Crossing the International Date Line had me stumped. I knew we would lose a day, on our trip from French Polynesia to Tonga, and thought I had it all figured out. We’d arrive on Friday the 17th, check in and begin preparations for our 3-day anniversary (19th-21st). So when we found the customs dock deserted and lonely, I was quite confused to discover it was actually Saturday the 17th. I’d skipped the DATE but not the day of the week, oops.
Quarantined on Portal until clearance on Monday, we took the opportunity to clean up after a long passage. I re-organised the galley, Charlie re-organised the fishing tackle box.
I scrubbed the hull and topsides, getting so cold Charlie had to revive me with tea and a warm blanket. Our anti-foul bottom paint has held up for almost two years now, and I’ve been very impressed, but finally it’s wearing out and cleaning has to happen more often.
The new week began with all the standard check-in procedures, and despite the low-tide and very high-dock, Portal got away unscathed. Business taken care of, we quickly assembled our bikes and began our real anniversary celebrations. First, a big breakfast at the Aquarium Cafe, a lovely spot with a wide open deck and friendly staff.
Then, off we went around the island on our trusty steeds. We didn’t stray too far – most roads were washed-out tracks, but we saw lots of beautiful vistas, cute pigs, teaming mandarin trees and smiling locals.
For dinner we had a huge feast planned – a three course meal! Cheese and hors d’oeuvres to begin, two big steaks prepared on our barbeque served with roasted veggies and macaroons and ice cream for desert.
The following morning we were still recovering from our gorging, so packed a light lunch and set off on our rowing expedition. Despite the light drizzle, we had a wonderful day in ‘Luck-key’, exploring distant bays and beaches, even spotting a huge whale!
Carolyn, my sister, was joining us in Tonga for the sail to Vanuatu, so we biked our hearts out through the rain to meet her at the airport that afternoon. The flight was delayed, but eventually we were re-united and the endless chit-chat began. Soon our old-friends Jess and Duncan (of Alliance) sailed into town too, and many more nights were spent as one big happy family, eating and drinking around campfires on the beach.
Vava’u, the group of islands in the north of Tonga where most boats pass through, is truly a sailors paradise. Little islands scattered around, all close enough to each other to protect from the winds and swell, means hundreds of perfect anchorages and flat seas to sail through. Alliance and Portal ‘raced’ each other from spot to spot, taking photos as the other cruised by.
Amazing sunsets, deep and colourful caves, coral gardens… it all had to come to an end eventually, and after almost two weeks in Tonga, Portal set sail for Vanuatu. The next landfall would be a much anticipated one, and who better to arrive with, than my darling sister Carolyn, Vanuatu local for 30years?