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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last Tango in Tonga...

Boo! October 31, 2008 - Happy Halloween! Friday, Frank went into town to check us out of Tonga and I got busy scrubbing lockers and arranging the boat for the passage, which required inventorying goods and listing those which must be declared and setting aside those items that we know will be confiscated in NZ (which I gave to Big Mama). We spent the day getting a jump on the preparations for leaving Tonga the following Monday or Tuesday, whichever day would prove to be the best departure date for
us. Friday afternoon at Big Mama's the festivities began at around 3 PM with games, then Happy Hour from 6-7 PM, followed by dinner. During our girls' shopping day we ladies of the Flying Foxes group had opted to wear large gregarious hats, flowered lei's, glittery masks and colorful pareas. We picked up costumes for our guys as well; I had gotten Frank some toy guns that shoot suction darts, a glow-in-the-dark head band thing and a lei to match one of his flowery shirts ("Book'em, Danno!").
We had chores to do so we opted out of the games but got decked out, dressed up and ready to head in for the evening activities and dinner. Unfortunately a thunderstorm blew in kicking up high winds, driving rain, some lightening and churning waters. We did not feel comfortable leaving the boat, nor did we want to make the drenching dinghy ride into shore. We kept waiting thinking that the storm would blow over as quickly as it had appeared. We witnessed a few other boats dragging and re-anchoring.
Many families sent one parent in with the kids, leaving an adult on board to watch their boats. We never made it in, but we did open up our water tank inlets and managed to top off our fresh water tanks from the downpour that lasted for a few hours. Instead of games & dinner on shore, we settled for junk food and a game of Scrabble for our Halloween activity.

Saturday was a beautiful day. We resumed our cleaning and preparatory activities, which for Frank was cleaning the boat bottom and changing zincs and for me it meant baking and preparing passage meals and securing items inside for the trip. That night at Big Mama's was a birthday party for both her husband, Earl and for her son, Andrew. She was providing a Tongan feast and entertainment, and had invited every one of the yachts in the anchorage. What a party it was! Music was provided by a local
band, comprised of Tongan policemen and two of our very own cruisers, Steve from Orca III played harmonica and Glen form The Dorothy Marie brought his saxophone. The music was unbelievably good! Earl and his son were dressed in the most beautiful traditional and festive Tongan attire, and sat in a very special place of honor. Tables were set up throughout for dining, family-style. The buffet feast was simply incredible. There was a whole roasted pig, seafood, local dishes, which included seaweed
with coconut, taro root, tapioca, clams, and many dishes we could not identify but ate anyway. We all danced the night away and left very late and very happy. Sunday was our day of R & R.

On Monday, 8 of us from our little group of cruisers went into Nuku'alofa to meet Malaia and Sio for a tour of the island. Sio is Big Mama's Uncle and Malaia her best friend, who is engaged to Sio. Out of the goodness of their hearts they took an entire day off work to chauffer us around their island showing us everything they could in one day. We traveled the entire big island from the Palace to the Blow Holes, the "Arch" and the Caves. We got a history lesson not only of the Tongan people but
also of their culture, the wars and struggles that have made Tonga what she is today. Sio is a widower with 11 children and proudly told us that all of his daughters have been Miss Tonga. One of them is currently a model and is The Face of Tonga on Coca Cola and Digicel ads here and in Fiji, in fact we saw her on billboards throughout the island. Malaia actually just moved back to Tonga in 2002 from Portland, OR, where she went to college, married, had children and lived for many years. Tonga
and the friendships we have forged here have left indelible imprints on our hearts. We left Malaia and Sio with a promise to see them again, and with a personal invitation to their wedding next year in Nuku'alofa.

Monday night we spent a subdued final evening at Big Mama's, feasting on her outrageously delectable hamburgers, signed a coconut which is hanging on a post there and bid a very fond farewell to her and her precious family, staff and friends. "Graduation Night", as Frank calls it; time to move on to another place and chapter in our lives. And as he also says: "Tomorrow we ride, Muchachos!" Onward to New Zealand we go. We have our weather window and our personal routing from Bob McDavitt at Met
Service in NZ. If the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step, what does the journey of 1100 miles over the ocean begin with? A prayer. We'll take 'em, if you got 'em!

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