuatoputapu.

This is a 160 mile passage, so an early start leads to an afternoon arrival.

The entrance to the lagoon is the best marked of any in Tonga and better than most in the other islands. It is even lit at night. The anchorage is large and well-sheltered with ample room for the 10 or so boats there.

Niuatoputapu welcome

Our first contact with the locals was not terribly encouraging. We had been advised in Vava'au that the supply boat had not visited for several months and that supplies of a lot of things were in short supply. In particular we had been asked to take petrol for the fishermen's outboards and spare diesel for the island generator.

On our arrival one official wants to control everything we have brought up, even though it is not being imported into Tonga. She loses interest somewhat when we tell her that, as the petrol is intended for outboards, we have brought 2-stroke premix, which would not be suitable for her car. She does take and reimburse us for the diesel for the generator.

She also advises us that we are not allowed to invite islanders onto our boat. We later learn that there is a local feud going on between her and a couple who lay on feasts and visits to the adjacent island of Tafahi for the visitors.

She is pleasant enough but we and other boat owners cannot help feeling that she is exceeding her authority. We later find that she needs petrol to get from heroffice at the main settlement at one end of the island to the anchorage at the other in order to clear yachts in and out.

Apart from this we are made very welcome.



We are taken over to the volcanic island of Tafahi in a local longboat. Access through the fringing reef is interesting - very narrow with breaking seas on either side. A group of islanders are on hand to pull the boat up the beach. It's calmer when we leave but the channel is very shallow at low water.

We get a tour of the island, guided by the schoolteacher and her friend. The village is built on volcanic scoria - it's like walking on clinker. There are obviously fertile areas further up the mountain, as the island provides fruit and vegetables for Niuatoputapu.

We spend time on the schoolroom floor, playing Yahtze,

Another feast

A feast is organised on one of the motus for the cruising fraternity. Very good, with seafood, crayfish, pig and the usual carbohydrate dishes.

Niuatoputapu to Samoa

Niuatoputapu to Samoa

It is another160 mile passage from Niuatoputapu to Apia in Samoa.

Having crossed back across the International Date Line we have a second go at today.

Before dawn Susan gets the first sighting of Samoa, the lighthouse on Apollima Island and then as the sunrises she can see the four main islands.

The wind dies a bit as we approach and R shakes the reefs out of the main but as we harden up to pass along the northern coast of Upoli Island, heading for Apia, the trip becomes a hard motorsail into 20-25 knots of winds and a moderate sea, which frequently stops the boat.

It takes about 6 hours to cover the last 25 miles or so to Apia.

We enter Apia harbour and berth alongside the main wharf to clear in. We clear with harbour control, customs and quarantine but have to visit immigration in town the next day. No-one visits the boat.

Back on the boat we cast off from the wharf and find an anchoring spot quite close to the shore but not too close to the reef, but several ranks out from the dinghy dock.

Racing canoes practising for the forthcoming festival provide entertainment until dusk, and then we have a light supper, dominoes and an early night.

Villa Vailima

Villa Vailima

With Pat and Penny from Pendulum , we take a taxi up to Robert Loius Stevenson's house and museum at Vailima, some 3 ½ km up the cross-island road. The guided tour is interesting. The house has been restored with funds from an American who has made his fortune (no 300 in the world) selling aloe vera products. There is some original furniture but much of it is reproduction but well done. In the adjacent museum there was an excellent photo display 1930-50's. Hidden within the display was a photo of Margaret Mead of “The |Coming of Age in Samoa” fame. After the tour we take the steep route up Mount Vaea to the graves of Robert and Fanny Stevenson. Susan stops two third's of the way up as her foot is hurting - it is quite a climb in the heat but a good view from the top.

We walk back to town and have lunch in the fish restaurant along from the dinghy dock.

To cool off, it is really high humidity and the harbour is too dirty to swim in,we go with Pat and Penny, to the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, close to the port entrance. It is quite a long swim out to the deep hole. Susan spends this time at the clam cages where there are huge open ones with their breathing and food catching tubes exposed. Out at the hole there is surprising good coral and moderate visibility. Some medium sized reef fish too.

