A lake in the ocean

Tempted by cruisers guide photos and the promise of a potluck supper, we decided to sail the twelve miles round to Hunga (Hoong-ah). This ragged thin island has a concave southern end which together with the smaller islands of Fofoa and Kalau almost completely enclose a lagoon. A reef strewn gap at the southern end between Fofoa and Hunga permits the sea to enter except at low water, whilst a very narrow channel between Fofoa and Kalau enables access by boat.
The channel is probably the narrowest pass we’ve attempted in Temptress; it’s less than 35m wide with a 3m high rock sticking up about a third of the way out from port hand side and about 4.5-5m of water over the coral at high tide. Despite being experienced veterans of the sill at Southsea and the cleft in the cliff that gives access to Beaucette, Guernsey we still felt nervous on the approach. Charts in this part of the world are not altogether accurate; our track into Vava’u showed us sailing over land and the moorings off Nieafu appear to be halfway up the hill so relying on electronic navigation wasn’t going to work. 
In Nieafu we’d purchased the gorgeous Vava’u edition of South Pacific Sea Adventure’s Guide to the Kingdom of Tonga written by Charles Paul who runs the Moorings and Sunsail charter operators here. This glossy book has beautifully drawn sketch charts reminiscent of Wainwright’s Lakeland walking guides; the Hunga chart has a little inset with an expanded diagram of the entrance, in the text it describes in detail how to negotiate it. Arrive within an hour or so of high water, don’t attempt it if there is any west in the wind and once abreast of the pinnacle of rock turn on to 115 degrees magnetic to ensure a safe passage through the reefs that extend away from the pass into the lagoon in a south easterly direction. Once deep blue water is reached you can cross the lagoon to whichever of the three anchorages you wish or simply seek out a sufficiently shallow sandy spot and drop the hook there.
Inside it is delightfully calm, the breeze makes it over the low wooded hills keeping the boat cool whilst a couple of islets surrounded by coral just off the eastern shore keep the fetch to a minimum. The green hills and limestone cliffs completely surround this tiny patch of ocean making it seem like an inland lake. Snorkelling around the little island closest to Temptress after we had moored revealed the coral not to be in good shape but there were lots of bright coloured starfish and hundreds of sea slugs in a range of weird shapes and sizes from the usual foot or so long fat black or brown slugs we are familiar with to long thin things that look like sticks. The water is teeming with fish and the local guy with an unpronounceable name who we donated a spare bilge pump to said there is a tasty snapper like fish that is good to eat if we want to bottom fish. He was delighted with our gift and brought us a bag of fruit from his garden and a pair of earrings made from tiny pearls he has grown here in the lagoon.
Temptress picked one of Hunga Haven’s three moorings. This delightful spot is run by Canadians Barry and Cindy who arrived here from Belize four years ago and are slowly building a wooden cabin to live in. They welcome visitors to their tiny idyll, hence Thursday nights potluck supper in their garden just above the beach. They also offer Internet access with chairs to sit outside and enjoy the view and will furnish you with directions for any of the several walks from their land to the village or the southern beaches and headlands. 
We spent a morning walking along the dirt road with the Kiwi-German crew of Qi (pronounced chi) to the beach at the southern tip of Hunga. The track has been seriously rooted up by wild pigs in places (Barry had trapped one of these overnight for the meat course of the potluck). There is a stile over the fence that keeps a small herd of bullocks contained in the woodland at the southern end of the island, they looked at us curiously as we clambered over but then resumed their grazing. 
The beach is a tiny rock strewn cove surrounded by low palms and tropical brush, great for beachcombers as it faces out into the wide channel Ava Pulepulekai between the islands that is the southern access to the Pacific from Vava’u. Along the way there are fruit trees you help yourself from; lots of towering mangos but it’s not the season here yet and a tiny satsuma like fruit called I think “mele” or similar, quite sour but juicy.
In the evening the crews of all nine boats joined Barry and Cindy for the potluck. We gathered round the campfire getting to know one another as Barry arranged the pressure cooked pork on a grill over the glowing wood. When the substantial quantities of food had been consumed a guitar came out and someone else produced a harmonica, maracas and other percussion instruments so we could sing and tap our way through the evening until it was time to dinghy back home. Another night to remember and a bunch of new friends who we’ll no doubt meet again in other islands.