logbook1.gif (2755 bytes)

money_small_anim3.gif (11952 bytes)

Lifuka (Ha'apai) to Vava'u   18 - 22 February

It was now Monday, so before leaving 'Sandy Beach' resort, we called Mr. Sikita at BP Oil in the capital Nuku'alofa to inquire about why the Avgas fuel drum had not been delivered Friday to the Fua'amotu airport as promised. He presented his excuses for the mishap, and promised to deliver the fuel drum to the ferry 'Pulupaki', which was due to leave for Vava'u the same afternoon at five.

The flight to Vava'u was short (45 minutes) but not quite as sweet as the one to Lifuka had been.   We saw a string of beautiful atolls beneath us as we approached Vava'u airport but these kept getting obscured by clouds.  As forecast there were NE gusty winds 040 at 15 gusting to 35 knots as we came in to land on runway 08 and Flemming had a hard time of it. This was due to a low west of Samoa which we had been watching for several days. Hope it does not develop to become a cyclone like Waka....

After the expensive Sandy Beach Resort, this time we were going to economise and we'd booked a room at the Adventure Backpackers in the main town of Neiafu. We then called BP in Nuku'alofa again to check whether the fuel drum had actually been delivered to the ferry. They confirmed that it was on board 'Pulupaki', but that the ferry had been cancelled due to forecast high winds and risk of cyclone.

Shit!! We had decided to have lots of fuel on board at all times to be able to escape, had called BP Oil in Nuku'alofa weeks ahead of time to find out that only ONE 210 l Avgas barrel remained, reserved that barrel by fax, paid for it, NOT receiving it as promised, and now we were in Vava'u with only 5 hours of fuel left unable to escape to Rarotonga or Tahiti. Only option was to go to Western Samoa two and a half hours north of here (with 40 knot headwinds), but they had even worse weather than Vava'u as they were closer to the low.

We got the forecast for high winds from NE at 25 gusting to 50 knots confirmed later that afternoon at 'Ana's Waterfront Cafe' where we had lunch. In the evening we had dinner at John Dale's 'Ocean Breeze' restaurant while the wind picked up and a violent tropical thunderstorm with heavy rain passed Vava'u. We slept badly that night, the gusty howling wind got stronger and stronger and there were intermittent heavy downpours hammering on the roof. There were no proper tiedowns at the airport, and Honey-Mooney was not tied down properly. We feared a horrible replay of Margi and Gérard's encounter with Hurricane 'Val', which flattened Western Samoa in December 1991 and almost destroyed their beloved Romeo (a Brazilian built Saratoga).

Tuesday morning after a quick breakfast we took a taxi to the airport. A fallen tree almost blocked the road, the high voltage line along the road was taken down by falling trees. Somehow the protection circuits had not tripped the line, violent electric sparks were flashing and a small fire had been ignited along the road. Thank God the plane was OK when we arrived at the airport. The weather man also operating the AFIS frequency reported winds of 25 knots gusting to 50 knots, and the wind had veered to the North as the low was moving SE and strengthening. We found a pair of huge spare wheels for the fire truck, probably weighing about 150 kgs each. We soon got the permission of the fire department chief to borrow them. They were ideal to create a pair of tie down weights. In pouring rain we put them under the wings of the plane, tied them to the wings, and filled each of them with all the heavy rocks we could find at the airport. Two big Tongan firemen were very helpful in handling these heavy objects. Probably close to 300 kgs were now attached to each wing. We were soaked and dirty, but happy as Honey-Mooney was now a lot better protected than before and we had done everything we could. There was no question about flying away at this time as the wind was perpendicular to the runway and gusting up to 50 knots. Royal Tongan cancelled both their flights to Vava'u that day.

We had an excellent lobster dinner that evening in 'The Mermaid' and drank a lot of wine with Holly (Pommie) and Jon (Kiwi running 'Sailing Safaris') while the winds were howling across the protected harbour of Neiafu. A big fishing boat in the harbour was dragging its mooring and created a bit of panic in the port and a lot of chat on the marine VHF radios. They just got mobile phones in Vava'u a month ago, but the locals prefer the much cheaper marine VHF radios and all the bars and restaurants have got one. John kindly helped us to send a fax to Niue just east of here, so we could stop there en route to Rarotonga should our fuel barrel arrive.

