Vava’u -Our first anchorage and we foul anchor

Yesterday, we left our mooring in Neiafu after spending a couple of days re-provisioning. The market here was a joy compared to the slim picking s that were on offer in the Ha’apai group.  We loaded up on papaya, limes , fresh herbs, tomatoes lettuce , fresh bread and lots of other things that we hadn’t seen since the market in Tongatapu.  

We sailed  a couple of hours south to Vaka Aeitu Island. ‘The Moorings’  charter yacht base in Vava’u has a cruising guide which numbers all the anchorages, so folks tend to refer to each island anchorage by a number rather than a name. Handy , but a great shame as some of the islands have such lovely names. This one was number 16.

We had a lovely sail and found 4 boats already in the bay. After the seclusion of the Ha’apai group , it seems odd to see so many other boats around. Unusually , it took us three attempts to get the anchor to hold to our liking.  We have a fab hook and normally get a strike first time.  We assumed that we were simply missing the sandy patches and having to deal with a bit of rubble. The bay was quite deep with murky water , so seeing the bottom was impossible. 

Anyway, we managed to grab to our liking and settled in for the evening.  Our friends Peter and Ellen from ‘Non Stop’ joined us for sundowners and a most pleasant evening was had by all.

By the  next afternoon we decided to up anchor as more boats arrived and it was getting a little crowded.

For the first time in a while we decided to swap ‘weighing anchor’ roles (practice and changing it up is good, right?), so I took the helm and Jo operated the windlass. It seemed that we were having to ride the chain and weave it back and forth between some bommies. When we got to the last 10 metres we noticed the windlass was under a lot of strain. The chain continued to wind in, but very slowly. As the anchor broke  surface we were able to see what had happened. We had managed to wrap the anchor chain around a very large piece of coral. We hooked our safety line to the chain and took the strain off the windlass while we looked at fixing the issue.

There was no way to shake it free, as the chain was fully wound around the coral. We were now drifting around the anchorage, in 15 knots of wind, with a fair current running.  We considered dropping the anchor again  to try and shake it free on the seabed, but that would likely have entailed diving down and dealing with it at depth.  Not the preferred option in a crowded bay with the boat engines on and a reef nearby. The only solution was to try and break it away. 

So Jo went back on the helm and held DT steady . I threw the kayak in and grabbed a hammer. Fortunately , after what seemed like a lifetime of chipping away, the coral finally broke free . We hauled the kayak back onboard, and finally stowed the anchor. 

We were really upset that we damaged coral, but we reckon that this must have been a loose piece lying on the bottom as we weren’t close to the reef. 

Anyway, we moved onto Nuku island.  We  were really pleased to see clear blue water and lovely sandy patches so we  dropped anchor and  dug in nicely Much more relaxing!

UPDATE: We have since spoken to several  folks who had similar issues at this anchorage.