Once again we were sailing too fast, with wind gusts into the mid 30’s. We hove to (set the sails/rudders so that the boat pretty much stayed put, drifting slowly sideways) for eight hours, so we wouldn’t arrive in the dark. It was easy getting through the pass into the lagoon of the atoll, and we anchored next to Drina and one other sailboat off of the town of Funafuti. When we cleared in with customs they told us we were the 8th yacht to come to Tuvalu this year.
The customs office is a long way from where we anchored, and after our experience at Wallis we assumed we would hitchhike to it. But it turns out to be not so easy here, because nearly everyone travels by motor scooter. There are a few cars, I think mostly for government officials. Nobody walks.
There are only 8 kilometers of road, and of course it is all flat. The highest point in the country is 15 feet above sea level, and we have yet to see such a high point. This is no different from the atolls in the Tuamotus. What is different is that these islands (nine of them; eight inhabited) comprise an entire country. There is no France (Tuamotus) or New Zealand (Tokelau) to provide infrastructure support and/or citizenship. With only ten square miles of land, Tuvalu is the 4th smallest country in the world. (The smallest is the Vatican.)
The anchorage here is very nice, as long as the trade winds blow as expected from the east or southeast. And they have been continuing to blow hard, with heavy rain squalls. Everything gets damp on the boat, but then at least once a day we get a long period of sunshine, and things dry out.
It may be the wind and rain, but people don’t seem to exude happiness like they do at many of the other South Pacific islands. But they don’t seem unhappy either. Many don’t smile at us, or even look at us. Maybe it is that they aren’t used to foreigners — once we wave and say Hello we usually get a big smile back. Especially from the youngsters!
There are no yacht services here. A handful of restaurants are hidden around the town. Almost no crafts are for sale. No tourists. No white ex-pats running businesses, except for little stores run by Chinese. This is not a playground for people from somewhere else. It is the home of 11,000 people. The homeland and culture of these people are directly threatened by climate change, weather patterns and sea level rise. That’s why the Blue Planet Odyssey is here, albeit with the limited presence of Drina and No Regrets.
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Zeke, when you say ‘that’s why Blue Odyssey is here – do you mean to help the rest of the world know about the peril this small country is in, or ??? I’d like to hear more…. Vika