Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fonua One One Anchorage on the way to Ha'apai from Neiafu

Oops, looks like I didn't post one from there...

We had originally intended to stop overnight at Maninita, as that is the southernmost anchorage in the Neiafu group. It supposedly makes a good jumping off point for the Ha'apai. The guidebooks say it is a beautiful and protected 'one boat' anchorage. (We know of friends last year that had 2 boats in there, though).

However, when we arrived around 3pm, the conditions--windy, 85% overcast, and swell from the south, it looked very dicey to get in, and very confining. A narrow pass in the reef, and reef all around, all breaking. The swell was forecast to rise, and we didn't want to get trapped in a crappy anchorage. It is supposedly very beautiful, and I encourage people to visit it (it is also a bird sanctuary, so be kind to the bird life), when conditions are right--light winds, good sun, slight seas. It is close enough to places like Tapana to be a good day stop. I don't think it makes a very good overnight stop for an early departure for the Ha'apai.

The anchorage we'd recommend for your jumping off point to the Ha'apai is Fonua One One (I'm pretty sure that One One is pronounced "onay onay"). It is only a few miles north and west of Maninita. I don't think either of the 3 guidebooks we use cover it as an anchorage, and the chart is not very good for it. But on the north side of this island, off the west tip of the island, the reef extends far enough to the west that there is good protection from SSW through E. There is a dip in the middle of this spot that has a 15-foot sand shelf, with DEEP sand, and (just) enough swinging room in case the wind gets backwards. The big advantage over Maninita is that you can escape in any light, and any conditions as it is completely open to the north. As long as you don't mind anchoring off the drop-off, 2-3 boats could share this anchorage area easily.

When departing to the south around the east end, make sure you miss the reef that extends north and east from the island, and also the large, breaking detached reef a couple of miles to the south an east. You can go between Fonua One One and the detached reef. The reef breaks pretty spectacularly, so you can see it easily in most sea conditions.

On our 'wide area' Google Earth chart, Fonua One One doesn't even show up, though the islands to the north and east are there. I did go back in my 'historical' depictions and find one blurry shot (not properly downloaded to my cache, probably) that does include Fonua One One and the detached reef. If you are going there, I would suggest you try to get a good depiction of that area.

For reference, we dropped anchor at about 18-48.935S / 174-03.918W in the deep sand in 15 feet at the edge of the shelf SE of us.

There was a strong current running north through the gap in the reef just ahead of us, which seemed to persist no matter what the tide was doing. We believe it was caused by the southerly swell breaking on the reef.

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