Twelve Thoughts From Tonga to Fiji


1: We arrived in Suva, Fiji at 10:00 AM local time Thursday, which is exactly what we forecasted to the Fijian Government in the fax we had to send them when we left Tonga last Monday. It was an easy 3 night, 2 day passage in calm seas and gentle winds.

2: Only the English would make a colony out of this 300 island country and place the capital in the single spot where it rains 300 days a year, ignoring hundreds of other islands here that are tropical paradises year-round. (Thought courtesy of Michael Calder).

3: In Tonga we had a moment straight out of the Keanu Reeves film “Speed”. We were doing a quick afternoon motor on Sophie between islands. I was driving. Sandra Bullock (Jenna) came up to the flybridge and said “Oh, you have the engine controls on downstairs.” (Sophie has dual steering stations, and you can switch between them depending if you want to operate the boat from inside or outside.) I said “no, I am driving from up here.” But the “up here” engine control indicator light was off. So I switched it to “up here”. Nothing hapened. I went downstairs and tried to drive from there. Nothing happened. We couldn’t slow down the boat. We couldn’t even turn off the engines, which were both running at 2400 RPM in forward, pushing Sophie along at 7 knots. We couldn’t stop the boat, which is about as big as the bus in the film. Thankfully we had a couple of miles of sea room between the islands in flat seas on a sunny afternoon. It would have been worse if we were in a harbor in the rain trying to dock as we smashed into other boats, fuel tanks, swimmers and fishing nets. There was obviously a blown fuse or circuit breaker between the controls and the engines. Jenna took over the wheel and calmly drove the boat in broad circles while I calmly hunted around engine rooms, electrical panels and various crawls spaces looking for the location of the fault. I couldn’t find it. After a while I called Steve Schufrieder at YachtMasters in Seattle. He installed most of the electrical systems on Sophie. I think he was in his backyard having a beer with a friend, but it was hard to tell because Sophie’s engines were loud. So I hung up and decided to kill the engines by closing the fuel lines that feed them. Each engine “dieseled” for 2 minutes, then died. In the meantime Jenna had calmly rolled out the jib, and we knew we could always sail into Port Maurelle (home of the pig roast) if we couldn’t get the engines back on. I called Steve back, and he suggested I try the emergency starting circuit on Sophie’s port engine. Sophie doesn’t have dedicated engine starting batteries. It has a single bank of 12 volt batteries with 2200 amp hours of capacity (for sailboats, that’s a LOT) which we use for the “house” (lights, stereo, dishwashers, navigation, etc.) as well as for starting the engines. In the event of the house battery bank running out, there is an emergency starting battery for the port engine with its own dedicated circuit to the port engine’s controls. So I turned off the main engine battery switches, turned on the emergency battery switch, and the port engine controls lit up with a happy sense of eagerness to please. I fed the engine some fuel using the manual priming pump on the fuel filter, pushed the engine’s Start button, and it started right up! The starboard engine’s controls remained dead to the world. This was all good news because it meant that we could drive the boat with one motor to Port Maurelle and get a mooring, that our engine controls were not broken, and that we had blown a fuse somewhere. Steve Schufrieder suggested it was the main engine fuse. I went back to Sophie’s main electrical panel, which is located under a bench in the aft cockpit.


I’ve looked at this panel hundred of times but never noticed that right in the middle of it was a label “FUSIBLE MOTEURS” or “ENGINES FUSE” for those of you who do not read French.


It never occurred to me that Sophie would have a single fuse between both engines and both sets of electrical engine controls. (It’s the little white box under one of the cables in the photo). She does, it’s 300 Amps, and we blew it. We also had two spares (Thanks Steve!!!). So we motored with one engine into Port Maurelle, grabbed a mooring, spent 10 minutes replacing the fuse, and then continued on our way to Tapana Island. We dropped an anchor, went swimming, drank rum cocktails, and ate fish for dinner. The End.

4: Sandra Bullock wishes she could look as good as Jenna does right now.


