"Arctracer" Letters

Wallis Island, Oct 2003

We had a good time at Savai'i Island in Samoa. On September 24th we left Samoa and lost the 26th of September in crossing the International Date Line again. We had a 30-hour sail for 221 miles with some 30-35 knot winds and fairly rough seas. It sure was great to get into the lagoon here at Wallis Island (13 deg. 20 min. S, 176 deg. 10 min. W).! Now Jerry will have an opportunity to practice his French again. We aren't sure how long we'll be here, but plan to see some of the island and do some more unplanned boat work. The seas were rough enough so that Jerry lost his balance and fell into the starboard engine ignition switch, broke the plastic so the key won't stay in it and it won't stay in place. Hence, both of us are needed to start the engine - one from the inside of the cabin and one on the outside. We'll fix that, somehow.

Wallis and Futuna are two French Islands and they are their own country. They were settled by Polynesians thousands of years ago and declared French protectorates in the late 1800's. In 1924 they officially became a French colony and in 1959 they became an overseas territory. During WWII Wallis was an important American military base, with 6,000 troops on the island. The people here are quite affluent and very few of them speak any English at all. France helps them out a lot and they have many cheeses and wines flown in from New Caledonia. However, it has been rather frustrating to not be able to buy bananas, breadfruit, mangoes, etc. They have fruits and vegetables in their gardens, but there are none for sale in the grocery stores since there are virtually no tourists, and only a few cruisers that would perhaps purchase such things. Jerry just checked us out of the country (on a Friday and we found we were only the 36th boat to check in here this year).

The day after our arrival at Wallis Island, an Australian and his partner (girlfriend in NZ & Aussie) from the U.K. on an Australian-registered boat hitchhiked into the main town with us. They showed us where the officials were so that we could check into the country, the one ATM machine, and two large grocery stores. They had been in the anchorage for over a week, so we met some of their friends from Wallis too.

The officials here are very easy-going and we could go on land on a Saturday and not check in until Monday. This is definitely not the case in the other countries we've been to! We saw more of the island on Monday when we got a ride to town. Checking in was easy, we had lunch in town at a cheap take-out place and walked around to see the wharf. The large container ships that come here have to go to the wharf at high tide to avoid grounding. They aren't the largest container ships on the seas, but they are of considerable size. We walked back to the boat via a back route and saw some villages on paths at the tops of some hills along the coast. We saw lots of nice gardens and houses mostly made of concrete. We've only seen a few thatched houses here. We have seen some thatched roofs, but not too many of those either. As on most of the Pacific Islands the churches are the major buildings - large concrete structures. This is the case on Catholic Wallis Island too. A new church is being started on the waterfront just 100 yards from where we are anchored. Services now are in a big building even nearer to us. Last night we heard Polynesian singing, with a soft organ in the background - very beautiful in this peaceful place on a quiet evening.

After a Dutch boat and an English boat arrived in the anchorage, we were invited by the English couple to go in the car that they rented to go around the island. It was an amazing trip. The "roads" on the west coast of the island are barely passable in anything but a 4-wheel drive vehicle. At some points three of us got out and walked so that the car could make it over the stones, ruts, etc. We found a few plantations on the west side of the island, but no villages. There was an occasional dirt path to a house and we had a picnic near one of these places after visiting the airport and getting a weather map for the next couple of days. While at the airport, our new English cruising friends signed up to take a 50 minute ride in an ultralight over the island with its reefs and motus. We now have the pictures that they took on a CD they burned for us. Two of the photos are of the two major attractions on the island that we saw on our island tour. One of the places is a crater lake with 100 foot cliffs around it. We saw more white-tailed tropic birds there than we'd ever seen in one place before. There must have been more than twelve of them in the air together at one time. We've heard that the Americans drove their military vehicles into this 500-foot deep lake when they left the island after WWII. The second attraction was an old Tongan fortification from about 1400. There were lots of volcanic rocks forming walls, fortresses and paths over quite a large area.

(view Wallis photos)

We plan to head to Tuvalu (9 degrees S, 179 degrees E - we will finally cross 180 degrees, the "real" International Date Line which has been bent by politics in this area of the Pacific). Tuvalu used to be The Ellice Islands - and is about 400 miles from Wallis. The only check-in place is Funafuti. We have read that the island is so narrow that the longest time it takes to walk from one coast to the other is 5 minutes. It is apparently one of the world's least developed countries and in danger of losing its islands with higher sea levels. Only coconuts and pandanus grow naturally, but they cultivate bananas, papaya and breadfruit. From what we've read we won't be able to get green vegetables there or much else for that matter. But, we've been in places like that before and had plenty to eat.

We'll probably sail from here in a day or two and let you know when we arrive in Funafuti, Tuvalu.