Sunday, January 29, 2012

Diving in Vavau, Tonga

Our friends Amy and Roger from s/v Shango arranged to get their PADI dive certification here in Tonga last week. After talking with all the dive shops in Neiafu, they chose Karen from Dive Vavau.

Karen working with Amy and Roger

We got an opportunity to go diving with them on the last day. We rounded up Gary and his crew Linda from s/v Sea Flyer and the 6 of us had the dive boat to ourselves (plus the Dive Vavau crew). While Paul drove the boat, and Karen worked with Amy and Roger, Izzy showed us around the dive site.

Exploring a Cave

We did 2 dives. In Vavau, the #1 attraction is diving with whales. But the whales are frolicking in their summer home off Antartica this time of year. So no whales. The other attraction around here are caves. Being part of a volcanic ridge, Vavau has a lot of caves. Both of our dives originated near the mouth of a shallow cave, and after we got through exploring the cave, we went out on the wall.

Linda Playing with a Basket Star

We didn't see much in the way of big fish, but some pretty little fish, some very colorful fans and soft corals. The water was warm and visibility was pretty good. A great way to spend a day.

Roger is Enjoying the Underwater World

Sherry Exploring the Wall

Newly Certified Divers, Roger and Amy

More Photos in our Album

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dealing with Convergence

Rain, rain, rain, rain...that's the short story.

The long story is that the South Pacific Convergence Zone has been hanging over us for over a week, and looks like it is hanging out for another week.

The South Pacific Convergence Zone is an area where the NE winds from the northern hemisphere meet the SE winds from the Southern Hemisphere, and cause an area of 'convergence' that generally means clouds and rain. The SPCZ is quasi-stationary, but does move north and south a little bit, usually seasonally. Unfortunately, right now it has parked right on top of Tonga.

Yesterday's Satellite Picture

This is actually the weather we expected this time of year, but we were spoiled our first week back with just beautiful sunny weather. Now we're not spoiled. Starting to go a little crazy with the constant rain. Hoping it will continue to drift eastward and clear out some. And hoping that none of the marching string of low pressure areas develop into anything worse than a little more rain.

The Surface Map from Fiji's Weather Service

The winds have been an unusual direction... N-NW... for about a week. While the SPCZ hangs over us, the forecast is really unreliable. So much depends on where it wiggles.

Even with the rain, we'd like to go out cruising a bit, but it's hard to tell what the conditions are going to be--to pick a good anchorage for NW winds (but maybe switching to E unexpectedly).

So, for now, we are sitting in Neiafu harbor enjoying internet, and socializing with the people who are here. Only about 5 boats we know of are still in this area--the other ~300 boats who passed through here in the fall have long ago left for Fiji, Australia, or New Zealand.

Yesterday, we attended an Aussie Day celebration at the Balcony Restaurant--about a dozen ex-pat Aussies were there in mufti, and about another dozen non-Aussies who were designated Temporary Aussies for the celebration. We drank Fosters beer. practiced our "G'Day" and had a good time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Back in Tonga

We had a long but uneventful flight and arrived yesterday about 4pm. A few minor issues aboard, but nothing we can't handle.

We took a sunset swim in the nice warm water. Sunny skies and gentle breezes, at least for now.

Cyclone possibility seems to have dissolved, but watching the wx carefully.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Goodbye America, Hello Tonga!

We are leaving on a jet plane... (sung to the tunes of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and 1970's hit song).

We take Air Tran from Atlanta to LA, then Air Pacific from LA to Fiji and then to Tongatapu. From there we take the local airline, Chatham's Air, to Neiafu. About 36 hours of travel time. With the date line and time zones, we leave on the morning of the 8th and arrive on the afternoon of the 10th.

Unfortunately, the long range GRIB file for the area shows a cyclone starting to brew up almost on top of us. We'll have about 12 hours after we arrive (if the current forecast holds) before things start getting nasty.

Follow the weather in our area, here:

Samoa IR Satellite

Fiji is on the left of the picture, Samoa is in the middle near the top, and Tonga is a sprinkling of islands running north and south, below Samoa and east of Fiji.

or here:

Fiji Cyclone Center

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012

We spent the day with son Chris and his wife Sandy, going over all the old McCampbell/Heliker photos. Lots and lots of photos and memorabilia. I'm still scanning!