26 November 2017 | Marsden Cove Marina, North Island, New Zealand
18 November 2017 | North side of North Minerva Reef, Pacific Ocean
09 November 2017 | Southeast side of North Minerva Reef, Pacific Ocean
03 November 2017 | Mata ´Uta anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
02 November 2017 | Gahi Village anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
31 October 2017 | Mata ´Utu anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
28 October 2017 | Mata ´Utu anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
23 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
21 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
14 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
13 October 2017 | Apia Marina, ´Upolu Island, Samoa
10 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
07 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
07 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
05 October 2017 | Apia Marina, `Upolu Island, Samoa
02 October 2017 | Anchored in Apia Harbour, `Upolu Island, Samoa
29 September 2017 | Off Falehau Village, Niuatoputapu Island, Tonga
26 September 2017 | Off Falehau Village, Niuatoputapu Island, Niua Group, Tonga
20 September 2017 | Neiafu mooring, Vava’u Group, Tonga
18 September 2017 | Vaka’eitu anchorage, Vava’u Group, Tonga

The luxury of a long, hot shower…

26 November 2017 | Marsden Cove Marina, North Island, New Zealand
Photo: Rafts of fluttering shearwaters enjoy the calm conditions at dawn with Hen Island beyond
It is good to be back in New Zealand. As we came within a couple of hundred miles of Marsden Cove, I was quite surprised at how strongly it felt as though we were coming “home”.

Arriving at the Quarantine Dock at 8:10 am on Saturday (25th November), we joined SVs Maya and Philiosophy. Still, despite being the weekend, we did not have to wait long for the friendly and efficient Bruce (Customs and Immigration) and Mike (Quarantine) to check-in all three boats. We were soon in our slip and almost immediately Brent from the marina was kindly taking us to the grocery store at Ruakaka to replace all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that we had to use-up before arriving in New Zealand. Needless to say, once the cold items (including a frozen turkey for Randall’s belated Thanksgiving feast) were stashed in the fridge, naps were a higher priority than putting the rest of the groceries away. And finally, I wallowed in the luxury of a hot shower for a full 10 minutes. While this soul-drenching experience was sufficiently satisfying for me that I was inspired to write a poem about it (I know, it does seem like a rather unlikely topic for poetry), poor Randall could not get his tally-card to work and had to make-do with a cold shower. Four loads of laundry the next day, have made a significant dent in the backlog of items needing to be washed and tomorrow we will be hosing-down the outside of the whole boat, including the sails.

Friends on various other boats had already reached New Zealand safely (French Curve in Opua and Devocean in Whangarei – both having had fast and furious passages), or are arriving over the next couple of days (Scoots from Fiji and Local Talent and Bob from South Minerva are all going to Opua but eventually moving to Whangarei). Gail has been regaling us with how fabulous the snorkeling was at South Minerva where they stopped for a few days. While I was very pleased for them, it did make me a little regretful that we had not joined them there for at least a day. But our horse was heading to the barn.

We started on our passage on Saturday (18th November), as intended, and were very happy that, once we were clear of North Minerva Reef, we could shut-off the engine and start sailing. Initially in the west-southwest winds, we could not sail in the south-southwest direction directly along the rhumb-line to New Zealand. We either had to go due south or even south-southeast which took us within 130 nm of the Kermadec Islands. After three days, however, the wind backed to the east-southeast which then allowed us to tack and point in the right direction. Other than a bit of a lull on Tuesday when the wind backed, the wind strength was between 15 to 22 knots which allowed us to sail close-hauled at a good 5 to 7 knots much of the way. The waves were quite sizable at times and from varying directions, so it was a lively ride but there was nothing scary.

We had to motor for the last 22 hours because the wind-speed dropped as we approached the massive high-pressure systems (1035 mb) sitting over New Zealand. But with the diminishing waves, this allowed me the comfort to be able to do some tidying and cooking on our last day at sea, which was really quite useful. It also allowed us to sleep better and arrive in good spirits with sufficient energy rather than thoroughly exhausted. We assumed that the high pressure system would bestow warm, cloudless weather on the weekend but it has actually been mostly cloudy, with a few light showers, and disappointingly chilly. Still, summer is, supposedly, on the way…

Passing Bream Head on our way to Marsden Cove

Now we have to develop an itinerary the next six months. We plan to visit the US for about six weeks in late February (just before Randall’s 3-month visa expires) but exactly where and when we will visit various friends and family-members has yet to be organized. In New Zealand, we will visit Helen and Tony in Auckland, rent a car and tour around the North Island (including meeting Nikki and family in Wellington), and have the boat hauled for an insurance survey and some work on the rudder. We hope to spend the holiday season in Whangarei Town Basin but we hear that the marina is pretty crowded so we shall see. We have plenty of things that we would like to do here but, other than the trip to the US, we can be pretty flexible about when we sail north to cruise in the Bay of Islands and south to revisit the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. It is good to have options but I look forward to seeing a plan emerge from them.

