Tonga to New Zealand

Ha’apai, Tonga to Opua, New Zealand

25th October to 11th November

Henrietta the only visitor to Lofanga

Most sailing boats in Tonga head to New Zealand for the southern hemisphere summer. Usually there are long and tiresome lists of repairs, sails and rigging to fix, engines to service, canvas to repair, woodwork to paint and varnish, spare parts to buy; and crews look forward to mouth-watering fruit and vegetables, good bread and cheese, and many litres of wine of course; and maybe time to travel on land and, if foreign, fly ‘home’.

New Zealand is seen as beautiful, clean, friendly and full of promise, almost heavenly in what it may offer. Having been there before I’m more sanguine – appreciative of its charms but not swooning over the impossible. It’s not a utopian Shangri-La.

For a start I know it won’t always be as blissfully warm as the Tropical South Pacific and after many months of shorts, t-shirts and naked feet or less, it’ll be a wrench to wear something more substantial; and I don’t think the sea is warm enough, nowhere near warm enough to swim in New Zealand waters either (but maybe I’ll have a freshwater shower!). New Zealand, Aotearoa, is the last of the Pacific countries that Henrietta will visit this year.

Another fine empty beach, Lofanga Is.

Anyway, before facing the anticipated pleasures and chills of New Zealand, I sailed a few more days in Tonga’s Ha’apai islands. Names like Lofanga, Haafeva, Oua, Nomuka Iki don’t exactly trip off the tongue, but they were my final stopping places. The snorkelling, the silver sandy beaches, the friendly local people and gentle walks through lush tropical vegetation were heavenly – but as ever I’m saddened and maddened by mangy animals, ubiquitous imported snacks, and half burnt rubbish that’s too often scattered around homesteads with long-snouted piggies snuffling for goodies..

Overall though, Tonga’s Ha’apai must rank among my favourite island groups in the South Pacific.

Here are some more pictures from the Ha’apai islands…

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Anchored near a reef, Nomuka Iki

But at the end of October, it was time to sail south and Henrietta briskly flew across the first few hundred miles to the remote coral reef of Minerva North. (I write this while waiting here). It’s a near perfect circular reef, awash at high tide with surf crashing all around, over two miles in diameter,  quite calm in the lagoon compared with the ocean outside. But with strong winds and big ocean swell, waves break over the reef; it’s choppy and we jerk and tug hard on the anchor.

There’s one other boat here, Begonia, a sleek and beautiful catamaran with US/UK couple on board. We do not meet but talk by VHF, neither of us willing to launch dinghies. And in such windy conditions we couldn’t easily cover the 60 metres between us. I swim for reasons of hygiene but don’t linger long as on my own. I’m nervous with sharks, and firmly believe they can’t all be friendly.

From Minerva Reef it was another 800 miles or so to New Zealand (funny how these distances seem ‘normal’ when I’d consider it a very long way to sail the equivalent, say from Cornwall to Southern Portugal).

Approaching NZ, first ship seen for over a week

After six mixed sailing, sleep-deprived days Henrietta and I arrived in Opua in the Bay of Islands.

Familiar boats and friendly faces are already here, and after a beer and bit of sleep it looks like boaty chores and sociability for a while. It feels chilly, so long trousers are out and freckles on my bottom will fade. But it’s bliss to enjoy a hot shower (first for over three months!)

6 thoughts on “Tonga to New Zealand

  1. Mike Many thanks again for your message. Brilliant achievements. News arrived in a mist of red wine. But I know that life is more than that. Thanks to you I know that. I’ll look more detail and research places you mention. Thank you Mike.

    Regards Richard



  2. Well done Mike. We saw on ‘Marine Traffic’ that you had arrived in NZ. Interesting blog with your usual insights into real life behind the fantastic photos. Enjoy life down under but, should you decide to fly to the U.K. please let us know so we can meet up. Best wishes. Simon and Jenny, Fenicia


  3. Congratulations Mike. What an amazing feat that you are now in NZ ….. 13 months since you left UK. I can hardly believe it. Wow!!! Another lovely blog to read. Hope you have a great time catching up with fellow travellers and exploring. What a retirement ⛵️⛵️⛵️😀👍🌏.
    Margie x


  4. Michael – fantastic! An amazing accomplishment – taking your avid readers along with you as you go via your riveting blog & tantalising photos.
    Have fun adjusting to wearing trousers & watching the freckles fade … & enjoy hot showers while you can!
    Wishing you well – with hopefully, not too many costly repairs required.
    All my very best to you – a long while since the 2016 Boat Show!


  5. Back in NZ again! Many Congratulations. May it be a great visit even with clothes on! We had the All Blacks at Twickenham last weekend so we are never far apart from NZ and you. Do hope Anna and all your boys are well. May be some of them may be able to join you in NZ. Some ac hievement your South Pacific sailing odyssey. Hope Henrietta in good heart as well as you. I have become a Grandfather in September. No, I am very young still! Enjoy NZ


  6. Terrific. Well done for reaching New Zealand and still full of cheer. I continue to enjoy your stories of sailing across the Pacific. What now?


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