Looking for a new spaceship captain? Try the skipper of the Niuafoʻou ferry

All photos used by courtesy of Maxim Chervyakov

If the Russians need a new spaceship captain, they should look to the skipper of the Niuafoʻou ferry.

According to Russian tourist Maxim Chervyakov, who witnessed passengers being brought ashore at the remote island, the ferry skipper showed he had all the skills needed to dock a spaceship.

Chervyakov brought back photographs showing passengers gingerly transferring from the ferry MV ‘Otuanga’ofa, waves hurling the barge back towards the shore – and a tiny baby who slept through the whole process.

The Russian said he had been told that one passenger had broken an ankle while disembarking.

He said he had also been told that last year the barge had capsized, but nobody had been hurt. From what he had seen, he thought it was possible it would happen again.

He said it nearly capsized while he was watching from the ferry on March 20.

The ferry has to heave to in the open sea while cargo and passengers are offloaded into a barge.

The six metre long barge then conveys the passengers and cargo to land where they have to be cautiously helped ashore by local people.

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One of the passengers is being helped out of the vessel into the barge. Photo/ By courtesy of Maxim Chervyakov

One of the photos, taken during the transfer of passengers, shows a baby being passed from the ferry to the barge.  The baby appears to be fast asleep.

Chervyakov said some people jumped from the ferry into the barge. In one of his photos a man can be seen being helped out of the vessel into the barge.

He said the process took almost two hours, during which the weather got worse and the waves repeatedly threatened the safety of people at the jetty.  Eventually the procedure was called off and the ferry left for Vava’u.

He said he saw people repeatedly trying to push the barge back out to sea, but the waves kept throwing it back before they finally got it underway.

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The barge is being struck by waves at the jetty. Photo/By courtesy of Maxim Chervyakov

“The barge captain is just an ace. He could pilot and dock a spacecraft I think,” Chervyakov said.

He also said it appeared that the way the islanders handled the disembarkation was “normal routine.”

“I think the men are super skilful in such unloading.”

Chervyakov hailed the bravery of the people involved in the unloading and disembarkation.

“It was really epic,” he said.

“Tongans are the same crazy as us Russians when we are determined to do something.”

“I wish they had a safer wharf there. It is a real challenge to unload when the sea is rough.”

Chervyakov said he had encountered some difficult situations in the past, but nothing like this.

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The barge is being tied to the MV ʻOtuangaʻofa ready to transfer passengers and cargo to the jetty. Photo/ By courtesy of Maxim Chervyakov

About Niuafo’ou

Niuafo’ou is regarded as one of the most isolated islands in the world.

Located in the north of the kingdom, it is the furthest island from the mainland, Tongatapu, where the capital city Nuku’alofa is located.

It is a volcanic island meaning there are no surrounding reefs around to protect the land from the sea.

We understand people from inland who do the unloading and disembarkation at sea must be experienced people who know how to read the patterns of the waves.

They have to count a certain number of big waves before allowing the barge to come on shore.

While at the jetty the barge has to be unloaded and passengers disembarked as quickly as possible and put out to sea or the next big waves strike it against the rocks.

A vessel from Tongatapu arrives at Niuafo’ou once a month with passengers, goods for the shops, petrol and mail.

Niuafo’ou is 574 km away from Tongatapu. According to the 2006 census it has a population of 650.

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The barge arrives at the jetty and is being controlled by the people with mooring lines. Photo/ By courtesy of Maxim Chervyakov

The main points

  • If the Russians need a new spaceship captain, they should look to the skipper of the Niuafo’ou ferry.
  • According to Russian tourist Maxim Chervyakov, who witnessed passengers being brought ashore at the remote island, the ferry skipper showed he had all the skills needed to dock a spaceship.
  • Chervyakov brought back photographs showing passengers gingerly transferring from the ferry MV ‘Otuanga’ofa, waves hurling the barge back towards the shore – and a tiny baby who slept through the whole process.
  • “The barge captain is just an ace. He could pilot and dock a spacecraft I think,” Chervyakov said.”

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