We have a great cyclone hole here, and have arranged for a mooring with 10 tons of concrete on the bottom. Now we are exploring the beautiful islands of the Vavau group. Once again the people are super friendly, and most of them speak some/perfect English. The water is warm and clear, and the coral is beautiful. We have a wonderful island all to ourselves with no flies, and plenty of firewood. We had our fist bonfire with marshmallows yesterday. Vitality is now swimming some these days, so at least she can swim back to shore when the wave tries to pull her off the beach. Valiant is still a sinker, and is careful to always stay close to someone who can pull him out of the water if the need arises. Since we are planning on staying here until April timeframe I went ahead and registered the motorcycle here in Tonga. Fairly simple to do and only $70 for a year! We are slowly getting a collection of license plates and driver’s licenses. Cassidy got her first license in Aitutaki and her official (good in New Zealand) license in Niue!! Exploring the island by motorcycle is wonderful and very pleasant. We even used it to get the boxes for Intrepid's Halloween outfit. Shannon on the back of the motorcycle with a roll of linoleum under her bottom, and sticking out a couple of feet on each side, and both her arms filled with empty cardboard boxes sticking out in every direction. But it was all worth it as Intrepid won the prize for the best costume! Courage
We arrived in Tonga on the 28th. Having crossed the date line and never really knowing the days of the week anyway really confused us for days. We got the dates pretty quick, but it wasn't until the 31st that we learned that it was Friday, not Saturday as we thought. So, we'd heard to hit the fresh fruit market Saturday at 10 am to get the deals as they liquidate the ripe stuff rather than take it home for the weekend. We hit it Friday morning and didn't notice any deals going on?? Friday night we learned that it was still Friday (not Saturday as we thought), so the next morning we hit the market again, and sure enough, the ladies were both making deals and gifting the children the very ripe fruits. We really loaded up since we were going to head out that afternoon to the islands. We are very happy to have chosen Tonga for cyclone season. The bay is very protected from winds (there were none! Sometimes a breeze through the hatches helps on a warm, humid day). The moorings are serious with thick polypropylene rope and concrete foundations. They are down on tourism this year and willing to make deals on the moorings for long-term rates. The town is nice. Definitely poor, run down houses, sadly garbage on the side of the roads (which we have not seen in quite a long time, the last significant time was in Panama). But the people are typically nicely dressed in long traditional skirts and men wear long straight "skirts" type things. They are very friendly and helpful, although sometimes seem a bit shy. The women love the children, so the kids are blending in everywhere and making friends. The shopping has been a relief! Finally! There's a big market where farmers sell their fruits and veggies every day (except Saturday afternoon and Sundays). Bananas, papayas ($.60 US), small watermelon ($2.50), 3 pineapples ($2.50), cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, bell peppers . . . We haven't had this variety and this low of prices in such a long time!! And finally, fresh eggs!! Not imported from New Zealand, so weeks old at best. There's a family with stacks and stacks of eggs, I asked if they were local, they said yes, all from their family! I said you must have a LOT of chickens, and she laughed and said yes they do. I can only imagine! Every day they have huge stacks of eggs, every day I see lots of people buying those eggs. And they are $8. US for 30, finally down from $.50 to $1 per egg from French Polynesia through the Cooks and Niue. Besides this exciting market, another cruiser showed us a farm up the hill where they say you can get anything fresh picked that you want and they claimed that it was a quarter the prices of the fresh market. We went by, but it was closed. Beautifully laid out greenhouses and it benefits a "Youth Congress". Definitely going to hit it up next week!!!! The grocery stores have more than I expected, a few canned veggies, spaghetti sauce, flour, sugar, butter, rice, a few noodles, some random meat cuts, chips, cookies, etc. Not everything I could hope for, but definitely workable!! Not going to find oats, brown rice, quinoa, corn flour, and other specialty items. I heard from another boat that they ran out of butter in town and were out for weeks, so you have to plan ahead a little bit or do without. Also prices go up as the town runs out of things, so don't count on steady pricing. Also heard that some prices change as you hit the register if you aren't local. I've been watching at the stores I go to and it seems to be holding with advertised prices. We got the motorcycle registered, so it's legal and everything. We've been out exploring. Found a hardware store where we can get some lumber for the cockpit and got some cheap linoleum for the torn up stuff in the cockpit, which I've wanted since well before French Polynesia and couldn't find. So we're finding little things we haven't in months, prices are much better, we are official with our transportation, people are friendly, anchorage is very flat and protected, and we are eating fresh. It's all looking good. We went to a Halloween party at a Cafe that overlooks the anchorage and met some local kids, most of whom are expatriates and great contacts! The kids had a great time; Intrepid won best kid's costume and a free pizza for the family. We found a locals restaurant where I had chicken curry and rice for $2.50 US!! How can you beat that??? Then Courage ordered a jug of juice. When they brought it out it was bright orange, he asked what juice it was, and she answered, "Juice of Tang." Ohhhh. But it was great as we were quite thirsty. We are now out at the islands, currently Ovalau, where I imagine we'll spend a lot of time. Lovely soft white sand beach, no one here, protected from the normal trade winds, and covered in shells and coconuts. We had a nice campfire last night with marshmallows. We haven't been able to do that for months! Finally getting a little isolated again! We stopped at Swallow's Cave on the way here, which you can take your dinghy in it's so big! Gorgeous deep waters below it and just amazing walls (other than the unfortunate graffiti) with lots of birds (not bats) flying around in it. There's another cave, Mariner's Cave, that you have to dive down and swim through a tunnel to get into it. Sounds a little concerning, but we've met other boats that have done it and indicate while intimidating, it's not terrible. Sounds also like a really cool experience!!! So we have to find it also! There are many little islands, and lots of snorkeling and white sandy beaches within eyesight and within 2 hours of our "hurricane hole" making it possible to explore and live life and enjoy, while retreating and hunkering down quickly with any indication of incoming weather. So, with affordable pricing, gorgeous outlying islands, fresh foods, caves to explore and things to do, we are settling in here for the next 4-5 months, making friends, and getting oriented. There's our little update. We do have some Internet options, but mostly using our SailMail and ham radio to send messages with occasional "real internet" check-in when possible. Goodnight, Shannon
Great Halloween party in Tonga at the Aquarium Cafe. Started with kids games, egg toss, bobbing for apples, costume contest, and snacks. Intrepid won best costume!!! He was a robot made from a cardboard box body, pringle can arms, milk jug helmet, and reflective car window visors for legs all spray painted silver, then an electrical panel installed and some LED lights from cousin Wolfie!! He won a large pizza for the family!! Yeah Intrepid! We all had a great time and are enjoying the atmosphere here in Tonga!