Samoa, Wallis, Futuna, & Tuvalu

Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) was basically a resupply stop for us.  The folks are friendly, the taxis are not
expensive, and if you look around hard you can find most things except boat parts.  The town docks are a joke and have
not been repaired since the hurricane 10 months before.  Heck if you have ever been to Ballena Bay in Alameda this
place has even worse docks (not by much).  They are held together in places by ropes, one finger has one electrical box
for 20 boats and the other has none or even water.  I guess when someone gives them money they might fix them, but
meanwhile they charge the same no matter if you have to run your generator and lug water jugs.

The yearly festival happens in early Sept and lasts a week.  Now they try hard to put on a show and some of the dancing
and fire dancing is great.  There is lots of singing of large choirs and a bit too much of a religious theme for our taste.  
They really run out of events of local culture and are scraping the bottom of the barrel with events like wine pouring, bar
tending, etc.  At least there was still the canoe racing and traditional tattooing.

The real bonus of Samoa is the duty free alcohol.  It is a bit of a pain to get, but way worth it!  We of course did excel a bit
too much at this traditional yachtie event.

We did not explore the island as we had been here before.  We did sail this time to Savaii and try some diving.  It was a
waste of time with dead reefs, low silty vis, and not much fish.  This could be due to the hurricane a year before or just
runoff from shore.

Wallis Island

We just can't seem to get away from French speaking countries...  At least they are easy going to clear in and don't even
ask about how much alcohol you might be carrying:)  Also zero fees to clear in and out.

We got to dive outside the reef and inside the lagoon.  The lagoon was nothing great and outside was ok, but not exciting.

As with any french place the prices are high, but then they do have well stocked stores.  The veggies are a bit of a hit or
miss.  There are no boat related stores, but plenty of hardware stores.

The folks are beyond nice and gladly give you a ride if you put your thumb up.  Heck folks went out of their way to take us
around.  One amazing family spent all morning driving us around to get a leaking oil pan fixed.  He did not even accept
the offer of taking him to lunch and instead bought us some beers and drove us around some more!  I feel bad that it is
so hard to repay such kindness.  The most amazing thing is that his daughter would leave her purse on the car seat at
each hardware store and sometimes he even left the engine running all with the windows down.  We suggested that
someone might take the purse and he laughed saying there is no crime on the island.

At one point he told us that after WWII, they approached the US asking to become a territory as well as the French.  The
French accepted and I had to confess to the guy they are probably better off.  Baguettes, free medical care, no income
tax, etc.  Ok they lost of the high tax on beer, but you can't have it all.

Futuna / Alofi island

We were the only cruising boat at Alofi for almost a week and had the diving to ourselves!  Now the anchoring is a bit
deep to get into pure sand (70 feet), but worth the stop and the bouncing at anchor.  We saw 21 different butterfly fish
and two types of clown fish in our dives there.  Ok there was nothing big or exciting, but the corals were in good shape
and there is a decent variety of life.  There is also currents so watch out.

Futuna is just plain hell to anchor at.  The mixing bowl they call the anchorage is small and certainly bouncy the one night
we spent there to clear out.  There is one decent store for supplies and one gas station close to the dock.  The dock is a
rusty old pier missing many planks so watch your footing and have fun lugging all that over the dock and down a vertical
ladder to a bouncing dingy.

One hotel had wifi and the owner gave us the code free of charge and let us use his lounge!  We could not even buy a
drink to pay for it.  

The most notable thing about here is there is one bank, but it is only open 1 day a month!  Yep no access to changing
money and only the one store takes credit cards.  We burned all our remaining cash on fuel that fit way too nicely in less
than two jugs.  Ok at 8 bucks a gallon that does not take long.

Tuvalu (Funafuti)

This is one strange place when you get to know the ins and outs of it.  It is also the beginning of a string of countries we
are visiting that do almost nothing for themselves.  Many of these islands wait for grant money to be giving to them for
specific projects and even expect folks to come in and build it for them.  Of course nobody maintains it, unless the money
keeps flowing so it then falls apart.  Lots of money from Asia is flowing into pacific island nations to get fishing rights so
they can rape and pillage the last stocks of fish.

Eating out is pretty cheap and there is about 4 places to eat.  We had a bit of a row with the owner of the Filamona place
and can't recommend it.  They have the only wifi on the island.  We assumed if you ate there it was free and one of the
guests gave us the code.  Heck the bartender did not know the code and the owner was off island so someone told it to
us.  We ate there several times until the owner came back and accused us rude as heck about stealing her internet. Are
we being subtle with two laptops and some beers?  Anyway she was plain mean and even the bartender came to us to
apologize for the rudeness.  So skip the joint if you can.

They have a marine park across the lagoon, but don't have any maps to show the boundaries.   The park office had to
go online to google earth to try and show us the limits.  Now normally I am all for marine parks, but not when they want 50
bucks a day to get into one and on the lagoon side no less.  When we dove the outside that may or may not be in the
park based on who you talk to it was full of fishing lines so I guess the locals don't know the borders either.

The diving on the NW and W sides outside the lagoon was nothing special.  Some folks said the south was good, but we
did not try it so I can't say.

We never got permission to visit any other islands on our way north and boy did we try.  Of course one week later they
granted it to three boats who said it was a lovely stop.  Just par for the course at this country.

The highlights on the tourist path at this island are few, but sort of entertaining.  At 11AM each day you can watch the
weather balloon being launched.  Every day all the weather stations on the islands launch at the same time to get high
altitude weather (mostly for aircraft) and every day the balloon and plastic sensor kit falls into the ocean somewhere...  
The main feature of the island is a big airstrip down the middle and on plane days the fire truck sounds it siren clearing
the runway for the plane.  The even more funny thing is the duty free shop.  Literally it is a 4x4 foot shack towed by an
ATV.  Too bad I never got  a photo.