In the meantime, we hope that those of you in the US had a good Thanksgiving week. We will be catching-up with you with our Turkey dinner on Tuesday, which we plan to share with the lovely Swiss family on SV Maya. We have had a wonderful cruising season in “The Islands” and we have much for which to be thankful.

Note: I have added the blog entries with photographs for Samoa and Wallis that I could not post until back in internet-land, so please go back to the post for October 13th to catch-up on those adventures…or, at least, to look at the pictures. It feels very good to have the blog up-to-date. I will probably be posting less frequently now that we are back in New Zealand, except when we move around.

Finally, New Zealand bound

18 November 2017 | North side of North Minerva Reef, Pacific Ocean
Photo: Dotted sweetlips near the wreck at North Minerva Reef
So we have been sitting here at Minerva Reef for 10 days, moving back and forth between the south and north end as the winds dictate, but, finally now it is time to leave. There was a possible weather-window last weekend (Nov 11/12th) but it meant heading towards a nasty sub-tropical depression that would be just over the north coast of New Zealand at the end of that passage, today (Saturday). Knowing that the forecasts of the behavior of such lows can change over the week-long prediction needed for this passage, actual conditions could end-up being better or worse, earlier or later than anticipated.

Several boats left with the intention of going as fast as possible to arrive before the predicted high winds and big waves. SV Deveocean was in that group and we stayed in contact with Bavo by email the whole way. They had to motor-sail at times to maintain the 7 to 7.5 knot speed that they needed to arrive before today, and they just managed to get into Marsden Cove at 9 pm on Friday night. On the last day, they saw 37 knot winds and "impressive waves" and it was going to get worse. Our wave forecast for today showed 6.7 m (22 feet) waves just north of New Zealand. Yikes! We were so relieved to hear that Devocean had arrived safely, even if not comfortably, and we were very glad that we had not tried to catch that weather-window.

Our passage may require some motoring at the beginning and the end but there should not be anything too alarming on the way. We anticipate arriving in Marsden Cove a week from now (Saturday Nov 25th). This will put us at sea for the US Thanksgiving Day on Thursday but Randall has bravely accepted that we will try to get a turkey once we are in New Zealand. While we have plenty of food to get us through our passage, supplies of fresh produce have been running a bit low. Since such items cannot be brought into New Zealand, it is a bit of a balancing act to carry enough for this sort of delay, without having excess items that have to be surrendered to the Quarantine Officers. We gave a bag of mostly non-perishable items to one boat that was running low on food, having not anticipated this 10-day delay. There have typically been about 7 boats at North Minerva during our stay and we have not been lonely with Gail and Dean on Local Talent and Alex and Sarah on SV Bob with whom to share some evenings, and plenty of chatter (mostly about weather) on the VHF radio.

While 10 days in Minerva Reef would be joyous in good weather, we have had many days of clouds, rain, and strong winds, including gusts up to 34 knots. The sandy bottom provides good anchor-holding so the site feels relatively safe but it can be choppy or rolly when the tide is high and swell creeps over the submerged reef. Snorkeling is not particularly appealing in such conditions either so we have not been able to take full advantage of the clear water and extensive reef.

Eyeball to eyeball with a balloonfish hiding in the reef at North Minerva

Still, we have snorkeled three times; once on the wreck (with many, beautiful dotted sweetlips), once on the edge of the southern end of the atoll (after walking over the reef at low tide), and once drifting along with the dinghies in the pass. The latter provided us with sightings of two fish that we have not seen before when snorkeling; the colorful palette surgeonfish and the accelerated-heartbeat-inducing tiger shark. We had heard about the latter from other cruisers so its presence was not a complete surprise but when it appears from the shadows and cruises by below us, suddenly everything was sharply focused on that single creature. We estimate it was about 4 m (13 feet) long (quite a bit longer than our 2.7-m or 9-foot dinghy and I got a shadowy photograph of it before it disappeared into the gloom of the deep and slightly murky water flowing out through the pass.

