Wed Jan 10 17:49 2024 NZDT
GPS: 40 57.309S 173 03.549E
Run: 43.3nm (78.4km)
Weather: Amazing

Never leave paradise in search of paradise.

Sun Jan 7 8:32 2024 NZDT
GPS: 40 52.439S 173 52.887E
Run: 53.8nm (97.4km)
Weather: Settled

Anchored in Catherine's cove for a few hours while waiting for the tide at french pass. Was a good sail.

Mirabilis - New Year at The Anchorage

We are now anchored in the popular “Anchorage” in Torrent Bay next to our old neighbours Dan and Alex from Chaffers in their new yacht Amok on board which we spent New Year’s Eve and watched the impressive fireworks show put on by the local, and very wealthy, Talley’s family. New Year’s Day was a windy one with most of us spending most of the day on board watching the wind speed spike with gusts up to 40 knots. We were pleased to not have ventured ashore when a yacht tried anchoring Read more...

in front of us and instead picked up the anchor of another yacht leaving them tangled and bearing down on Mirabilis for a nerve-racking 15 minutes while they tried to pry themselves apart without colliding into each other, us, or the shore. Mike and another tender had to push the nose round of one of them once they were free but left dangerously close to hitting the shore. It was a huge relief to send them on their way but not 10 minutes later we watched another drama unfold across the anchorage when a solo sailor came unstuck with anchor chain and windlass dramas which had him wrapping around another very nervous yacht. The boys were back in their dinghys ready to run interference if needed and dropping manpower on board to untangle the snubber and manually haul the anchor. Fortunately everyone came off unscathed and that was the last drama of the day; though we did hear that one of the other yachts had their dinghy flip with the outboard on - not the best start to a new year. Luckily our leaky dinghy was tucked in close and had so much sea water in it acting as ballast there was no way it was going to flip. With the wind easing we finally went ashore for the first time at 4 o’clock and went for what was supposed to be a short walk over to Watering Cove but was slightly extended as we inadvertently took a diversion along a considerably less well-kept biodiversity monitoring line track after being lured in by great views across the bay. The next day summer was back and we headed off early for a walk to a waterfall and a very quick dip for me for mandatory under the waterfall photo then back in time to scoff lunch and jump in the kayaks to make the high tide for a trip across the estuary and up to Cleopatra’s pool amongst huge river boulders complete with a rock slide at the base of the Torrent River. Great fun despite a graze or two. Wai Aniwa, another Chaffers yacht, is now here (as is Montego Bay) and we had a quick chat with skipper Roger Foley before retiring to Mirabilis for sundowners which morphed into a great fun party for two of an evening. Today is mercifully a lazy rainy scrabble, reading and odd jobs day - like finally bringing YIT up to date :-).

Mike on the pretty Falls River Track
Cascade falls
A VERY quick dip
Mike and Dan helping another yacht in trouble

Mirabilis - Totaranui & Separation Point

It is lovely and warm over here and as soon as we had set the anchor it was in for a swim followed by a quick trip ashore to explore and a lazy evening enjoying the warmth in the cockpit. The next day we paddled around the estuary and did a short walk in the park including a small loop track right next to the inlet that still has a couple of magnificent towering old trees - ancient relics of the past reminding us of what the forest around here used to be like and eventually will be again. Nikau Read more...

palms added a particularly lush feel to this tiny patch of forest otherwise largely surrounded by the contrasting dry manuka scrub and slowly regenerating bush. Back on board a swell had built up and even with a stern anchor out we were in for a rolly night. Mike was kept awake most of the night with the rolling, I was kept awake half of the night with Mike's grumbling about the rolling. Unhappily for Mike though I was determined to get a decent walk in after finding no decent walks on D'Urville so no sleeping in for us and we set off for a 20km walk to Separation Point. The walk was lovely with the occasional fur seal, pied and spotted shags a plenty, oyster catchers with little fluff ball chicks and a lone gannet soaring above the point - perhaps attracted by the faux gannet models and calls being played out of a huge megaphone where DOC and Project Janszoon are trying to reestablish a colony. Though with the hoards of tourists swarming all over the point at this time of year it might be a hard sell. A great spot for lunch watching a couple of fur seals patrolling the water below us. When we made it back to the anchorage we were delighted to discover that the yacht that we had seen sail past on our walk had indeed been our friends' new yacht Oceanus, which was now anchored next to us. The next morning was my birthday (and New Year's Eve) so I got to sleep in while Mike rustled up a delicious cooked breakfast and even did the dishes straight after as an extra special birthday treat. Then time for a bit of scurfing (like wakeboarding but on a surf board) before we said goodbye to Oceanus for now and headed for the next anchorage (following a bit of a false start and unplanned swim after I managed to wrap the dinghy painter around the prop - an embarrassingly rookie move).

