Ted, watermelon brains, a zebra shark | Va’vau to Minerva Reef

With two new crew, a boat full of provisions (including an uninvited venomous centipede named Ted) and fair winds we sailed on from the Va’vau island group of Tonga southward to the Ha’apai group.

A few hours into the sail, our bright pink spinnaker ripped top to bottom and fell into the sea. I looked at Eric and asked urgently yet calmly “What are we going to do?” He replied, “I don’t know yet.” He hopped up on the foredeck to assess the situation, and Abby and Lauren asked “is this normal?” They didn’t have blue water sailing experience, but are savvy in other fields and are quick learners. “No, this isn’t normal but we will be fine,” I assured them, remembering how often spinnakers ripped during races and folks were usually ok. Luckily, the sail fell in a way that wasn’t too hard to wrangle back on board with all four of us heaving. I was impressed and relieved to see how well the crew handled the situation, it was our first test as a team and we excelled.

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a kingdom, a cuttlefish, a coupling| Va’vau, Tonga

There is a wide, old mellowness to Vava’u, Tonga. An ancient peace. Yawning cave mouths dot the cliff edges, breathing the sea in and out, swallows dart and dip into the dark entrances to their cozy homes clinging to the eroded rock caverns. Fat fuzzy fruit bats fly contentedly through the sky, during the day, afternoon and night. Lush tropical flora is so thickly knitted together that you can’t see any way through. Vines fill in the space between pandanus trees, iron wood trees, and so many other plants that I’ve never seen before. White tropical birds with their elegant long thin tails lilt over the calm seas.

The Vava’u group is shaped like a jellyfish, with main town of Neiafu tucked inside the northern part, the jellyfish body. The Port of Refuge is completely that, nestled against Neiafu and protected on all sides from the open sea winds and currents.

We arrived to port with a 10 foot long Pacific Blue marlin newly processed and filling up our two freezers. It’s regal bill and flashy tail cut free from the shimmering blue silver body, ready to dry and be a physical reminder of the great beast. We caught it on a hand line, Eric wrapped the line around a winch and I winched it in.  By the time it reached the boat, it had dragged at 11 knots forcing blood through its gills, so it didn’t have any fight left. It was a wild honor to be near the majestic beast and it’s silky, clean flesh fed us and many others for months.

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