|Trip to Samoa 2001
Weíve just arrived at Pago Pago, 1am Sunday Sept. 2nd. The first smell to greet us was not burning trash (as with all the French Polynesian islands), but a strange mix of hot jungle and laundry soap. There were dozens of large fishing boats tied to the shore, with every light turned on. It was as if they were trying to out do each other in turning night to day. After anchoring amongst the yachts at the head of the harbor, we spoke to Bob Ayre on the Ham Radio (1am our time is 7am Maine time). I still canít get over the fact that we are half the world away and can still reach him. Now here is the news for the past week.
Monday we went with Paul and Natalie from "Renegade" in their high speed dingy around the inside of the Suwarrow atoll. It was a bit rough at first, owing to the brisk head wind, but once we reached the lee of the reef the ride was smooth. Our original intention was to check out a wreck that had been on the reef for twenty years. As we got closer, we could see that nature had done its work and you couldnít even tell it was once a fishing boat. We decided to check out the "Motuís" (low islands of coral) instead. We spoke about the rumors of buried treasure. There could be gold on any one of these little islands. Where would it be hidden? At the top of the highest ground, or in an overly obvious place that no one would look? Did pirates use reverse psychology? We pondered these thoughts as we wandered from motu to motu. The treasure we did find was bird life. Thousands of nesting sea birds, literally covering every inch of ground. There were terns, boobies, frigate birds, birds of paradise, fairy terns and albatrosses in uncountable numbers. We also found trash. Lots of it. Flip-flops, bottles, Japanese cough syrup bottles, light bulbs, fishing floats, rope; most of it was of Japanese origin. We brought back a radio transmitter that was used to locate fishing gear. Inside we found a circuit board, some fiber optic cable and a battery. Kind of reminded me of what my son Ben put together for his home made, computer controlled robot a few years ago. We headed back around noon, as we only had a small bag of cookies and some water between the four of us.
Tuesday, we set out to explore a few more motus. This time we came prepared. Amy packed a picnic lunch and we spent the better part of the day exploring these remote havens for seabirds. Iím not sure if anyone has been keeping track of the breading population at Suwarrow. I hope so. This has to be one of the most extensive breeding grounds in the South Pacific.
When we returned, I started getting things secured for our next passage. I accidentally dropped one of my plastic "jelly" sandals overboard. To my astonishment it started to sink. I tried to reach it with our hand net, but it was just out of reach. Amy came on deck at my swearing and saw it slipping away. By the time she got her snorkel and fins on, it was out of site. After snorkeling around for a few minutes, she came back empty handed. I offered to throw in the remaining jelly, (I really didnít see myself wearing just one sandal) so she might see where the first one drifted. When the second one got down about 10 feet, a swarm of sharks started to investigate this possible food source. The site was enough to convince Amy that the "jellys" werenít worth an arm or a leg! She quickly got out of the water.
Wednesday we left for Pago Pago. Amy had snorkeled on our anchor when we first arrived at Suwarrow and saw the chain wrapped around a few coral heads. Paul had his dive gear ready in case we got stuck. We powered the boat in the direction we thought the chain went and were off without diving. With a brisk southeast wind, we rounded Turtle Island and laid over on a fast port tack. Ever since we put the French bottom paint on, Iwalani seems to be hurrying back to Maine. We made about 165nm over the next 24 hours. Iwalani was rushing through the water, using the side of her hull as a surfboard. It takes a little getting used to after being anchored for a week. We both put on our scopolamine patches before we left. Even so, Amy lost her macaroni and cheese dinner after being out for a day. She blamed it on the dinner. Kind of like me with bananas. Once you see it like that, you never want to eat it again.
Anyway, we made good time for three days, then the wind died. On with the engine and for the next 36 hours the Westerbeke pushed us along at 5 knots ticking over at 1,200rpm. This arrangement gives us the best mileage for our money.
We arrived at Pago Pago at midnight. There was a full moon and calm seas, so getting in was fairly easy. Using the radar and GPS together we followed the range markers and dropped the hook among the other yachts.
