Late on Tuesday night, B watch (my very own watch, winners of the previous day's line chase competition) made an exciting sighting: land! After five days at sea, we finally spotted our first destination: Vava'u, Tonga. I had served as assistant steward the day before and had abbreviated night watch because of it, meaning that I was sound asleep for the call of "Land ho!" but awoke the next morning to the sight of Tonga. The morning watch, A watch, was "hove to" because we could not dock until later in the day, so I got to spend the morning reading on the top deck and enjoying the view of the beautiful coastline. Before heading into Tonga, we lowered the hydrocast carousel and conducted a Neuston tow to collect scientific data in the waters off the Tongan coast.
Soon enough we were back underway and headed into port. B watch was on duty as we sailed in, but all members of the crew helped out to get the Seamans ready for docking and a visit from Tongan customs. As we handled sail, prepared fenders and generally readied the ship, it became clear how much we had learned in the previous week. Far from being novices, our class had solidly learned the basics of sailing a tall ship, and were eager for opportunities to showcase our new skills.
Much of our midday was spent spiffing up the ship in port and awaiting the "ok" from Tongan customs officals. After we got approved for entry, our captain and chief anthropologist gave us a briefing on the island. We were taught how to say hello ("Malo e lelei") and thank you ("Malo 'aupito") in native Tongan, and reminded that Tonga is a culturally conservative country and we must cover our shoulders and knees while walking around in town. We also got a rundown of the schedule of next few days, which involves a talk with VEPA (a local environmental protection group), a beach cleanup, and a reef survey by snorkel!! After this, the crew allowed us to leave the Seamans and explore the small port town of Neiafu (as long as our watch was not on duty to look after the ship).
Along with fellow members of my watch, I headed into Neiafu to explore and grab dinner. The town was small and very friendly, and as we perused t-shirt shops and local craftwork stores we got a lot of friendly smiles from local Tongans. We decided to have dinner down by the bay at the Mango Cafe, and enjoyed our first meal off the ship to the brilliant backdrop of a Tongan sunset.
Lots of love to family and friends in Massachusetts and Maine, excited to see you soon!!
- Cameron Chertavian, B Watch, Bowdoin College