Not a brilliant photograph of the tiger shark but I was apparently more concerned about it than where the camera was focused

We did not see the other tiger shark (there appear to be two that hang around the pass) nor the group of 15 grey reef sharks that was following it. This maybe because once the tiger shark was no longer visible, Randall and I both decided to get back into the dinghy. As we were moving the dinghy around afterwards, we saw a couple of shark fins at the water surface which made us think twice about getting back in the water.

Gail and Dean were also snorkeling and saw some of the grey reef sharks but the detailed observations came from Alex and Sarah who were below the sharks, SCUBA diving. Tiger sharks are the biggest reef sharks reaching 5.5 m (18 feet) in length (great whites are considered open- ocean sharks) and are generally considered dangerous. We were very glad that we saw this one at a respectable distance of maybe 7 to 10 m (23 to 33 feet) but one viewing was enough and peering through our masks over the side of the dinghy was quite satisfactory after that. We now are pretty certain what happened to the tuna that Bavo hooked when entering the pass but only the head of which arrived on deck. The big sharks may make for exciting snorkeling and frustrating fishing but the most important thing is that they are probably indicators of a very healthy reef. Long may that continue at the Minerva Reef Atoll!

Flying then sitting

09 November 2017 | Southeast side of North Minerva Reef, Pacific Ocean
Photo: The Pacific being pacific – calm conditions as we leave Wallis atoll
No, this title is not describing a typical cross-country flight with a lay-over, but summarizes our progress since leaving Wallis on Friday (November 3rd). Although the sea was glassy with only long, gentle, undulating swells when exited Passe Honikulu, the Pacific Ocean finally living up to its name, we only had to motor for 13 hours. After that, we raised the sails and slowly made our way south for another 18 hours. By then the wind was picking-up and the rest of our journey, a total of 10 degrees of latitude or just over 600 nm, was close-hauled at full speed.

We usually assume that we will average about 5 knots on such passages, but for more than three days we maintained speeds between 6 and 8 knots. It was pretty bouncy at times when the swell and wind-waves were more than 2 m (7 feet) but it was a good feeling to be progressing so fast and in the right direction. We had to furl most of the jib to slow ourselves down on the last night so that we would not arrive at Minerva Reef North until daylight and after the 8 am weather discussion on Gulf Harbour Radio. We still arrived on Wednesday, a whole day earlier than originally anticipated.

We arrived to find 16 other cruising boats strung out along the eastern side of the atoll, including Devocean at the southern end of the group. We anchored next to them, fully appreciating the calm waters and the glorious sunshine producing the brilliant cobalt blues and turquoise colors of the lagoon's deep and shallow waters. Local Talent arrived from Tongatapu the following day so it has been wonderful to be reunited with Marisa, Bavo, Gail, and Dean.

We all have accumulated plenty of stories since we parted company in Tonga but it looks as though we will have ample time to exchange them before we all dash south to New Zealand. Currently, the forecasts are suitable for departure from Minerva after the weekend but with potentially tricky conditions on the approach to New Zealand so we are prepared to be waiting here for more than a week if necessary. Although everyone is anxious to complete the passage south, we are happy to be at Minerva where the water is beautifully clear for good snorkeling and we have excellent company.

Skipping Fiji and heading to New Zealand

03 November 2017 | Mata ´Uta anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
Photo: Birthday-boy Randall with his seafood dinner in Mata ´Utu, Wallis
We have enjoyed our week in Wallis eating baguettes and pan chocolat, riding our bikes all over the place, peering into a deep crater lake, admiring beautifully decorated graves on All Saints/Souls Day, snorkeling in the lagoon, and celebrating Randall's birthday, and there is plenty that we have missed, but it is time to move on. The summer heat is making its presence felt, with spring high-tides and little wind the anchorage is becoming rolly at times, and in the Gulf Harbour Radio weather reports, David has finally used the D-word, a depression. If it forms, it will be south of New Caledonia and Fiji and so is not likely to develop into a scary tropical depression but with the cyclone season starting three days ago, its potential formation is a sobering reminder that it is time to head south.

