[100331, 0119 UTC, Tapana, Vava'u Group, Kingdom of Tonga; 18°42.47'S / 173°59.19'W]
We join you during a rare quiet period after a flurry of natural "incidents" (the cyclone and the tsunami) and the joy of a rare visitor from a good friend from "back home". Our sojourn away from busy metropolitan Neiafu brought us seven days ago to an anchorage called either Ano Beach or Tapana depending on which side of the bay you are on. Our bow faces SE at a "window" where two former islands have merged into one by a tiny steep coral bank. Through the window we have mild trade winds that are keeping us cool for the first time since the dog days of late summer (your winter in the northern hemisphere) descended upon the islands shortly after cyclone Rene. The window also reveals glimpses of the outer reef of the Vava'u group where large waves continuously crash, the outer reef absorbing the pounding and keeping the water smooth inside the archipelago. While here, we have a long list of deferred boat chores to tackle in preparation for our next passage - that to Niuatoputapu and then onto Savusavu, Fiji - after the danger of cyclones has passed. We have no critical jobs to tackle, just routine maintenance which are pleasant in the cool breezes of fall.
The island to our southeast is a tiny slip of a limestone up-welling covered only by battered trees and undercut by eons of gentle seawater swells. Snuggled behind this tiny island is a brightly decorated houseboat/gallery/giftshop called the Ark Gallery run by US ex-pats, Larry and Sheri. Their little operation is also host to a handful of unoccupied yachts, most of which are on moorings and are left here in their care. To the north is a lovely beach (Ano) on the island of Pangaimotu (its name means it is owned by the monarchy) with a tiny village of a few cottages, called Hinakauea. Local boats bob off a rip-rap jetty. There are no lights at Hinakauea at night. To our south is the island of Tapana made "famous" by the presence of La Paella restaurant, run by a Spanish-speaking couple named Maria and Eduardo for many years. Unfortunately at this writing, La Paella is closed as the building was apparently atop of the property boundary and is currently being dismantled and rebuilt to correct this problem.
Our rare and wonderful visit was of Mary Beth O'Brien, a woman Les worked with who lives near San Diego. When we first departed for this big adventure, our first stop beyond Cape Flattery,WA was San Diego, where we spent 2 and a half months finalizing our project list before we left US shores and easy access to marine supplies. While in San Diego we spent many wonderful hours with Mary Beth and her puppy dog, and also enjoyed the use of her "doggie van" - indestructible and full of character and a godsend to us as we prepared and provisioned.
Mary Beth is the ideal visitor; she comes happily with bags of loot - boat supplies (of course), hard to find tools, books for the children of our Tongan friends, seeds for our favorite public market vendors, sun screen lip balm, clothing, mail, cat toys, wine and even Thai noodles! Our week-long visit with Mary Beth was filled with many laughs and much adventure - sleeping in the cockpit under a billion or more stars, fresh fish on the grill washed down with Felipe's margaritas, an ocean "passage", excellent snorkeling at the coral garden, lots of gabbing and shopping for Tongan art and even a tsunami. The visit went by in a flash, faster than any of us could have imagined.
Since her visit and until this trip, this and that seemed to keep us in town, including dealing with a recurrence of a serious and painful abscess near Jake's tail. Normally a veterinarian would be needed to attend to such a serious infection but here in the Vava'u group, there is no vet. We do carry kitty antibiotics, both oral and topical, and began these immediately but the nature of such a wound requires that it be opened, drained and aspirated. Desperation led us beyond our kitty medical book to the internet where we learned we might try hot compresses of water and hydrogen peroxide and after a number of treatments (and lots of howling and growling and near tears on our part) we were able to finally help the poor little guy. Now, just over a week later, he's completely healed and eating again like a horse and purring like a tiger. Our sweet "little" guy is back.
We owe much of Jakie's recover to Lisa Molloy of Cafe Tropicana who is Vava'u's one-woman animal rescue squad. Lisa's support and wisdom and encouragement were instrumental in Jakie's recovery. And, Lisa is still trying to help us to replace our supply of kitty antibiotics - vets in NZ refused to send some to us via Lisa's partner Greg, even though we had a prescription written by Jakie's vet in Panama City. There may yet be a way; the local (human) pharmacist is sure he can make us up a custom mix and Lisa may be able to obtain yet another prescription for Jake, this from an animal health professional who has a bit more compassion and an understanding that Jake could easily die from an untreated abscess.
So our life continues eventful and we are indeed fortunate to have each other, plus loving and supportive friends and family, as we push further west exploring the Pacific.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and fat cat, Jake