Bahaa'i temple

Bahaa'i temple

We take a taxi with Penny from Pendulum up to the Bahaa'i temple, 8 k up the cross-island road for the Sunday service. It consists of readings from the scriptures of the major religions. Very peaceful. There is tea afterwards and then free local buses down into town.

A local man of German descent, Francis Woolf, invites us, together with Frances and Ann from Melric II NZ to his home for lunch. His wife has left but several of his grown-up children live with him or visit (it's not very clear). His daughter Mary, a schoolteacher, has prepared lunch, mutton flaps, vegetables and taro. This traditional, very fatty food we eat with Francis while the rest of the family wait. We are invited to his birthday in a week's time. The daughter's husband is the drummer on the green canoe that we think will win the races.

Ferry to Savaii

The bus trip to the ferry terminal at the west end of Upolu takes just over half an hour, leaving a wait of just over an hour before boarding. We get on board reasonably early and find a seat on deck on the lifejacket boxes. There is not a lot of space for foot passengers - some of them are seated in shipping containers on the vehicle deck!

The trip across the Apolima Strait to Savaii takes one and a half hours. On arrival foot passengers disembark over the vehicle deck at the same time as cars and trucks are being off loaded. Someone on the steps below us prudently waits until there is a reasonable gap between the lorries. This, however, means that by the time we get to the bus stands all but one have pulled out. From the bus stop it is a short walk up a side road to the hotel, where the staff seem to be expecting us. The Safua hotel is owned and run by Moelagi Jackson, a university educated talking chief, the most apt description is “like a one woman circus”

The room is basic, but OK, with en-suite toilet and cold shower. Windows have screens so can be left open.

At dinner we meet the tour guide, Warren Jopling,a retired geologist from Australia, who is not expecting us but is free for the next couple of days and agrees to take us out tomorrow.

Savaai north side

Savaai north side

At breakfast Warren discusses where we would like to go today and we decide on a trip up the north side of the island. Before setting off he gives us an outline of the volcanic nature of the islands and their origin. Our basic knowledge of plate tectonics from reading The Earth (thank you Catharine) helps in following this.

After a few short stops to view from a distance the very insignificant looking cone of Mount Matavanu we reach the lava fields formed during the eruption of 1905-1911. These extend over about 50 km2 and to an average depth of 10 m. We walk about 1 km over the lava to the coast with Warren pointing out the different features of the lava which flowed over the coastal plain and filled in the lagoon.

In some places there are the imprints of coconut palms which have been burnt up with setting lava around them. Some were totally enclosed but have been broken up by souvenir hunters.

There are good examples of the different states of the lava as it sets, depending on its viscosity. As we approach the shore it is more broken where it has fractured by contact with water when still hot. There are also huge rocks which have been lifted onto the tops of the cliffs by wave action during cyclones, particularly those in 1990 and 1991.

Next stop is to a village that was engulfed by lava flow. At the LMS church the flow entered by the front door and filled the church to a depth of 1-2 m. Imprints of the corrugated iron roof are preserved in the surface of the lava where it fell.

Outside there is the remains of the "Virgin's Grave". Legend has it that the girl buried there was so pure that the lava flow separated and missed her grave. More likely is that a void formed in the lava and collapsed.

Savaai south coast

Savaai south coast

Every small village has a church or two and appears to be is in competition with the next village regarding the building's state of repair and the relative opulenceof the pastor's house. Never before have the trapping of Christianity appeared so visible and this part we are told is part of the Samoan culture. The village people appear to have no money left to pay for basic education etc after they have given to the church.

We go down a plantation road and across a ford to the access point for the Pulemelei Mound.

