Wednesday, June 18, 2014


The voyage from Fiji to Tonga took 3 nights 4 days. Our ketch rig boat SV (Sailing Vessel) ICE - measuring 20m length, weighing 35 tons - maximum speed of 8 knots/h (roughly 15km/h) is probably the smallest boat I've been on for such long trips. 

This was probably the most turbulent sea trip I've ever taken. It took some effort to even leave the surf break of the Fiji marina.

We've got 5 crew onboard including the captain. We had to all take turns doing watch - a visual watch on the ship's bridge (the driving seat area) writing the ship's log, checking the engine. The boat kept on being tossed and turned like a bottle in the sea.  After my first engine watch, having to content with the diesel smell, thumping sound of the engine,  I threw up. The ship's only vegan, the German media executive, had cooked our lunch - a indian dull curry. I felt like someone was wringing my intestines. I was ok afterwards and didn't get sick. 

The captain was impressed with my recovery - the other crew which included a coast guard reservist were terribly ill. But I'm still lousy on my rope knots skills and my ship knowledge isn't as good compared to the others. Its ok, everyday a learning experience.

The 1st 3 nights were particularly difficult as I was battlng sea sickness, nausea. It was a small boat compared to the larger ships I've been on - it was tossing like a bottle in the sea. The horizon, floor kept on rocking like a Carnival Viking Ship. A large component of fighting sea sickness is a mental battle - simply resolving to fight it and not give up and get sick. I just gritted my teeth, stared at the horizon ahead and fought off any thoughts of "FUCK GET ME OUT OF HERE." cos there is nowhere to run - you can't quit and walk out the door here in the middle of the ocean.

We reached Nukalofa, Tonga on Friday night but by then Customs had closed up shop and we had to wait til Monday. It was a welcome relief to be in a safe harbor. We could see a rustic 3 star resort on a nearby island tantalizing within swimming distance but we couldn't go (having not clear immigration).

Walking into town to buy a local sim card, USB internet data stick was sheer joy. haha. how urban. Internet here is slow but ok considering we are smack in the middle of the blue ocean wilderness.

Nukalofa is one of the biggest islands in the Tongan chain of islands. It is very much like many of the remote areas I've been to in Indonesia, Philippines... there is trash EVERYWHERE. The drain system next to the main road is sadly crammed with plastic bottles, plastic wrappings, soft drink cans, confectionary wrappings and all kinds of trash. The young school children seem happy but many young adults are unemployed and bored out of their minds. I see many of them sitting around corners staring into space with sad eyes.

The govt is also apparently very corrupt - according to wikipedia - it was discovered a few years ago that the King of Tonga had apparently squirreled away over a hundred million dollars in overseas bank accounts. When the people learned about it they rioted on the streets. The average wage is barely $10 a day. A burger cost $5 here.

I find there is a general feeling of quiet despair here in the streets of Nukalofa. Their country is going nowhere. The people are going nowhere. The leaders seem to be squirrels in disguise. Half of the population of Tonga actually resides overseas. Personally I think the people have lost their pride in their nation. As a Singaporean I can see the same thing happening except that due to Singapore's excellent cleaning services - our streets are kept clean by cheap foreign workers.

On the news I read about how the Japanese football fans cleaned up their side of the stadium after each match - and I applaud them for that. I think a great measure of how civilized a nation is - is how they regard each other, how they regard personal and public sanitation and cleanliness. When I see a person picking up trash off the street - I can tell he cares for his neighborhood, his nation. When the people are demoralized, when they feel disempowered - when they don't feel like they belong to the land - everything falls apart.

You don't shit in your own bed.

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