Sunday we awoke to a knock on the hull. It was a couple from "Odyssey" They gave us some paperwork they had put together for visiting yachts and invited us to a pot-luck dinner at the Seafarersí Center. We thanked them and went back for a little more rest. Not five minutes later there was another knock on the hull. This time it was a boat owner anchored just behind us. "I think your dragging". He said. The wind had changed direction and I though we were just stretching out our anchor chain. I thanked him for his concern and returned down below to continue writing the log. Just to be sure he was wrong, I stuck my head up to look around. Well, we were dragging. Darn! I quickly started the engine and Amy got the saltwater hose running as she brought up the anchor. We managed to get out of the anchorage without dinging any boats. The cruising guides warned about the bad holding ground. While I was busy avoiding other boats Amy was busy trying to clear our anchor of trash. It was balled up so badly; there was no way it would have dug in. She finally got the cans, plastic bags, blue tarp, electric keyboard, wire and rope off the anchor and we set it again out in deeper water. This time I made sure the anchor wouldnít drag and kept Iwalani in full speed reverse till we stopped going backwards.
Monday is a holiday, so we will have to wait till Tuesday to get our mail and do some shopping. Weíre down to one roll of toilet paper! PS
Log for the week of September 9, 2001 Pago Pago American Samoa by APW
I must apologize for the problem we experienced with the web page. Ben has started college, (we hope) and no longer has the time to devote to his dear old Dad and the Inmarsat updates. You can find the past logs in the archives.We also seem to be having trouble with our internet service provider; if you are reading this weíve got it fixed.
When our fellow cruiser friends heard that we wanted to stop at Pago Pago, they all said, "What are you crazy? Why would you want to stop at the armpit of the Pacific?:All of the cruising guides say that American Samoa is good for one thing- to stock up on cheap American goods. We were so looking forward to exploiting that last statement. We had a list a mile long-zip lock bags, a new digital camera with zoom lens, rubber bands, cotton underwear and most importantly Stewart needed attending to. We were willing to overlook the floating trash and the omnipresent stench of the Starkist Tuna Factory, rumored to exist, in order to restock in a little bit of home.
Pago Pago, pronounced Pahngo Pahngo, is an L shaped harbor on the island of Tutuilla. Itís steep sides skirt the entire perimeter like a rain forest corral. The mountains donít do much to fence out the wind, if anything they accentuate it. Their steep sides, though, have prevented development from getting any more than one block deep. The buildings are wooden, two storied with verandas on both floors. They look unloved, sad and neglected. A brand new library graces the perimeter of the "town green". Outside a billboard promotes the importance of being able to read...what is wrong with that picture? Dogs are everywhere, copulating on street corners, defecating in parks, scratching their mangey sores on the sidewalk. They, like the Samoan people are a big breed. Tied along the pier of the Starkist factory, are the high tech armies which wage war on the schools of Pacific tuna. Equipped with the latest radar, sonar, and helicopters, more shiny gadgets and gizmos, than I know names for, the fish donít stand a chance, against such a formidable fishing fleet. Despite the roar of factories and fish boat generators, many tropical birds can be heard calling from the hills. Wide mouth fish vacuum the surface of the harbor and best of all, no flies.
Some of the cruisers here complained of the stench- saying it was so vile they needed cotton balls shoved up their noses. Living in Maine and loving the smell of Stinsonís cannery and SeaPro in Rockland, a little cooking cat food was nothing. It sure beats looking at bungalow hotels, condos and tourist traps. What finally drove us out was the constant turbine sound from the electrical generating plant.
