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Badger

Badger
In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail

Fantail

Fantail
At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

02 March, 2007











We knew most of the boats at anchor and were soon given the lowdown on procedure. Call ‘Laura’ on the VHF and she will contact Customs and Immigration. This we did and soon a car horn sounded ashore. Trevor went to collect the two ladies, dressed in black (all Tongans were observing a month’s mourning for the late king) and wearing pandanus mats around their waists. To everyone’s amusement, Trevor and I had not realised we’d crossed the dateline. Niuatoputapu is 173° 46' W, but Tonga is on GMT +13! They were charming ladies, but we were upset later when we discovered that Customs had defrauded us of about US $20 – and this after asking for, and being given 10 litres of petrol for her car! Corruption is endemic in Tonga and very few yachts get away scot-free. However, more democratic times are ahead, which I suppose means the graft will be spread more evenly.
We went and found Laura, a British lady who is gamely trying to run a small guesthouse: a project made more difficult by the recent demise of the local airline. She was about to go back to the UK to make some more money for next year – her husband and 2 children had stayed there this season – and was quite apologetic that she could not offer us any hospitality. Everybody else that we met in Niuatoputapu was equally kind and friendly. We were adopted by a local ‘girl’, Leilani, who spoke wonderful English, and took us walking up the nearby hill. In spite of her clothes, attitudes and aspirations, she had been born a boy, but was adopted by her aunt and brought up as a girl: insurance for the aunt’s old age and not unusual in Polynesia.
Leilani is by no means stupid and very much enjoys the stimulation provided by visitors. She asked us to Sunday lunch; we arrived in good time, but there was nobody there. We thought that perhaps her aunt had gainsaid it, so after wandering around the village and paying a fruitless return visit half an hour later, we went back aboard and ate from our own lockers. An hour or so later, Trevor, working on deck, heard voices from the shore and looking through the binoculars, recognised Leilani and a couple of her friends. He went and fetched them – complete with lunch! Leilani sat us down and gently took over the galley. Finding cutlery and bowls, she tastefully laid out the food she had brought and placed it on the table. (Her ambition is to open a little restaurant for the yachties: she certainly has the touch.) We were moved at all the effort she’d been to, and upset at our inability to do justice to her feast. But apart from having just eaten, Tongan food can be heavy going. Even omnivorous Trevor balked at the grey, slimy shellfish and neither of us is very good with kape – an outstandingly stodgy root, related to taro. Tongans eat this in large quantities; it has no taste and a consistency similar to very dry, hard fudge. To say it sits heavy in the belly would be a gross understatement. However, we enjoyed the coconut, papaya and (cold) fried eggs and Leilani and her friends polished off the rest. I then made lots of coffee, which they all appreciate: instant coffee is the norm, but all Polynesians seem to relish fresh, strong – and, of course – sweet coffee.

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