Trip Reports

So Long Tonga (10-Jul-2001-19-40):
7:40 local time Tuesday, July 10th. (0640 July 10th UTC) 18 04 S 175 49 W. Temp. 84, Humidity 72%, cloud cover 20%. Seas S 15 meters. Wind S 6k

Greetings from the crew of Maverick.

We're at sea enroute from the Kingdom of Tonga to Fiji and hope to arrive this weekend. There's very light wind and we're making about 2.5 knots.

Last Friday night there was another race. We still blew the start, as the race committee decided to use some unusual timing for the shapes and we didn't pick up on it. Still, by the second leg we had put away the Beneteaus, and with Master Helmsman Terry Shrode at the wheel on the third, downwind leg we passed the only boat that gave us trouble,another cruiser, mile from the finish. We got the two bottles of wine for first but fortunately had to share them with two extra crew, some Kiwis we invited along who of course claimed credit for the win when all they really did was talk in that silly accent.

Otherwise, we've occupied ourselves doing boat chores and renting bikes to see the islands. Back in Niue, which is flat, we got 21 speed aluminum bikes with good brakes. The best we could do here, where it is quite hilly, was ten speed steel bikes with bad brakes.

As we've noted, everyone on Niue is friendly and on one of our bike rides we were invited to join in a church picnic of traditional fare, including taro, curry, smoked fish in coconut milk, and tapioca. We observed that some of the native people preferred spaghetti-o's and a Polynesian favorite, canned corned beef. As for the Captain, he cannot really recommend taro as a foodstuff. Nevertheless, it was very generous of them to invite us to eat, and the sweet lady who was apparently in charge gave us her email address so we can tell her what's going on in her native Fiji when we arrive.

Tonga is quite a bit poorer than Niue or any other place we've been, yet in the countryside the native people are just as friendly. In the small city of Neiafu, however, they are often quite curt at the commercial establishments. We have come to believe that Polynesian culture does not easily bend itself to the demands of commerce. There are traditional, pre-capitalist customs here about how trade is carried on. They make as much sense to the people here as our culture does to us, but they are not particularly conducive to the efficient operation of small businesses. Whether or not the efficient operation of small businesses is the sine qua non of civilization is a question which is beyond the Captain's mandate. In any case the result is that Europeans run most thriving shops, even on the islands like Niue and the Tonga group which are governed by the native people.

In the countryside of Vavau people come out of their houses to say hello as you pedal by. We came across some young vintners, who gave us a sample of the latest batch of what they called "brown wine." The Captain cannot share with his readers the ingredients, which, even though they gave them to us, are secret, but in any case a feeling of general conviviality was the result.

We also took in a native feast on Tonga. The Captain prepared himself for the worst sort of tourist spectacle but what we got was the most unaffected entertainment imaginable. There was great singing, primarily by a quartet of middle aged men featuring very pure harmonies, but often joined by the ensemble. The dancers, mostly between the ages of four and fifteen, were in all stages of learning the movements but this in no way detracted from their charm, particularly considering we didn't know what the movements were supposed to be either. The food was interesting if indecipherable and the Captain was discovered trying to eat one of the utensils. After we dined we were serenaded by the quartet who joined us in drinking kava, about which the Captain may have more to say anon.

In addition to these amusements we enjoyed the many interesting features of the island group including a place called "mariner's cave." In order to get inside, you swim up to a cliff face in the open bay and dive down about three feet where you find a tunnel through the rock. You must swim through this for about twenty feet in blackness underwater, gaining the surface again on the inside, where you find yourself in a large cavern. The ceiling towers overhead, and the bottom is visible deep in the water below. As the swells cause the water to rise, increased pressure creates a fog, which disappears as the swell recedes. The Captain was too blind without his glasses to enjoy this phenomenon, but eagle-eyed Shrode has verified its existence. Keep those cards and letters coming to PS to Rich Oba: Congratulations! But however much we may applaud your bold move, the crew of Maverick takes no credit for it at all. Best of luck! PS to Hank Strauss, a very interesting guy who, among many other things, took soundings in the Solomons during WWII for the charts the Maverick boys will soon be using: I hope you didn't screw up! In any case, if we bump into anything there we'll know whom to blame.

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