Vava’u -slow sailing with whales

The  Ha’apai group is very low lying, with its east reef providing shelter from the predominant SE trades, but it leaves yachts open to weather from the west. There are few spots to shelter from a westerly blow.

While we were anchored at Foa , we experienced  some wind shifts ,where the wind would back from SE through to westerly before  settling back to SE again. We were fortunate that these shifts were mostly light, and passed through quickly, so we only ever endured a light chop in the anchorage . However, we had been tracking a larger weather system that was due to swing around  and become a little more established at 20 knots or so.

We decided to take  this as an opportunity to start heading north to the Vava’u group. Our friend Sharon was flying into Vava’u to visit us in a a weeks time, so this was the perfect excuse to haul up our anchor.  The trip from the Ha’apai to Vava’u needed to be timed to arrive during daylight hours to negotiate the reef and smaller southern islands of Vava’u.

We had to firstly clear the coral maze out of  Foa in good light. We expected to sail to take us around 10 hours, so this meant upping anchor around 1pm and then anchoring at another island close by ,which offered an obstruction free entry and exit, until is was time to head north.  We reckoned we would begin our journey around 3am.

We left Foa with no issues and headed over the bay to drop anchor and wait for our departure time later that evening. 

Well, the forecast wind-shift stalled at SW and started to pickup. which meant that our chosen overnight  anchorage was pretty much wide  open to the wind and increasing swell. In other words ,it was pretty damn uncomfortable. That and the fact that we were anchored close up to the reef, made relaxing  or sleeping near impossible.  After listening to DT slamming up and down in the chop for three hours , we decided it would be safer and much more comfortable if we put out to sea. We worked out that we could slowly sail north at 3 knots and still get there at our planned daylight arrival .

We hauled up the anchor and made our way out . Once we made our turn away from the anchorage, the sea and wind were behind us and everything was instantly more pleasant. Typically, we  had a following current which was giving us a boat speed of  over 5 knots! Always the way when you want to go slowly…. No matter. We fell into our usual overnight shift pattern and actually managed to get some well earned sleep.

Once the sun rose, we were able to  pick some speed . We set the sails and had a fab sail onwards to Vava’u. We passed the time by whale spotting,  one of our favourite pastimes. One very large individual decided he was going to give us a closer look and surfaced right next to DT.  Made us jump but lovely to see all the same. 

The wind continued to be good and we sailed virtually all the way into Neiafu Harbour, where we picked up a mooring ball.  Once tied off to our satisfaction, we had a quick wash and brush up and headed into town to locate customs and complete our domestic check in.  This proved to be very quick and easy, despite the customers officer confessing to having a kava hangover,  and before long we were relaxing at Mango Cafe having lunch and a cold beer.  Cheers!