Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Royal Nomuka Yacht Club

nomukoIMG_2782 We arrived at Nomuka’ iki Island, just across the cut from the island of Nomuka’ iki and quickly met up with the crew of the trawler Ice. Ice is a Diesel Duck design tricked out for long range wreck exploring: The crew, Don, Jane and Brownie are from Australia. They had lots of stories to tell, including some interesting ones about Captain Bligh and the famous Mutiny on the Bounty. Turns out the Bounty stopped at Nomuka to re-stock on the day before Fletcher Christian mounted the mutiny. Bligh and 18 loyal men were cast adrift in an 21 foot open boat. They quickly made there way to the nearby volcanic island of Tofoa (visible from Nomuka’iki) where they were met by some less then friendly natives and little water and stores to stock up with. They beat a retreat from the island after loosing one crew onshore to the locals. Then they headed off on an amazing 3,600 mile voyage to Timor in Indonesia and arrived without losing a man. Bligh is known in popular culture as the evil captain of the Bounty, but to nautical historians he was an amazing seaman and navigator who accomplished one of the greatest sailing journeys in history. About 25 years ago Don, the captain of Ice, and a few of his friends did a re-enactment of the open boat journey. They lost enough weight on the trip that it nearly killed them, but they lived to tell the story.
Don and crew have been working with the Crown Prince of Tonga to create the Royal Nomuka Yacht Club on Nomuka’iki, which is owned by the Crown Prince. (For those yanks less than familiar with the ways of monarchy, the Crown Prince is next in line to become the King of Tonga.) The goal of the RNYC is to re-introduce and train the locals on traditional sailing, specifically, sailing traditional Polynesian vakas. Tongans were once the master voyagers of Polynesia, but the culture has lost this tie to the ocean. They will be building the vakas to a standard size and construction onsite at the island, then offering 9-day live on the island courses to Tongans to learn to sail them. 
nomukoIMG_2809 The yachties were all invited to join the RNYC opening festivities, a Tongan Feast. Tents were setup over a few days. This is one of the the kitchen tents.
The tent where the Crown Prince will eat and watch the ceremonies. These are very fine handmade Tongan tapa cloth and pandanus woven mats.
Some the other honored, but less fortunate, guests – suckling pigs on an open roast.
The Crown Prince, center in white, arrives from the main island.
The locals are really genuinely excited to see the prince and share in the celebration.
Where the honored guests eat, including a few yachties.
And where the prince eats and watches the festivities.
We got dancing girls, Tongan style.
We got dancing boys, too.
We got more dancing girls. The dances are similar to other Polynesian dancing, but not near as polished or organized as the Marquesian and French Polynesian ones.
We were called up to the podium to be presented with our RNYC membership card, being the first foreign boat to go through the grueling membership approval process and make a club dues payment – we’re #1.
nomukoIMG_2820  These guys are lugging the wood crate that holds the few hundred pound pig that has been offered as a gift to the Crown Prince from the Nomuka community.
Lots and lots of speeches and prays were offered this day, in Tongan.
The Crown Prince being the first to raise the RNYC burgee
The US flag flying on the port side indicating that a US yacht is in the anchorage and visiting. The stars and stripes kindly donated by the crew of Georgia.
nomukoIMG_2979 All the important people getting a photo-op with Crown Prince (center in white shirt).
And a fond farewell being offered to the prince as he floats back to Nomuka to take a ferry back to his home on Tongatapu.

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