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Ocean Blue is For Sale!

After 13 amazing years and a journey that has taken us through several continents and half way around the world, it is time for Ocean Blue to have a new owner.

Ocean Blue is a Bill Dixon designed, centre cockpit Moody 54 blue water cruiser built by Princess Yachts and launched in 2002. 16.7m long with a beam of 4.85m, she has a hydraulic bathing platform for easy access to the water or tender.

We have owned her since 2011 and after 5 years cruising the English Channel, Channel Islands and Brittany, we set off on a trip around the world. Leaving the UK, we travelled down the French, Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan coasts before arriving in the Canary Islands. We sailed from the Canaries to St Lucia with the ARC in 2016 then worked our way up the eastern coast of the USA via Bermuda (for the Americas Cup). The next year we returned to the Caribbean heading south as far as Trinidad via the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands before transiting the Panama Canal. Galapagos followed before a long period in French Polynesia (Covid)! On to New Zealand then up to Tonga and Fiji.

Ocean Blue is cutter rigged with a white painted Selden Mast and Boom (repainted in New Zealand 2023), a slab reefed, fully battened main (replaced 2023), staysail and Yankee. For downwind sailing she has a Parasailor (our favourite sail!), a cruising chute (on a top down furler) and a symmetrical spinnaker, flown off the carbon fibre spinnaker pole. She has beautiful teak decks and a dark blue hull (vinyl wrapped). Under the water she has a moderate draft on a fin keel (2.4m) with a skeg hung rudder. She has Coppercoat antifoul which was replaced in 2023. Fully kitted for extended cruising, she weighs somewhere around 24 tonnes.

Cockpit

The centre cockpit is beautifully sheltered and secure at sea with a fixed plexiglass screen below the vented sprayhood which attaches to the bimini. For the cooler or wetter days there is a full cockpit enclosure and multiple sun screens and shades, extending to the rear arch to keep the boat and crew cool in the tropics. There is a teak foldout table with integral cool box storage in front of the binnacle, and behind the cockpit is a stunning sunbathing area with padded cushions, ideal for those lazy days at anchor and watching the sunset with a sundowner. The cockpit, big enough to seat 8 comfortably, has 4 attachment points for lifeline tethers, two accessible before leaving the companionway.

Deck

Ocean Blue’s teak decks add to the beauty of the boat. At the bow is a huge anchor locker divided into two: Storage to starboard and chain to port. The side decks are wide with good handholds. At the transom is the gas locker with room for two medium gas cylinders and the large lazarette which spans the entire width of the transom. Beneath the lazarette floor is the steering quadrant and autohelm ram. The lazarette contains the hydraulic pumps for the bathing platform and steering as well as the Eberspacher heater, SSB Antenna tuner, emergency tiller and a large amount of storage space.

Accommodation

Ocean Blue’s interior is spacious and airy. The galley is to port as you come down the companionway and has a four burner gas hob with oven and grill, a microwave with grill, one and a half sinks, a large front opening fridge and an equivalent top opening freezer. Since Ocean Blue was designed for worldwide cruising, unlike many of our friend’s boats, the freezer is well insulated and can comfortably freeze ice cream, sorbet and other luxuries! There is plenty of storage in the galley and the Corian worktops provide ample preparation space when preparing meals.

The chart table is to starboard just forward of a wet locker, with the instrument panel above and storage below.

Just forward is the main saloon table which opens out if required to seat many guests. Seating around the table is on a wrap around settee which comfortably seats 6 people and two foldaway chairs provide additional seating if required. To port, just forward of the galley is a further two seater settee. There is loads of storage under and behind the seats and in cupboards around the saloon.

The master suite occupies the entire width of the stern and is huge. An island berth, with access from both sides, two settees, two hanging lockers and several other cupboards and drawers. The master ensuite is spacious with a separate shower compartment, sink and Vacuflush electric toilet. There is good access to the port side of the engine room from the ensuite.

