We completed our first overnight ocean passage as a family and reached the destination that we set out to reach. From my very limited experience, ocean passages seem to be a bit of an endurance test, similar to a long haul flight where an hour can feel like half a day, except that on a flight you can count down the time to destination and on a yacht the time to destination is in the lap of the wind, and engine, gods. You trade watching back to back movies on a plane with the luxury of being able to stretch out in a rocky bed, you trade feeling grotty on a crowded plane with feeling sticky and salty out on the ocean and the compartmentalised sky high meals are replaced with meals of crackers whilst afloat. The first 24 hours really dragged and our boat was full of sore tummies and bored looks, but the remaining 9 hours was actually OK and I think, very much unlike a long haul flight, we could have actually carried on to a more distant destination without too much discomfort. We all enjoyed dangling our legs off the stern to cool off in the 1km deep, mesmerizingly blue water by day and at dusk marvelled at the flying fish darting across the ocean surface and the phosphorescence shimmering in our wake. The girls even managed to watch a couple of movies, be captivated by audio books, make some pirate costumes and enjoy a meal of toasted sandwiches.
As always with sailing we needed to wait for a good weather window to leave one anchorage and head for the next. For this passage we waited for about 4 days at Tongatapu and set sail with very favourable winds and a good forecast for the duration of the trip. After 12 hours of fast sailing, the wind dropped and we decided to start the engine. A loud rattle in the engine was not a welcome noise to hear. Anthony pulled the engine apart and just as he worked out that there were broken parts that he couldn’t fix mid-ocean the wind dropped off completely to leave us bobbing around in the Pacific Ocean with no control over where we would end up and when. It makes you acutely aware of the power of the weather and without an engine it was quite possible that we could have ended up at a different destination. Anthony rafted our 4hp dinghy to the side of the yacht so that we had some power over our direction should we need it. The fickle wind played with us for the remainder of the journey but we did slowly creep towards Vava’u and were very relieved to arrive at an outlying anchorage just before sunset, instead of having to languish another night mid ocean. And now, we’re anchored near a town at the centre of a tropical paradise while Anthony repairs the engine, surrounded by coconut palms and water so clear that we can see the bottom 12m below us and watch fish munching on scraps that go overboard. A short dinghy ride to the local market keeps us topped up with fresh pineapples, passion fruits, watermelons and coconuts. If this wasn’t enough to keep us all content with being ‘stuck’ here, we’ve been hanging out with another three girl family, similar in age to ours, from Melbourne, doing a comparable trip to ours and also ‘stuck’ here waiting for a part. There could be many worse places to be stuck and now that Anthony has managed to repair the engine we can leave when we choose to explore the numerous small islands of the Vava’u group, snorkel in the caves and coral gardens and search for humpback whales arriving from the polar waters to bear their young that were conceived here 11 months ago.