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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tonga: “Ohhh Ohhhhh Big Mama” Feast


Big Mama lives up to her name, life of her “birthday party”
at Big Mama’s Yacht Club, Tonga.
“Don’t you be waitin’ on Big Mama’s party to delay your hop to New Zealand,” warned Tongas’ New Zealand-hosted Blue Water Festival weather guru John Martin.  “She’ll tell you she has a birthday party coming up in December….”

John – newsflash – Big Mama, aka Ana of Big Mama’s Yacht Club near Nuku’alofa resolved that issue. 









“Big Mama’s Cruiser Ale.”
Does she know her customers or what?
Her “birthdays” and “birthday party”  seems to flex to meet when cruisers sail into Nuku’alofa to check out, get their duty-free fuel, and wait for the next weather window to jump the 1,000+ miles to New Zealand.











The band at Big Mama’s led with the local popular
favorite  Ohhhh ohhhhh Big Mama,” and played 
 variety of popular favorites.  The band singer on
the far right, grew up in Tonga, but now lives in
Mt. Vernon Washington State USA – a stone’s
throw from our former home in Everett, WA.
Party or not, with wifi, a sweet little beach bar, a host of yachtie services and a dinghy-able (or ferry) ride to Tonga’s capitol city, Nuku’alofa, Big Mama’s is an easy place to hang out.

Much as we enjoyed Big Mama’s party*, it didn’t tempt us to stay any longer than it took us to get ready.  If you are there, though, don’t pass it up!

*Adult dress-up, decent, affordable food, music, dancing and an all-around good time.









Simon and Anita of Aura chose to wear beautiful traditional
Polynesian attire for Big Mama’s Yacht Club “birthday party,”
Halloween and Luau shindig.
What tempted us more than hanging out at Big Mama’s? 

Spending more time exploring Nuku’alofa.  The architecture – the Palace, churches and official buildings were different and intriguing.  Nuku’alofa’s primary produce and craft market was colorful, affordable a block large and two stories tall.  It’s the kind of place I could visit daily without ever tiring of it.  We considered a car or scooter rental to better explore the island, but the weather window, and the echo of John Martin’s beaconed (as did the All Points Rally [party] he was one of the hosts for in New Zealand on November 15th).






Tahitian sarongs, a little face paint,
cheers and big smiles from the crew
of Feeling Good. 
Alison of Saroni warned, “Don’t be in such a hurry to go.… Folks are getting stuck at Minerva for a week or more.  There’s nothing to do there, especially if the weather’s bad enough to keep you aboard.  If you have to wait, wouldn’t you rather do it here, where there’s more to do?”

Maybe so, but Minerva’s 250 miles closer to New Zealand than Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga. 















Posers!  A small preamble to the group photo.  Hopefully someone
taking whole group photos as sunset from Big Mama’s party
will share theirs.  
While Big Mama doesn’t charge for anchoring, once there, there’s lots to spend money on, both at the “yacht club” and on the island of Tongatapu.


The Dutch Armada hams it up in Halloween costume
at Big Mama’s Yacht Club.  

Whole roasted suckling pig – the hallmark of an upscale Tongan
feast.  At Big Mama’s Yacht Club dinner was $30
TOP/person (about $15 USD/person).
Minerva may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s impossible to spend any money there.  Besides, Minerva offered some of the best snorkeling of this year (watch for Minerva underwater photos in future blog posts and eventually some short video clips), though Fakarava still is the runaway winner with that prize in my book.  Scenery-wise, while Tongatapu is a pleasant dalliance, Minerva’s beauty is surreal.


Purple potatoes, which were deliciously smoky from cooking
in an umu (underground) oven at Big Mama’s “birthday party.”

Big Mama never lacked for dance partners.
This dance 'twas with Simon of Aura.
Ultimately, Alison was right.  But so were we.

Big Mama’s was great fun.  Both her party and Minerva Reef will be treasured – albeit each very different -- memories.

For Saroni, New Zealand marks the end of 8 years of cruising, their return home.  In their shoes, I might drag my feet a bit, too. 


For us, New Zealand is a new cruising adventure.


It’s official; our very own Big Mama’s Yacht Club certificate.

Location Location
Opua, New Zealand, Bay of Islands Marina (S35.18.825 E174.07.312).  The fuel was taken on outside Nuku'alofa, Kingdom of Tonga (S21 07.134 W175 09.622).










Journey, our Pearson 365 sailboat, glimmering in the dusk
at anchor off Big Mama’s.
Cruising By the Numbers
As the crow flies, our passage from Nuku'alofa, Tonga on November 2, 2015 to Minerva Reef** was 257 miles.  It took us 2 1/2 days of 24/7 sailing to get there.  We waited there nine days for a "weather window" of good sailing conditions to sail to New Zealand, another 783 "crow flies" miles.  We arrived in New Zealand on Saturday, November 21, 2015, after 8 1/2 days of sailing 24/7 from Minerva Reef.  

**Minerva Reef is an isolated reef, offering some protection and a place to anchor.  There is no "land," but the reef is briefly above water twice daily at low tide.  

Since we left Jacksonville Florida in December, 2014 -- less than a year ago -- we've sailed over 10,000 miles.  

A set of tables detailing all our stops will be added to the blog soon