Just forward of the master suite is a bunk room with storage, starboard access to the engine room and the washer dryer.

Forward of the saloon, to starboard is a double bunk cabin with hanging locker and additional storage.

To port there is the guest heads, accessible from both the saloon and directly from the forecabin. The guest heads is spacious with a Vacuflush electric toilet and a separate shower.

Forward of the heads is the large airy guest cabin, with a double bed, two hanging wardrobes, several other wall cupboards and a huge storage locker under the foot of the bed.

Stern Arch

When we left the UK, we never wanted an arch over the transom, but after a season in the Caribbean we realised the error of our ways and were lucky enough to be introduced to a very skilled Stainless fabricator in Trinidad, who built us an extremely strong, but reasonably light arch, fully integrated into our pushpit which supports our 1000w of LG Solar power and two Duogen wind generators. As a bonus, we have a removable engine hoist for the outboard on the side of the arch as well as rear deck lighting and a high level stern light.

Engine and Fuel

Ocean Blue is powered by a very reliable Yanmar 100hp turbocharged diesel engine connected to a 3 blade folding propeller. We carry approximately 1000 litres of diesel in two tanks (which can be isolated if required), which at our chosen engine speed gives us over 10 days motoring (24 hours a day), typically at around 6.5 knots. She can power along at over 8 knots in flattish water but that uses significantly more fuel. This volume of diesel is ideal when cruising more remote locations meaning you can pick and choose where you buy fuel.

Bow Thruster

Side-Power 15 HP Bow Thruster with helm mounted controls

Electrical Systems

Ocean Blue’s electrics are predominantly 24 volt, with 4 100AH 12v batteries for the service bank (powering inverter, winches and bow thruster) and a similar 4 100AH 12v batteries for the domestic bank . The Inverter is a Victron Quattro 24-3000 charger / inverter and there are additional 240v chargers for the domestic and start batteries. Sitting above the engine is the smooth running 1500 rpm Onan 11KVA genset, which has ample power for everything onboard (including the 4 aircon units!) should you want to run them all at anchor. Engine charging is via the 110 AH externally regulated alternator. As mentioned above she also has solar (3 x 360 amp LG panels) and wind power generation (2 x Eclectic Energy D400).

Instrumentation

For Navigation Instruments, Ocean Blue has two Raymarine Axiom Pro touchscreen chartplotters in the cockpit (12″ and 9″). One at the helm station and the second under the sprayhood. On passage, when the boat is steered by autopilot, the crew on watch are far more frequently sheltered at the front of the cockpit, so a chartplotter there makes a lot of sense. Coupled to the chartplotters are the Raymarine Quantum Radar, and additional displays including the Raymarine autohelm controller driving the hydraulic autohelm. AIS and VHF is via the new generation Garmin Cortex which has fixed and wireless handsets, colour instrument display and an excellent anchor watch and remote systems monitoring. There is an ICOM SSB for long range communication, using the insulated backstay as the antenna.

Sail Control

Sail control is easy for short handed sailing. Two Lewmar 48 electric winches at the front of the cockpit are for the mainsheet, reefing lines, main halyard, spinnaker halyard, topping lift, kicker and staysail sheet. Reefing can be done without leaving the cockpit. Two Lewmar 64 large electric winches are either side of the cockpit for the Yankee sheets as well as two Lewmar manual 54 winches for spinnaker sheets. The mainsheet track is safely behind the cockpit and has a small Lewmar 16 winch at either end for control of the traveller. The headsails are both furled on Furlex 400 furlers with the tails coming back to either the electric or manual winches beside the cockpit as desired. A second spinnaker halyard is rigged as a spare. The carbon fibre spinnaker pole runs on a Selden track on the front of the mast and there is a Selden prodder for the cruising chute. Fixed mounted spinnaker turning blocks are provided for the spinnaker sheets as well as soft shackled blocks forward for the Parasailor guys.