5: I seem to cut my hands every day.  Our friend Will from Hydroquest calls them “Boat Bites”. They most often come from hidden hose clamps in the bilge. (I am now a master marine sanitation expert and never have to worry about job security for the rest of my life.) The worst ones come from fishing. In Port Maurelle I caught a reef fish using bait off of Sophie’s stern to prove to a neighboring 7 year old boy that you could actually catch fish in the harbor, and the little F&*%ER (the fish) had a hidden barb at the base of his tail that punctured the tip of my left middle finger, causing me incredible agony but fortunately no poisoning. Another bad cut came when I stabbed myself in the thumb with a fileting knife when I tried to cut the gutline from the head of a mahi mahi at the exact moment a big wave hit Sophie’s stern step (which is where I was standing). Every time I cut myself I yell out in pain, and Jenna comes running with a worried look on her face assuming I am having another bad injury.

6: We’ve been in Suva for 4 days now and have counted at least 20 shipwrecks in the harbor, including Dolphin Face here.

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You anchor near them, you moor near them, you eat near them, and you drive past them. They are everywhere, and it is a little disconcerting.

7: Right now it’s the early morning of Father’s Day in Fiji. Children here celebrate Dad by buying him presents and feeding him meat and fish. I am waiting for everyone to wake up and celebrate me.

8:  The Royal Suva Yacht Club has an outdoor bar adjacent to an enclosed playground. Yacht club members sit at picnic tables and drink Fiji Bitter while talking rugby and boats as their children safely play right in front of them.


The Seattle Yacht Club needs to build one of these.

After playing, the children hang out in the bar and pose like models.


9: We caught a mahi mahi on the trip from Tonga to Fiji.


It was our first offshore trolling success on Sophie since the day we caught the wahoo and 2 mahi mahis off Bora Bora. While in Tonga, Steven Fell and I upgraded our meatlines to 400 pound test and built new shock absorbers.


They worked extremely well. I now think the main reason I fish is so that I can pose in photos with my tattoo.

10: The visit from our friends the Fells was a great success. While they were here we drank three bottles of Baileys, and we only drink it in our coffee during breakfast. They are a great family, no one got hurt during the trip, and we love them very much.


Every time the Fells attempted to have a family photo taken for a Christmas card, Hazel figured out a way to insert herself into the photo.

11: Leo and Hazel have developed amazing boat hair.

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Front and back.

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12: Happy Father’s Day everyone! Make sure you go out and celebrate dad today, (which in Fiji is Sunday right now).

Arts and Crafts Day Making Jewelry From Seashells


Jenna and Elizabeth decided they would spend Monday with the three girls making jewelry out of seashells. We’ve been anchored in Port Maurelle for the last couple of days, and they spent some time over the weekend collecting a nice variety from the local beach here. The Swedish navy left on Saturday for Fiji. The weather forecast called for a cloudy day with light to moderate wind and the occasional rain shower. Overall it looked to be a nice quiet day on Sophie with the girls focused on quiet and creative art projects.

My emphasis here is on the word “quiet”, because things can get a little loud around here with all of the kids running around.

The boys, on the other hand, decided to spend the day fishing. We chartered a boat skippered by an Oklahoman named Paul who’s been fishing Tonga for 50 years and looks like Robert Shaw in in the film Jaws. Over the course of the day we caught five ahi Mahi, a 30 pound spanish mackerel, and had a 250 pound marlin airborn within 30 feet of the boat. It was a spectacular day on the water, a day that Steve and I will never forget.

This is the story of that trip.

Paul arrived in Port Maurelle at 9:00 in the morning on his boat the Dora Malia to pick us up from Sophie. For crew he had a kiwi named Dave who’s been fishing Tonga for 20 years. Dave lives on his sailboat with his wife and spends half the year in Christchurch and half the year in Tonga and both halfs of the year fishing. He holds a bunch of New Zealand and world records after discovering tuna in places down in New Zealanad where no one knew they existed.