For two days we stayed on the boat waiting for Sunday and Labor Day to be over. Tuesday morning we called Harbor control- finally getting an answer on the radio and rowed to shore to check in. We were told to wait at the "Marina" dock for the officials to arrive. The immigration officer, and health inspector were first. The immigration officer was a very pleasant soft spoken fellow, who drove us to Customs. We met with customs and then had to find the quarantine officer- Stewart had to pay up a $250.00 bond for his privilege of staying on the boat in the Harbor. The quarantine officer spent his entire day in a gloomy windowless office resting his arms on a grimy bare desk. He really didnít seemed enthused about taking our money for Stewartís bond, probably because of the paperwork he would be responsible for filling out. He told us that if we stayed 48 hours, we wouldnít need to pay the bond. He seemed relieved when we told him we would be checking out on Thursday or Friday. Next, we had to take our forms to the Port Captainís office and finally we had to check in with Harbor Control. Each of these officials wanted copies of the crew list, all seemed very nice, all seemed confused about what their jobs actually were and best of all- everyone spoke American; I donít say English anymore because of some of the linguistic difficulties we run into with the Willy Bolton gang. They speak proper English and sometimes look at me blankly when I speak American. We could barely contain our excitement when the paperwork was done, because our next stop was the post office to pick up the mail and packages that were sent to us. Thanks to everyone for the trading goods, candy, books and DVDís. When we were a day out of Bora Bora I got e-mail from my mother asking me if I got their stuff. She had sent a box containing birthday presents for me and had emailed me Ďthat the box was being sent thereí. For some stupid reason my brain interpreted there to be Pago Pago- not Bora Bora. She also e-mailed me that my Dad had eye surgery and it didnít go well. I became focused on that, not the package. When I found out the package was actually in Bora Bora, I went into a deep dark depression, which was further enhanced when the wind dropped off and we had to motor. Getting mail and little bits and pieces from home is one of the all time highlights of this trip. Losing them is proportionally terrible. Luckily our friends came to the rescue. The package was addressed to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. I never wrote about our experiences there, because at the time I probably would have broken all the keys on my keyboard pounding out about the idiot French man that ran the business. We stopped in one day, to have lunch and to pick up our FedEx engine parts we had ordered from the states. He told me that he didnít accept FedEx packages, and had no idea where they would be. He didnít like yachties and especially Americanís. Then he charged us $26.00 for two hamburgers and one Coke. I have since found out that he is in the process of selling the yacht club, so hopefully the new owners will be more helpful. We spent an entire day tracking down the packages, which had been sent back to Tahiti. The FedEx people were incredibly helpful in finding them and subsequently delivered them to a tiny office behind Alain Gerbraults tomb down a back alley on Bora Bora. We announced our plight on the radio and Kathryn on Willy Bolton then spent a day tracking down my motherís package, which was finally found in a back room of the post office. Her French is better than mine and she was more persistant in insisting it was there, than I ever would have been. I later found out my sister also sent a package to Bora Bora, hoping it would be a surprise. That it certainly was- the package is probably being enjoyed by some customís agent in Papeete. So for any of you cruisers following in our footsteps, I can not recommend getting anything mailed to French Polynesia, it is a nightmare.
Pago Pago has no marina, yacht facilities, hotels or tourists. It is a rich, grimy area with lots of True Value and Ace hardware stores, Chinese owned and operated grocery stores, clothing stores selling "Local" clothes and synthetic underwear, video rental stores and banks. Only one percent of the businessís take credit cards, a sharp contrast to Polynesia where the smallest Mom and Popís operation may have only sold coconuts and bananas, but still took VISA. The restaurant industry doesnít look like it has faired very well. Two fancy places, overlooking the harbor were boarded up and for sale. They probably didnít take credit cards either.
The Samoans are a race unto themselves. Samoa is supposed to be the birthplace for all of Polynesia. Thousands of years ago the Samoans hopped in their canoes and paddled to the Marquesas, from there, settling into French Polynesia. The American Samoans are the biggest people I have ever seen. Its not just the fleshy parts that are big, their bones would make an orthopedic surgeon sweat just looking at them on X-ray. In fact, when the Samoans are checking in to the airlines in Hawaii, they must get weighed along with their luggage. If there are a lot of Samoans on a flight, not much mail gets put on board- so their size indirectly effects the US Postal service. The men wear lava lavas (wrap around skirts) and baggy Hawaiian type shirts. "The Rock" is very popular here. A lot of the men look just like him, but with slightly fairer skin. Its quite pleasing to the eye seeing a guy with biceps the size of an Italian sports car, wearing a skirt. The missionaries, unfortunately, have heavily influenced the women. They wear very long skirts and long shirts to cover the skirts. Despite the heat and humidity they are more covered up than an Inuit.