Safety Equipment

Safety equipment on deck comprises, full length jackstays, stainless guardrails with gate openings either side for dockside access, 2 horseshoe man overboard devices with drogues and strobes, two danbuoys and a four man liferaft (new in 2023). Beneath the companionway steps is an Epirb. The engine room has an automatic fire extinguisher system and there are several smoke detectors and fire extinguishers throughout the cabins. The bilge has a high water alarm and a gas alarm. There are automatic bilge pumps in the main bilge and the lazarette. The Master suite, and bunk rooms have lee cloths on the berths.

Rig

The Selden white painted mast is keel stepped with new standing rigging in 2016. It has 4 folding steps above deck and a hydraulic backstay tensioner. The rig is triple spreader with the optional diamond spreaders at the staysail, eliminating the need for using the running backstays (dyneema) whenever the staysail is deployed. In practice we only use the running backstays when going upwind into a short chop in high winds to prevent any pounding of the rig.

Fresh Water

Ocean Blue has two water tanks, which can be isolated on passage if required. Total fresh water storage is approximately 500 litres. She has a top of the range Spectra Newport 1000 watermaker capable of producing up to 150 litres per hour. Being an energy recovery unit, the low current draw means that the water maker can be run from the inverter without running the generator or engine. There is a hot water calorifier feeding the galley, both heads and the cockpit shower. The calorifier is heated from both the engine and the electrics.

Ground Tackle

For safe and secure anchoring she has an amazing Rocna anchor on 85 metres of 12mm chain, running through an upgraded Lewmar Windlass (replaced 2021).

Dinghy / Tender

Getting to and from the shore and exploring the surroundings is via her AB Lamina 10 tender with a 20 hp Mercury electric start 4 stroke outboard (new 2021). After all these years of driving around in friend’s tenders, I still believe the AB is the driest and most comfortable tender I have ever used. The tender is hung off the transom on Simpson Electric Davits.

Heating and Ventilation

For warmer climates Ocean Blue has four aircon units. Two in the saloon, one serving the front two cabins, and one serving the master suite and adjacent cabins. The unit in the master suite is a new (2023) inverter unit that can be run from the inverter at anchor overnight to ensure the owners cabin is at a comfortable temperature all night long. For cooler climates she has an Eberspacher Hydronic heating system with outlets in all cabins. There are several fans, strategically placed to provide fresh air where needed, six Lewmar deck hatches and six dorade vents.

Price and availability

Ocean Blue is for sale at an asking price of £240,000 (US$300,000). She is a 22 year old fast comfortable, safe, bluewater cruiser, which has been our home for many years. She is not a brand new boat, but considering the usage, her condition is good for her age. Cosmetically there are some aspects of her that could do with some improvement which is reflected in the asking price; a new similar sized bluewater cruiser equipped to the same specification would probably cost in excess of a million pounds! Currently she is cruising the South Pacific with an itinerary for the 2024 season most likely being Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia.

For further information

Download Brochure
Email: derek@oceanbluesailing.net
Whatsapp: +44 7836 748343

Vanuatu – Port Havannah and Pele Island

Port Havannah, on the north west corner of the island of Efate is a large sheltered area with many possibilities for anchoring and exploring. We anchored off a village called Ulei which proved very sheltered and we comfortably sat out the strong winds that continued for several days. 

Ashore there is a small community with both a primary and secondary school.  The road side stalls sell fruit and veg in the afternoons and in the evenings there are various cooked food and snacks. Everyone is very friendly and were happy to chat when we went ashore for a walk. The snacks were enjoyable too; from fresh skewered nuts to samosas and rotis. You could also buy entire cooked meals, but the snacks were sufficient for Derek since it was almost dinner time when we went!

A short walk along the road from the stalls is the ‘American Pool’ fresh water swimming pool enjoyed by the locals, which was labelled as a potential resort location in the past; presumably the local kids gathered there will hope that never comes to be.