The mound is a large structure in the middle of the rainforest and is apparently the largest such construction in Polynesia, being 61 m by 50 m at the base and some 12 m high. The reason for its construction is not clear, but it is about 800 years old, built during the Tongan occupation of Samoa. There have been archaeological digs here including Thor Heyerdahl's group (after his death in 2002), but funds are limited. There is another smaller mound close by and the remains of a huge umu, which the archaeologists believe was only used once. The site can become overgrown with American vine within two weeks. A small custom fee to the land owner ensures the at least the basic structure is kept clear.

Much later, on reading Gavin Maxwell's book "1421" we think that the mound may be one of the observatories the Chinese reportedly built to assist in determining longitude.

Further along the coast we go to a point where the largest river in Savaii flows over a lava bed to the sea, creating a waterfall direct into the ocean.

A bit further along there are some impressive blowholes at Alofaaga. There is a moderate swell so they are working quite well. The local party trick is to throw coconut husks into the hole at the right moment and watch them ejected to a great height with the spray.

Mount Tafua crater

Mount Tafua crater

After a short walk through the rainforest we reach the edge of the crater, where we sight a rare large Samoan flying fox. We continue walking round the crater rim to the highest point where there is an impressive view over the forest to the coast. We wait some time and are rewarded by a couple more sightings of flying foxes. Viewing one from above as it flies around the forest in the crater is quite impressive.

The ferry back to Upolu is quite crowded and we end up sitting on our bags up the upper deck - rather safer than where some people choose to sit among the unsecured trucks on the vehicle deck. There is certainly no rule that the vehicles must be left during the voyage.

Church choir competition

Church choir competition

As a precursor to the Tuila Festival there is a church choir competition. This is preceded by a concert by the UPS orchestra and choir from Fiji. The competition goes on for three hours with each choir singing the same hymn. At the end when all the participants, over1,000 persons, get up the front there is only a small audience left!

Teuila festival

Teuila festival

The Teuila Festival comprises a week of fiafia (singing and dancing) competitions, kirikiti (cricket of sorts) matches, handicraft markets and the crowning of Miss Teuila at the end of the week. It is supposed to be for tourists but is very much a local event.

All the `timings of the fiafia events were in the early evening so allowing attendance after work.

The first evening the Tuila parade is viewed from in front of the STA fale with Ken and Jean. We then move in front of the government buildings where we a re befriended by a Samoan lady, Melissia, who finds us front row seats on the kerb for the gathering of the marchers, the speeches, lowering of the flag and presentation of the “Miss Tuila” contestants. It is good to see large crowds of happy smiling people enjoying themselves, with the police just telling them where to sit. Melissia explains that the parade was of the 62 village kirikiti teams. Each team, wearing lava lava, singing, smiling and proudly waving banners. Melissa finds us a front row position for the school dance presentations and afterwards we share a taxi with her and her two granddaughters to the Te Vaka concert in the Apia Park stadium.

Upolu island tour

Upolu island tour

We are up at 0600 and waiting the game-fishing club for the Green Turtle tour bus by 0725. By 0815 we are just about to give up and return to the boat when we spot the bus coming.

From an organisational point of view the tour is rather disappointing. The commentary by the driver is limited and inaudible to all but those in the front. Eventually one of the passengers takes to relaying it. We do not visit several of the places on the brochure itinerary (apparently it is an old version). Lunch is poor value and we are 50 minutes late getting back.

There were, however, some views, reasonably impressive waterfalls and an idea of how the villages are laid out. Although the majority of the population live in open fales (oval concrete platforms with a thatched roof supported by wooden posts) the lawns are manicured, and the bushes and hedges well trimmed. Garden strimmers are well used. Much of the roads in villages are lined with flowers, almost like a private driveway.

Floorshow - Aggie Grey's

On return Susan gets out at Aggie Grey's Hotel to reserve good seats for the evening show. This hotel is "the best known in the South Pacific" as Aggie started selling hamburgers to US troops during the war and is now a substantial business with her daughter-in-law as front of house. Richard puts the snorkelling gear into the dinghy and walks up to join her. It is as well to be there early as it is quite full. We have seats in the second row. It is a good show, very tourist orientated, lots of colour and a variety of dances. Unfortunately, there is no fire-dance as someone has forgotten to get the gas! Island time.