Kayaking around our anchorage
Totaranui inlet
Walk to separation point
A rather stinky fur seal
Oyster catchers guarding their little fluff balls
Headlands Track view over Totaranui
Fur seal swimming around Separation Point
Post swim snooze time
Ahh, Abel
Mike happily scurfing on NYE
Tucked up with Oceanus for the night

Mirabilis - Vava'u has kidnapped us!

So we reluctantly left the beautiful and deserted Ha’apai islands and arrived in Vava’u about a month ago and aren’t showing any signs of budging. Vava’u seems to have taken hold of us and Mike is threatening to apply for residency.
This place is completely different from the Ha’apai group and as Mike puts it, I get homesick for the outer islands or “Neiafu fever” if we stay in town (Neiafu) for too long. That said, we have met so many great and fascinating people and really feel Read more...

a part of the community here so do keep getting tempted back into town fairly regularly and there’s always the excuse of stocking up on fresh fruit and veg from the market.
Vava’u is known as a bit of a sailing mecca as we have discovered as the islands are all very close together and you can find perfectly sheltered anchorages in any conditions. There are some stunning places to visit too, Swallow’s Cave and Mariner’s Cave are particularly amazing for snorkelers.
Swallow’s you swim into to find you are sharing the cave with thousands of small schooling fish which you can then dive under and up through or just watch the beautiful shapes they form. The water is stunningly clear and outside the cave is a steep drop-off into the blue with coral and feather stars clinging to the wall as far as you can see and a myriad of colourful fish working their way between them.
Mariner’s is a trippy experience and quite magical. Once you find the cave that is... We found ourselves searching for Mariner’s Cave one day in our dinghy laden with us and three young trainee doctors who we had met a week earlier at Tonga Bob’s (the local pub) quiz night. We putted a mile across the channel from an anchorage on the eastern side of Kapa Island and started searching for the famous cave. However, this is Tonga so there was no big sign pointing the way, rather about a kilometre long wall of cliff for us to search for some sign of a cave entrance hiding beneath the surface. After a lot of surveying promising looking sites (including one where we surfaced in a cavelet with just enough headroom to take one quick breath!) we finally found a spot that looked like it had to be it...hadn’t it?! After much procrastinating I finally took a deep breath and dived down and in...and in... oh thank goodness, I spied the telltale sign of a large air bubble and surfaced to find myself in a huge cave. As I recovered my breath and started to take it all in, the cave started to rapidly fill with fog, almost completely obscuring the walls from view, then just as quickly it cleared and the air was crystal clear once more.
This pattern is repeated over and over with some episodes more dramatic than others depending on the size of the swell that drives this awesome phenomenon. Pretty freaking cool! Eventually the others joined me one-by-one. Mariner’s Cave was immediately placed at the top of our list of places to take any visitors to.
If you ever come to Vava’u make SURE you don’t miss Mariner’s Cave.
Other things that have been keeping us entertained here over the last month include a visit to a private island to join a three day party (complete with battle hip and poker tournaments), a bit of historic heritage with a visit to the remnants of a 400 year old stone wall for first borns, walks through a few small villages and plantations, snorkeling and diving, island circumnavigation either by kayak or on foot, beach combing, octopus stalking, pig racing (a fund raising event for the local conservation NGO which also included human horse racing, coconut husking and hermit crab racing) and a trip out to Kenutu Island, the eastern most island of Vava’u where you can anchor. The eastern side of the island is completely exposed to the full brunt of the ocean making for dramatic cliffs, blow holes and intertidal waterfalls that come and go with the surge. On the lee side, beautiful snorkeling over seagrass and shallow coral beds, and best of all it’s one of the quieter anchorages in Vava’u with most cruisers sticking to the western side of the cut so we had it all to ourselves.
Right, time to sign out as we’re off to pick up my uncle who is visiting for a week. Then it’s off to the Niuas for us – the smallest and most undeveloped of the Tongan island groups. We will update again in a month or so no doubt. Love Dani & Mike PS, if you want to pay the ransom it is payable in Whittakers chocolate, jars of marmite, cheese in all molds and moulds, vogels bread, good wine, chippies (for Mike of course) and oddly enough cauliflower and broccoli Bizarre the things you miss!

Snorkeling at Swallows Cave
Local kids from Makave village near the historic stone wall
View east from Kenutu Island
View from town out over the anchorage at Neiafu
Friday night social racing
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