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Monday, September 21, 2015

Pet Turtle or Soup?

This green Niuatoputapu, Tonga turtle was literally “fit to be tied”
– that is – not a happy camper.   Pet or meal?  What do you think?
“That turtle… was it there for turtle soup?” I asked Sia, our Niuatoputapu guide* and as well one of the three officials required for Tonga check-in on the island.  The turtle was in a brackish but pretty “fresh” water spring we were departing from in our whirlwind island tour.  The turtle was tied up in the water and clearly not happy about it at all.

*~$5 USD ($10 Pa'angas Tonga)/person for a couple hours ride to visit the whole island.

“Maybe; or, it could be for a pet,” Sia replied, diplomatically, no doubt well aware turtle is not part of the typical Niuatoputapu-visiting cruiser’s diet.  While I’ve heard turtles are quite delicious, I admit to feeling squeamish about eating them myself. 

The horse at this Niuatoputapu, Tonga made for a pretty picture
though to Wayne it looked like his tie was just short of
enabling it to sip the water.  Our hunch is the horse
still had it better than the turtle.
Yet I realize eating turtle is no less humane than the beef, poultry or pork I nonchalantly purchase at the grocer for my consumption. 

My own reaction to eating turtle reminds me of the horrified response I got when asking a Melbourne Australian about whether she’d tried the kangaroo, an item on the swanky restaurant menu in front of us.  “Kangaroos are our national symbol,” she exclaimed.  “It would be like eating Bambi!”  While I have eaten and enjoyed kangaroo, which tasted a lot like a good London broil, I opted to not further offend my dining companion that night.

Would I try turtle, if it were part of a native meal, already cooked? 

Probably, with the same guilt I swallow along with a tender morsel of well-prepared octopus at a Greek or Cuban restaurant.  I know octopi are endangered, and as well one of the most intelligent critters in the sea.

“Are there sharks here in the lagoon?” I asked Sia.  “Maybe some blacktips,”  she answered.  When I commented on my surprise at not seeing any, she added, “Well, we do sometimes find then in our cast-nets.  You know, they’re pretty good eating.  Have you enjoyed swimming [without fear of sharks] in the lagoon yet?” she inquired with a sly smile.

When I was a vegetarian, a colleague sneered, “Don’t you worry about hurting plants?” Indeed, there are scientific experiments that would imply even as vegetarians we may be overly cavalier about what we eat. 

While less environmentally threatened, the free-roaming pigs
which abounded on Niuatoputapu, Tonga were pretty darned cute.
Hunters or gathers, the line has to be drawn somewhere.  Regardless, we have to eat something to survive.

Yet I confess to more than once considering sneaking back to that brackish Niuatoputapu spring and setting free that “pet turtle” if it was still fit to be tied. 

But what would that really accomplish?  Likely just accelerating the slaughter of one of the many free-roaming local pigs in its place. Niuatoputapu’s pigs would pass the same “good life [restaurant patron] test” as “Henry the chicken” in “Portlandia.”

I did see a turtle several times swimming free in Niuatoputapu’s anchorage.  Whether it was the same or several turtles, not sure.  If you visit Niuatoputapu, Tonga, maybe it will still be there, though I’m betting the one in the spring is long gone.

Location Location
Atoll next to Niuatoputopu "New Potato" Tonga, our last anchorage.

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 Neafu Tonga.

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.