“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” –Jawaharial Nehru

Sailing to tonga I saw the spray from a whale and quick ran to get the others. Ez and Karin were still sleeping (suckers) so Andreas and I ran up just in time to see a humpback fully breach right in front of the boat. It was amazing how close she was… almost a little too close. That day we saw two more whales. A calf was playing on his back and looked like he was waving at us. I guess we’d finally entered the humpback playground of Tonga.

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We spent our time in the Vava’u group. We spent each night at a different anchorage looking at cerulean water and pristine beaches. During the day we snorkeled and swam to the beaches adding to our ever increasing collection of shells, which we would later just have to throw. : (

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We walked into a couple small villages and got a glimpse of their gardens, vanilla farms and homes. Some children, no older than four, were running around throwing machetes at a poor little piglet. I do not believe in spanking but I wanted to spank their naked little buns. Seriously, put the machetes down!

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A couple evenings we had bonfires with our friends we met in Niue and their good friends (Lily, Charlie and Caroline) on Portal a 30 ft monohull. They were really kind people and showed Ez and I their boat knowing we’re interested in getting a small boat ourselves. It was helpful to hear their story and made us feel we could do it too. They were on their way to Vanuatu so we would not meet again but exchanged information and you never know. The world is becoming smaller and smaller.

Another night the Swedes invited their friend Umberto over, a wizened old sailor who told great stories. He kept saying he was going to retire in Tonga, although he hadn’t been working since 1999 (retiring from what?). He was proof that even if you don’t have money (every time he had it he either spent it or gave it away) people help you out and you don’t need much. I’m not sure I’d want his lifestyle but he had a great attitude and constantly said how beautiful everything was (meals, people, life in general). One of his stories was at an Australian airport. Security told him to put on shoes but he didn’t have any (sailors never wear them and he was only there to deliver a boat) and the guard was getting more and more agitated with him. Finally someone slipped him her high heels and everyone was roaring, except the guard of course who had to begrudgingly let him through.

What really made our time in Tonga though (at least for me) was we decided to give swimming with the whales another go and hoped we wouldn’t have a repeat of Niue. We were picked up by a boat full of Europeans. A nice Spanish couple who gave us tips for when we go to Borneo and a French family traveling with two small children (the French are just so cool). Of course I can’t forget our Austrian guide Claudia who felt bad when she didn’t bring us a vegetarian meal (no problem, this happens all the time) and she said she could stop eating meat except for ze sausage. We had such a fun day and guess what, we saw whales! We swam with a mother and her calf. I get goosebumps thinking about it. We took turns and each had about 40-60 minutes total in the water. After each swim we were all so giddy and couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces. Claudia told us a bunch of stories about the whales. When the calves are too playful the mothers scold them. When they misbehave by getting too close the mother calls out and the calf will then keep his fin touching her side, much like a toddler holding a parent’s hand. They are curious of kids and got close to the two little French kids trying to check them out. She also said dolphins love pregnant women because they can see the fetus with their sonar. Amazing, right?

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This was our last stop before getting off Happy in Fiji and I’d been promising the Swedes for months that I would make them a few of my mom’s recipes including a pumpkin pie. In fact they said I couldn’t leave until I followed through. I’m not much of a baker, but suffered through, and was happy they liked our American tradition. It was my parting gift to the Sweets.

Then we headed out on our last sail that would take us to Fiji and on solid land once again. Where the Internet and vegetables are plentiful and seasickness and night watch are a thing of the past. I’m ready.

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