No electric grid, very few telephones
or cars, a couple of tiny villages:
that was the splendid northern Tongan island of Niuatoputapu.
Niuatoputapu is a place with around
300 population and which, amazingly,
is actually shown on our 1968 National Geo world map - and others we've
A lot of sailors were nervous about
the navigation required to enter here,
but it was easy - a well marked simple dog leg around some obvious coral
and Niuatoputapu proved to offer an excellent and
capacious harbor with good depths and good holding in white sand -
all very unusual and very welcome in the South Pacific!
Yes, life remains pretty simple
in the Kingdom - at least for most people.
The royal family is reputedly very rich, with many billions of dollars
This is the "real people's" bakery in the main town on Niuatoputapu.
gathered together to make some new roofing for the local houses.
The material - palm fronds - grows right there and simply needs
to be cut down. A fast job of expert weaving produces an easily
replaced and safe - especially in cyclone season - roof that will
never hurt you.
Much work is still done communally
and much property is still held in common in these peaceful islands.
One of the few local "industries"
here is the traditional production of Tapa Cloth.
Here our friend Mele shows Chrissi a few choice pieces.
Our new friend
Leilani invited us to a special dinner at his house and presented
us with these fragrant flower leys. He even slaughtered a suckling
pig specially for us. It came to pass like this:
While still in Samoa, we had
learned that Niuatoputapu had a rather desperate need for basics
like rice and flour and sugar because the supply boat only came
once every 3 months. So we brought big sacks of flour and rice.
Our first night there we met Leilani drinking kava at a fund raiser
for an electric generator for the local clinic, and he seemed
a likely person to circulate the goods we had brought without
the noxious intervention of government agents or others who might
try to mix profiteering into our effort to help. He distributed
the good and thanked us for helping with that special dinner at
We sailed south from Niuatoputapu,
heading for the popular and
rather more populous Vava'u group. These volcanic islands that we saw
on the horizon at sunset from Naga were the same ones that
and the castaway remnants of his HMS Bounty crew saw shortly
some Tongan cannibals - all that happened some years ago, of course.
The town of
Neiafu in the Vava'u group of Tongan islands has
(for the South Pacific) deep and not very anchor-friendly
anchorage, so we took a mooring here.
Close by was the Mermaid Tavern - a popular hang-out
for cruising sailor passing through
and for charters using the big Moorings fleet that's
Neiafu is pretty basic as towns
go, but it's Tonga's major town outside Nukualofa, the
capitol city in the south of this island nation. It's Saturday, a big
marketing day, in the photo above,
so there are lots of people around. One of the main stores is on this
Traditional dress is very commonly
seen here, like these "grass skirts."
Here's Pangimotu, the home of Big
Mama's Yacht Club.
It's a friendly easy little club on a lovely little island with a fine
That looks like our friends on Petrel and Drala Magic anchored
This delightful place lies just across the harbor from Tonga's capitol,
And this is another place that looks tricky on the charts
- but it's quite easy when you pay attention, and
it's well worth the stop.