27/06/2014 – Leaving Tonga for Fiji

We started the process of ‘clearing out’ bright and early on Wednesday, well about 9.30ish which is early for us! Our first task was to visit immigration. Easy. Next stop was Tropicana for a coffee and a final bit of wi-fi to post the blog I’d written the day before. Then there was a bit of last minute shopping at the market. To clear out with customs and purchase duty free fuel yachts have to go alongside the fishing dock and here there was a problem. A large fishing boat from Nuk’alofa, the capital, has taken up residence for another 5 or 6 days. Ahead of him there is a small fishing boat. Between the two we might have just squeezed in but the thick rope from the big boat would have caught in our arch and held our stern out. Ahead of the small boat there was almost enough length for us but the water shoals very quickly and there are concrete blocks just below the surface. We visited the customs officer to explain our predicament. There would be three yachts wanting to clear out and refuel, the fuel had been booked for 2.30. His answer was to wait for the ferry to leave at 3.30 and go alongside there. The problem with this berth is the 8 metre gaps between some very big, black metal buffers which probably had rubber on them at one time, the paucity of bollards to tie off too and the timing. The customs office closes at 4.30. The duty free shop for liquor closes at 4.00 though, to be fair, we could have bought the gin on the proof of our immigration clearance in our passports but we couldn’t carry the box of beer. Back to the anchorage to talk to Caduceus and Chez Nous. We decided to drop our moorings at 1330 and go and lurk and eye up the possibilities. Eventually Caduceus went alongside an open boat called Whalesong which had apparently managed to get the small fishing boat moved back, closer to the big one. This one now had a sister ship alongside making getting off the dock in the gusting wind rather challenging for the inside boat. Whalesong were then told they had to move, not sure by whom! Caduceus cast off and circled, Whalesong moved, the fuel tanker arrived, Caduceus tied up on the dock, we tied up outside them with Chez Nous outside us. The Customs officer came on board and we filled out two forms for each boat. He had to stay until the refuelling was finished to complete the forms for the fuel company. Just before 4:00 Elizabeth and I dashed round to the duty free shop with a sack barrow, just in time. The three captains went with the customs officer for yet more form filling, official stamps and sticky clearance labels. We finally had all the stamped paperwork, allowing us to leave Tonga by 4:30. We motored around to Port Mourelle for a final night, drinks and nibbles aboard Starblazer. It was so chilly we had to sit below, not what we came to the South Pacific for. We are much slower than the other two so we planned to leave at 0900, we dropped the mooring at 0955. A quick chat with the others and we set up an SSB net on Fiji time, an hour behind Tonga time. I reset the clock on the GPS and logged that we left early, Fiji time! Once clear of the islands, we had a cracking sail all day, 8 knots quite often, not all that comfortable because there was a big swell, but fast none the less. Before we started the overnight watch pattern we rolled away quite a lot of genoa, we’d started out with one reef in the main. We were still making 7 knots but the boat was more comfortable. Overnight the wind has dropped from 22 to about 16 knots or less, it has also backed a little so we’ll have to make some decisions about our sailplan after breakfast. Caduceus and Chez Nous left about 3 hours after us, Chez Nous is now (0700) just over 5 miles away and Caduceus is 11. We knew they’d overhaul us relatively quickly, we are not a catamaran with a Parasailor, nor are we a 54 foot long ketch! I’m not making excuses, I think we are sailing Starblazer as hard as we sensibly can. Last night’s dinner was smoked pork chops from Galapagos with boiled potatoes and carrots. For ‘smoked pork chops’ think something that looks like a loin chop but tastes like bacon! The Captain cooked as the Galley Slave was feeling a little under the weather. Joyce

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