First came Silver Fern. Then Macushla. Then Kazaio. Then Saraoni.....a progression of boats making a turn around Enki II to say goodbye. Neiafu harbour is emptying out. Our tribe is moving on. The sun is shining and the roaring winds of 02F, the tropical depression which almost became a cyclone, have shifted west. It's time to make tracks while we can.
|Gonzalo and Tristan from Kazaio say goodbye|
|Know this girl? Karina, from Kazaio, aka mother of the cruising kids.|
|Catamarans are perfect for families|
|Saraoni sounds the conch as she make her farewell rounds|
We're sitting in Tropicana cafe, waiting for immigration and customs to re-open after lunch. It'll be our turn to leave soon. Tomorrow, we're saying. One last good sleep before we set off.
|Alison (Saraoni) turned 61 during that wet week in Neiafu|
|An American techie cruiser called CB gives a clear message on his teeshirt|
On Gulf Harbour radio this morning, Patricia mentioned that it was 13 degrees C, and that she and David had been sitting beside a fire over the weekend. Why the hurry to leave the tropics, you might well ask. She does, often. Bring your woollies for the New Zealand summer, she tells her listeners.
|Pigs foraging at low tide near the old harbour|
But we're all keyed up. We've been waiting about for this weather window, and now we feel obliged to jump through it. Cruising is like that. You get the odd outlier, but there is a powerful urge to follow the crowd. Rallies are the most obvious manifestation of that, but even those who don't join rallies tend to move in a loose formation. Part of it is for the company, part of it is because there's safety in numbers, and part of it is the obvious imperative of the cruising seasons. The Pacific season is closing. You can't argue with that.
|A last visit to the market (and below)|
|Tongan kids swim in their clothes in Neiafu harbour|
The majority of boats are heading via the Haapai group to Tonga's southernmost island, Tongatapu, and they'll leave for New Zealand from there. Bryce on Silver Fern wants to be in Nuku'alofa by Saturday. He's got a rugby match to watch (several, in fact). A rugby-driven itinerary makes a refreshing change.
|France vs NZ (that game) at the Bounty Bar - breakfast served too|
|John Lee and Tui (born in the Caribbean) from Rhombus|
We're going directly from Vava'u to New Zealand, perhaps via Minerva reef, depending on what we find along the way. There are fronts marching across New Zealand at intervals of four days. You don't want to arrive at the same time as a front.
This last batch of Alex's photos comes from the Sunday morning service at the Catholic church on top of the hill behind Neiafu. Alex and I went to church with Martha to listen to the Tongans sing. The young Belgian musicians from the yacht Music Fund which we'd last seen at Shelter Bay marina, on the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal, were there too with a digital recorder. One of the joys of cruising is meeting up again with people you last saw in another hemisphere.
|Music Fund, Silver Fern and Enki II - that's how we know each other|
It's been one long warm ride since we arrived in the Caribbean in January. I have the feather doonas airing in the saloon today, in anticipation of needing their coverage when we drop below 30 degrees south.
|Martha and Diana scurry to church|
|The priest and his congregation (below)|