Pacific Ocean

AT TOFUA, IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN BLIGH…

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Tofua is an inhospitable island, a volcanic cone plunging straight into the sea. Don’t rush to go there! The island has no sheltered anchorages. But by carefully studying the chart, I notice that there is a little rocky step with twenty-odd meters of water over it to the north of the island. If it really exists, we must be able to anchor there, rather than have the hook drop into the great abyss of the Pacific Ocean…. Of course it’ll be yet another precarious anchorage! But it will be worth it.

Chronicles around the world Tofua

Jangada in the Pacific, following in the wake of the famous Captain Bligh

Flashback: At Jangada’s chart table, a few hours after our little sojourn on the coral at Limu Island, I analyzed the weather reports we had received from the US, New Caledonia and New Zealand. We needed to get our boat patched up pretty quickly. We decided to skip visiting Fiji. It looked like a favorable weather window might open up in the next few days to allow us to reach New Zealand. Leaving from Tonga, with an area of high pressure which had decided to move away from the Tasmanian and Australian coasts and move eastwards into the South Pacific. Our goal was to leave as early as possible, as soon as the wind started to shift, so as to arrive at Whangarei before the deep and formidable depression which would surely follow the high could catch us in mid-passage! 1,125 miles separated us from Aetearoa, the land of the long white cloud.
On board, preparations were hurrying along. We left Pangai Bay for a little anchorage to the south of Tofanga Island, some twelve miles to the west. Tomorrow we would make the north coast of Tofua, around thirty miles west of the Ha’apai Group. We’d be there waiting in ambush to take on the shifting winds, which would herald our departure toward the land of the kiwis. Bearing in mind that this is going to be one of the trickiest passages of our whole trip…

Chronicles around the world Tofua

From above, the island clearly lacks an anchorage

For the time being, it looked to me like perfect conditions for my little expedition in the footsteps of Captain Bligh. Other cruisers who’d lately been asking us about our plans didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for a somewhat off-putting detour via Tofua. Undoubtedly because they don’t share my passion for maritime history. They are completely ignoring the fact that at the end of the 18th century, Tofua witnessed a most important episode in the legendary mutiny of HMS Bounty. An episode which was followed by a little-known, but very real, maritime exploit, which should make any sailor who is slightly better informed than the average cinema-goer, think about the seafaring abilities of Ship’s Lieutenant William Bligh, a Royal Navy officer with a bad reputation, forcibly put into a small boat, close to the volcanic island of… Tofua. We should fight for historical accuracy, often much more complex than the Hollywood version of events! After their 5 month stopover in Tahiti, the majority of the sailors on the Bounty had ...

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