Paul had the Dora Malia built in Tonga in 1987. It was a 35 foot commercial fishing boat built from local wood and named after his daughter. For power it had a 50 horsepower Cummins diesel with 20,000 hours on it.  It has 2 ice boxes in the hold, a small pilot house and a covered work area out back. It is now rigged for sportsfishing with outriggers, rod holders and a plywood fighting chair. We were told he paints it every year. It cuts through the swell like a tank on tracks. We couldn’t have asked for a better ride.


For guests there were me and Steve plus Leo, Steve’s son Michael and our new friend Oskar, a 13 year-old South African boy off the yacht Xanadu. He’s kind of a cocky little kid — when we asked him if he was interested in joining us on the fishing trip, he said he’d love to but warned us that he was lucky and that his line would get all the hits. But he is also a patient and friendly kid who does well hanging out with all of the much younger children in our extended crew, and we were happy to have him along.

Once we left Port Maurelle, Paul presented us with a choice. We could head south and try our hand at wahoo, sailfish and “stuff like that”, or we could head west and try our hand at marlin and maybe mahi mahi. Well, I had seen all of the other local sportfishers heading south that morning, and the forecast was for a southeasterly wind and swell, so if we went west we’d have fewer boats competing with us and would be in the lee of the island for a smoother ride. Plus Steve and I wanted a marlin.

So we decided to go west.

The Dora Malia chugs along at 7 knots, and within an hour we were out in the fishing grounds and 10 minutes later we had our first mahi mahi in the boat. It all seemed so simple and straighforward. We were trolling around something called a “Fish Attraction Device” or “FAD”, which is a fancy name for a string of buoys anchored in 1,300 meters of water. There are three of them off of Va’Vau’s west coast. We trolled right past the North FAD with 4 lines in the water, saw a flash of blue behind us, and within a minute had our first fish in the boat.

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For me, the cool thing about this first fish was that Paul and Dave, with 80 years of combined sportfishing experience between them, get just as excited as me and Steve do when a fish hits one of our lines. It is a universal and magic surge of excitement that apparently never goes away. And these two guys had somehow figured out a way to structure their lives around moments like these. They are obviously doing something right.

We continued to troll around the FAD, and within 20 minutes landed another mahi mahi. Steve got this one into the boat, and once again Dave cleaned it up and tossed it into the ice box.

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At this point Leo yelled out “We’ve got some great mahis on the boat!”, and Dave turned to him, grinned, and said “Leo, ‘mahi’ is the Tongan word for ‘Lady’s panties”, you really need to call the fish by their proper name!”

Throughout the day Paul and Dave got a kick out of the boys and enjoyed their company very much. The fact that we were on a fishing charter and had 2 fish in the box within the first hour didn’t hurt.

So we were now trolling north of the FAD and all of a sudden Paul get a crazy look on his face and yells “Here comes a marlin!” At that exact moment one of the reels explodes with line running out. Paul tells everyone to remain calm, and we all watch the reel run. Steve got out his camera and got a really nice shot.


We lost the fish after a minute, but the surge of shared adrenalin across guest and crew was worth way more than the cost of the entire day’s charter. Later on Paul and Dave thought Steve’s photos were some of the best they’ve ever seen from their boat and asked for copies.

We worked our way down to the middle FAD and landed another mahi mahi around 1:00 in the afternoon. We then headed back north, spotted some frigate birds and landed mahi mahis four and five by 4:00 PM.

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At this point Paul decided we should head inshore and troll right along the rocky cliffs of the island to see if we could land a wahoo or a tuna. There are caves all along the cliffs here, and some of our friends have dived them, seeing lots of nice gamefish right next to the rock. So we tried our hand trolling 30 feet from the rock walls, using a couple of different lures for the inshore stuff.

Leo was sitting up in the pilothouse with Paul, discussing the different fish we were spotting on the fishfinder. There was one last outcropping we were going to troll just 2 miles away from Sophie, and Leo told Paul “I bet we are going to get a fish right here.” At that moment I was sitting in the fighting chair, and all of a sudden “BOOM” … a reel right next to me suddenly burst with a big hit. 200 meters of line ran off in about 4 seconds. It took about 10 minutes for us to land our last fish, a 30 pound spanish mackerel.


