Thoughts on Tonga

Like many over the past several days, I have watched video clips and news footage covering the huge explosion of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano in the Kingdom of Tonga. We are lucky enough to have stopped in Tonga during our Pacific crossing in 2011 and spent 3 months sailing throughout the island group. We visited the popular northern island of Vava’U, the only place most yachties stop, but we also spent several weeks exploring Tongatapu and the more remote islands of the Ha’apai. Areas that were closer to, and more damaged by, the eruption.

Although we didn’t have the greatest weather and spent many restless nights in less than perfect anchorages, our time in Tonga made an impression on us. So much so that two years later we sailed the “wrong way” from Fiji to return to the island nation. (Header image is half way between Fiji and Tonga.)

Having spent a great deal of June, July and August surrounded by a heavy vog haze from a nearby volcano here in the Philippines, I can only imagine what conditions are like in Tonga where whole islands are blanketed in volcanic ash. Beyond the immediate clean up, this will have long lasting affects on crops and drinking water, as well as the marine landscape which was some of the most vibrant and unspoiled that we have ever seen.

Sunrise through the vog haze, Philippines June 2021

I wanted to share the story I wrote that was published in 2014, “Welcome to the World of Tomorrow. Navigating Time on the Edge of the Dateline,” about our first visit to the Kingdom of Tonga. (Excerpt below, click HERE for the full article.) I hope it gives readers a glance into what life is like in this magical spot.

Perhaps we will be lucky enough to get back there someday. Until then, my thoughts are with the people of Tonga, who showed us so much hospitality and warmth.




Sailing in the Kingdom of Tonga; Navigating Time on the Edge of the Dateline                                               

A Canadian, an American and an Australian are sitting in the shade of a thatched roof bar having cold beers when in walks a 150lb pig.  The barman turns and yells “Charlie!” and the big pig snorts when he hears his name and saunters in out of the sun. The Australian turns to the Canadian, lifts his beer and says, “Welcome to the Kingdom of Tonga!”

This might sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but it is just another day in Neiafu for Steve and I.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Bruce Stewart says:

    I’m glad you hold good memories of Tonga and it’s people, Heather. I visited the Kingdom in 1976. I was boatless then so got around by ferry and on local ‘copra boats’. Great memories of Pangai, Nomuka and Tofua, which back then was Tonga’s only active volcano. I can only imagine the pain and suffering this eruption must have caused the good people of the low-lying islands in the tsunami’s path.

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Tonga is ’78 must have been amazing! Some of favourite anchorages of all times were in Tonga, also some of the most ‘memorable!’ Thanks for saying hello, hope all is well.

  2. Tonga is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  3. SeafariYC says:

    I am happy that you find Tonga amazing. Nice post!

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