Wednesday 31st August 2016
Throughout our travels we have been stunned and impressed by the accuracy of our Navionics charts, we have come to trust and rely on them. That is, until we reached Tonga, here we are beginning to find anomalies between the charts on the chart plotter, the charts on my iPad and real life. Last week approaching Vakaeitu the shallow area on the chart plotter turned out to be a small island, trees and all. The island was on my iPad chart but that chart had us anchored on the beach, things were obviously slightly askew. So it was with slight trepidation we ventured out Monday to a recommended anchorage at Kenutu island through a maze of shallows and reefs. We had been given waypoints that when plotted on the chart took us straight across areas marked as having only 1m depth and strewn with coral heads. Luckily the sun was shining brightly, the reefs were easy to see in the good light and the waypoints were spot on, we didn’t need to depend on our charts.
However as the tide comes in the swell creeps over the reef and the anchorage becomes a little rolly. In the fading light of the late afternoon, the sea turns grey and the turquoise of the shallows disappears. For some reason we both feel ill at ease. We are on the most easterly edge of Vava’u, with just the outer reef and a string of small islands standing between us and thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. Whether our unsettled feelings are due to the odd movement of the boat, the constant roar of the ocean crashing onto the nearby islands, the closeness of the now unseen reefs or a combination of them all, we are unsure.
As payment for our efforts we dropped our anchor in one of the prettiest spots of our journey so far, surrounded by low wooded islands the basin is shallow resulting in a sea of the most wonderous range of blues. Low tide reveals white sand beaches and the pale turquoises that form over the many reefs. The calm water is full of small dark rays that leap high into the air and in the shallows, wading, slate grey, pacific reef herons stalk thier prey. Between the islets in front of us we have the magnificent sight of the surf crashing through the gap and onto the rocks. We sit reflecting yet again on how privileged we are to be in these incredible places.
As the morning sun rises the next day we are back in our picture perfect bay and we go ashore to follow the short trail up and over the top of Kenutu. The contrast from the Pacific idyll on the leaward side couldn’t be more extreme, the cliffs drop 100ft straight into coves of clear blue sea, waves crashing over the rocks and ledges in spectacular fashion.
The top of the cliff is a very different environment from the tropical forest we have just walked through. The trees and scrub only just hanging on to live in this exposed place. All around us are amazing gnarlly, bleached remnants of fallen branches, Rick caresses them wistfully, mentally whisking them back to his shed. The sharp ragged rock provides a precarious platform to view the coldrum of swell and spray below but with the wind in our hair we perch on the edge exhilarated of the sight below. Unfortunately today our apprehension has returned, I sat writing this as lightening flashes and thunder claps all around us, I hate lightening especially when our mast is the highest thing around. We had planned to leave Kenutu today but negotiating our path out, even with our recorded track to follow, seems foolish. I think the sky is brightening, perhaps we will have our beautiful bay back in time for sun downers, we can leave tomorrow.