Slow Dance is an 80 foot luxury yacht with an owner, captain, chef and crew that work hard and play harder (although maybe it is the other way around). Being on Slow Dance was not only a ridiculous amount of fun, but it also gave me perspective on situation on Rutea. A win-win situation, really.
Boat/yacht/ship - whatever you want to call it - Slow Dance is one of the nicest I have ever been on. There are 3 generators on board to power all the electronics and toys you could want. There are 2 huge water makers to ensure that everybody can take hot showers every day. The stainless is brightly polished decks are spotless. The tender (dinghy) is fast and comfortable to mob around anchorages in. However, to maintain all these luxuries is a TON of work.
Sean (the captain), Suzy (1st mate), and BJ (2nd mate and Sean's brother) work their asses off every day to keep the boat running smoothly - or at least as smoothly as possible. Inevitably once one project - such as repairing a generator - is finished, the refrigeration goes out. Such is life on a boat, but the smaller and more bare bones the boat, (generally) the less there is to fix. But to cruise around in wealth and style is sexy and fun - especially for guests such as myself. And did I mention there is a live-aboard chef? Victoria is not only a very cool lady, but cooks delicious, fresh and healthy meals every day.
During the week I was on the boat a typical day goes as follows:
Sean gets up early, starts the generator and makes coffee for the crew. I roll out of bed around 8 (depending on the previous night's activities) and hang out in the cockpit playing guitar while everybody else chills out before starting a projects. After a few cups of coffee and some breakfast everybody gets to work, whether it is going up the mast to check the rigging, changing the oil on the engine... whatever. There is never a lack of work on a boat - particularly this one. Not wanting to be a total slacker, nuisance or ungrateful guest, I offer to do some menial, unskilled job such as vacuuming the cabins or cleaning the waterline (an excuse to go swimming). I have to earn my keep, although it is nothing compared to the $3000 per night people have been known to pay to stay on Slow Dance.
Around noon the first beers are cracked. This does not necessarily mean that work stops, but Ron (the gracious owner) and Sean (the slave driving captain) allow the rest of us a few afternoons off to go play and explore a few of the beaches and bays that Vava'u has to offer. We load up the tender's built-in coolers with ice cold beer, bomb-ass sandwiches that Victoria makes, and head out. The tender has a 70 horsepower motor that enables 5 of us to cruise over the bright turquoise water at high speeds without spilling our beers.
When we spot a beach that looks nice we head in and check it out, go for a swim and eat lunch of the beach. There is something about drinking an ice cold beer while floating in 80 degree water that really does it for me. When we feel we have sufficiently enjoyed a place we load up back in the tender, and cruise around until we find another place to hang out or until the beer runs out. It is a tough life, I know.
By this time I am usually pretty wasted - from the sun, of course - so I go in for a shower and a nap, only to wake up to a delicious dinner. Nightlife in Tonga is pretty mellow, and while we have been known to frequent a bar or two, most nights are spent sipping beers and chatting or watching movies.
Saturday night we celebrated Sean's birthday with a bonfire on the beach. Although it rained for most of the afternoon he and BJ managed to get a fire going, and the sky cleared up to give us a nearly full moon and tons of stars. Suzy and I decided to go for a night swim and the water was so clear that the bottom was visible from the moonlight.
Yes, life is good on Slow Dance; life is good in general. But cruising on a luxury yacht is not as glamorous as it might seem - unless you own the boat and pay people to work for you. Yes, my friends are sailing the world in style, and they play hard but work harder. This has given me perspective on my situation on Rutea. In comparison to Slow Dance, Rutea is a humble little cruising boat. However, she is very well maintained by her captain (Dad) and the crew (me) is not expected to do too much, except a little polishing here and a little cleaning there. I can go snorkeling, diving, or surfing (if there were waves) whenever I want. I have absolute freedom and very few obligations - in other words I have it damn good. Not that I did not know this before, but after spending a week on a huge, luxurious yacht my sentiments have only been reinforced.
This does not mean that it was easy to leave Slow Dance. Sean dropped me off on Rutea at midnight with a heavy heart - 3 hours before we left Vava'u for the Ha'apai group in southern Tonga. It was hard to leave my friends. Who knows if I will ever see them again? I am going to New Zealand and they are headed towards Micronesia. But such is the life of a sailor: full of love and heartache, uncertainty and a certain respect for the now.
Speaking of the now, we are currently anchored in a little anchorage off Ha'ano island in the Ha'apai group after a rowdy sail from Vava'u. Ha' ha' ha'. (Does the pun translate?) Anyway, I intended to post a few pictures of the Slow Dance homies and our adventures, but I did not have an opportunity before we left, and there is no internet - let alone many signs of civilization - around here.
In closing, I want to thank Ron, Sean, Victoria, Suzy and BJ for a most excellent week. My favorite part of being out here is meeting and doing fun things with cool people like you. Keep in touch. That goes for you, my land-based friends, as well.
At 10/9/2011 8:50 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 19°16.97'S 174°15.34'W
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