Food was affordable and shopping in the produce market a pleasure. You could buy a barbecue lunch on the street for £1: 2 pieces of chicken, pork chop, sausage and breadfruit. Cold beers in an attractive bar overlooking the harbour cost 80p – please don’t leave a tip. Colourful buses brought people in from all over the island and most people spoke enough English that we could have proper conversations. Several yachties hired cars to travel over the island, (Upolu) but Trevor and I took a bus ride from one end to the other. At the other end, the bus turned round and started back. The ‘conductor’ came and asked us where we wanted to go and was only slightly bemused when we said ‘back to Apia – we only came for the ride’. And the ride was worth it, giving views of hills and valleys, houses, gardens and schools and making us feel that we had gained a little insight into the way of life.
Trevor was once again persuaded to lend a hand, this time to a Slovenian lady whose small boat had every gadget (and would undoubtedly have been passed as fit for offshore work by the New Zealanders), but had a serious rigging problem: the compression post had buckled while she was motoring away from Upolu. Trevor managed to locate some steel pipe and some wood. Again he rummaged through our own supplies and fabricated a new compression post. He found a welder who was ready to weld it up, so long as Trevor could provide a helmet, chipping hammer and welding rods! Marjetka was somewhat taken aback at the speed with which Trevor got things done, but was genuinely grateful for his assistance and brought us gifts of wine, speciality coconut oil and a beautiful pareu for me. The rest of her boat seemed to be barely sound and Trevor was less than happy to see her blithely set off for Fiji.
We could now turn to our own repair: the gaff had a crack in it near the jaws, from the unfair strain imposed on it when the peak halliard strop had parted. The gaff and its fitting were aluminium and Trevor sawed off the cracked end of the gaff, then designed a better, articulating, fitting, in stainless steel. Once again, his friendly welder was approached and the gaff was soon back in place, better than the original.
It was now 20 September and with the cyclone season approaching, we sailed for Niuatoputapu, in the Tongan Is. We had a bit of a rough ride with winds gusting F8 in squalls and coming round so far S that we ended up close-hauled. There was a big sea running as we approached the island and located the pass, but it was so well marked that entering was straightforward. As we dropped our anchor onto white sand, a turtle swam by to greet us.