Five mahi mahis, one spanish mackeral and some amazing marlin photos. Not a bad way to spend a day while the girls are off making jewelry. It turns out that when we returned to Sophie that no jewelry was actually made, but there were two loaves of bread in the oven (which in my view was better than having shellfish jewelry waiting for me). We kept 2 of the mahis 🙂 plus the mackerel, which we ate for dinner. It tasted similar to wahoo, with white firm meat and a high oil content. Totally delicious. And our freezer is now once again full of fish.

Have I mentioned lately how lucky we are to be on this trip, especially when we have the opportunity to share it with friends?


Nine Souls on Board

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We made it south, got the Fells, returned to Va’Vau, cooked 2 pigs, saw a king and many breaching whales and then fought off a bug. Just another week or two in paradise.

Sophie is a big boat, with a lot of room for the four of us. But when we add our friends Steve and Elizabeth, plus their children MIchael, Emily and Julia, Sophie suddenly seems … smaller. Our space situation is nothing compared to our friends on Warskovi, with three grown men/pirates/vikings sailing from Sweden on an Albin Vega 27. waskovia

Or my own experience growing up, when my parents would cruise for 3 weeks in Maine and Canada’s Maritime Provinces with their nine children on a Columbia 43 named Aequanimitas. That boat had one head, one stateroom, and 4 bunks plus a dinette in the main salon. So I am not complaining at all about our space situation on Sophie right now. We’re just a little bit more snug. Or in the eyes of fellow cruisers out here, a little less palatial.


The trip south to Tongatapu a week ago Saturday was an uneventful motorsail in no air, and we covered the 160 miles in a single overnight passage.  We anchored off of Big Mama’s on the island of Pangaimotu in the afternoon. Big Mama’s is what everyone back home assumes a South Pacific cruising bar would look like — sand floors, palm frond ceiling, carved wooden bar, and a very relaxed vibe. Some members of Mama’s family were sitting  at a picnic table pulling minnows out of a throw net, all in front of a sand beach with a shipwreck right in front.  It was awesome.

After burgers and a beer, Big Mama had one of her boys take us over to town in her water taxi where her friend Big John would taxi us out to the airport. We greeted the Fells as they climbed off their Air New Zealand flight at 8:00 PM. Big John’s son in law (big) Henry then minivanned us back to the harbor.

I love the atmosphere of third world airports at night, with the open air concourses, crowds of family members waiting for planes, and the smell of wood smoke drifting in from neighboring fields. The Tongatapu airport has a second floor observation deck, and we loudly yelled hello to the Fells as they got off their plane. As a country, Tonga strictly observes the Sabbath, which means stores and vegetable stands are open until late on Saturday night to give everyone the opportunity to properly prepare for their Sunday Tongan feasts. For us this meant a lot of traffic in our ride back with Big Henry to Big Mama’s and then to Big Sophie. But we made it back safely with a slightly tired Fell family along with OUR NEW NESPRESSO MACHINE, a new toilet pump for Leo’s head, and a stack of People magazines. code zero

The trip north back to Va’vau on Sunday and Monday was perfect for a jet-lagged family traveling with 3 small children. There was no air and no swell Sunday night, so we motored the whole time. On Monday, a 10 knot southeasterly picked up and we sailed on a gentle broad reach with our full main and code zero, making Neifau by early afternoon.

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We spent the next day clearing customs, eating pizza at the Aquarium Cafe, and restocking our supply of beer and diesel fuel. Our plan was to spend three weeks with the Fells cruising the Vavau group, which resemble the San Juan Islands except the water is 75 degrees with coral beaches and tropical trees along the shore.

So after our day in Neiafu, we then headed 5 miles south to Port Maurelle where we reunited with the Swedish Navy. The weather was beautiful, so out came the inflatable kayaks, inflatable water toys, paddleboards, snorkel gear, fishing gear, and ice machine as Sophie transitioned into full mothership mode. The kids were having a blast playing with each other while ignoring their parents. Steve and I went fishing in the dinghy every day and hit nothing. Jenna and Elizabeth went paddleboarding. Everyone went to the beach. We took turns wakeboarding using the pirates’ surfboard and Sophie’s dinghy (with the 20 HP Honda outboard).

