Let's back up a bit. Sunday night Sean dropped me off at Rutea around midnight, and we pulled up the anchor and left Vava'u at 3:00 AM. That was not fun, although the passage from Vava'u to the Ha'apai was an easy 65 miles. We arrived at Ha'ano in the afternoon shortly behind Merkava, and after a celebratory safe passage drink with them, it was time to get in the water.
The snorkeling in Ha'ano was the best I have seen since the Tuamotus. The water was not super clear - only about 50 feet of visibility - but all the cool stuff to see was near the surface anyway. The reefs at Ha'ano are made of huge shelves of pristine coral of all different varieties: table top coral, sea fans, fire coral, soft corals... it goes on and on. The edges of the shelves drop off to about 40 feet, and the sheer walls of coral are home to all sorts of exotic sea creatures. There are also tons of caves and swim-throughs, but I was free diving so I didn't venture into too many. Yuka, of course, was in and out of all the nooks and crannies in the coral.
Perhaps the highlight of the snorkel, aside from the amazing coral, was our close encounter with a 3 foot coral banded sea snake. This snake is one of the most poisonous in the world, although it is unaggressive and its mouth is so small that it can only bite a human in the webbing between its fingers and toes. It was still kind of scary to be so close to.
Sea creatures can be scary - particularly when they are out of the water and do not want to be. We left Ha'ano the following morning, and I decided to put a line in the water and test my luck fishing. After breakfast I was cutting up a pineapple when I heard the line start to zzziing. I have become somewhat of a more adequate fisherwoman since Mexico, and was able to reel in a beautiful little mahi-mahi. I did, however, hide behind the life raft as the fish was flopping around on the deck and while Dad killed it. He was also kind enough to clean the fish... something I have yet to learn how to do. I like choosing a lure, I like reeling in a fish (until it gets too close), and I like eating fish, but I do not like killing or cleaning them. I think that is a blue job, anyway.
Just as the fish was all cleaned up we pulled into Pa'angai, the main city of Ha'apai. I stayed on the boat while Mom and Dad went into town and both checked in and checked out. Ha'apai is still Tonga, but they like to make cruisers jump through their bureaucratic hoops. We were in Pa'angai for less than an hour as it is not the most charming of towns. Then we headed for the anchorage we are in now, which unfortunately I do not know the name of.
When we arrived my friends from the boats Architeuthis and Sara Jean were here so we all spent the afternoon together. Since then we have done a ton of snorkeling, beach combing, music playing, and communal dinners. There is nothing like a nice group of friends to keep the blues away. However, this is where the other half of my heartache comes in. Tonight I said goodbye to Mark and Yuka from the boat Merkava, my best friends here in the South Pacific. Fortunately they are going to New Zealand also, but there is a good chance I will not see them for a month or two.
You see, Mom and Dad are very anxious to get to New Zealand. I do not understand the rush. We are going to be in NZ for plenty of time, and who knows when we will be back in Tonga? Perhaps never. Regardless, we are heading to Tongatapu to wait for a weather window to head down south to New Zealand at the end of the week. Merkava is on the slower track and will be hanging out around here for another few weeks. I shouldn't be complaining because I know I will see them again soon, but if you read back over my posts, most of them are of adventures with Merkava. It is going to be tough not to have them around for a while.
I know, I know, I am sorry to be so whiney recently. But I can't help it. A part of me feels like this trip is coming to an end with our arrival in New Zealand, although I know that it will be another adventure. I think I have just gotten comfortable here in the South Pacific and will be sad to leave it. I guess I had better start swimming or else I will sink like a stone, for times they are a changing.
At 10/13/2011 1:42 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°50.94'S 174°24.95'W
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