The sail to Futuna featured consistent wind and relatively few squalls, so we showed up in the morning in good spirits. We had hoped to anchor alongside Alofi, the pretty island with a long white beach.
But the wind direction was wrong, so the known anchorage was rolly, and further down the coast we failed to find a suitable gap in the coral. We were also feeling pretty tentative about poking our noses around, because for the first time in our trip, our charts were seriously offset from reality. Here’s our trip through the pass between the islands; we promise Villa didn’t sprout wheels. We found out later that this was because Garmin is a terrible company and sold us the wrong charts. Fuckers. But at the time we just thought the charts we had bought were hot garbage.
Disappointed to lose our beach day, we headed to the other anchorage, on the southwest side of Futuna proper. There, we found a small, industrial-looking harbor surrounded by sheer, jungle-covered mountain walls.
We went to shore, looking for lunch, entertainment, and internet; we would do our best to see as much of the island as our 24-hour stop allowed. (No longer, because our weather window to get to Fiji was closing.) The post office once again was out of sim cards, but let us check in using their presumably satellite-backed wifi. Once out of the office, we were back to relying entirely on the handheld radio for communication, feeling like kids with walkie-talkies.
The other two list items proved harder. Without internet these past few days, we had been unable to arrange anything in advance, and our last-minute attempts to find a car or driver came up dry. We asked about rentals in the local resort, but turned down their shabby-looking restaurant with our eyes on the Lonely Planet review of Bambu down the road. Bambu, however, turned out to be closed, as was everything else we passed; it’s possible that some of this was due to the French mid-day siesta. We did find a great statue along the way there, though.
There was another boat in the harbor, and their dinghy was tied up to land from before we arrived until well into the night, and they were back on land again in the morning. So clearly there’s something to do here; we just don’t know what it is. We walked a little further, then went back to the boats to catch up on rest between overnight passages.
Rest was not to be, however, because a glance at our battery monitor showed something was amiss. A little bit of digging revealed that our bimini-top solar panels were not putting out any power. A bit more digging revealed the culprit, an MC-4 connector that had taken in some salt water and corroded. Naturally we only have spares of the other gender, so we cleaned it up as best we could and put it back together, adding spares to our to-order list. While we had the battery compartment open and the electronics box out, we figured we would knock another tiny project off the list, and replace the janky dangling breaker with a wall-mounted version. Thanks to Searcher for providing the part back in Hiva Oa. It only took us, what, four months to install it?
Andrew had just reached in to take an “after” photo when his phone rebooted… and then kept rebooting. And rebooting. Having had issues in the past, we knew some tricks, but nothing worked; even letting the battery run out only stopped the loop until it was plugged back in. So that’s inconvenient, both because without internet we would be losing photos, and because we had never bothered to set up the offshore communication apps on Jazz’s new-ish phone. That left us with the prospect of sailing to Fiji without weather reports, sattelite communications, or a working long-range VHF radio.
We went back to shore the next morning to try to sort out the apps from the post office wifi. On our way up the road from the water, we were stopped by a cranky Frenchman, who told us that we needed to check in and out with the Futunan authorities, because “Futuna and Wallis are not the same”. This despite getting clear assurances in Wallis that they were the same, and that we would not have to do anything in Futuna. At this point it was Saturday, the guy said the office was closed until Monday. Our French isn’t great, but he might have been trying to get us to come in right away, to start what would presumably have been a two-day checkin/checkout process. But our papers were on the boat, and we were leaving in an hour anyway, so… He chatted angrily in rapid French with a local guy wearing only a sarong, we reiterated that we were leaving shortly, and he drove off in a huff. So we were maybe looking over our shoulders a little as we huddled outside the closed post office, trying to bootstrap our way to an Iridium connection. Fortunately we were able to pull it off, and made it back to the boat with no further officialdom. Needless to say, we were anchors up shortly thereafter. With Jazz driving.