Tonga is absolutely stunning to approach. Many islands in various sizes. The smaller islands have rock bases and look like they just rose from the sea. The larger islands are irregular shaped and very lush. The water seems to be deep right up to the edge of each island. Once you enter the main pass you are in this spectacular cruising grounds, where the water is flat calm and the anchorages and are small little hops within sight of the next one. All of the anchorages are numbered and all of the cruisers are sharing their favorite numbers with each other. The other amazing thing is that in this flat calm water there are MANY whales. We have yet to see any but everyday another cruiser conveys a whale story to us.
It is so nice to have finally caught up with the rest of the fleet. It has been non stop party since we have arrived. Friends that we have made all the way from the Caribbean across the Pacific are here now. One of the most exciting moments was finally meeting back up with our friends from Ottawa on the boat "Stray Kitty". We had originally met them in St. Lucia when we were heading back to Antigua to sell Artemo and then they met us again at the Pitons once we had changed our minds and were heading back towards the Pacific! They shared in our excitement then and we became fast friends. The funny thing was that it was as if we had just seen them yesterday. We picked up right where we left off and had a fantastic day of beaching, eating and drinking! We even got a ride on Stray Kitty.
Yesterday Graham and Alex went diving with some new friends. They have all the dive gear and tanks on board for both kids and adults. They said they had a blast. Today we are going over to some really cool caves to snorkel. One of the caves you can swim or dinghy right into. The other cave you need to dive under the water and swim for 15 feet and then come up in the cave. YIKES! I unfortunately won't be able to do this one but the kids and Graham will......should be exciting. We are then going to pull up anchor and head to number 16. Everyone has told us that there is great snorkeling there.
Our plans are to head to the Southern Tongan Island group around mid month and then push off for New Zealand nearing the end of the month. The New Zealand passage is suppose to be one of the worst passages yet. There is a lot of talk and hype about it. It has always been the one passage that has weighed heavy on my mind. It isn't that long.....only about 12 days but it is known to be rough. Many of the wives on the other boats are flying to NZ and their hubby's are bringing crew in to sail down with them. I am trying to push any worry out of my head though and we have been in contact with a renowned New Zealand weather router to give us some great (paid for) weather advice and routing. The other thing is that we are pretty use to heavy weather sailing......30 knots is now "normal" for us and 45 is just another squall. HA.
Once we get to New Zealand we want to do some "on land" adventures. Graham and I backpacked around the two islands in '94 and we can't wait to do the same with the kids. As far as our plans past New Zealand they are still formulating and of course ever changing but we are considering putting Artemo up for sale and heading home for next summer. We are all thinking that this would be a good time to go back to Canada and get settled again in Toronto and then start planning for our next adventure once the kids are off to University. Everyone on board here is excited about the plan and we will keep you posted as it evolves. For now we are squeezing the juice out of every day.
Miss you all