We look forward to going to is probably just not going to be this year. Unless the winds blow us in that direction as we head south, we have decided to skip Fiji and aim directly for New Zealand. We have thoroughly enjoyed exploring Samoa and Wallis in the last month but the idea of rushing around another new country in the next couple of weeks has rather lost its appeal. As they would say in America, this horse is heading to the barn.

Leaving around noon on November 3rd, we will probably have to motor for the first 24 to 48 hours, as there will be little useful wind but we should reach suitable sailing conditions after that. If we wait until the wind reappears here, then conditions do not look so favorable further south. We will be sailing south through a slot between Tonga and the Lau Islands of Fiji. After five or six days, it is quite likely that we will have to stop at Minerva Reef to wait for good sailing conditions for the seven- to eight-day passage to New Zealand but given the good snorkeling at Minerva, that should be no great hardship. If the depression, or any other conditions, look threatening on the way to Minerva, or if we use more fuel than we anticipate, we can always swing into Vava'u or Tongatapu.

We have not had access to WiFi here in Wallis and we will be using only the SSB radio on our passage, so I will be posting the details and photos of our adventures touring Samoa and Wallis after we get to New Zealand. We have thoroughly enjoyed this cruising season in the South Pacific Islands but it does feel as though it is time to be heading "home" to Whangarei.

“Only mad dogs and Englishmen…”

02 November 2017 | Gahi Village anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
Photo: A family of five at the south end of Uvea Island ride off with their groceries and baguettes
"...go out in the midday sun..." but maybe we should add bike-riding cruisers to that short, somewhat misguided list?

There are no taxis in Wallis and Futuna and even though many locals will pick-up hitch-hikers, this assumes that you have a specific destination in mind. To facilitate our exploration of Uvea Island, we took our folding bicycles ashore over a couple of days. By the time we had finished listening to the weather forecasts from Gulf Harbour Radio and got the bikes assembled on shore, it was mid-morning before we actually started exploring. This meant that on both occasions, we were riding around during the middle of the day and, with hills featuring prominently in both expeditions, it was inevitable that we got very hot and sweaty. Still, it was worth the effort and given that the car drivers were very courteous and gave us plenty of room, it was actually a pretty good way to travel.

On our first venture, we cycled north from the wharf along the coastal road which eventually curves up and inland. At the top of the first rise, we found a seafood restaurant where we booked dinner for Thursday night to celebrate Randall's birthday. We continued to slog uphill until we met the main road from Mata ´Utu to the airport, which is at the north end of the island. We had intended to go north but the road was surprisingly busy and narrow so instead we crossed it to continue inland and uphill.

Eventually we reached the top of the hill where there was the inevitable radio/cell-phone tower. Although technically we were not at the highest point of the island, we could see Mount Lulu Fakahega to the southwest and it really did not look much higher. If we could have climbed the tower, we would have had excellent views to the east across the lagoon but we had to satisfy ourselves with peering between trees and powerlines. Freewheeling down the long hill back to the shopping center, however, was very satisfying, and considerably cooler than the uphill grind.

Given the tropical temperatures, I was glad to be able to wear above-the-knee shorts on my bike without being concerned about causing offense. Older women all wore long pareu (lava lavas) or dresses in bold patterns but not generally with quite such bright colors as we had seen in Samoa. Women's clothing was expected to be below-the-knee in Tonga and the villages of Samoa, but in Wallis, as in tourist-oriented Apia, this custom appeared to be less strictly applied.

The calm anchorage at Gahi

We went on our second bicycle ride after we had moved Tregoning south from Mata ´Utu to a small anchorage in front of the village of Gahi. This bay was sheltered from the prevailing southeasterly winds and we could anchor much closer to shore than at Mata ´Utu, where we had to anchor off the wharf at the end of a long causeway that reaches out beyond the wide shoreline reef.

The line of floats appearing to block our entry into the anchorage at Gahi

We were a bit puzzled on approaching the Gahi anchorage to find a line of floats and flags stretched across the narrowest part of the entrance channel. Not knowing whether there were lines joining the floats, we crept around the end furthest from the shallow reef, careful not to swing too wide into the shallows on the opposing side of the channel. There were a couple of moored cruising-size sailboats in the anchorage so we were pretty sure that the floats were not intended to keep us out but their purpose did not become fully apparent until the evening. Then, a couple of six-person outrigger canoes were launched from the beach and it became obvious that the line of floats marked lanes from which the canoes approached the finishing line, which was closer to the shore. We were relieved that we had not anchored within the raceway lanes.