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One evening as Steve and I returned in the dinghy from another quick (and unsuccessful) trolling trip, we encountered a mother humpback and her calf 300 meters from Sophie. As we stopped to watch and take pictures, the calf decided to practice breaching. We spent the next 30 minutes filming this humpback whale calf splashing around the anchorage, all while it’s mom calmly watched and with Sophie in the background. Steve has informed me that I can contact his agent back in the states if I am interested in using any of his footage in this blog. baby whale

And then came Pigs 11 and 12 (in ’13).

Kidd, one of the Swedes, decided that the best way to celebrate his crewmate Rosalie’s 30th birthday was to host a pig roast on the beach. He ordered a 30 kilo pig from a local farmer, and everyone in the anchorage was extremely psyched at the prospect of a great party. Except for a could of minor problems. They wound up getting two small pigs instead of one big pig, had no place to store them the night before the party, and none of them had ever roasted a pig before.

Well, Jenna and I have held an annual pig roast every year for the last 10 years, and these two little pig gals (pigs affectionately named Caroline and Rosalie after two vegetarians in the anchorage) would make it Pigs 11 and 12 for us. We also had a cooler and ice machine and could store the pigs for the night. Most importantly, I welcomed the opportunity to pass along the thing or two I’ve learned about pig cooking, most of it from my father, to a new generation of sailors. pig sludge

The pig roast got off to a great start. I came into shore around 7:00 am with some cold beer and lawn chairs. Yes, Sophie sails with 4 lawn chairs  — items we had picked up at a cancer charity auction in Seattle.  I had grown to hate them. We hadn’t used them once during 6,000 miles of cruising, and I had to personally move them every time I needed something from our port forward lazarette. But they worked really well during a day-long beach pig roast party, and I can now live with them. Besides, the vikings approved of the lawn chairs, because they had beer holders sewn into an armrest. Apparently no one in Sweden buys lawn chairs without beer holders in them.

Anyway, I arrived to the shore to find the Swedes in full boys-on-beach-with machetes-and-fire mode. They had dug a pit, cut a 15 foot long spit, got a nice fire going, and were making trips into the jungle for wood. I provided some breakfast beer, and we all sat around reveling in our Lord-of-the-Flies morning beer drinking pig roast boyness. It was a beautiful and sunny and HOT day. We made several trips back to boats for supplies and pigs, but we eventually got everything sorted out and pigs onto the fire.

For preparation, we coated the pig cavities with olive oil and spices and covered the outside skin with a sludge of rum, coke, olive oil, soy sauce and spices.   We then wired the pigs to the homemade spit (including a crimped section of stainless steel leader wire in the center) and then covered the pigs in aluminum foil. We drilled holes through the wooden spit for the wire so the pigs wouldn’t slip on the spit as we turned it (a big pig roast killer). There were even a few jokes at Caroline’s and Rosie’s expense during the pig preparation process.  But overall the setup worked really well. The aluminum foil created a seal and no juice dripped into the fire during the entire cooking process. The spit broke once (it was wood) but we quickly wired 2 more spits to the outside of the pig and continued cooking. Overall we cooked the pigs for 10 hours, turning them on the fire every 20-30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, the day got hotter, the breakfast beers and rum/cokes had their affect, and it wound up being a pretty quiet day on the beach. 6 hammocks were slung in the shade, and people took turns napping. To help beat the heat we towed kids, girls, and vikings around the harbor on inner tubes and surfboards while playing on the beach or hanging out in the water.

The only downside of the day is that Hazel picked up a stomach bug, and Jenna spent the day taking care of her on Sophie.  That bug spread to 6 other people on Sophie over the next week, but that is a story for my “Laundering sheets all day, every day in the rain” blog post I will write some day. The good news is that our little girl Hazel rallied late in the afternoon and was in full party mode by the time the feast began in earnest at sunset.