Amidst the stalls selling the snacks and food is a World War 2 memorabilia stall, filled with items from an aircraft that ran out of fuel and landed nearby.

Leaving Port Havannah

A short sail out of the bay and around the north to Pele Island gave us a beautiful anchorage and protected spot between the islands surrounded by reef. We spent a few days here doing boat maintenance and enjoying snorkelling. The afternoon sun descends over the old volcano, which can be walked up from the beach and sets over the sea just to the south.

Sunset looking towards the volcano

It was a slightly extended stay in the bay and now we head back to Port Vila to collect a new Balmar alternator which is on its way from New Zealand, replacing the one that failed last week after many years of good service. We could have bought one locally but although we do have a generator providing a second source of power, we would rather wait and get the ‘Rolls Royce’ of marine alternators for peace of mind.  Lesley is of course happy because its a good opportunity to reprovision and visit the market again!!

Snorkelling the nearby reef

Enjoying Vanuatu

After a little over 3 days at sea we arrived at Port Vila in Vanuatu. The check in process was relatively easy but took time, not aided by the additional boats and Cruise ship that was there due to the unrest in New Caledonia.

We spent a few days on a buoy in the harbour doing jobs, shopping for provisions and catching up on some sleep before heading out to a sheltered anchorage, Port Havannah, on the north west corner of the island of Efate to ride out some breezy weather that is now coming through.

Goodbye Fiji

We have now left Fiji and are heading to Vanuatu. We filled up with fuel and checked out at Vuda Marina this afternoon, and are now motor sailing West in about 5 kts of breeze, hoping for it to fill in a little so we can turn the engine off.


Vuda staff gave us an amazing send off, performing a ‘good luck’ song on the dock and attaching a ‘lucky charm’ flower garland to Ocean Blue. We have 500nm to go, have had dinner and are settling into our watches.

Flower garland given by the marina for good luck
Our final view of Musket Cove as the sun went down

Vuda Marina Cyclone Pit – Ocean Blue’s home for the next few months

Vuda Marina is at Vuda Point, on the western end of Viti Levu about a 50 minute drive from Nadi International Airport.

Vuda Marina has two areas for berthing. The original basin is called the East Basin and the newer basin is known as the West Basin. In the East basin, which is roughly circular, its “med-style” mooring with fixed docks. In the west basin, there are modern floating pontoons.  There are good facilities here including a restaurant and bar area, small shop, yacht services and chandlery.  Gas bottles can be easily refilled (at the gas depot next door), and there is a sail maker across the road from the marina.

The marina offers cyclone pits; effectively holes in the ground that the keel and rudder are lowered into, with the hull supported on tyres on the ground. Once strapped down the boats are far more securely stored than if they were on normal props. Cyclone season is 1st Nov to 30th April. For us its time to return to work; it has come around far too fast this time.

With Ocean Blue safely tied down in a cyclone pit, we left her to stay on land for the first night in many months. We travelled back to South Africa for work via Hong Kong.

The stunningly Beautiful Southern Lau Group of Islands

Ogea
We finally found a weather window to head to what people who have cruised Fiji extensively regard as the jewel in the crown – The Southern Lau Group of islands. Unfortunately at the time we were enjoying the Yasawa Islands which are in the north west corner and the Southern Lau are in the south east corner so we sailed and motored for a couple of days. We were trying to get to Ogea but were not going to get there in the light so did a quick overnight stop at the lovely Numuka Island just 24 miles short of Ogea then moved on the next morning.

The anchorage was stunning and we were surrounded by tiny lava motos anchored in beautiful soft sand. As is Fiji tradition the first steps ashore are to give and present the village chief with Kava for a ‘Sevusevu’ ceremony which was a 40 minute walk through the woods to the other side of the island. At least the path was relatively well defined and we didn’t get lost. We were met at the village by two young girls willing to show us the way to the chief’s house. Afterwards we were give a guided tour of the their village.