One of the out-rigger canoes paddles into Gahi Bay

After climbing a steep little hill inland from Gahi, most of our second bicycle ride was on the relatively flat, paved, coastal road around the south end of Uvea Island. We explored the southern Mua Village and were very impressed with the beautiful leis and displays of tropical flowers with which people were adorning the white-painted graves and tombs in the large cemetery. It was November 1st which is a public holiday in Wallis and Futuna for All Saints Day. November 2nd is All Souls Day which is a day for remembering the dead (technically, the departed Christian faithful) and presumably was the reason for the lavish decorations in the cemetery.

Fabulous floral arrangements in the cemetery at Mua on All Saints Day

Continuing clockwise around the south end of the island, we eventually came to a junction where the paved road turned left following the shoreline but a bumpy dirt road continued straight ahead uphill. We took the latter route and after cresting the hill we almost rode by our intended destination. With few free-roaming tourists on Uvea, it obviously seemed unnecessary to bother with signposts either for the roads or the interesting sites. Luckily, we did notice a short driveway to our right, which ended in the sheer drop in to Lalolalo Crater Lake. We were hot enough that a dip in a lake had seemed rather appealing but we soon realized that going for a swim in the dark-green water would be a one-way trip, as there was no obvious route for climbing back up the high cliff walls.

Lalolalo Crater Lake

At least 800 m (0.5 mile) across, this circular hole in the ground was a bit larger than the Tafua Savai´i Crater that we had visited in Samoa and obviously differed in having water rather than trees in the bottom. But like Tafua, Lalolalo also had a fringe of lush green vegetation leaning over the rim of the brick-wall-like sides of the crater. And like Tafua, we could hear plenty of birds. The aquatic species such as white-tailed tropic birds, noddies, and white terns were easily seen over the water, while we could only hear the pigeons and saw just a few Polynesian starlings in the trees. However, from our bikes we had seen many banded rails scurrying across the road and a barn owl intent on its hunting, which is not a particularly common sight during the daytime.

The sheer walls on the inside of Lalolalo Crater

After being suitably impressed by the size and depth of Lalolalo Crater, we continued north along the dirt road, intending to join the main, paved around-the-island road. We would then loop west and south by the coast, back to where we had turned off on the dirt road, before retracing our route back to Gahi. Unfortunately, my assumption that the main road was all paved was incorrect, so I had ignored the critical turn-off shown on our very crude map of the island and did not realize that we were continuing further north than we planned. This only became apparent when we made a left-turn and found ourselves at a large but very isolated church near Pointe Vaha ´A ´Utu, on the edge of a shallow but extensive bay. With very few houses in the vicinity, it was difficult to imagine where the congregation came from, but the church looked well-maintained so presumably enough people drove the dirt roads each Sunday to keep it going.

Randall was very patient with my navigational error but chose to return the way we had come, via the hill of the Lalolalo Crater, rather than continue the loop across the island to Mata ´Utu and then back south to Gahi. While the loop option attracted to me on an exploratory level, knowing that we would have to cross the island's central ridge near its highest point at Mount Lulu Fakahega during the middle of the day, did rather detract from its appeal.

Fortunately, we passed a small store in the first village that we reached by the sea so we stopped to buy ourselves a picnic-lunch of cheese, baguettes, and ice-cream. Eating this, while we and our bikes were sprawled in the shade on some grass by the store, we became quite the focus of attention for the steady stream of locals who came to pick-up groceries by car or moped. The latter were quite a popular means of transportation at this end of the island, and we were quite impressed by a family of five that pulled-up to get their bagful of groceries and half-a-dozen baguettes.

Randall enjoys the last downhill leg into Gahi with Tregoning waiting in the anchorage

During our explorations by bicycle, we did not find any "extensive archaeological sites tucked back in the bush" that were promised in the Lonely Planet Guide. So if we had been able to stay in Wallis for a while longer, we would have enquired at one of the hotels as to whether there was anyone prepared to give us a guided-tour of the island, focusing on the northern and central areas that we missed, and on the less-obvious sites of interest. Similarly, although we enjoyed a couple of snorkeling trips in the lagoon, using the dinghy to approach some coral heads near the outer reef and one of the shallow areas close to Gahi, if we had stayed longer we would have asked for some recommendations for better sites. Still, we managed to pack plenty into our week at Wallis and considered that we got a good feel for the place. Now the questions was, where to go next?