And man did it begin! Crews from 10 cruising boats showed up, each with some potluck food that we set up on a makeshift table created by flipping a surfboard over a couple of log benches. Everyone also seemed to bring a bottle or two of some sort.

Easily our favorite dish was the Spanish Omelette (eggs, cheese and potatoes) that was cooked up by the crew of Bora Bora, a Beneteau that hailed from Barcelona. Later in the evening, after a few bottles, I innocently asked this crew if Barcelona had a football club.  They looked at me as if I was insane, then looked at each other and grinned, and then broke out in a loud and robust Barcelona fight song. Apparently they closed out the party sitting around the fire in the wee hours of the morning singing Barcelona fight songs. I think they are a very good crew.

The pigs came off the fire at 7:45 and were cut open at 8:00. The skin didn’t caramelize the way I really like it to, but the meat was juicy and cooked to perfection. We laid both pigs on the ground next to the surfboard, cut them apart with the only two knives on the island, and watched the crowd devour them in 10 minutes. All of this was done by the light from flashlights and oil lanterns and a big bonfire in the background. The crew of Bora Bora handed me bottles of champagne to swig out of as I cut.


Rosalie had birthday wishes sung to her in 3 or 4 languages, and lots of cake was served.  There was Canadian dance music playing in the background. We are all on a beach. The stars were out. There was fire. It was a moment. We ferried the kids back to Sophie at 11:00. They were incredibly well-behaved during the party.

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There must be something about ferile fire dance parties at night on the beach that make them realize there is no need to act up to get the attention of their parents. Steve and I returned with Sophie’s last bag of ice and were once again attacked by Swedish zombies mumbling “Ice, Ice, Ice”. Eventually everyone made it safely back to their boats, except for the folks who slept on shore in tents and hammocks.

It was a fun party.

We spent last Friday recovering and then on Saturday morning returned to Neiafu for provisioning. There was a big agricultural fair, and the King of Tonga arrived to inspect the exhibits. It surprised us how much the King of Tonga looks like Steven Fell. Perhaps that’s why he’s been treated so well by the locals.


On Sunday we left Neiafu and have spent the last 4 days in the anchorage of Vaka’eitu. The first part of the week was spent in full laundry-in-the-rain-while-kids-get-sick-one-at-a-time-on-a-boat mode. But it has turned sunny and HOT, and all of that is now forgotten. We were able to change the oil, oil filters and fuel filters on our Yanmars, and Johannes used his dive tank to help me change the zincs on our sail drives. We are now back at Neiafu for one last night with the Swedish Navy before they all depart for Fiji. We’ll hang out in Tonga with the Fells in full vacation mode for another couple of weeks.

Have I mentioned lately how blessed we are to be on this voyage?

fell kids

A Good Week in Tonga (Understatement of the Year)

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We are in the Kingsom of Tonga, the week has gone by way too quickly, and we are having a wonderful time. It’s that simple.

We covered the 250 miles from Niue over 2 nights and a day, arriving last Sunday at sunrise. It was a slow, pleasant downwind sail (above) that was made even more fun by keeping in radio contact with our traveling companions Orkestern (Sweden), Ninita (Sweden), and Hydroquest (Canadia). The only downside of the passage is that we caught exactly zero fish. On Saturday each of the Swedish boats had landed a Mahi Mahi, and I couldn’t let these little … sloops beat Sophie and her 4-lines-in-the-water when it came to the passage fishing derby, so I offered a chocolate reward to anyone on board who spotted a game fish. Leo took the offer quite seriously, and 30 minutes later alerted all of us in time to see a big, muscular Mahi Mahi hit one of the 8 meter, 300 pound meatlines directly behind the boat. He fought for 3 seconds, snapped the line like it was a thread, and angrily swam off. Although we lost the fish, it was thrilling to watch a fish hit the line right behind us.

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We also saw rainbows.

