RIP: Passport, Pt. 4

I have had to renew my passport, my passport that I have travelled extensively on for the last five years… To pay homage to the places I have been, I photographed each page of the passport. I plan to go through them all and share one or two funny/strange/awkward stories relating to the stamps on that page.

Vava’u Harbour in the Kingdom of Tonga was one of the biggest harbours on Offshore. It doesn’t compare to somewhere like Honolulu/Pearl Harbour or Shanghai, but as far as South Pacific yacht havens, it takes the cake. There were hundreds of boats docked and anchored there. Most were anchored in the huge, protected harbour of Nieafu.

Nieafu was an interesting place. I spent some time in the market there and wandered its shops. It definitely was a South Pacific town catering to the yachties crowd. I found some fun stuff there that I still use today.

There was a huge schooner anchored in the harbour. To the best of my memory, it was nearly as long as the Grace except it was a sleek, expensive looking, fibreglass hull with automatic push-button sails. It had a small crew that could raise and lower all sail from the cockpit and were kept busy polishing the ship each and every day. And our guys thought morning clean-up was bad! We later heard that it had been boarded by pirates somewhere else in the South Pacific.

Pirates operate in different ways in different parts of the worlds oceans. We hear a lot about the big operations off of the east coast of Africa where the pirates use speed boats with cannons to get oil tankers and the like. It is a little more subtle than that in the South Pacific. Usually what happens is an unsuspecting yachtie will come across a poor soul adrift in a life boat. Taking pity on them, they bring the fellow aboard to feed and water before dropping them in the next port. Or so they think. What happens, more often than not, is the poor shipwreck victim waits until the yachtie(s) are out of the way – asleep or in a different part of the boat – and uses the radio to call his buddies who are waiting just over the horizon or around in the next lagoon. They come up, guns ablazin’ (figuratively speaking) and take over the boat with the help of their guy on the inside.

Moral of that story? No more Mr Nice Guy. If you’re going to help shipwreck victims on the high seas when there seems to be no reason for them to be adrift on their own, use caution and never let the radio out of your sight. Another good tactic is to sail around in a wooden boat without any shiny parts with dozens of young people swarming all over it at all times. That scares a lot of people off.

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