As with everywhere we have been in Fiji the locals are super friendly and the experience was thoroughly pleasant. Rituals over, we could now explore the island. To finish the day off last night it was another cruiser’s birthday so we met up on the beach at sunset for drinks and a bonfire. Another opportunity to meet and make new friends.

The sun came out today so we took the opportunity to explore this beautiful place, above and below the water. The colours are just magic – no wonder people enthuse about it so much. Corals, beaches, caves, sharks, eels and many other types of marine wildlife. Absolutely stunning

Fulaga
Close by to Ogea is the beautiful Fulaga with a narrow pass and several options for anchoring. When you do your Sevusevu (presenting your Kava) there you are allocated to a ‘host’ family who take you under there wing, show you around the village and answer any questions etc.

Fulaga is one of the few Fijian islands where they carve all their own woodwork and it’s pretty cool stuff. We were treated to a tour, followed by lunch at their house before being accompanied back to the anchorage. Whilst eating lunch, they picked us fruit and veg then made us a basket to carry it all in back to the boat.

The generosity and friendliness of Fijians is a real treat.

After a few days of snorkelling, diving, kitesurfing and spending time making and chilling with new friends we had to leave to start making our way back to Vuda to lift the boat out.

Hopefully we will have another opportunity to return to the southern Lau group of islands since they have been an amazing experience and one we will always cherish.

We sailed across the Koro Sea again this time around the south side of Viti Levu and through the Navula passage. We did stop over night at Malumu Bay on Beqa and Natadola bay on the south of Viti Levu to break up the 4 day passage.

Exploring the Yasawa Islands

We left Musket Cove to sail north through the Yasawa Group which is made up of about 20 volcanic islands that cover approximately 135 square kilometers.

We found lovely small islands including the one used in the Tom Hanks film ‘Castaway’.

The pass between Drawaqa and Naviti is famous for manta rays. The mantas come to feed here and can most often be found at the NE side of the pass. We were there with several local trip boats and snorkelled with the mantas.

Somosomo-Naviti-Yasawa

The last 24 hours has been about sheltering from some pretty strong winds, with plenty of rain thrown in for good measure. Despite the conditions, the locals were out fishing and came by offering us lobster. Slight change of plan for dinner tonight saw Lesley enjoying fresh lobster tail in white wine and garlic butter, whilst I stuck to fajitas!

After several days of miserable weather, the wind has gone and the sun is back out. We moved up to Nanuya Lailai island, or ‘The Blue Lagoon’ as it’s known since this is where the movie was filmed back in 1980. Actually it’s the adjoining island where the filming took place but we can’t anchor there. Lo’s Tea House is across the island and Lo serves freshly made doughnuts and refreshing lemon drink, amongst other things. It’s a lovely walk with great views and good to see Lo still serving food from her house despite losing her tea room to the weather a few years back. Her new tea room will be up and running in a month or so and looks cool. Hopefully loads of cruisers will support her by buying more doughnuts!

Amazingly and unusually we had a good weather window to return to the southern Lau islands, a trip against the trade winds, so we picked our way through the shallow waters of the pass for a 3 day passage to Ogea Levu crossing Bligh Water and the Koro Sea.

Fiji

There was a rally going from Tonga to Fiji and the organisers had arranged for the boats to check into the northern Lau group at Vanua Balavu which is situated, to the east of the two main islands of Fiji. We were able to join them for the check in saving us the trip west to Vanua Levu. The Lau group consists of about sixty islands and islets, only about thirty are inhabited and covers a land area of 188 square miles.

Boats are required to stop at Dalconi Village to do sevusevu. Sevusevu is a ritual where you’re brought to the hut of the chief, make a presentation of kava, then sit through a small ceremony after which you are welcomed as part of the village. You’ll generally be given a tour of the village and perhaps some fruit, and you’ll meet some of the villagers. Everyone participating in the ceremony has to be dressed accordingly, no head coverings and men wear a sula and women should have their shoulders covered For our first experience of this we were rather glad that this had been organised through the rally so that we were able to participate and understand the custom.