Canoe races

Canoe races

On the morning of the races it's another early start, this time to move the boat out of the way of the races. A police boat comes by asking if we are going on the wharf, or anchoring. They tell us where we can anchor to be clear, so we decide to do this and are re-anchored by 0725. We decide to mark the occasion by dressing the boat overall. During the morning colourful flag displays appear on other boats.

The racing starts with the longboats. We see them as they come round the point. A red one is well out in front. Our favourite, from the technical college, is the only one with a lady cox. It comes in a close third. After the longboats there are races for one- and two-man outriggers. At about 1230 the port captain announces on the VHF that we can go back to our anchoring locations.

Photo: Longboat race

Tuila Closing parade

Tuila Closing parade

The police band marches along the waterfront to the flagpole every morning, except Sundays, at 0745. On the last day of the Tuila festival it leads the parade of floats

Checking out

Richard takes a taxi to fill the diesel cans at the garage, while Susan starts getting the boat ready to leave.

After delivering the diesel, Richard starts the check-out procedure. Port dues are WST129 (US$ 50). In town immigration is cleared, e-mails checked, a card for grandson Josh's birthday posted and fruit and veg purchased at the market. This runs cash down to WST 20. At Customs, back by the wharf, they want a clearance fee of WST 33 that no-one had told us about! Another trip to the ATM in town is required to resolve this.

After clearing customs it's back to the port captain, who only wants to make sure that we have a clearance with a seal.

After a bit more boat preparation we take the rubbish ashore before the quarantine department closes and then go over the road to spend the last of our tala - we end up with 10 sene - a last tala was spent on two chocolates at 50 ¢ each.

All shore-based activities completed, we stow the RIB and outboard.

There is more heavy rain overnight and the morning is cloudy and squally. We are under a convergence zone. We get Buoyweather information, GRIBS and the satellite picture, as a result of which we decide not to go today. Being all stowed for sea and having no money left without going to the ATM we stay on board.

Apia to Wallis

The next day the weather looks much better, so we are off at about 0800. On pulling up the anchor and chain we realise that the acid in the harbour water has taken most of the galvanising off the chain - strong water! The mainsail is hoisted in the shelter of the harbour and then we motor out. Unfortunately a fault with the cockpit instruments means we have no depth information visible on deck, nor can we turn the instrument lights on.

Once clear we are motorsailing on a broad reach to clear the reefs to the NW of Apia and using the watermaker to top up the water tanks. By 1000 there is enough wind to sail. The course is still a broad reef until we are off the north of Savaii. Renaissance 2000 is visible ahead of us and a motor launch, possibly Sea Jac, passes us.

The wind dies about 1330, so the motor and watermaker come back on. It's a bit rolly as well as hot and sticky. At 1600 we are off Matautu in Savaii and set our due westerly course for Wallis. Renaissance calls us to wish us a good trip. They will follow in about a week.

At about 2000 Sea Jac also calls, they are heading for Savu Savu to collect their daughter before going back to NZ.


Overnight there is a bit of lightning off to the south of us, but nothing comes our way. The day is fine and sunny, quite hot with fitful wind so there is some sailing and quite a bit of motoring. By 1900 the water tanks are full and the watermaker flushed.

At 1430 next afternoon we are off the pass in Wallis, which is fairly obvious once on the recommended track. The leading marks, especially the back one, are not very clear but the shallows are clearly visible and there are channel markers on the edge of the reef. There seems to be a bit of outflow and some eddies but nothing to concern us.

Once in the lagoon we drop the sail and continue under motor the 6 miles up well marked channels to Matautu, where we anchor to the north of the wharf at 1645.

The rest of today doesn't exist as we reset the clocks to local time, having crossed the date line and gone ahead 23 hours.