There are plenty of homemade buses which zip around town. Most of them look like they were originally Ford Rangers, which have wooden boxes built on to the back. They can pack twelve Samoan men, weighing around four hundred pounds each into the back of a bus. I am quite sure Chevrolet and Ford made no provisions in their specs for such cargo.
Our trip from Suwarro to Pago Pago, was initially quite boisterous. I got sea sick and Stewart decided it was easier to hold his pee in, rather than dealing with the litter box. For quite some time he had been trying to tell me that he was having trouble with his plumbing. The Veterinarian part of me denied any knowledge of trouble, while the irresponsible owner part of me figured his throwing the cat litter around on the floor and occasional shots out of the box and onto the floor, were his way of telling me he was "pissed" for our spending so much time off the boat. When we settled the boat down in Pago Pago, he finally got my attention by urinating on my side of the bed, it was very bloody. I palpated his bladder and sure enough he had FUS, or Feline Urinary syndrome- the one disease I had dreaded him getting. There is a lot of controversy about the actual cause of it in kitty cats. My own feeling, is that it is stress and diet related. Skip on to the next paragraph if you don't care to know about cat plumbing...Cats are true carnivores; as such their bodies are designed to eat only two or three times a day. When we turn them into a grazing animal, letting them snack through out the day, we end up changing their physiology. Their urine becomes more alkaline, which can allow small crystals to form. When a cat, for whatever reason, doesnít pee as often as it should, the crystals end up spending more time in the bladder, get bigger and start irritating the lining of the bladder. It is potentially lethal for a male kitty, because their urethra is long and skinny. It can get plugged with the crystals and blood clots from the irritation. The bladder fills, but canít be emptied, bursts and the cat dies. Certain types of cat food also seem to aggravate the disease. Canned tuna cat food seems to be one culprit. We had just landed in tuna heaven and I gave Stewart a can of Tuna and cheese, which he ate with such gusto that he was making strange piggy sucking sounds. Nine lives canned tuna and cheese is available at the factory for 8 cents a can and he loved it- but his bladder didnít. Stewart wasnít blocked, but was headed down that road. I have a bladder box, containing everything I would need to repair him in the event he had trouble. Phil and I had been both guilty of giving him extra snacks through out the day and Stewart was guilty of choosing not to pee as often as he should.
We rented a car and I thought I could drive out to the Veterinarians office and perhaps buy some more crystal dissolving cat food- and perhaps have a CBC and complete blood chemistry profile run at the same time. I have been taking care of a cat on SV Voyager, who needs an ultrasound, or at least an X-ray. This would be a re-con mission for them too. We drove through an industrial lot and turned through a chain linked fence, driving around ware houses, finally arriving at a small gray house whose paint had seen better days. I walked through the front room, (no door) past two teen- aged boys sitting on an old hospital gurney swinging their feet, into the office of Dr. Talitua Uele. He was equipped with a desk, a chair and a waste basket. That and the gurney, was it. He was employed by the Samoan Agricultural department and had less equipment and drugs than SV Iwalani. He had gone to Veterinary school in Australia and had gotten a graduate degree in New Zealand. He has practiced in the Philippines and has seen diseases I only knew about from books, vesicular stomatitis, rabies, hoof and mouth. He desperately needed drugs for euthanizing and anaesthetizing animals. He also lacks basic equipment. If any US vets are reading this and want to send excess supplies or donations, his address is: Dr. Talitua Uele, Territorial Veterinarian, P.O. Box 1442, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799.
We continued on our driving tour trying to find the shark and turtle point. We had read about this famous spot from some of our earlier voyaging stories. The legend goes, that a boy and a girl fell in love. Their parents objected to their relationship as the families were at war with one another, (your basic Romeo and Juliet kind of theme). The chief, in order to prevent them from being together, turned one into a turtle and one into a shark. The net result was that family members could call them and they would appear. One of the early voyagers, Hakon Melche, actually witnessed the whole thing. First the shark appeared and then the turtle not far away in the surf. Only related family members have the "gift of call". We finally found the area and like everything else we were looking forward to in Pago Pago, were very disappointed. It was quite rough when we were there and since we knew no family members that had the "gift of call", we saw neither the turtle nor the shark, only tons of trash.