So on our passage, we lost the fishing derby, and Hydroquest arrived ahead of us to win the passage race, but Sophie TOTALLY won the passage whale watching derby. Our destination was the port of Neiafu in Tonga’s Vava’u Group, and to arrive there we had to sail over the top of the island of ‘Uta Vava’u and then 10 miles upwind into a protected bay. Well, since we still hadn’t landed any fish, and we had had an easy passage, we decided to actually sail upwind these last 10 miles.

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It was like we were back racing in Puget Sound — 15 knots of wind, no swell, and surrounded by islands as Leo, Jenna and I tacked Sophie back and forth up the bay. That’s when we saw 2 humpbacks lazily hanging out next to an island, slapping their flukes and having a good old time. Jenna was in heaven. She got out her big Canon, the one that has the 300 mm lens and makes a quiet machine gun noise in burst mode, and took 250 photos over the next 10 minutes. None of the other boats saw the whales, but everyone was happy to make landfall after a gentle passage.

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Since Tonga’s customs office is closed on Sunday, we all dropped anchors below Lotuma Island to hang out for a day. It was our most sheltered anchorage since perhaps the Tuomotus, and we were all greatful and a little amazed to be in still water for our post-passage naps. Post-nap, Sophie went into mothership mode. Will, Sarah, Ola, Nina, Johannes, and Caroline all rowed over for a dinner of fresh Mahi Mahi poached in butter (thanks Ola) washed down with drinks from cups filled with ice, which is apparently still a novelty for the Swedes.

Btw, Hazel is having a hard time deciding which of the men accompanying us she likes the most. First it was defintiely Will, then is seemed to transition over to Johannes, but now it is all Ola.

On Monday we pulled anchor and motored over to the commercial dock in Neiafu to clear customs. It took 2 hours, 4 departments, and a trip to the ATM but we finalized our paperwork and were granted official entry into the Kingdom. We spent Monday and Tuesday hanging out, doing laundry, eating banana splits and pizza in town, and marveling how sheltered the anchorage in Neiafu is.

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On Wednesday we had a lasagna/fishing/lets-go-sail-a-cat outing on Sophie. Will, Sarah, Ola, Nina, Johannes and Caroline all joined us on a cloudy day with 20-25 knot northeasterlies for a leisurely trip around the atoll. It seemed to start out as a fashion shoot, with 6 people pointing cameras at each other, clicking away. But then we transitioned to something much more important: fishing.We had 6 lines in the water, including a new pink hoochie I made for Hazel and a big squid Ola made that he calls “herdagerdaverda” which is Swedish for “tricky fellow”. Hazel’s pink Hoochie had 2 hits, but that was about it. We did have 3 squalls come through, and for me it was a blast to reef and tack Sophie with guys who had crossed the Pacific in boats ranging from 26 to 40 feet. Sophie uses the same basic physics their boats use but can sail at 10 knots with 2 reefs in the main, especially when there is no swell. There were a lot of smiles, and at one point it was raining so hard Johannes and I were more wet than if we were being hit full blast by a firehose underwater. For the ladies, it was a blast to sail through squalls while sitting below watching a Harry Potter movie on an HD flatscreen while eating chocolate cake.

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As we were pulling into the harbor Hazel’s new lure caught a Travallie Jack, and at anchor everyone fell asleep watching a James Bond film after a dinnner consisting of drinks-with-ice, 3 bottles of Jenna’s dowry, a big Jenna lasagna, and a sugar cake Caroline had whipped up.

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On Thursday, all we did was spend the day swimming with a humpback whale and her newborn baby for four hours. Words can’t accurately capture the experience.

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It’s Friday. There’s no wind but it is dumping rain. We need to go into town and run some errands, then we will leave Neiafu and head 150 miles south to meet our friends the Fells at the airport at Tongatapu. As great as this past week was, next 3 weeks are going to be even better. We’ve even selected the uninhabited island with a pristine beach where we will hang out with them.

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For 3 weeks. It’s 2 miles from where we swam with the whales, and I spotted a Wahoo jumping after reef fish 10 meters from shore.

Have I mentioned lately how blessed we are to be on this trip?