SLOW SLOW SLOW!! life in Tonga

Thursday 25th..Well now I am in Pangi TRYING?? To download 225 emails at 2 meg and hour!!..incredibly slow..just the same as last nightmare..not sure if I will be able to get any Pictures up??..smooth trip from Nomuka Iki, in beautiful weather seven hours steaming with about 5kts of 0800hrs Alex, Gregory, Euwy and Jian swam with their first whales!! A couple came past ICE close on the Starbord side and then returned for a play turning 180 degrees.. so I told the crew to get in..they slipped in the water and just swam along the side of ICE..amazing..all very happy..saw whales all day…now life is a nightmare…hope this blog gets out!!.plan to veggie shop tomorrow then head out to pick up a replacement inflatable for the one chopped up on another island about 1 hour away…I wish we were all just sending letters…High to all…Don

Wednesday 24th..Wind dropped off, so we set of with two dingies to Nomuka at 0900 just over a mile away, hit the local shops for some frozen chicken and beef and bread, a real surprise, as the ferry just arrived as we veggies though…spent a few hours checking things out, then headed back in clear blue skies and smooth seas..this would have been our first good dive day, but not quite ready!! The rest of the day was busy unloading more gear to the base and then trying again with the Desalinator..the Plumbing from the sea is all fine now, as are all the pre filters and feed pump, but unbelievably the main High Pressure pump is not working??..HMM..???..then it was a two hour cook up using everything on Blue base..all three burners on the stove, the Barbie and the camp fire…a feast. We left the beach for ICE at about 2100hrs with Jian, Euw and Alex with us to sleep onboard for a 0630 departure for Pangi tomorrow…the Moon was huge glistening in the smooth seas. Zero wind….wow!

Tuesday 23rd..on ICE, the day started VERY rolly again, with the persistent strong westerly wind and swell hooking around the corner. The anchorage is good in south or south easterly trade winds only. The weather seems all mixed up for sure..At first light I was watching the swells at high tide surge up the beach and nearly breech the top of the bank and flood over into the camp…where we have the desalinator tent set up, it went to within 15cm of flooding over. Today we built up a 30cm wall to help prevent that in the coming high full moon tides if the weather /swell gets worse. We set up a dingy mooring system with chains and a big anchor, buoys found washed up on the island and spliced lines etc, so later we can moor them off the beach as there is not much beach left on the high tide.

The Team have been collecting pleanty of plastic rubbish around the foreshore of the island on their various walks and now we have to decide what we do with them will be an ongoing process. There is no recycling in Tonga that I can see and when we go to Pangi in a few days, they do not have a rubbish system there either…we do not want to burn them, so we may decide to bury them on the island later. At least they are out of the marine environment. We are burning our burnable rubbish and compacting all our plastic and putting our food scraps out to sea. We do not want to compost food, as we know there are rats on the island but the only one we have seen was a very friendly little guy that was more like a native bush marsupial from Australia??..not a big domestic rat…he was just hanging out and climbed a tree…no fear of us, so we just let him on his way. There are some beautiful non sea birds around and big blue tailed skink lizards, giant hermit crabs and other rock/sand crabs about too. The Iki “Air force” must be regrouping as they have not been too bad of late??

WE had our first trial run of the desalinator late in the day and there are a few plumbing leaks which we expected, but all looks OK, so tomorrow we will address that and should be able to Make water..the base radio station is now set up with an Ariel high up a tree, so we should have good safety coverage for the boats. We went over boat operation safety plans and emergency procedures today, checked out the dive compressor and discussed our first planned dive. Jian made Pizzas on the Barbie for lunch!!!

The wind is still up at 20 plus knots from the west, with a solid sea running outside and the pass between us and Nomuka had 1.5mtr rolling/breaking seas when the 1 kt current was against the wind. Our plan of visiting the shop over there and meeting up with Sam the district officer did not happen. Hopefully tomorrow. Still not trade wind weather yet with little annoying rain squalls about, but beautiful weather compared to the past days and one of the biggest, strongest, brightest double rainbows many of us have ever seen arrived as the sun was going down and the full moon was coming up…special place out here!!..amazing!…Don

Monday 22nd July…Wind finally swung to the south west creating some protection from the wind onshore. After sorting the outboards Jane and I headed ashore to visit the troops for the first time in days..the sun was shining, breeze just 15kts and everything was blue and gleaming..they had spent the morning rebuilding camp after the blow..some damage to tents was sustained but all repairable. Basically it was not fun onshore during the blow!!..They had been hiding in the HQ tent to socialize and try to cook for the past few days but it was not easy, and all were a bit “down” to see BLUE BASE looking so disorganized during the blow, after all the efforts to set up. The desalinator tent took some water from an open window, but all was fine, so I set about sorting all the plumbing, with that being a priority now. Drinking water is down to about 200 ltrs..we were so lucky to get that water from “Billy Bud” to keep things civilized. The team managed to catch about 100 ltrs from buckets, but the wind made it too hard to rig a catchment…the Dunny Tent had blown over twice until it was finally secured and a path was now cut to the opposite side of the Island, where it was relatively calm in the lee during the worst of it, so the Team had some relaxation and great snorkeling yesterday when it was not raining….the difference on that side was stunning..

I somehow managed to get the 25hp Yamaha working again, and sorted the water pump issue on the Tohatsu, so we have two operational boats again, then sent Richard and alex out to spend 45 minutes driving/ running in the new 25hp. Managed to get the desalinator set up and the plumbing to the sea looks OK, so hope to run it tomorrow, as the tide was too low late in the day . We can only run it for 6 hours through the top of the tides which are very high and low right now. Richard is still sorting the various electrical gear, now looking night, just for fun, we run a string of party lights which lights up the Island!! Looks very impressive from ICE. We run the small generator for about two hours to charge things and use the solar systems for other lights. Unfortunately the biggest solar generator is still giving some problems..

So by the end of the day the BIG moon rising was shining on a BLUE BASE once again looking like a little community, with Jian cooking up some amazing buns in the impressively re-established outdoor kitchen..during the blow Alex had taken on the roll of camp cook with loaves of bread and stewed fruit from the camp oven on the fire…his scouting/camping and carpentry background is adding wonders to the Base…we are all now focused on setting up for diving operations!! Helped along by a late afternoon snorkeling session just off the beach in front of BLUE BASE..All were all stunned at the 35mtr visibility and spectacular coral!!

Onboard ICE the anchorage is still very rolly!! …Don