5 - Dispatch From the Anchorages

The area of Tonga we are sailing is called Vava'u. It has to be one of the places God made for sailors. The cooling trade winds are steady, the waters clear and warm - and the scores of green wooded islands are lined with colorful coral reefs and sugar-sand beaches. Anchorages are everywhere and only a mile or two apart - sometimes not worth the effort to hoist our sails. In fact, recent DNA research may point to this being the starting point for the advanced sailing technology that allowed the great Polynesian voyaging culture to span the Pacific not so long ago.

In a food stall, we meet Mark, a "papalangi" (white man) wearing native dress. He has his own small island here and invites us to drop by and use the mooring in front of his little pier. A couple of days latter, we sail up to do just that. The setting is beyond dreamlike and the channel running by is a highway for humpback whales that return to Tonga each winter. Jean and I paddle a sea kayak out to find them.

Bobbing in the violet blue water we are surrounded by darting tuna and diving birds attempting to devour a huge ball of baitfish that are themselves, desperately trying to hide under our boat. A great show … but no whales. As the sun climbs hotter, we drop into the water to view the best reef diving I can remember. Arrays of coral species unknown to us, with some individuals big enough to rate a note on the map.

We hoist anchor, leave Mark's and move to a place called "Blue Lagoon". It is truly blue, but also a bit rolly - so no worries, off to another anchorage a few miles downwind, an island called Hunga. It is a dead volcano with a very narrow cut thru the rim to access it's flooded 2-mile wide caldera. It offers perfect protection from any weather in any direction - and stunning views of forest above, and coral below. A pod of porpoise loiters at the entrance. I swim over to play, but they are busy jumping high out of the water, seemingly just for the fun of it - while waiting for the cut's tidal current to deliver their sushi dinners.

Flying foxes flap their leathery bat-wings toward another tree full of ripe fruit. Jungle birdcalls echo off rock and water. A green turtle surfaces and looks over at our intrusion. Then the nightly choir of crickets kicks off and another star-studded show begins. Looking aloft, the stars are mostly unfamiliar, and those I know are moving backwards across this southern sky. But the comforting anchor light is lit atop our mast - and our beautiful world spins on, mindless of me - but not me of her.

- Star struck Stew