Observing a small nation

31 October 2017 | Mata ´Utu anchorage, Uvea Island, Wallis and Futuna
Photo: The large Catholic church near the wharf in Mata ´Utu, Wallis
Wallis and Futuna is one of the South Pacific nations that was arbitrarily organized and created as a result of European colonialism. It consists of two groups of islands, the Wallis Islands and the Horne or Futuna Islands, which are 130 nm apart. West of Samoa and northeast of Fiji, these islands lie on the border of Polynesia and Melanesia but the inhabitants are distinctly Polynesian in appearance and culture. The people of Wallis are descended from Tongans whereas the residents of Futuna originally came from Samoa, which results in subtle differences in language, customs, and the designs used on tapa cloth.

The island groups also differ geologically, with Wallis defined as an "almost atoll" (fringing reef and lagoon with central islands of volcanic rock) and Futuna consisting of two volcanic high islands (Futuna to 400 m or 1,310 feet and Alofi to 800 m or 2,630 feet) which have relatively small patches of coastline reef. We did not visit the Futuna Group, in part because there is no sheltered anchorage, only a small harbor with a pier at the village of Leava that is exposed to wind and waves from the south and west. With a combined land area of 91 sq km (35 sq miles) and a population of about 4,500, all on Futuna Island, the Futuna Group has some dense woodlands, which provide valuable timber for export, and extensive areas of agricultural production.

In the center of the Wallis lagoon is Uvea (a.k.a. Wallis) Island which is 78 sq km (30 sq miles) and rises to a maximum elevation of 146 m (479 feet). This island is about twice as long on its north to south axis of 11 km (7 miles) as it is wide, and it is surrounded by 22 smaller islands, scattered throughout the lagoon. The population of Uvea is about 9,100 with most people living in, or near, the sprawling administrative and business center of Mata ´Utu, which is located about halfway along the east coast. Population pressure on the small islands has resulted in more natives of Wallis and Futuna living in New Caledonia, than in their home country.

In the nineteenth century, when many of the South Pacific islands were being grabbed by European powers, Wallis and Futuna were colonized by the French in the 1880s. In 1959, a referendum of islanders voted to change the community's status from a colony to an overseas territory of France. Islanders were given French citizenship and while some administration is directed through New Caledonia, there are also many direct links with France, from where teachers and government officials, such as Gendarmes, come with their families on two- to three-year tours of duty. Despite the administrative input and large source of income from France, most the real power on the islands is held by local kings, two on Futuna and one on Wallis. While we were unable to chat about this with anyone (our French and their English was not quite sufficient to cover politics), one of the Customs officials did explain to us that he was wearing a beautiful lei of fresh flowers to indicate that he was a minister in the government of the King of Wallis. In so explaining, he motioned towards the fale fono and palatial building on the waterfront, near the large Catholic church, so we gathered that they might be used by the King of Wallis and his government.

Buildings on the Mata ´Utu waterfront that we think house of the government of the King of Wallis

Other than the sale of timber from the Futuna Islands, the nation has few exports or sources of income. Copra from coconut palms used to be the main export but many palms were wiped-out by the rhinoceros beetle in the mid-twentieth century. Coconut palms are abundant again but most plantations had previously reverted to subsistence farming. The rich soil and tropical climate allow the prolific growth of tropical fruits and vegetables but almost all are directed to local consumption.

The sale of postage stamps to international collectors has been a significant source of income to several small Pacific nations such as Wallis and Futuna, Tuvalu, and Tokelau, and we saw the office that was the "Centre de Philatelique" next to the Post Office in Mata ´Utu. Whether this hobby of philately and the associated business of producing and selling exotic stamps will continue as electronic communications replace snail-mail, remains to be seen. With very little tourism (there are about three flights a week from New Caledonia and no regular ferries, just the occasional, small cruise-ship), the main sources of income for imported items are remittances from family members overseas and the largess of the French government. These sources are clearly quite generous because there are many four-wheel drive vehicles on the roads and most houses are built of cement with corrugated-metal roofs.