We decided to drive around the island as far as the road went. We passed many houses each of which had a round building out front covered with a roof supported by pillars. Every house had one. These are guest houses called fales. When someone pays a visit to a family, everyone sits out on the floor of these houses. Some were very simple wooden platforms with palm frond roofs overhanging the beach, to very elaborate Greecian looking structures.In the rest of the Samoan islands the fales are the actual houses.Despite the prevalence of American TV, Samoans still spend alot of time out of doors. When children got home from school they played games with each other instead of sitting in glued to the TV or computer. At night, we found many groups of men just hanging outside talking with one another, instead of drinking beer and watching football on the TV.
We also passed several gas cylinders suspended from the trees. We later found out, these are used as bells, either for churches, or for calling meetings. Three long rings means someone has died. The further away from downtown Pago Pago we got, the more beautiful the island became. We passed hundreds of beautiful pristine pink sandy beaches, went over several rainforest covered mountains, around very steep corners with plunging dramatic views. Not one hotel or guest house. We had discovered the undiscovered paradise.
In 1988 the U.S. Congress authorized the leasing of land from the native villages on Tutuilla and the two outer islands, to establish Americaís newest National Park. For fifty years we have available to us, the only mixed species paleotropical rainforest and Indo-Pacific coral reef. Since no camping is allowed and there are no hotels, visitors live with Samoan families, which the park service arranges. We took our rental car off into the park land hoping for a glimpse of the rare "Flying foxes"- very large fruit bats."Eagle-eye Phil" spotted one circling overhead. What a tremendous sight! They have a three foot wing span, and look just like the giant bats you see circling a Transylvanian castle in a grade B horror flick. They are very shy and I tried desperately to get a good photo. We finally pulled off the side of the road to wait for one to appear overhead. I just happened to glance out Philís window and saw one not ten feet from the car, suspended in a banana tree. I got out of the car and managed to get this picture with the digital camera- which is the reason why I would like to find a zoom digital camera somewhere. This fellow was so busy licking the pollen on the banana tree, he barely paid any attention to me. Unfortunately a precipitous ledge prevented me from getting closer. These bats are very important for pollinating the tremendous wealth of plants on Tutuilla. So, ironically, we had stopped in American Samoa hoping to partake in provisioning, movies and suburban American life, only to find an island and Park system with the richest habitat and wildlife of anywhere in Polynesia. Kudos to the Congresspeople responsible for obtaining this land, even though it is just rented. Hopefully the next generation will be able to buy it outright in forty or so years.
In Pago Pago harbor we met several cruisers that have been "stuck" there for several years. Their boats had now sprung long roots, which were firmly embedded in the gooey harbor silt. I think the New Zealanders were correct in requiring cruising boats to pass an inspection. It baffles me to see some of the most un-seaworthy boats cruising around the Pacific like it is a garden pool. Also anchored in the harbor was "Sur la Pont", the vessel that radioed "they were having electrical problems and couldn't make it in to Bora Bora";. She was presumed lost with solo skipper washed overboard. This Texan was alive and well and in Pago Pago. He heard all the hurrah on the radio, with several countries searching for him, but never bothered to tell anyone where he was heading, or so the story goes. All of us ignored him and gave him the evil eye, which is a bit unfair, as we never did hear his side of the story.
While we were anchored in Pago Pago, the wind really picked up and for four days we had southeasterly winds of 35 knots. Iwalani remained anchored but the chain was making strange crunching sounds. One lady on her way to Nuie, had a scare with her husband down with malaria and a possible heart attack. She, with her two young children, managed to get him into port, despite the fourteen foot seas and to a hospital with the aid of two other cruising boats as escort. Latest word is he is doing well.