The Kava root, Waka, is used to make a mildly-narcotic drink that is consumed throughout Melanesia.

Once we had gained permission to be in there we headed to the Bay of Islands to explore. It is an area which is excellent for SUP or dinghy exploring. There are a few caves and interesting rock formations.

Unfortunately the weather was against us. We had intended to head south and explore some of the many other islands in this group. However there was not a favorable wind direction in the foreseeable future so we decided to head west instead.

Fiji has over 300 islands spread over a distance of 3,000,000 square km km. Only about 100 are inhabited. The capital, Suva, is on the southeast coast of the largest island, Viti Levu which means “Great Fiji”. It was discovered in 1789 by Capt. William Bligh of HMS Bounty.

Lautoka, on the northwestern coast, is a port for the sugarcane growing region. Sugar, pineapples, rice, and tobacco are grown here. A goldfield at Vatukoula, in the north-central part of the island, was first developed in the 1930s. Nadi (Nandi), in the west, has the country’s main international airport, and an oil-fuel installation is at nearby Vuda Point.

Indigenous Fijians make up more than half the population; the rest of the population are people of Indian descent, most of whom are descendants of indentured labourers brought to work in the sugar industry. There are also, Chinese, and Pacific Islanders who have origins outside Fiji with a high level of intermarriage between Fijians from the Lau group of islands of eastern Fiji and their neighbours Tonga.

Fiji was a Crown colony within the British Empire from 1874 and gained independence from British rule in October 1970

Fiji’s mixed ethnicity contributes to a rich cultural heritage. Many features of traditional Fijian life are still around; the system of village chiefs and clans or tribes, traditional crafts, eg Masi or tapa which is a traditional material made from the bark of the young mulberry tree, which is soaked in water, beaten with mallets and formed into sheets. mat weaving; wood carving. Drinking of kava, made from a root and takes place as a part of important ceremonies as well as part of the everyday life of Fijians.

Vanua Levu Island “Great Land” is the second largest island of Fiji, bordering the Koro Sea in the South Pacific Ocean, 40 miles (64 km) northeast of the island of Viti Levu. It was formerly called Sandalwood Island.

We decided that our destination would be Musket Cove in time to celebrate Steve Bailey’s birthday. We took a route from the Northern Lau to Qamea, entering through the reef and anchoring in Navivi bay in the dark. A little nerve wracking but uneventful and thankfully good holding.

In the morning it was good to see our surroundings and that we had made a good choice. We headed around the island to Narmada bay.

The bay is situated on the north side of the island and is well protected, except from north east wind. Here lives the Mitchell family who welcomes you as guests of honor and with great hospitality. We went ashore with freshly baked bread to ask if we were ok to anchor in their bay. You do not do sevusevu here as the family grows the kava root for markets!

We enjoyed several days here diving the reef and joining the Sunday church service.

The wind was forecast to changed direction to the north and increase so we said our goodbyes and headed to Vanua Levu and Viani Bay which would be more sheltered.

Viani Bay is famous for the Rainbow Reef and its multiple dive sites. The white wall is usually on everyone’s list of dive sites to visit. We did two dives with the Dive Academy on the white wall and purple corner. They have a lovely resort and welcome crusiers to use the bar and join in with their activities. We had dinner one night which was a traditional Fijian meal cooked in the lovo which is an earth oven. After a few days we need to move on if we were going to make the birthday bash.

We called into Savusavu on Vanua Levu, taking the opportunity to reprovision and see this town briefly. There is a bustling fruit and veg market as well as kava and crafts for sale. Although there are no active volcanos now there are plenty of hot springs around which are often used for cooking.

In Musket Cove we enjoyed walks on the islands dining in restaurants and wing boarding! It’s great to have friends with new toys; we get to play! Thanks Philip and Claudia for sharing.