In some respects, the French influence appears even stronger on Wallis than it was in French Polynesia. I was a bit surprised when the Lonely Planet described life on Wallis as "where traditional life is played out behind plain, modern cement walls" but the observation actually seems quite accurate. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what seems so European about the island compared to, say, Samoa and Tonga, but some of it does relate to the rectangular, cement-walled house-designs. Cyclones have undoubtedly exerted and impact on these islands (e.g., Cyclones Evan, a category 4 in 2012, and Amos, a category 3 in 2016) and it appears that rather than importing prefabricated houses, as we saw on Tonga, the response has been to use more concrete. Although frames of unfinished or cyclone-damaged two-story buildings dot the villages, especially around the shoreline in Mata ´Utu, most houses have a simple, robust, single-story design that has very little Polynesian influence other than the brightly colored fabrics hanging in the windows and the occasional, fale-like open porch.

A very typical house with "...plain, modern cement walls"

As on most of the Christianized Polynesian islands, the village churches were usually the most ornate and lavishly supported buildings in Wallis. The difference was that they were almost all Catholic in Wallis rather than reflecting the range of Protestant denominations that had sent missions to the other islands. The Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) was most conspicuously absent and there did not seem to be the proliferation of church-associated educational establishments that created such a rainbow of school uniforms in Tonga and Samoa. Although there were some smaller churches with plastered and white-painted walls on Wallis, the largest were constructed of dark volcanic rock with white-painted mortar. This theme was continued inside resulting in a rather dark but cool interior although numerous windows (some small ones without glass providing cross-ventilation) helped to dispel gloominess. On entering the open door of the large church near the wharf in Mata 'Utu, we found quite a few dogs sleeping on the cool floor under the pews but they quickly took their guilty-looking departure when I showed an interest in them by trying to take their photograph.

Inside the Mata ´Uta Catholic church

Mata ´Utu did not appear to have a clearly defined town center nor, surprisingly, did we find a market with locally-grown fruits and vegetables. In the shopping center/mall about 1 km inland from the wharf, we found an ATM at the bank (maybe the only one on the island) and a large hardware store. There was a car/pickup truck dealer (including Ford trucks), a variety of small stores, and a large Super U supermarket. The latter was never open when we visited and there were many shipping containers outside, so we wonder if it had become the island's food-distribution center rather than a retail store. Small grocery stores were scattered through the villages and local produce was on sale in some of these but the main supermarket that we patronized in Mata ´Utu only seemed to have imported produce. Inevitably, imported items were expensive but there were reasonable amounts of most things.

We saw several snack bars, a few restaurants, and a couple of hotels on Wallis. There was a hospital with associated medical offices and a pharmacy in Mata ´Utu and quite a few hair-stylists scattered around the island. What surprised me most was that we saw at least four "Parfumeries". While I understand that perfumes are considered an important luxury in France, I was a little surprised that the Uvean economy could support this many specialist stores. One such place had a sign that included duty-free purchases, so perhaps the perfumeries provided a more genteel front to more diverse import businesses. We did not feel the need to purchase any perfume but, it will come as not surprise to hear, that we did avail ourselves of the other French treats of wine, grapes, cheese, croissants, and baguettes. Yum, yum!
Vessel Name: Tregoning
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan Classic 41
Hailing Port: Gainesville, FL
Crew: Alison and Randall
About: We cast-off from Fernandina Beach in north Florida on 1st June 2008 and we have been cruising on Tregoning ever since. Before buying Tregoning, both of us had been sailing on smaller boats for many years and had worked around boats and water throughout our careers.
Extra: “Tregoning” (rhymes with “belonging”) and is a Cornish word (meaning “homestead of Cohnan” or “farm by the ash trees”) and was Alison's mother’s middle name. Cornwall is in southwest England and is where Alison grew-up.
Tregoning's Photos - Main
89 Photos
Created 15 October 2017
190 Photos
Created 21 June 2017
73 Photos
Created 12 February 2017
116 Photos
Created 12 February 2017
132 Photos
Created 24 January 2017
Extra photographs from our three-week campervan tour of the South Island from November 15th to December 5th 2015
217 Photos
Created 4 January 2016
Random pictures from our month spent on the islands of Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Ua Pou, and Nuku Hiva
45 Photos
Created 18 July 2015
Random pictures from our month spent in 4 Tuamotu Atolls; Ahe, Fakarava, Tahanea, and Toau
32 Photos
Created 1 July 2015
Some of the birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals (and others) that we have seen in Mexico
74 Photos
Created 5 May 2014
18 Photos
Created 18 November 2013