Even before C&B could recover from their night with the Fakalettis, we dropped our mooring and headed out to more remote anchorages. We have a circuit planned to explore and hopefully show C&B the best Vava'u has to offer. We set sails, and Brian takes Sonrisa's helm. Sonrisa speeds along, steady and smooth in Vava'u's lake-like sailing conditions.
We arrive at our first anchorage just as the clouds are opening up to rain on our parade. No matter, tropical rain is as pleasant as a tropical cocktail. So, we don our swimsuits and jump in for a rainy snorkel. Looking at the ocean floor, we see almost as many stars below our feet as above our heads! They are everywhere, in all varieties. Thin legged and bright blue, marshmallow puff and pink, spiny and green, bulbous with red and yellow, textile and red. Even the sand dollars have stars. We find nudibranchs and sea slugs, Nemo fish hiding amongst their anemone tentacles.
Giant whale vertebra dangle from ropes on trees ashore - the local yard ornament equivalent of boulders.
Brian tried his hand at Sonrisa's galley, treating Captain Andrew to a rare night off. We enjoy white wine and butternut squash "stuffing," which may not have been Brian's original plan, but was tasty anyway.
The next morning, we sail on until we have to weave our way through a puzzle of reef. We follow compass headings recommended in the cruising guide and post Andrew and Coffee at the bow as spotters: aim at magnetic 150 degrees, then 70 degrees, then 130. We pop out on the other side and point at one of the most beautiful white sand beaches we have enjoyed yet. We throw down the anchor under a blanket of threatening clouds. The sun fights to keep its hold on the day, and its rays slant through slots of darkness. The result is filtered light causing our anchorage to glow turquoise.
Rumor has it you can hunt for shellfish on this beach. So, Grin escorts the crew ashore and we pick and comb our way across a shallow reef. Watch your step! We just barely avoid stepping on stars the exact color and texture of sand. I call these the "Where's Waldo Stars".
We explore interesting plants and watch local fisherman.
Coffee falls in love with hermit crabs.
We capture some snails just to collect their beautiful shells. Then, the one I named Stuart peeks her head out of my favorite pink shell and makes a break for it. She is the only one of ten brave enough to try to run. Stuart reminds me of my ship policy not to collect living creatures just because I think their houses are pretty. I return this courageous snail and all of her friends back to their rocks.
We take a handful of edibles back to the boat and roast them on the barbecue. They tasted fresh, salty and sweet like the sea, but their texture was bit rubbery. Maybe we over-cooked them?
We whip up a dinner of beef stew in a rich allspice, garlic, onion and beef broth marinade paired with New Zealand Pinot Noir. The (instant) mashed potatoes really brought out the "terroir" of the wine, as the French say. For dessert, we go hog wild and make a rice pudding with coconut milk and a Tahaa Vanilla Bean. Delicious.
We close out the night trying to capture photographs of bats-the-size-of-cats flying overhead, and watch the sun dissipate behind Tonga's array of clouds. Of all the places I have been, Tonga has the most diverse and most beautiful cloud patterns. I love watching the color and patterns shift and change.