Category Archives: Daily Lime

The Kingdom of Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands, consists of over 170 islands scattered over 270,000 square miles in the southern Pacific Ocean.  Of those 170 islands only 45 are inhabited.  Tonga has a population of 110,000 people and over 70% of those residents live in Tongatopu, the capital city of Tonga.  The second largest island is Vava’u where over 4,000 inhabitants live in Neiafu.

Tonga’s history dates back roughly 2,500 years.  The settlers gradually evolved into having a distinct and strong ethnic identity, language, and culture.  It remains strong and independent to this day. Even though Tonga had British protected-state status for a brief period of time, they never relinquished their sovereignty to any foreign power.  Tonga is currently ruled under a fully-functioning constitutional monarchy.

King Tupou VI

Aho’eitu Tupou VI is became the King of Tonga after his elder brother George Tupou V died and had no legitimate children.   He was officially condirmed by his brother as heir presumptive in 2006.  Aho’eitu served as Prime Minister of Tonga as as Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia.  Aho’eitu learned to love the sea while he served in the Navy. 

The Royal Family must marry within the family.  In order to continue the royal blood line the royal family is allowed to marry their 1st cousins.  However, no other Tongan is allowed to marry family.

Tongan Island Groups

The Tongan islands are divided up into three main archipelagos including Tongatopu the southern islands; Haa’pai the middle islands, and Vava’u the northern islands.

Tongatopu Island Group

Tongatopu consists of the main island Tongatopu which is the capital of Tonga and is home to the majority of Tongans.  The King and his family reside here and most of the commerce is conducted on this island.  Eua  and a few other smaller islands are also part of this archipelago.

Tongatopu Archipelago

Tongatopu Archipelago

Haa’pai Island Group

I think the Haa’pai island group is similar to the Tuamotus in French Polynesia. These islands are made up of shallow lagoons surrounded by reefs, coral shelves and a few active volcanoes. Most are low lying coral atolls.

They are the most remote group of islands and have small villages.  Most of the 62 islands are are palm fringed islands and only 17 are inhabited.  There are approximately 30 villages spread out across those 17 inhabitied islands housing 7,000 Tongans.

The main hub for Haa’pai is Pangai which is located on Lifuka toward the NE part of the island group.  The four largest islands have running water and electricity.  However, the remaining 58 islands live a life without those modern conveniences.

Haa'pai Archipelagoa

Haa’pai Archipelagoa

Vava’u Archipelago

These islands are known for being an incredibly lush, green, tropical paradise. The islands are ringed with white sandy beaches and the crystal clear waters are teaming with wild life.  In addition, you will find dramatic limestone cliffs, hidden caves and tropical forests on these islands.

Vava'u Archipelago

Vava’u Archipelago


Tongans are closely related to Samoans and other Polynesians in culture, language and general heritage.  Local culture is very conservative and very Christian.  They do not allow any work or activities on Sunday including laundry, boat chores, shopping, SUP’ng, etc…It is a day of quiet. 

Clothing is very conservative.  The government requires women to cover their shoulders down to their knees and men are required to wear shirts at all times. Nudity is forbidden and against the law.  Most locals swim fully clothed.

Volcano and Tsunami

In 2022, the Hung Tonga-Hunga Haa’pai volcano erupted causing a tsunami which inundated parts of the Haa’pai and Tongatopu archipelagos. This tsunami brought waves as high as 20m tall (66′) washing away islands and villages and taking 4 lives.  I will talk more about the damage from the tsunami in upcoming blog posts.

Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behing actual live events.  Events from this blog occured in mid-July 2023.  Read our last blog where we experience a truly utter rudder disaster?

Sweet As….New Zealand

New Zealand, specifically Whangarei, has been our home for the past 8 months.  We have had an amazing time exploring this beautiful country, meeting new friends, and getting lots of much needed work done on our beloved Sugar Shack.  As our Kiwi friends say, ‘sweet as’ time!  “Sweet as” means “good, right, ok, excellent, great… in Kiwi”

Sugar Shack spent most of her time tied to the dock at Town Basin Marina while she got her make over.  Many locals knew us by Sugar Shack as she was a constant for so long.

Lots of Work Done:

We managed to get a lot of work done on Sugar Shack.  The boat was under construction and in complete chaos for nearly 6 months.  

  1. (2) New Lithium House Batteries
  2. (5) New windows on the cabin
  3. Rebedded all of the other windows and painted protective covering
  4. New Dinghy and new chaps to cover her
  5. New Interior cushions
  6. New Exterior cushions
  7. New Cockpit enclosure
  8. New Main sail and Genoa (by North Sails)
  9. New Stack pack
  10. New Stainless Steel countertops
  11. New Ceiling panels and new interior lights
  12. New artwork and pillow covers

She looks like a new boat….almost.  Just a few more things to do when we come back.  Sweet as!  You are probably thinking…what “come back?”  Yep, we decided to come back to New Zealand next season (which is just a few short months away).

Next Season

New Zealand has the expertise and resources to work on Sugar Shack.  So, we decided to come back to replace our bottom paint with copper coat.  This requires highly skilled workers to apply the copper coat properly. We are also considering a wrap around Sugar Shack to make the side of the hulls look better.  Still in the researching and contemplating stages on the wrap.

Hopefully, we will come back, haul out for a few weeks, then spend the rest of our time sailing around New Zealand as opposed to sitting at the dock.

But with a nightly view as sweet as this…who can complain?

Our blogs run 10-12 weeks behind actual events.  We left New Zealand in early July.  

New Zealand Jade

Jade, Green Stone or Pounamu are just a few names of the many names for New Zealand Nephrite.  This greenstone plays a vital role in Maori culture.  It is considered a treasure or “Taonga”.  Jade is only found in the South Island of New Zealand, known in the Maori language as  “Te Wai Pounamu” (“The Greenstone Water”).

Only one Maori tribe has rights to collect and carve NZ pounamu / jade and they are from the west coast of the South Island. This tribe is the largest in NZ and is called Ngāi Tahu.  Only members of this tribe are allowed to collect, harvest, and carve NZ jade. And you have to be born into this tribe in order to have access the stone.

All pounamu is sourced from riverbeds and boulders in the South Island, especially the West Coast. The colour and markings of each stone vary according to its river source.

Jade can be found in other parts of the world, but it is a distinctly different type.  Jade in NZ is very difficult to carve because it is very hard and is not typically translucent.  Chinese jade for example is softer, easier to carve, and often see through when you hold it up to the light.  Thus the cost is much less expensive.

New Zealand Greenstone

Below are large pieces of jade.  In the upper left photo I am kneeling by a typical boulder found at the river bed that has been exposed by hundreds of years of water wearing its surface to expose the beautiful jade.  The dolphin in the lower right is a piece from China.

I could not resist. I had to get a kiwi made of NZ greenstone and I bought a pendent which is a symbol of strength and hope.

Tbeautiful greenstone is in many shops but you have to be very careful not to buy a piece made from a foreign country.  I was told to ask the merchant where the jade was made and by which tribe or carver.  The answer will easily reflect the origin of the stone.

Events from this blog occurred in May 2023.  Our blog posts run 8-10 weeks behind live events.  In our last blog I introduce you to our new ghost who was very mischievous!