Here is a note I wish would help with the search for the missing crew members at Late Island (Searchers hope two missing yachtsmen might survive … Matangi Tonga, June 16, 2012).
Late Island’s coastline is rugged for landing by large boats, but a dinghy could find a suitable landing place on the northern shorelines. I was stranded on Late Island for a week with two Vava’u strangers as guides when I was 18 years old.
We sailed from Neiafu and landed on Late Island with an American seismology yacht crew and found a safe cove for landing on the northern shoreline with our dinghy. The southern, eastern, and western coastlines are too steep to find a good landing place.
Late Island is an inactive volcano, but sometimes smoke can be sighted coming out of the peak. The cone island slopes gradually to the northern and western ends. Upon landing in the safe cove, we found an area on that northern coastline, a beachhead where signs of a former community was thriving in former times.
We found regular Tongan root crops that have been planted, but everything has been reforested over the years. Bananas and coconuts were growing wild, but talo, kape, ‘ufi, and kumala were hard to find under thick rainforest vegetation.
We went fishing at low tide, and were able to find shellfish, speared some, but were not very successful fishermen even with the help of my Vava’u guides. They were pathetic guides. They even tried to convince me that we could row the dinghy back to Neiafu. When I refused, they threatened to tie me up and put me in the dinghy and sail it back to Vava’u. I planned to run away into the forest, but our rescuers showed up soon enough.
I hope the two crew members found a safe landing place on Late Island.
Sione Ake-mei-hakau Mokofisi
See also: No fuel for search and rescue mission on Sunday Matangi Tonga, June 17, 2012)