First ashore in Wallis

Having reset our clocks after anchoring at Matautu it is about 1600. We get the dinghy into the water in double-quick time and go ashore, half expecting everything to be closed. We tie up to the wharf, as it seems to be very shallow in towards the shore and we are not sure if there is anywhere to land anyway.

The administrative offices are indeed closed. The alimentation générale by the wharf is, however, open so Susan can have an ice cream.

Check-in to Wallis

Check-in to Wallis

We go first to the administration offices but are redirected to the gendarmerie where a gendarme stamps our passports.

Around the corner there are several groups of shops. Susan goes to one of the supermarkets while Richard goes off to find the bank. Unfortunately the commercial centre shown on the map as containing the bank is all closed up. A brief exploration of the other centres does not reveal it either. Back in the supermarket we ask and are directed up the road opposite, about 5 minutes on foot. Richard sets off again on the bank hunt. After walking about 15 minutes down the designated road and not finding it he decides that the lady giving directions must have meant the other road at the crossroads, so he returns and goes 15 minutes down that road too, again without success. He returns to Susan and we again ask directions, this time from a Frenchman, who gives us directions to a mall down the first road. We both set off again and get to sort of compound which contains government offices, which Richard had passed earlier and which contains the public treasury. We ask again outside and our informant says it is further up the road, but will be closed by now. However, he takes us into the treasury where we get varying directions by reference to the map. Our guide drives us to the mall, which is just beyond the point at which Richard turned back. Our guide takes us in to the bank, which is, in fact, still open. In there, when Richard produces a Mastercard and passport and asks for CFP 30000 they point out that there is an ATM round the corner and give our “guide” stick for not taking us there. Both he and Richard protest that we had actually asked for the bank!

Outside the bank we successfully obtain CFP 35000 from the ATM - it won't accept a Cirrus card but accepts the Mastercard.

On the sea front there is the king's palace - like an Australian ranch house - and the cathedral.

Gahi anchorage

Gahi anchorage

After lunch on board we move the boat to Gahi, where there are two other yachts at anchor in an area behind a curve in the reef. Without a depth display in the cockpit anchoring is rather more fraught than usual but is achieved without incident.


In the morning we go ashore to explore locally. A Frenchman sitting on his dinghy tells us there is nothing in the village, shops being at Matautu. There is what looks like a small shop attached to a house by the slipway, but it is shut. We walk along the road by the shore until it becomes a driveway to the last house, then return, asking some ladies whether we can buy some fruit. We get some bananas.

There is an interesting open church, well maintained, with lots of flowers, some in vases, some in milk tins.

As we return to Sea Bunny the Dutch couple from Aquila come alongside and offer us some guava. They come aboard for a drink and give us some information about the place. They have been fortunate in being offered a tour of the island by some people they met on arrival, but have also been hitch-hiking. They say bread is available in the shop ashore early in the morning and possibly in the afternoon

Ashore again we ask some men at the house by the shop whether it is open and are given to understand that it is permanently closed. We also ask about hiring a car to be told that this is possible in Hihifo, at the north of the island. We explore up the hill again, walking up to the junction with the main round-island road and then towards Matautu. We find a shop, which does have some bread and also ice-cream. Opposite there is a road down to a very neat small hamlet with a church on the shore and youths playing volleyball.


We decide to take the boat out to Faioa, the large motu at the SE of the lagoon. At about 1030 we get the anchor up and head off. As we leave we see Melric II coming in. Susan talks to them on the VHF.

At the motu we had selected a likely anchor spot from the chart. On getting there we find that it is a long way from shore and separated from the beach by what looks like a very shallow area of reef - it is low water. Looking for an anchoring spot we try the northern end of the motu, where there are some small local launches. However, here the drop off from the reef goes almost immediately down to 30 m or so. There is a large area of deeper water close to the beach, but no pass into it for a deep draught boat. Someone on the shore signals for us to go further to the south. We eventually anchor just outside the reef near a channel marker, in about 9 m. It's a long way from the shore though.

