Directly overhead, through a perfectly clear midnight sky, there’s a full moon. From a beanbag chair secured to the deck of a single-mast sailboat I’m reflecting on the first few days of our South Pacific adventure. Connor is instantly sound asleep in the main cabin, fish are breaking the glassy calm surface of the water all around Fidelis as the boat gently tugs on her anchor in fifty feet of water a few hundred yards offshore of a nearly-deserted Tongan island named Pangiamotu. There’s a rusted shipwreck hulk jutting out of the water between us and the shore. The only human activity on the island appears to be a small resort on the beach. The water and calm night carries the voices of the few people in the open-air café right to me.
Tonight there shall be no mosquitoes (yeah!), no night club across the canal and no rain. We’ve officially departed Tonga and tomorrow begin the three or so day sail to Fiji. Tonga has been wonderful, and though we’ve only seen the main island, we are ready to move on. The timing of the trip to Fiji should get us to airport in Nadi with a comfortable buffer, but not enough to stay in Tonga another day. Connor has enjoyed the adventure, but he’s now itching to start sailing. He seems to see this trip as a chance to show that he’s not a little boy anymore. He has been willing to take every opportunity, has tried things easily and has been a great helper.
I’m catching up on my notes for the day. We went shopping in town again. We were walking into town and Ben came by and picked us up. We were really OK with the walk, but he was excited to get our business. Diego needed new shorts, Vince wanted to get a new PC fan for his electronics, we needed to “check out” of the country at the immigration office, we needed some more groceries, Connor wanted a shake and I needed a latte. As we worked our way to shore on Dob the Fidelis stern line that the three of us adults were using to pull the small boat ashore swept me off my feet and off the boat. So much for the iPhone – it never recovered. Good thing I waited to get the version 4. Had my wallet and passports, but they were fine.
We went to the farmers’ market, which had quite a good selection of locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the merchants appeared to be Chinese. Connor and I found one woman particularly willing to get us whatever veggies we needed. Despite the large selection and general flexibility, green peppers were only sold in groups of three – couldn’t figure that out. We got carrots and celery, which we ate for the rest of the trip, and some scallions which I chomped up that day. It was cool seeing the very, very large bunches of green bananas still on the massive stalks that had been sliced down by machete, being hauled out of small trucks on the street. We hit the bakery and got fresh very white bread, pizza and a big pastry. The bread goes bad quickly on the boat, and gets eaten quickly. In two days it was all gone.
The electronics store was interesting. While food was cheap in Tonga, electronics are very expensive. We saw a tower computer with 5 DVD burners in it – very pricey. But with one of those you can go into business selling movies for a couple of bucks a disk. We went to the video store and Vince picked out a couple of titles, which they burned while we waited.
We visited our favorite coffee shop and Connor tried the vanilla this time. Then we walked over to the big park in town, where there was a credenza. We had brought the backpack with the baseball mitts that Connor and I had brought from home. This was the only time on the trip we used them, but it was well worth it. We started playing catch and then people started watching, kids, cops, adults, maybe a dozen in all hanging around, tossing a loose ball now and then. Ben was still with us and he played with me and Diego as Connor and Vince went back to the video store. Neither he nor Diego had played before, but were pretty good. Then a guy named John came buy and asked to play. He was really pretty good, said he had played a bit overseas. We put on a fun show of long ball and pitching and some diving catches. Vince and Connor came back and Vince took a turn. We worked up a good sweat and then headed out on foot. By this time Ben had given up on us ever getting back in the cab; he had hung out with us all day to get the next fare. He told us that he never walks – anywhere. That the short walks we did around town were the most walking he had done in years, and he was a young guy. He didn’t get the fare but got the benefit of some much-needed exercise!
As were were leaving the national rugby team started practicing on their practice field across the street from the park and next door to the royal palace (which is more of a large Victorian-style home). We were imagining the royal family wanted to keep a close eye on the team’s progress. We then walked down the waterfront road and stopped at a chicken stand on the side of the road. Roasted chickens and rice for sale. It was pretty good stuff. We got the special tourist price. Further down the road a man who Vince had met before we arrived stopped his truck to sell us bone carvings – made from cow bone and strung as necklaces. Connor got mommy and Sophia one each and Vince and Diego each got one and wore them on the trip.
We made a couple more immigration, customs, etc. stops and we believed we were all set as we motored to the gas depot to fill up and head out. But apparently one guy gave us the wrong paperwork and the company who ran the gas pump couldn’t honor the form we had and wanted us to fix the problem. Vince decided to try and make it right for the next guy, so he put on his Sunday best and left the gas station for one of the offices about a mile away. About an hour or so later he got back and we gassed up and got underway. Apparently the head guy who was actually a New Zealander threw up his hands in frustration – agreeing that there were problems but that he was powerless to change it.
Finally we were off to nearby Pangiamotu island in the evening to stay the night before departing for Fiji. We had a dinner of ramen noodles with coconut broth and Mahi-Mahi, Connor liked it, watched a movie, and off to mosquito-free bliss. I’m writing from the beanbag chair topside, on the most scenic night of the trip.