After this gathering we all went our separate ways. We decided to explore the Yasawa islands.

The Kingdom of Tonga – a summary

21st May 2023 – 3rd July 2023

A few musings from the notes Lesley wrote down:

We have arrived safely in Tonga!

We have now completed our shakedown sail after relaunching Ocean Blue. 1133 miles from New Zealand to Tonga with 3 nights at Minerva reef. Not much to see there, since it’s all under water at high tide! Excellent place to stop for a rest though – quite unique.

Hopefully we can start to explore Tonga tomorrow.

There are 176 islands in the Tongan archipelago which are divided into four main groups. From south to north – Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vav’u and Niuatoputapu groups.

Initially we were very happy to be here and looking forward to sundowners on the beach!

Tongatapu

We hired a car and took ourselves off on an island tour. We discovered Abel Tasmin’s landing site; it must looks much the same as after the tsunami the resorts have gone and the sand and plants have reclaimed everything.

Tongatapu was hit by a tsunami in 2022 after an underwater volcano eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano. Waves of up to 15 meters struck the west coast of the island and wiped out several resorts. The island is still recovering and tourism is only just returning.

Our island tour took us to spectacular blow holes and a massive rock, ‘tsunami rock’, believed to be the largest tsunami debris ever found, although not from the 2022 one.

Next was a three headed coconut tree! the roosting place of a colony of fruit bats and spot Captain Cooks landing place. When we returned to Nuku’alofa we checked out the Royal Palace and the used the car to get provisions for the rest of our stay in Tonga.

The Vava’u and Ha’apai groups of Tonga are better suited as cruising grounds for visiting yachts with pristine beaches, healthy corals and enjoyable, easy snorkelling and diving.

Another draw to this area is the annual migration of humpback whales and we were hoping for an opportunity to go and see them once again in one of their breeding grounds.

Ha’apai group

We anchored off a little island called Ha’afeva in the Ha’apia island chain of Tonga. We took a walk across the small island of Ha’afeva to visit the village on the west side of the island where some 60 families live. There are apparently 7 churches, two small shops, a primary school, loads of pigs, some chickens a few cattle and an enormous spider!

As soon as we stepped ashore we were met by Pita Ofa Heanba who picked us limes from the tree by the path and invited us for lunch. I donated my crutches to Pita for his mother. Everyone was very friendly and the school children, who were immaculately dressed walked with us and conversed in pretty good English which is not their first language. Later in the afternoon we snorkelled the reef just by the anchorage.

The island has an impressive solar array and a generator, but the generator is broken though the engineers were on site trying to fix it.

In the late 1990s there was a roro dock built in the anchorage but it’s been destroyed by a cyclone leaving just a mass of broken concrete. Such a shame, but still good to tie the dinghy to.

The Tonga people are certainly living up to their reputation as being welcoming and warm to us visitor

Not a bad spot for Sunday lunch.

A short sail this morning took us to a stunning anchorage just north of the island O’Ua. Some excellent snorkelling followed by a barbecue on Supertramp rounded off the day very nicely. In the anchorage we saw turtles, squid, many small colourful fish and our first white tipped reef shark for this year.

Uoleva, the next island up the eastern chain of the Ha’apai group has a kite surfing school. An excellent opportunity for a quick refresher in superb surroundings, whilst Lesley made friends with the locals. Unfortunately the wind was rather light – around 10 to 11 knots but still good to get some new tips and a bit of supervised practice.

We took a long dinghy ride to the main town in this group, Pangi. There was limited shopping but some great ice cream.

We snorkelled the most beautiful coral garden at matafonua lodge at Northern tip of Pangai, Ha’apai. And We we’re even able to have a sundowners at the resort bar/restaurant over looking the brilliant turquoise lagoon to finish off a fabulous day. And sunshine at last!