After lunch we put the snorkelling gear in the RIB and do a quick tour of the lagoon round the motu to see if there is a pass, but do not find one. We go ashore, near the launches and walk to the northern end of the island, where the chapel mentioned in Lonely Planet appears to consist of a fale with a white concrete cross outside. The fale is occupied by a family apparently cooking up a feast. There are two other families from the two launches we saw earlier. As we walk back past the dinghy to explore a bit in the other direction it clouds over and we have a fairly heavy rainstorm. We shelter in a fale before continuing our walk.

As it clears up snorkelling beckons and we anchor the RIB near the drop-off from the inner reef. There is quite a variety of coral and fish but the drop-off itself, although steep and deep, is not particularly interesting.

Wallis Island tour - St Joseph's church

Wallis Island tour - St Joseph's church

As all hire cars on the island are taken because there are conferences on the island we have to hitch-hike or forgo the tour.

After a fairly early breakfast we are ashore, walk up to the road junction and start to hitch to the south. After a couple of minutes the French couple who go swimming each morning stop and take us to the Church of St. Joseph in Mala'efo'ou. On leaving us there they also give us directions of how to get to our next destination of Talietumu.

We get into the church through a side door. It has lots of colourful wall paintings, but no sign of the tape-style painting that is supposed to be here. There is nobody around to ask. It is definitely the right church as there is a statue outside of a bearded man carrying a child.

Talietumu ruins

Talietumu ruins

We head off for the Talietumu ruins we think along the directions we have been given. After a short distance we begin to have doubts and retrace our steps. A couple of girls in a car stop and give us a lift. Initially we appear to head off in the completely opposite direction but in fact merely go round the block, so that we are heading back in the direction we were originally going, and from which the girls had come. After a while we turn off the sealed road onto a rough track, where the driver asks directions. Eventually we come to the end of the track where there is a grassed car park and the ruins surrounded by immaculately kept lawns. Unfortunately there is no information explaining them, so we have to guess.

Lake Lalolalo

Lake Lalolalo

Walking back to the road we check the direction to Lake Lalolalo; we are told the direction is right but it is a long way. After we rejoin the main road we start hitching and after only a couple of minutes a car stops. The driver is a priest based in Paris and is back visiting his family; he says he can take us some of the way. In the event he takes us all the way, pointing out his family's house on the way just before the sealed road ends. He takes us down two tracks before finding the right one, where he leaves us.

The lake is impressive. It is almost circular, with sheer walls. The access takes us to a grassy clearing at the top of the cliff, where we can watch the tropic birds wheeling around above the water surface.

Tonga Toto

Tonga Toto

Moving on we decide to visit Tonga Toto, another set of ruins down by the lagoon. This is despite the fact that it is about 2.5 km down a side track, where we are unlikely to get a lift. This assessment proves correct! The ruins are quite large and have been partly excavated but, unlike Talietumu, have been allowed to become overgrown again.

Back to Matautu

Back at the main road there is no traffic, so it's back to walking. Once back on the sealed road there is a settlement and a pick-up truck stops for us. In fact it looks as if it had in fact come round the road we have just walked. The driver asks where we are going; we tell him Matuutu, but try to say that wherever he is going will be fine as there will be more traffic. He takes us all the way to the gendarmerie, although it is clear that this is not where he was originally headed. He even gives us a couple of cans of soft drinks.

Clearing out - perhaps

The gendarmerie is closed for lunch but there is a pizza restaurant round the corner where we get a pizza and beers before going back to the gendarmerie to check out. Our passports are stamped but we cannot get an outward clearance. The gendarme asks whether we have been to customs, which we had understood was not necessary. No-one is very clear but there is eventual agreement that we have done all that is required. We leave without a clearance but, not having been to customs, we still have our outward one from Apia. Hopefully this will be OK in Savusavu!

After a quick visit to the supermarket for a baguette it's back to the road again. After a few minutes a Frenchwoman stops and takes us all the way back to the slip at Gahi.

