Tales of humpback whales breaching off of pristine desert islands had us ready to move on to Haapai, the next island group on our route south through Tonga. In order to make our early exit from the Vavau group as simple as possible, we moved to an anchorage free of reefs on the edge of the island group. As we approached, sailing in company with Bright Moments, we found friends on Osprey already waiting there with the same idea. It’s always reassuring when other boats reach the same decision on a weather window as us. At only 65miles, the sail to the Haapai group can be done in a day (or a long day on a little boat). To make sure we arrived into the next anchorage in good light we set off in the dark at 5am with Osprey for company. Bright Moments is 9ft longer than Florence and significantly faster so they enjoyed a small lie in, safe in the knowledge they would catch us up at some point in the day.
The sail was a little bumpy and a bit more on the nose than expected but we arrived near the anchorage at 4pm, theoretically in time to still have good overhead light to see through the water and drop our anchor between the coral heads. It was a good plan, ruined by the fact it was raining pretty hard! Osprey went in first, we followed as Bright Moments caught us up, one by one we eventually each found a spot we were happy to drop the hook.
Diving over the side to check on the anchor, we found a spotted eagle ray giving it a good look over for us. The reef just in front of the boat was incredible; not as many fish or sharks as we had seen in other places, but that was more than made up for by some of the best hard and soft coral we have ever seen, both in quality and quantity.
All of our time in the Haapai group was spent in company with our friends Jim and Linda on Bright Moments, cruising from anchorage to anchorage (us with full sail and them with just a Genoa to match our speed). Although we meet lots of new friends cruising, this was the first time we had sailed in company for an extended period of time. We shared snorkelling trips, unsuccessful lobster hunts, walks, bike rides, dinners and generally just enjoyed getting to know them beyond the standard “where have you sailed from? etc.”
One day we cycled from Foa island across the causeway to Lifuka island, the highlight of this trip was the welcome we received from the village children along the road. They would all wave enthusiastically and shout out ‘hello-goodbye’, and then run out to us holding their hands out for a high five as we cycled past, giggling with laughter when we obliged.
We were unfortunately too late in the season to see many whales as they had already started their migration south back to Antarctica for the winter. Maybe next year…
As seems to be the case with every island group we visit, our time in Haapai was cut short by the weather. We would have loved to have stayed longer but a very good weather window for the 1,100 mile sail to New Zealand was approaching and we feared if we didn’t take it we might not see another as good.