It felt really good to be returning to the Royal Sunset Island Resort at Atata Island in the Kingdom of Tonga last May. We had visited there twice the previous year and couldn't help stopping by since we were in the neighborhood again this year. The resort is located on an island about eight miles west of Nuku'alofa and is surrounded by reefs. The holding in the lagoon is excellent and the fringing reef is fun to snorkel. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the resort bar is the best we've found anywhere. Our plan was to stay about a week to rest and refresh ourselves after the passage and then sail up to Vava'u to visit friends. Plus, we wanted to visit with the resort owners, David and Terri to catch up on all of the local and not so local gossip. We had no idea that we would be instrumental in resurrecting an ancient island relic; hidden for years in the dense jungle undergrowth.
It started out innocently one evening at the bar, of course. It was just after a brilliant sunset; the air was warm and sweet as we listened to the wind rustling the palm trees overhead. We were chatting with David and some other friends about how we got started cruising. Micheal mentioned that we used to sail and race Hobie cats back in our old life and that we frequently longed for the exhilarating ride that only a Hobie Cat could provide. Imagine our surprise when David mentioned that there was an old 16 on the island! And get this; they had just received a shipment of parts from New Zealand that were necessary to get it rigged and sailing again. David asked would we like to have a go at putting it back together and the answer was YES!
So bright and early the next morning we followed David down a winding path behind one of the resort fales, and there it was. Our hearts skipped a beat as we gazed at the sleek, stained, slightly delaminated and oxidized hulls. I'm telling you, that 16 spoke to us. What it said we couldn't quite understand at the moment. We got down to business locating the mast, sails, rudders and standing and running rigging. Yup, we had almost all of the parts and what we didn't have could be improvised. By the time we got things organized and sorted out it was time for lunch. We returned to Vela Dare and had lunch and went through our assortment of spare Hobie parts, every cruising yacht has these, and returned to shore ready to get to work. I should mention that Micheal made a detour to the bar to get a beer. We knew this would be thirsty work. First, the tramp needed to be laced back on the frame. Got that done. Next, David arranged for some of the local guys to move it out of the bush to the beach. They also moved the mast to the beach. Was it coincidence that Micheal had his handy-dandy tramp tightening tool or was it fate? In the meantime, the boat was still talking to us. We couldn't quite make out what it was saying but it sounded like a name. We kept working. We rigged the standing rigging and stepped the mast and then began tightening the tramp. A village boy appeared just when we needed help. Got that done so we went to work on the sails and the running rigging. Did I mention that the boat was actually from Fiji where it was used in a past 16 World's event? The sails were purchased from a loft in New Zealand, at a discount price. About two in the afternoon we got it rigged and ready to sail. There were a few parts missing and the mainsail wasn't cut properly, but she sure looked good. And the boat was still talking to us. It was hard to understand with 15-20 knot trade winds whistling through the palm trees. Nissss, I thought it was saying.
How we had longed for a moment like this. Flat water in the lagoon and a good stiff breeze. We could hardly wait to get her floating. There was only one trap wire on the boat and it was frayed, but Micheal wore his butt bucket just because he could. We pulled her into the water, jumped on and sheeted in. It was great! It had been over a year and a half since either of us had sailed a Hobie. We tore all around the lagoon and even flew a hull. And the boat was still talking to us. "Micheal", I said, "the boat is saying Dennis something!" He looked at me very seriously for a moment and said, " Yeah, I know, I think it's saying Dennis McCredie!" We both kind of gaped at each other for a few seconds and then it hit us. Could this be the boat that Dennis McCredie sailed at the 16 Worlds in Fiji years ago? Stranger things have not happened to us.
So there you have it, it was meant to be.
P.S. We will be moving on to Musket Cove on the west side of Viti Levu in about a week to enjoy the festivities planned for the Island Cruising Association's Musket Cove to Port Vila, Vanuatu Cruisers' Regatta. One of the events planned is a two day Hobie Cat regatta. We'll let you know what happens.