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Tonga and Humpback Whales Await Tim

Our hearts are filled with joy when we talk to our kids. Getting to spend time with them brims our happiness to overflowing. Usually we see them every couple months, but being in the South Pacific has been a challenge. We’re looking forward to Christmas/New Year’s with them in New Zealand this year, but it’s still too far off!  Just when we didn’t know if we could make it until then without a kid-fix, we got the wonderful news that one of them, Tim, earned an extra week off after three years working at Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency where he is a super-creative copywriter, and he’s going to spend that vacation time with us on Golden Glow. Hurray!

Last time Tim was on Golden Glow was in 2014 (hard-working kids his age don’t take much vacation time) when we sailed to see him, Zack, Jess and Robby and my mom, sister, brother, cousin and their families in New York City

This time, it’s Tim doing the traveling and he is a hero in that regard because he is traveling well more than 24 hours each way to come all the way from New York City to the Kingdom of Tonga, and more precisely the remote atolls of Vava’u and Ha’apai, to spend time with us.

While Tim’s trip is going to use a lot of carbon, we figure that we’ve earned more than enough carbon credits over the last three years living off the grid mainly on renewable solar and wind and in such a sustainable way on the sailboat to offset our guilt.

Swimming With Humpback Whales in Tonga

There’s a lot to look forward to in Tonga. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Tonga is also one of only 2-3 countries in the world where you can swim with whales. Even on our amazing trip to San Ignacio bay in Baja California to see the grey whales, we could pet them, even kiss them, from our boats, but we weren’t allowed to get in the water and swim in their environment with them.

Endangered humpback whales migrate north from the icy cold southern ocean to Tonga’s tropical reef-protected waters to mate and give birth to their babies (calves). Between July and mid-October the mother whales feed their calves until they are strong enough for the return journey to Antarctica.

Humpback whales exhibit behavior that makes them seem to be extremely kind, compassionate creatures. Scuba diving with the whales is not allowed in Tonga, so we plan to do a lot of snorkeling and free-diving at a respectful distance to observe these magnificent animals in their native habitat. If any of our readers have any experience doing this, we’d love to hear about it!

Will An Undersea Volcano Erupt Under Us While We’re in Tonga?

Tonga’s Newest Island Began with a Volcanic Eruption

How would it feel to be sailing along in the Pacific Ocean and all of a sudden have this – – happen beside, or underneath you!?

It’s not such a far-fetched idea as you might think. In fact, last year, an undersea volcano erupted sending volcanic ash 27,000 feet into the air and the flowing lava created a large new Tongan island that had never been there before. Tonga sits squarely on the “Ring of Fire” where continental plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity. Hunga Tonga, the volcano that formed this new island, is part of the highly active Tonga-Kermadec Islands volcanic arc, an unstable ridge extending from New Zealand north – northwest to Fiji.

New Tongan Island Has Sulfuric Lakes

So Where is Tonga Anyway?

East of Vanuatu…southeast of Fiji… southwest of Samoa. Can’t find it? GPS helps to find Tonga because it’s a group of remote islands and coral atolls way out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. We’ll be sailing there from French Polynesia to meet Tim and we’ll be charting it every way from Sunday as you can imagine.

On the map below, where we’ll be hanging out with Tim is circled in red. The approximate course we’ll sail to meet up with Tim in Tonga from where we are now in French Polynesia is the yellow path. The pink course shows where we’ve come from to get to where we are now. And after Tim flies home, we’ll be sailing the blue path to New Zealand at the next good weather window.

We’re counting the days until Tim arrives in early October. Here are a few Tonga photos to give him – and you – visual imagery for your Tonga dreams.    

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