Wallis to Savusavu

We don't have to leave too early as the tide in the pass will not be slack until about 1315 so the morning is spent getting the boat ready for sea.

Renaissance 2000 has come in early in the morning, so Ken and Jean come over for a briefing on the island.

Soon after 1200 we get the anchor up. The American boat Fleetwood, which has just arrived, hails to ask “is it something I said?” We get the mainsail up on the way out and are through the pass about 1345. The genoa is unfurled and we start sailing in a moderate breeze. It's about on the beam, which gives a close reach at about 7 knots. We get the Aries working and it holds the course fairly well, needing the occasional tweak if it luffs up too much.

With deteriorating visibility and weather we decide not to attempt the Somosomo passage between Taveuni and Vanua Levu at night. We cannot find any pilotage information for it and chart discrepancies are unknown, so we change to the alternative route round the south of Taveuni. Unfortunate, as it would be good to free off a bit.

This is a good decision as Susan gets 37 knot gusts and lightning on her watch. The wind and cloud remains all day. The wind frees off a bit in the evening and then, turning the corner south of Taveuni at about 2200, we are on a broad reach.

By midnight we have furled the genoa and are broad reaching under double reefed main. We approach Point Light at the entrance to Savusavu Bay at dawn and motor up to Nakama Creek, where we are met by the Copra Shed boatman who leads us to berth on the fuelling jetty.



Savusavu is friendly as on our previous visit.

We take a day trip over to Labasa. It is sugar harvest season so there are queues of trucks waiting at the gates of the sugar mill, which is suffering one of its frequent breakdowns. Loss of EU subsidies has apparently hit this industry hard.

In Savusavu we find an excellent Indian restaurant and attend an Indian night there.

Curly, the ICA local representative, briefs visitors on Fijian formalities and pilotage. This is mostly about areas we will not have time to visit. He has a private arrangement which allows visits to part of the Lau Group, normally off limits (except at an exorbitant cost in money and bureaucracy).

Savusavu to Suva

Savusavu to Suva

We make an early start from Savusavu, heading for our overnight stop at anchor off the research station on Makongai island, entering the reef from the west.

It is only an overnight stop and we do not go ashore.

The next day we have a fairly short passage to the east of Ovalau island and the port of Levuka and enter the reef north of Leluvia, where we spend the night anchored off the fairly low key resort, where we eat and tour the island to view the renovations that are in hand. It looks like another major project. They have one, virtually permanent, guest.

A passage inside the reef, exiting by the well marked but winding Toberau Passage makes for an interesting bit of pilotage. The deeply undercut islets on the reef look like ships from a distance.

From Toberau it is only a short trip outside the reef before entering Nasilau Mouth and anchoring behind the reef, where we had sheltered on our aborted trip to Levuka in 2003.

The next day in is another easy day sail to Suva, remaining outside the reef until the main entrance through Daveta Nukubuco.

Suva - getting Australian visas

Our main reason for visiting Suva on this occasion is to obtain our visas for Australia. Our first visit to the High Commission is abortive as the visa section closes at 1200.

When we finally get there and to the head of the queue we explain that we had really wanted to get 4-year retirement visas but now understood that the rules for these had changed. We end up asking for as long as they can give us and we will be grateful. The official checks our papers, agrees everything is in order and tells us that the visas should be ready in 10 days! When we pick ourselves up we explain that we are running out of time to get to Australia before the cyclone season. We are then told to telephone on Monday (it is Friday).

In fact Monday is a public holiday, so we telephone on Tuesday, to be told that our visas are ready for collection. When we pick them up we find that we have done better than we expected, having been granted documents that allow us multiple entries of up to a year each, commencing within 2 years, i.e. we can enter up to 7 October 2007 and stay then for a year.

Cultural concert

The theme for Fiji Day is reconciliation, trying to heal the rifts between the ethnic Fijians and those of Indian origin, descendents of the indented labour brought in by the British to work on plantations.

