With the beginning of the cooler nights my thoughts start to turn to winter escapes. Time is often an issue when we are thinking of a warm holiday escape and I hate those long flights to Europe. If I want to take the kids I want to find a kid friendly environment with as little travel hassle as possible. Last July we took our two children aged 5 and 7 on a Mariner Boating Holidays rally in Tonga.
On Friday we received an excited phone call from David who teaches at a small village school in Tonga on the island of Vava’u. He had taken delivery of a computer and 3 in 1 copier sent to him after our rally fines master Graham Swan had collected fines for various misdemeanours on our rally last July. They included things like cleaning the bottom of the yacht to increase the speed in the rally. We had asked David what he would like us to purchase with the money raised and his wish has been granted due to the generosity of the participants in the rally.
“Swanny” skippered our catamaran and organised for our two children to make contact with the villagers on Hunga Lagoon. He is a “Tonga Tragic” and has been on two of the rallies conducted there by Mariner Boating Holidays.
The flight there was short enough to enable us to amuse the offspring and once in Vava’u we all relaxed immediately. The road speed limit is 40 KPH so that slows you down and add to that the gentle welcome complete with huge smiles and lais draped around our necks and we were ready to enjoy.
Transport was arranged by and once aboard we checked our already delivered pre-ordered provisions and settled on board our catamaran.
Our two children were the only children on the rally but we had no problems with entertainment for them. The waters are protected, warm and safe and we could see their swimming and confidence growing daily. Maddie and Sam enjoyed the hospitality of the villagers on Sunday for church and Monday at the school itself. As usual the crews were overwhelmed by the generosity of these people who fished on Saturday night and prepared a feast of local cuisine to sample. They also presented the children with a range of local handcrafts to bring back to Australia and share with class mates.
Maddie and Sam spent time in the dinghy and also wanted to help with the simple parts of sailing. The racing is not compulsory and we elected to race on a couple of days and cruise on others when it suited us.
Whales surfaced and swam nearby on almost every day of the rally and the thirteen who elected to join a 'swim with the whales' option were rewarded with the most up close and personal experience of a life time. The goose bumps lasted long into the evening after their encounter and are probably still popping up each time they think about it or talk about the closeness of these gentle animals and length of time they hung out together.
Mariner Boating Holidays is running the event again this July and we could not recommend it too highly.
It was a wonderful experience.
Story by Julie Major who sailed with husband Scott, children Sam and Maddie on “Tong Moon” a RC 4200 catamaran skippered by Graham Swan.