As I sailed across the foot of the South Pacific towards Cape Horn on my circumnavigation, how often I wanted to find an excuse to sail up to the famous Polynesian islands, particularly to the hidden away kingdom of Tonga.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Island in the sun ... A secretive part of the world that in this pic from Wikipedia could be masquerading as Paradise. Thanks to Wikipedia for the photo.
Why Tonga? Probably because it was a part of that huge ocean we hear the least about, a home of almost a secret Polynesian race - Tongans.

I knew they had a king and a great history, and I seemed to recall that they entertained Captain Cook rather well – and three times in the late 1700s.

The BBC World Service which I monitored often on the voyage ddn't offer a word of the kingdom.

But then, whenever do we hear anything about Tonga?

A writer my late brother respected, John Northcott, had lived in Tonga. I had subedited and coded his articles for Peter’s old website.

I contacted the writer and discovered that not only did he have much to tell about Tonga, but like me he was also a Moonraker from Salisbury, but well before – if we are to accept current notions – it became such a must-see for Ruskie poisoners.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Song for the sea ... The islands charmed Captain Cook and his crew and seem perfectly capable of doing the same these days. Thanks to the island's tourist authority for the view.

John’s home was close to my family's old home. As a civil engineer, he worked just down the road for the Salisbury City Council until he migrated Down Under on the famous old SS Australis.

A Father Christmas stand-in

The NZ Ministry of Works was pleased to have his talent until the economy forced redundancies.

‘By then I had had enough of responsibilities so I manufactured sterling silver jewellery, impersonated Father Xmas, washed dishes and worked as a film extra.’

John lived, too, in that mysterious, almost secret, kingdom of Tonga after falling quickly to the island’s charms, as it seems Captain Cook did.

He is happy to share a short story based on his time there. It gives quite an insight into what seems to be a very pleasant, innocent, part of the world we just about never hear anything about.

I’ll divide it into three. John’s tale is, Palangi, which the website Tongan Translator interprets as ‘white person’.


There's a palangi come to live in our village. His wife's come with him as well, but she's quite normal. At first I thought he was stupid because, when my friend Finau shouted rude things at him, he smiled and waved.

But then he drove Akona's truck into Nuku'alofa and it takes a clever man to drive Akona's truck. I heard that, when he went to the Police Station to get his driving license, he had an argument with a policewoman so he must be brave as well.

They're living in Latu and 'Alisi's palangi house and Latu and 'Alisi, who, as everyone knows, are the palangi's wife's Dad and Mum are living in their Tongan house.

The grown-ups say that the palangi built the palangi house for Latu and 'Alisi but I know that Poli built it. I saw him doing it with his own hands.

The palangi sent a couple of tea chests by ship and went to the wharf to get them with Akona's truck. We all had a ride in it. He got very angry with them so they would get his things off the ship.

I think they wanted him to pay more money...
- John Northcott's back with more tomorrow.

Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.

Tongan Translator
Wikipedia: Tonga

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