Annual Summary of 1999

In 1999 we had wonderful experiences in New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji; sailed 50 days; Sailed 3,350 miles; and flew home to visit parents and kids.

New Zealand: We left "Arctracer" in the Tauranga Bridge Marina the entire 1998-1999 cyclone season, but toured in our car as far as Bluff (46 degrees 30'S) at the bottom of the South Island. We saw spectacular scenery, including Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, the Homer Tunnel, Kauri trees, Pohutukawa (NZ Christmas trees), waterfalls, glowworm caves, steam vents and boiling mud, deer & elk & emu & ostrich in paddocks, Blue Penguins, Yellow-eyed Penguins, Royal Albatross, and plenty of sheep. We watched sheep-shearing, soaked in hot sulfur pools on a Tasman Sea beach, tramped some trails, camped in some lovely lonely campgrounds, visited the Christchurch Antarctic Center with brother John who was on his way to the South Pole, saw the Around Alone boats, rode on a chase boat to see an America's Cup race, saw Maori dances and artifacts, visited Pa sites and kiwi fruit orchards, and trekked on horseback into the bush. We learned some of the slang of the friendly natives, but didn't pick up their passions for rugby and cricket. We visited the USA for a month to see parents and kids, and spent another month on the hard doing boat projects.

29 May - 11 June: New Zealand to Tonga, 1381 miles mostly light winds; NE wind for the first week; used new light air sails; one 5-hour hard squall.

Tonga: This is a country which has a land area of only 270 sq. miles and a population of just over 100,000 Polynesians. We bypassed the capital of Tongatapu, spent a month in the Ha'apai Group, then moved to the Vava'u Group of islands. This let us enjoy small villages on small islands. Flying foxes (fruit bats) and blue kingfishers were seen regularly. The people show the results of last century's missionary activity by attending church at least every Sunday, always covering themselves (women swim fully dressed), and behaving very well towards cruisers. We never locked "Arctracer" or even our dinghy oars when ashore. All land is owned by the government, and cannot be sold, but each man is given several acres for a plantation. They produce plenty of fruit, vegetables and fish for themselves, but almost nothing for export. Pigs run loose until they are cooked in umu ovens. We enjoyed kava ceremonies, several feasts (10-30 guests) and several dinners in Tongan homes. The key ingredient in most dishes was coconut cream. We bought many of their excellent woven baskets, some bone carvings and tapa cloth. We ate the elili (meat from turban shells) we collected on the reefs at low tide, and the few fish we caught. We traded nylon fishing line, hooks, old rope, kids clothes, pencils & paper, magazines, epoxy, sheets, towels, peanut butter, etc. for octopus, fish, fruits and vegetables. Everyone was delighted with their photos, instantly viewable on our digital camera. Nina learned many Tongan words, which were useful in making friends. We saw the 81-year-old King open a new marketplace, and we were fortunate to share a casual dinner with the Queen. There were many other cruisers, ranging from around-the-world rally boats that raced past to those who have been in one place for years. We enjoyed meeting "Jakaranda," friends of our boat over 20 years ago in Florida. We visited Mariner's Cave and Swallow's Cave by water, and sailed beside humpback whales and their calves. Jerry tried dinghy racing, and read his poems on the radio.

18 -21 September: Tonga to Fiji 431 miles.

Fiji: This country has 7055 sq. miles of land and 760,000 people (Vermont has 9609 sq. miles and 625,000 people). The natives are Melanesian, but half the population consists of Indians. Indians control most economic activity but cannot own land, which is controlled by native chiefs. Two completely separate cultures exist here, with some evident tensions. We visited a huge old sugar mill, producing their biggest export. We hiked and biked, and enjoyed waterfalls on high islands. We bought cannibal forks and other carved souvenirs. In small villages we gave yaqona (kava) roots to the chiefs as required by ancient custom. We tried some of the yaqona "grog," but didn't get intoxicated on it like some of the locals. Some villages were just starting to get electrical generators and appliances (first a light and then a TV). We snorkeled with the fishermen, went up rivers after uru (prawns) and ate new greens. They cook in lovo ovens and use coconut cream (like the Polynesians). A special treat was catching and eating balolo, small worms which come out of the reefs to the surface in great numbers just one morning each year. Some fishermen collect sea slugs, dry them, and export them to China. Nina learned many Fijian words and learned to make rotis (like tortillas). The natives were even friendlier than the Tongans, and again we didn't use any locks. We traded for lobsters and other local food, and found they really liked tobacco rolled in old newspaper. We only stayed two months, and must return next season to see more of this fascinating county.

13-26 November: Fiji to New Zealand, 1326 miles with gale-force winds on three occasions; uncomfortable but no big problems.