In this spirit a multi-cultural concert has been arranged in a church hall outside town. Although sparsely attended, it is very well done, but heavily based on Indian culture.

Fiji Day

Fiji Day

The occasion for the public holiday is Fiji Day, commemorating the cession of Fiji to Britain by Chief Cakobai on 10 October 1874.

There is a re-enactment of the original ceremony performed by students froma local college in the central park.


We check out from Fiji the day after Fiji Day, ready to leave early the next morning. We cannot get fuel as it is neap tides and there is not enough depth of water at high water for us to get to the fuel dock at the yacht club.

Suva to Port Vila

We start off motorsailing but get the twin headsails up after a couple of hours and stay with this rig for two days. This rig is pushing us slightly too far to the north so eventually it comes down. After this the wind dies and we are motorsailing again.

We pass round the south of Efate Island during the night and approach Port Vila at dawn, anchoring in the quarantine area at 0645. We are cleared in quarantine but have to visit customs, immigration and port control at the main wharf by dinghy after picking up a mooring.

Old friends

After completing formalities we go into town in search of Sereili, Pastor Douglas' stepdaughter. The travel agency where she used to work say she has left and set up in business independently but that they don't know how to contact her.

Wondering how to proceed to find her we are walking down the street towards the Yacht Club, when we meet her at a cafe about 50m from the travel agency. She takes us back to her new office and we agree she will take us over to Pastor Douglas the next day. We arrange to meet at her office.

The next day we take a water taxi and have lunch with Pastor Douglas. Because of the segregation of roles by gender Helen, Douglas' wife, remains in the kitchen area so Susan does not get an opportunity for a discussion with her on her work for the WHO as a midwife in remote areas of the country.

Later in the week Douglas, Sereili and most of the family come for a meal on Sea Bunny bringing a beautiful pink pandanus mat, decorated with coloured feathers as a gift.

Port 2 Port preparations

We find it quite difficult to get information on the Port 2 Port rally to Bundabeerg. The lady handling the organisation in Port Vila has broken her leg and is quite reasonably more interested in getting this fixed. We do, however, find out the details of the briefing at the Rossi restaurant and all resolves itself, although we did not seem to be as well briefed as those leaving from Luganville.

The main rules are that we should leave on or before 24 October and arrive on 1 November.

Port 2 Port Rally

8 day passage Port Vila Vanuatu to Bundaberg Australia, little squally nothing really over 35 knots. This will turn out to be one of the best passages so far. Radio contact with other boats is always a comfort - though skeds not always audible. Two or three days are spent filling in the complex customs forms, listing goods on board and throwing food not permitted in Australia, and which by this time we are not going to eat, over board while still outside territorial waters. We can always stock up again. Never met a boat that has been able to cater exactly for a ocean passage - given all the possible variables.

Kerangi (NZ) boat with 2 young children on board is caught by a freak 75 knot gust just 15 nm ahead of us. Fortunately all were clipped on and they arrived in Bundaberg safe but shaken with a ripped main which they don't get round to fixing until they get down to Sydney months later. We see no more than 35 knots.

One day we receive a radio call from Peter onTulipano, a Farr 60 which was on the Blue Water Rally with us. He is on passage from Noumea to Brisbane, some 30 miles south of us and has seriously lacerated his hand. He is in search of a boat carrying suitable antibiotics as his crew has used his. With a fairly complex link up is is established that Kerangi has some and Tulipano starts to arrange a rendezvous. Before this is finalised a doctor on another boat comes on and advises that antbiotics are probably not needed at this stage, so the rendezvous is abandoned.

On the last morning we are treated to a superb sunrise. Later we are overflown by an Australian coastal patrol aircraft, which takes our details.

On Monday 31 October at 2200 hours on arrival in the Burnett river the search light from a catamaran Sub Zero (NZ) saved us from dropping the anchor too close to the sand bank.



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Last updated from One15 marina, Singapore on 27 November 2013

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