Niuatoputapu, Kingdom of Tonga

For this passage, Ryan, Ariana and I took Stugeron, an oral anti-seasickness medication. I still felt nauseous, had a headache, and had the motivation of a slug, but at least I didn’t physically get sick on this passage. Neither did the kids, so that was great. It didn’t help that we were back upwind which makes for a more bumpy ride. (Most of the time we were 45-60 degrees off the wind.) I was, once again, happy to arrive at our destination. Surprise, surprise.

I am going to shorten this island to “potato” in my description because it is too long to type all the time! Also, many cruisers actually call it “new potato” rather than learn how to say the name (which is pronounced: “New-a-toe-poo-tah–poo). This was another of our destinations I had never heard of. I knew of Tonga, but specific islands on Tonga or even where the heck Tonga was? No way. Potato was due south of American Samoa, about 160 miles.

The View of the Anchorage from Land


We arrived on a Sunday and stayed onboard to relax and have dinner because we knew we couldn’t check in to the country on a Sunday anyway. The next morning, we hitchhiked into the customs check-in and learned they would come to our boat as a group at 3 p.m. that day. We were, however, allowed to exchange some money while we were in town. The bank was a glorified white painted shed with a card table. It was so funny. We exchanged our money and were brought back to our dinghy by Sia, who worked in the office.

The Niuatoputapu Bank (Yes, seriously)


At 3 p.m. the customs and health officials met us at the dock and came to our boat via our dinghy. We provided snacks and drinks (as is expected) and our boat was inspected. They looked at our produce but luckily, did not take anything. We were not allowed to bring any food to shore, however. Sia had told Dan ahead of time to hide our alcohol because one of the customs officials liked to find a reason to confiscate alcohol from boaters because, well, he enjoyed drinking it. The kids and I scurried to hide a few bottles of rum (Ariana thought Ryan’s room would be good for that), and a bottle of coconut liquor and vodka (that I mostly have for vodka cream pasta sauce if you can believe that!) was left in our salon in a cabinet. The man was surprised by generally unhappy to see that that was all we had onboard. Apparently, the island is a dry one, so he must really be really motivated to obtain what he could get away with!

The Officials (The One Sitting next to Ari is the Official who Wanted Photos of our Palengi Daughter to Show his Twin Kids)



Another official wanted photos of each of our kids with him so he could show his children—twins. That was unexpected too. He was very nice though. After check-in, we decided to head to land to go for a walk. We learned from an Australian boat in the anchorage that the King of Tonga would be coming that Wednesday. He only visits the out-islands once a year for a big cultural celebration. How lucky was that?! We decided to stay at least until Wednesday for the event. It is not every day that you get to see a King…

Our few days in Potato were fairly uneventful. There were no restaurants, and although I heard there was a VERY small store, I never saw one anywhere. We interacted with a lot of the kids on the island (and passed out candy to most kids we saw), and did a bit of walking around the island. I most liked that pigs and piglets were allowed to roam free. You would see a whole family of pigs coming out of the woods and heading across the street. The little piglets were so cute!

Pigs Everywhere!  Pig and Piglet


Pig in the Graveyard


The Town


A Typical House (Most seem to be Nearly Identical Shed-sized Houses)


This Family Decorated Their House to Make it Unique


This, apparently, is a safe location for a tsunami.  Really?  A bit rickety if you ask me…


This military ship came prior to the King’s arrival.  It had his SUV and the King and Queen Chairs for the Ceremony.


Island Kids we Passed Out Candy to–very sweet!


The common mode of transportation was hitchhiking and most people would pick you up if they had room in their vehicles.

Finally, it was Wednesday, and we ended up catching a ride into town after walking a part of the way with some of the other boaters getting a ride from a local family. We squeezed into the back of a small SUV and pretty much looked like a clown car at that point.

The highlight of our stay here was the King’s visit. Even though it had some very boring moments, we were able to see, up close and personal, the authentic Tongan celebration of their King. The locals call non-Tongan visitors “Palangi” and I don’t believe it is meant to be derogatory; it’s just a way to differentiate us tourists from Tongans. But, us Palangis were able to be as close to the King as the locals. And the coolest part? There were only 12 Palangis on the whole island, including our family of four! Being on a pretty unpopulated island for the King’s celebration was definitely better than experiencing the festival on a large island. (He later visited Vava’u, which is much more populated with more ex-pats and tourists, and you could not get very close to the King and Queen in that environment.)   We were able to participate in the agricultural show, walk around the grounds like everyone else, and there seemed to be no concern at all about outsiders at this event. The King had his military security personnel, and at one point, I thought I saw one of the military men take out a rifle. Talk about disconfirmed assumptions; it was an umbrella! His duty was to keep the King dry while he was walking during the rain showers that day.

The Day of the King’s Visit


School Kids Waiting to Welcome the King and Queen


More School Kids


Kids Getting Ready for their Performance


Locals Waiting for the Celebration


Dancing to the Music


A Little Boy Waiting for the King


The King and Queen


The King (Without Any Camera Zoom).  They let us be very close to their King. The King is Wearing the Light Blue Shirt and Traditional Ta’ovala (skirt with burlap-type cloth wrapped around).


Another One of the King and Queen (in the background)


There were a lot of speeches, singing, dancing and school children performed for the King and Queen, and at one point, the King and Queen walked around the agricultural grounds to look at all of the food and handicrafts of the locals. There were tons of handmade fans, straw rugs, dead fish of all kinds, lobsters, a small shark, and very sadly, a turtle. Ariana said she saw the turtle move and I dismissed it (probably as a defense mechanism), but when Sue on the Australian boat told us later that the turtle was still alive, I felt terrible. How could anyone keep a turtle out in the blazing sun just to suffer? I can’t imagine killing them to begin with given they’re endangered, but this is a different country with different cultural practices, so I get it. But to make an animal suffer? I see no point in that.

The Handicrafts and Agricultural Goods that are Being Shown to the King





This Turtle was Alive; It was Very Disturbing to Me.


The day after the King’s visit, we dinghied over to a small island we heard was good for snorkeling, but we could not see any good reef to snorkel in. We later learned that when you go at low tide, you can walk out to an amazing snorkeling wall. We didn’t go at low tide and that was our problem. So instead, we had wooden stick fights and tried to make a wooden shelter on the beach. Good thing we weren’t on Survivor because we gave that up pretty quickly. We, once again, had dinner on the boat and watched a family movie (we do that a lot).

A View of Our “Day” Island


Stick Fight!


Our Lean-To




The next day, we were off to Vava-u, which, thankfully, was only an overnight passage.