Ok Escapees, we’ve been head down trying to sort out repairs to our autopilot and starboard Volvo raw water pump without which we are going nowhere. The irony that both of these breakdowns waited until the end of this passage is not lost on us. It’s as though “now we wait” is part of some master plan. Tonga is not much to look at as you approach but once inside these protected waters Vava’u is truly beautiful. Conservative, church-going, big and friendly are the initial impressions ashore. Gone are the handsome, lithe bodies of French Polynesia.
Neiafu Customs just works a half day on Saturday but it’ll cost you about double so no worries there, Sunday you better not be caught working unless you are a preacher or in the choir, however this Monday is Constitution Day, a holiday, so it looks like we’ll have to wait till Tuesday to check in. Well I’m not going to stay on the boat until Tuesday and quickly found a likely happy hour at a water front bar and an ATM that dispenses something called TOP at the rate of two TOP for one USD. Even I can do that kind of math and later that evening we had a nice group of old friends at happy hour.
So it turns out that while the men of Tonga are quite conservative and religious, they are known to wear woven frond mats over long sleeve shirts and skirts. What would good old bible-thumping Mike Huckabee do about all of these goings on? I’d like to see that.
George fixed me with a friendly smile as we sat down at Customs and Immigration. I thought he handled his heavy patterned grass mat with practiced ease, while just looking at his black long sleeved buttoned up shirt and trousers under the thick mat made me faint with the heat.
“Where is your boat?” I pointed out at Escape Velocity at anchor 200 ft off the nasty looking Customs dock, smiled back at him and complimented him on his beautiful mat. After filling out a dozen or so forms George leaned over and in a conspiratorial whisper and said, “Jack, do you have any beer aboard?” Now that’s a loaded question. I endeavor to try to tell the truth when checking in, so I leaned forward and said that I believe I might be able to find a few aboard. George smiled and said, “Three, please.” I dinghied back with three cold ones in a paper bag, filled out a few more forms and left three Customs agents smiling at the dock tearing apart someone else’s boat. It was 10 am.
Back on the mooring ball I soon found that the raw water pump had ridden in its last rodeo. Salt water had sprayed everywhere and it was time to tear up EV myself. There is no one else to blame because that pump has had a righteous leak for months which has earned it a featured spot for replacement in New Zealand. With the kind assistance from fellow cruisers I dropped off the pump at Trouble in Paradise with a borrowed rebuild kit and dinghied over to the Boat Yard with the autopilot ram. Mañana for both.
In the meantime the chores for New Zealand, better known at happy hour as “the New Zealand list”, grows and grows. It occurs to me as we wait for these repair bills to land that when we were moving aboard EV I drank nothing but Black Seal rum and now I’m reduced to drinking a local rum, something called Dou-Dou, it tells a story doesn’t it? So it’s mañana. If you want me I’ll be in the bar…waiting.