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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tonga’s Rugby Madness


All red-decked rugby fans, these more traditionally garbed ladies
show their support more conservatively than this bare-chested,
buff boy partaking in the parade.
Beep-Beep-Beep-ing horns and singing caught our attention as we ambled along the one road encircling “New Potato” Niuatoputapu Tonga.  Streamers, a waving of arms, lots of smiles, revelers swathed in red passed us in three large trucks, several times.

“What is the celebration -- the horns and singing all about – a wedding? A holiday?” we asked a local.  In French Polynesia, red was the color for wedding attendees.

“Rugby; Tonga is playing,” he replied.







Red-face-painted parade participant in a long-bed
pickup truck poses with a rugby ball for the video cam,
a substantial-sized loudspeaker between his cameraman and the truck cab.
In more populous Nieafu, Tonga, Thursday, Friday and Saturday the streets thronged with parading trucks, tractors, motorcyclists and even a few cars. Street curbs were crowded with cheering fans and fascinated and amused lookie-loos (like me).  Post parade, we even noticed as we departed from the small boat dock, a teenaged gal whose shirt read, “Rugby is my life.”
At last, the game was Saturday night.  With no wifi or tv, we didn’t know if Tonga won, or not.


Is this fellow sporting traditional Tonga rugby fan gender-bending
garb?  Or is he a fakeleti (male Polynesian dressing and playing
the part of a female) who happens to be caught up in rugby fever?
Watch for an upcoming short video…
where they drag him through the mud!
Then, Sunday, other than the church bells and ethereal gospel music floating into the anchorage… silence.  The town, as is the case throughout Tonga on Sundays (with a few curious exceptions like the Tropicana and Aquarium Cafés) – every business, by law, is shut up tight as a drum on Sundays.

“I’m betting Tonga lost,” I told Wayne.  “If they won, it wouldn’t be so quiet.”

“It’s Sunday; that’s church day.  It’s going to be quiet,” he countered.

But I remember, even though I didn’t follow football, I could always tell when the local pro football team won or lost in the U.S.  When they won, there was celebration.  When they lost, silence.  With as much more celebration as there was here in Tonga leading up to the rugby game, surely there would be some sign on Sunday if they were victorious.


How can you not admire a tractor overflowing with
fancifully attired rugby fans parading past?
Finally, on Monday, we were at a fund-raising movie gathering for a yachtie who lost his boat on some outer island reefs.  After the movie, the big screen played rugby.  “Do you know if Tonga won on Saturday?” I asked Dee of Good as Gold, as she sat next to me and watched the highlights with interest.  “Nope; they lost; an upset, apparently.”


For the sake of the friendly and rugby-loving Tongans, in my assessment of who the winner wasn’t, it’s one time I wished to be wrong.  Whether it’s three truckloads or revelers on a small island or a melee of twenty-plus assorted vehicles on a bigger island, rugby draws the Tongan community together as surely as churches do, but with much more laughter.

Location Location
This post was finalized in Port Maurelle, Kingdom of TONGA (S18.42.024 W174.01.801) and was inspired at our first Tonga island stop, Niuatoputapu (meaning 'Very Sacred Coconut') (S15.56.395 W173.46.125).  about 175 miles from Tonga’s Vava’u island group, where we’re currently cruising.

Communication Access
There was no wifi in Niuatoputapu or Port Maurelle, so posts were written awaiting arrival for sporadic wifi access in Neiafu, of the Vava’u islands of Tonga.

Tonga wifi access is slow, so most posts will be set up to post when we’re in Tonga’s more populated areas.  Once we get to New Zealand in November, we expect much better wifi and will catch up on some recent cruising experiences and, eventually, some short video clips.

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (September 26, 2015) travels around the Neiafu, Tonga are -- ~9 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --120 days -- sailing and covered 8,724 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.