"Arctracer" Letters

Arrived in Funafuti, Tuvalu, Oct 2003

We arrived at Funafuti in Tuvalu on the 8th after sailing 414 nautical miles from Wallis. The only eventful happenings on the trip were that as we put our sail up after leaving Wallis about 1 p.m. on October 4th we discovered that our starboard winch wasn't working. We put up a tarp to keep all the small parts on board while we took it apart, and Jerry had it working again after about 3 hours. The winds were so light that we kept our spinnaker up throughout the night. As we went over the Isabella Bank (where we found about 70 feet of water in the middle of the ocean) we lost a lure. The fish much have been huge as we have very strong fishing line! We took the spinnaker down to bring it in, but it was soon off the line. After this event we put out the jib as there was a convergence zone around us with lots of big clouds. When the squalls come, they arrive quickly and the spinnaker is difficult to take down in a hurry. Just before dark Jerry decided to bring the fish line in. Reeling it in we caught a 5- foot shark. After 45 minutes we had it on the back deck and got the hook out, then put it overboard. We lost another lure - must have been in its mouth.

On the 6th we were still in a convergence zone - lots of big clouds and occasional squalls. Nina woke Jerry up about 6:15 am after dealing with 35-40 knot winds for 20 minutes. Finally the rain and wind subsided and we put out more jib again. This is the way of convergence zones - lots of sail out, then reduce sail, then repeat. The weather remained this way throughout the rest of the trip, but the winds never got above 35 knots after that morning squall. The strong winds never seemed to last more than 20 minutes, so were not a problem.

Jerry was awakened early on the 7th too. We sure do like having that buzzer from the cockpit to our sleeping cabin! When the wind picked up Nina was unable to roll up the jib, so needed some help - guess she waited too long before rolling it up. This day we sailed close to Nukulailai the southernmost island of the Tuvalu group. We caught a yellowfin tuna about 1 meter long (huge steaks) and were considering giving it to the village people at Nukulailai. However, there is no pass into this group of motus and the waves were really crashing on the reef at low tide. There seemed to be no way for them to approach us in their small boats. We did see some people fishing in their lagoon. As we turned back on course we caught a mahi mahi over 4 feet long, so Jerry filleted it. We sure had enough fish now. We ended up freezing a few meals of fish and giving lots to three boats in the anchorage here at Funafuti.

We rolled up the jib to bring in the mahi mahi and decided to leave it rolled up as we needed to slow down. We didn't want to approach the Southeast Pass at Funafuti in the dark. We ended up going 2.5 to 5 knots - depending on the squalls around - with no sails up for 18 hours. We arrived fairly close to the pass on the 8th at about 7:15 am and again Jerry was awakened with lots of squalls around. We motored away from the pass until a major squall went by and visibility improved. Going through the pass we had up to 30 knots of wind against an outgoing current, so it took us a while to go upwind 8 miles to the anchorage. Finally, at 10:45 we anchored in the lagoon well-protected from the SE winds. We found out that the wind this day was the strongest in the lagoon that the other cruisers had seen for a week.

Jerry spent the afternoon dealing with officials - immigration, quarantine, and customs. He was unable to complete the process that day, so we finished on the 9th. We had to get our passports from the immigration officials to show to the customs officials, then had to get our boat documentation paper from the customs officials - but we now have all our important documents back on board. After completing the check-in, we went to the bank and exchanged some New Zealand and U.S. dollars for the Australian dollars used here. There is no ATM machine here, and they do not accept credit cards even at the bank. Luckily we did have a little cash on board. We did a fair amount of walking around town, bought a Tuvaluan fan to add to our collection, bought some material with "Tuvalu" written on it and with pictures of palms and outrigger canoes to make a sulu (wrap or skirt). We found a few good looking carrots for sale and bought some cornstarch to make a batter to fry some of our fish in. At the Town Council building we found out about tags that New Caledonia has put on some bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna. If one is returned to New Caledonia they give the "finder" $250 U.S. These tags show the migration of the fish and other data. We had gone to the Town Council to find out what areas of the lagoon are conservation areas so that we would know where we could anchor if we decide to do some exploring with the boat. The lagoon is very large here so there are plenty of places to explore.

This island of Funafuti is about the only inhabited island on the barrier reef of the lagoon. It is incredibly narrow. We found two parallel roads with houses in between in some places, and places so narrow in others that you could throw a stone and hit the ocean and the lagoon from one spot. We have inquired about things to do and places to see, so will do some exploring starting tomorrow. Last night we invited the people on 2 of the boats over to our boat. One couple with a 7-year old are from Colorado and the other couple with 11 and 12 year olds are from Seattle. The kids plan to visit us this afternoon to do some swimming off a catamaran, watch the video of "Charlotte's Web," have pizza with us and stay overnight. We don't think their parents have had such an offer before. So, we'll keep busy this afternoon and tonight.

Jerry is sorting out charts. We're now thinking that it may be too late in the season to head back to the Solomons, so may sail directly to Tarawa in Kiribati before heading farther north to the Marshall Islands.