During the night it was pouring down and a lot of water was blown into our rooms due to the high winds and not so watertight windows. The next day Tongatapu (the main Tongan island where the capital Nuku'alofa is located) received even worse weather than Vava'u as the low moved SE and strengthened. Trees were down, electricity and phone lines interrupted. We could not call any telephone numbers in Nuku'alofa and there were no Royal Tongan flights that day either. Spent most of the day updating the web site.

Thursday the winds eased quite a bit and we charted a speed boat from 'Sailing Safaris' to take us out to some good snorkeling spots. The wind was still blowing 15 to 20 knots out of the NW, but the boat driver Ongo found a couple of good and reasonably protected spots. We could see that the Vava'u group islands are quite an unspoiled paradise. Had the weather only been a bit better it would have been perfect. We received authorisation to land in Niue.

Today it is Friday, and there is still no sign of  'Pulupaki' and we are trying to get our money back from BP Oil. We have decided to head north to Western Samoa tomorrow Saturday with the fuel left in the plane. They have  confirmed that Avgas is available at Faleolo and as a back-up Pago  Pago (US Samoa) is nearby. We are dropping our previous plans to visit Niuafo'ou due to lack of fuel reserves and not so good weather (no IFR approach).

Jon kindly lent us his internet connection, so we could log on for the first time in a week and do a minimal upload to the web server and check e-mails. The cost is US$ 1 per minute as a long distance phone call to Nuku'alofa is required. Due to the quality of the line a throughput of only 3 - 8 kbps (about 10% of a good modem connection) is achieved. So we spent 70 expensive minutes doing what normally is done in 7 minutes. Internet cafes have not yet appeared in Vava'u.

In spite of the bad weather, and our worries about the plane and fuel, we nevertheless enjoyed our time in Neiafu, Vava'u and met quite a few interesting people: Baker and Cindy, yachties from California staying through the hurricane season in Vava'u; Bright (American) and Oxana (Ukrainian), also yachties living on their yacht and   now running the IFO IFO bar, John Dale and his Tongan wife Amelia running the Ocean Breeze restaurant. John Dale's help was instrumental in getting our money back from BP Oil for the fuel we never received. We also met American Don Coleman, who is the grandfather of all the yacht activities in the port of Neiafu.


Vava'u airport fire brigade, Jon Beauchamp and Holly (Sailing Safaris),  John Dale (Ocean Breeze)

Click on image to enlarge, click browser back to return

38-Lifuka_departure.jpg (29731 bytes)

Departure from Lifuka. Weather still nice

38-Sandy-beach.jpg (20014 bytes)

Sigi and Jürgen's 'Sandy Beach' resort

38-Vavau_tiedowns.jpg (42325 bytes)

She survived the storm thanks to these big spare wheels filled with rocks

38-Neiafu_church.jpg (28155 bytes)

The catholic church in Neiafu

38-Neiafu_long_way.jpg (47871 bytes)

Still far from home. This sign in front of Tongan Visitors bureau went down with 'Waka'

38-Angela_shop.jpg (26249 bytes)

There was even an 'Angela Handicraft' shop in Neiafu

38-Tongan_pigs.jpg (53931 bytes)

Tongan pigs - symbol of wealth. Kept for the very big events

38-Tongan_layabout.jpg (34946 bytes)

Tongan man in Neiafu with dog

38-Bounty_bar.jpg (25835 bytes)

Waiting for breakfast in Bounty Bar with a view of Neiafu's well protected harbour

38-Mermaid_Flemming_John.jpg (33176 bytes)

Flemming and Jon Beauchamp in the Mermaid bar

38-John_Holly.jpg (28554 bytes)

Jon Beauchamp and Holly in front of Sailing Safari's office

plane_prev_home_next3.gif (2099 bytes)