Vavau

Vavau consists of one large island and over 40 smaller ones, which create a wonderful sheltered area for sailing and exploring. Neiafu is the main town for provisioning and also has several restaurants and yacht services.

15 June – We had great fun today exploring some of the caves in the area.  Swallows Cave is a located on Kava Island,  The cave  is named after the large number of swallows that nest within its walls. The entrance to the cave is located at the water’s edge, and visitors can enter the cave by boat or kayak. Once inside it is large with high ceilings and walls covered in formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

The water inside the cave is crystal clear and spectacular with a huge ball of fish inside. We had trouble finding Mariners Cave but the scenery along the way was stunning. Photos of the dinghy trip to the nearby Swallows Cave and some views of the anchorage.

More exploring of the eastern and southern Vava’au group. Lunch (and baking fresh bread rolls and doughnuts) anchored off the beautiful uninhabited Fua’amotu, now back anchored in the shelter of Euakafa island. The squid was swimming off our transom for a day at Olo’ua and the locals were busy fishing in the shallows off Koloa.

Just a few of the types of coral we saw on our snorkel on the reef. So wonderful to see such a healthy coral garden.

We took a trip outside the reef today since the wind and swell were low. We were rewarded with a walk around our very own island (actually Fonuafo’ou Island), lunch onboard in the bay, then an hour or watching whales play nearby. Every July to October, humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to the South Pacific Ocean in order to mate and calve.


Then back at anchor tucked up inside the reef.

Our last weekend in Tonga has been spent enjoying the coral, Mariners and Swallows Caves, and spending time with friends Alex and Carla from Ari B.

On this dinghy trip we did find Mariners Cave on the west wall of the north end of Nuapupu Island. Unlike Swallows Cave, which can be entered on the surface, the entry to Mariner’s Cave is 1 to 3 meters underwater (depends on the tide), and you have to swim about 3 meters underwater to be able to come up inside the cave. The cave is not visible above the water. You can go close to the island and jump into the water. Once inside the only light is the ethereal blue coming through the underwater entrance, and the seal is so tight that when the swell rolls in, the water compresses the air in the cave fast enough to produce an instant fog-out!  As the swell ebbs, the air comes as instantly crystal clear.

Tomorrow we leave for the Lau group of islands in Fiji. Thank you Tonga for an amazing experience.

Minerva Reef

We had 3 surreal nights at Minerva reef. There is north and south Minerva reef, we went into the North one. The reefs are conveniently located on the way to Tonga from New Zealand, 485 kilometres (301 mi) southwest of the Tongatapu Group.

The Minerva Reefs are a group of submerged atolls located in the Pacific Ocean between Fiji, Niue and Tonga. The islands ownership are contested between Fiji and Tonga. Currently it is under Fiji.

The North reef is circular in shape with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a deep harbour. It  is about 6.8 kilometres (4.2 mi) in diameter. The South reef is approx. 4.8 kilometres (3.0 mi).

Remnants of shipwrecks and platforms remain on the atolls, plus some functioning navigation beacons. Geologically, the Minerva Reefs are a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations elevated by now-dormant volcanic activity.

We arrived the day before the forecast strong winds. We sat out strong winds gusting over 40 knots with about 30 other boats. At high water you cannot see the reef, but it breaks up the swell and waves from the Pacific Ocean. Its been an amazing experience being anchored in the middle of the Ocean over 300 miles from the nearest bit of land. 40 knots is a lot of breeze, but thankfully we have a very effective ‘Rocna’ anchor and loads of heavy chain to keep us safe. Despite waking several times during the night as the wind howled, our Vesper Anchor watch app on the phone beside the bed showed us stationary just bobbing up and down in the chop. Very reassuring.

and explored the reef at low tide.  Many others caught crayfish.

Perigee Sailboat  hosted a sundowners evening for all the boats anchored in Minerva Reef. Can you believe we first met up when we were the rafted up at the start of the Suzie Two rally 6 years ago.