Tutti frutti in Funafuti
It is so quiet. We are at anchor inside the lagoon of Funafuti atoll, the capital of the South Seas nation of Tuvalu. Ashore I hear the soft distant sounds of children laughing, voices talking, cocks crowing, and the occasional whistle – perhaps from a sports referee. Because this is an atoll, the constant noise in the background is the white whoosh of the surf breaking on the reef on the other side of the narrow strip of land.
These once were called the Ellis Islands and were part of a British colony, but in the 1970’s the nine islands spread across 350 miles running NW to SE that make up this little nation gained their independence. Some of the lands are atolls, like where we are, and others are simply small land masses, but in total the area equals nine square miles. The amount of ocean area that is included in their nation is a quarter of a million square nautical miles.
Five days of motoring had grown to be too much for us. Last night around sunset, the wind began to flutter our Canadian flag, and we were hopeful that conditions were changing in spite of the forecast. We started sailing, and even though we were only making 2-3 knots, the autopilot could steer and we were hopeful. We discussed our options. We could stop at the island of Funafuti which sits about 2/3’s of the way down our course and try to wait for a change in the weather, or we could continue and motor if necessary as long as was necessary. Wayne and I both agreed, we could argue for either choice.
At 1:30 am, I was awakened by the sound of the engine starting. Wayne was on watch, and when I poked my head out the hatch, he was furling the headsail. “The wind has quit on us,” he said. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and sent him to get some sleep. We motored slowly through the rest of a gorgeous night while I watched the miles countdown as we approached the island. When Wayne got up around 8:00, we were only 6 miles off. The water was so glassy, you could see a reflection of the clouds. There was no question what made the most sense.
The pass into this atoll is wide and easy. Inside, we found a mini version of the Majuro tuna boat fleet. Wayne has been here several times before, but never has he seen four mother ships and a half dozen purse seiners offloading. The tuna fleet means money to a little island nation like Tuvalu.
We also found two of our friends from Majuro. The cruising sailboats PACIFIC HIGHWAY and CELSIUS, both of whom had left ahead of us were already at anchor. They informed us that today is a local holiday and we cannot clear in. And they said there has been no wind here either and it is HOT! No kidding!
While we have been en route sailing ( and motoring) for the last week and a half, and we’ve been considering the possibility of stopping here, we have also been in conversation via email with these other boats. We all agreed that the name of this island sounds like a flavor of ice cream. And hot as it has been with no wind both at sea and at anchor, we have all been dreaming of ice cream. Our friends confirmed for us that indeed, there is ice cream for sale on this small island.
We didn’t go ashore today since we are under quarantine until we can clear in through customs and immigration. We went for a long swim, though, and this evening, we are enjoying a glass or two of wine. Tonight, it will be great to sleep the whole night through on a boat that is barely rocking, but I am certain I will be dreaming of ice cream.
Tutti frutti in Funafuti.