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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Niuatoputapu, Tonga: Candy, Little Girl?

Lollygirl, striking a pose in Niuatoputapu TONGA.
“Lollies?” she inquired, her head cocked, coquettishly.  She radiated the innocence you’d expect from an adorable and hopeful 8-year-old girl on a relatively isolated South Pacific Island, used to visiting yachties with a soft touch.

Where we come from, “Do you want some candy, little girl?” takes on a completely different and far more sinister connotation.  We conjure up dark images of a sleazy guy with impure thoughts and ulterior motives offering said candy, a “sugar daddy,” at best.   Thus, “Don’t take candy from strangers,” we’re warned by our parents, at an early age.







Peregrine’s Gretchen confers with Niuatoputapu TONGA kids.
The girls asked for lipstick; Gretchen gave them her chapstick.
In Niuatoputapu, the Kingdom of Tonga, the last monarchy in the South Pacific, it’s sweetly different. Niuatoputapu’s population ranges between 800-900 and the residents appear to have rebounded nicely following a devastating 2009 tsunami, which tragically killed several residents.  Today the island sports many new buildings, exceptionally healthy pets and livestock, washing machines, solar panels and solar powered streetlights, satellite dishes, avid cell phone users…. My hunch is the islanders quality of life is better now than it was before the tsunami struck.

One of several tv satellite dishes spotted
on Niuatoputapu TONGA, though far less
we saw in far more impoverished
Portobela, PANAMA.
Still, yachties understand that supply ships stop in Niuatoputapu only once a month or so, delivering limited goods and bearing prices roughly double or more what we paid in our last stop, American Samoa.  The majority of residents survive on a mix of self-reliance and support from families abroad and other forms of assistance.

“Bring candy, fabric and canned mackerel.  Whipped cream goes over well, too,” urged Drew and Shelly from Firefly through a complicated maze of cryptic SMS-style messages. Drew and Shelly preceded our passage to Niuatoputapu by a week. 



Cute little Sia, a three-year-old  Niuatoputapu TONGA
girl, attached to her Mom, also Sia.
Truth be told, I held back on distributing some of the goodies bought for Tonga from American Samoa, and others carried aboard since Panama, in anticipation of providing minor aid to other, more impoverished communities. Niuatoputapu seems far healthier than many other places we’ve visited in our travels:  Panama, St. Lucia, Dominica, Rum Cay Bahamas, and even many places in the USA.


As a rare adult with no cavities, I balk giving out candy to kids, especially in area with less than ideal dental care.  In Niuatoputapu, it struck me as a worthwhile time to and place to make and exception.  “The kids,” commented Wayne bestower of lollies and normally not all that into kids, with what sounded like a nostalgic sigh, “were the best part of Niuatoputapu.”

Location Location
We are currently in Neiafu, Kingdom of TONGA (S18.39.842 W173.58.915).  This was written at our first Tonga island stop, Niuatoputapu (meaning 'Very Sacred Coconut') (S15.56.395 W173.46.125).  Anchor to anchor, we sailed a little over 200 miles, a 2-day 24/7 sail to get to Niuatoputapu from Pago Pago, American Samoa, then another 2-day, 24/7 177 mile sail from Niuatoputapu to Neiafu Tonga.

Little Sia is clearly accustomed to being cherished by
cruisers she meets.  Laura of SeaKey happily obliges.
Communication Access
While there was cell phone coverage, there was no wifi in Niuatoputapu, so posts were written awaiting arrival and wifi access in Neiafu, the Vava’u islands of Tonga, 177 nm from Niuatoputapu.

Our wifi access in Tonga will vary.  It’s very expensive and slow, so most likely posts will be set up when we’re in Tonga’s more populated areas.  Once we get to New Zealand in November,

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our arrival on Sept 16, 2015 in Neiafu, Tonga -- ~9 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --118 days -- sailing and covered 8,711 nautical miles.  The prior 2 years combined, we sailed 3762 miles.  By the time we arrive in New Zealand in November, less than a year from when we set out, we expect we’ll sail over 10,000 miles this year.  That’s a lot of miles for a boat with a hull speed of 7 knots; we usually sail far slower than that.