A surfeit of islands

Kapa and Nuku

Anchored off Kapa

Last Friday morning we tore ourselves away from the delights of Neiafu once more to spend our last weekend in Tonga out amongst the islands. The Vava’u group of islands contains over a hundred though only about thirty are inhabited. There are a myriad of anchorages scattered around some tricky to access through the eastern reefs others a lengthy ten or twelve mile sail from Neiafu to end up just a couple of miles from the town as the crow flies. If you ever have the time to charter a boat for a couple of weeks then this is the place to do so, it is a unique sailing experience.

Initially we joined Margarita at anchor off the west of Kapa Island by the village wharf just north of Nuku island. The only other boat here is Gypsea Heart a US flagged catamaran, though our friends on Bananaman have dropped the hook for the afternoon closer to Nuku’s sandy beach in the hope of snorkelling if/when the rain clears. It held off for most of our motor here but arrived with a vengeance within minutes of completing the anchoring tasks; attaching the anchor snubber on its bridle, putting up the anchor ball and anchor light then suspending the rain cover cum wind scoop over the forehatch.

It’s the little things that keep life afloat interesting. Nok had finally managed to persuade a lady in Neiafu market that she really would like to buy green papaya not ripe yellow ones and a day or so ago acquired several for a cheaper price than the ripe ones. Today they became Thai papaya salad; Tim came over to ask rather cryptically if we preferred American hot or Thai hot and Nok was pleased to hear we wanted the latter. Just after mid day Margarita’s crew arrived bearing lunch mostly for Temptress crew and Nok herself – papaya salad accompanied by boiled rice and pakchoi – the spicy garlicky salad instantly transported Kevin and I back to Thailand. Tim sat back with a beer, amused as we enthused over his wife’s cooking, he is not a fan of spicy hot food whereas Nok was thrilled to be able to prepare Thai food the way it should be!

Pangaimotu, Afo and Tapana


Saturday morning after a snorkel cum paddle around most of Nuku – it’s tiny – and delivering Nok’s birthday present both Temptress and Margarita motored south then turned to port through the gap in the reefs between the southern tip of Kapa and the northern point of the smaller Taunga Island. We crossed the wide pool beyond in a dog leg first heading more north for a mile or so before heading more directly to our destination to avoid a shallow patch in the centre.

The southern end of Pangaimotu (Royal Island) is semi circular rather like the lower end of Hunga and similarly two other islands Afo and Tapana complete the circle, unlike Hunga though the channels between Afo and Tapana and Afo and Pangaimotu are wide and deep. Inside is another well sheltered anchorage. The bottom is mostly sand and we dropped the hook in 10 metres or so of clear water. The very tip of Pangaimotu is almost another island, through the sparse shrubs on the narrow sandy isthmus we can see the sea at high water. Around a dozen other boats, a mix of cruisers and charters lay either on one of the moorings or at anchor plus the floating blue shed that gives this anchorage its name – the Ark Gallery.

One of the boats nearby is another Westsail 28; apparently over 800 were built so it’s not that surprising that we should come across a third one of these very pretty boats this side of Panama. Liberate is Australian flagged but her skipper Ron’s accent as he shouted hello immediately distinguished him as hailing from Dublin, whilst his lovely wife Serafia is from the Philippines. They already know Margarita so joined Tim, Brian, Kevin and I to celebrate Nok’s birthday with a potluck supper; Filipino chicken curry, Thai yellow curry and a lentil moussaka from Temptress plus rice – more food than the six adults could consume. Brian eventually fell asleep, bored with our conversation of boats and places as we swapped cruising stories and plans over wine and coffee.