We had received a handout when we arrived telling us about the phone system in Pago Pago. The cheapest option was the telecomunications building for an initial fee of six dollars and then 60 cents a minute. Phil decided to try the pay phones outside the building and much to our surprise and delight, found we could call to the US for .70 cents for ten minutes. None of the long term Pago cruisers had ever tried the pay phones!
On Friday we had to visit all the places in reverse to check out. When we got to immigration, the fellow said we would have to call them on Saturday by phone and have someone come to the dock to stamp our passports, since we werenít actually leaving on Friday. All of a sudden mild mannered Amy, became the she-bitch from hell. "No!" I said, "We were told, when we arrived, to come the day before we wanted to check out. Here we are. One day before. Here are our passports. We are checking out NOW." Whoa! I had never been so, so, "American" in my whole life. (I really had to pee, which I think was the reason for the outburst) The four hundred pound Samoan took one look at me, reached into his drawer and stamped our passports out. He knew a woman with a full bladder when he saw one.
Saturday we invited our friends on Talisman,( the owners of the kitty with the tumor I operated on) over for waffles. Afterwards we pulled the anchor up only to find it was wrapped up in wire. Lack of communication between the guy at the windlass and the girl at the helm, created an even bigger mess. (The guy at the windlass did not tell the girl at the helm about the wire, until it was already wrapped around the propeller from the girl at the helm putting the boat in gear in order to move said boat forward.) Luckily, all of the fishing boats, container ships and Aegis destroyers stayed firmly tied to their docks while ship and crew floundered around in the middle of the harbor freeing Iwalani of her Pago bondage. Finally, off we went, for our overnight, brisk trip to Apia, (western) Samoa, where the bureaucratic nightmare really began.APW
Log for the week of September 16, 2001 Asau Harbor, Savaii (Samoa) by PS
This week will mark an unbelievable point in the history of the United States of America. For the United States, the loss of life can only be compared to a natural disaster. But this wasnít a natural disaster. It was the deliberate act of human beings. What chain of events led up to this brutal event? What kind of childhood would turn out someone capable of such an act? When will man stop turning against his own kind? While we may be thousands of miles away, the shock still strikes us hard. For Amy and I, it reinforces our feelings about how precious life is. On that note, hereís the logÖ
Monday we called port control, in Apia, Samoa and made arrangements to get checked in. We were told to up anchor and tie up to the harbor tug at the ship pier. When we came alongside, the sleepy deckhand took our lines. His first attempt to tie us up was a bit slow. The wind began blowing us off and I told him to just let us go and we would come around again. We made it the second time. Then we waited for the parade of officialdom. The last time we had officials aboard was in Jamaica. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, the health inspector came aboard and cleared us in. Now we could take down our "Q" flag. Next was the Port Captain. He took our paperwork and said we needed to pay the port fee, ($25 US or $75 tala) which covered the use of showers and trash disposal on shore. The smallest US we had was $20, so he said we could pay him later. This was the start of an excellent relationship with the Port Captain. We still had to see customs and immigration. The Port Captain suggested we walk over to the customs office to expedite things. Amy and I crossed over the tug and were immediately faced with the challenge of getting to the shore. About six feet separated the tug from the pier. I pulled on the 3 inch hawser and was able to move the tug, with Iwalani tied alongside, to within about three feet. It never ceases to amaze me how easily thousands of pounds of floating vessels can be moved. A gust of wind started to push us away, so I told Amy this was her chance. She started yelling that it was too far to jump. Amy hates heights. We were about 10 feet above the water and if she hadnít looked down, Iím sure she could have made it. She was also yelling that her long dress prevented her from taking the large step necessary to reach the shore. In Samoa, women must dress very conservatively, long "Mother Hubbard" dresses are the norm even in the hottest weather. The wind continued to widen the gap. In desperation, she pulled her dress off over her head and was about to leap. The sleeping deckhand jumped up out of his chair in the pilothouse and dropped his jaw to the deck! I should say at this point, that Amy did have her one piece swim suit on under her dress, but the site was too much for me, not to mention the deckhand. I told her to please get her dress back on and I would go to shore by myself. I stepped ashore, leaving her on the tug and quickly headed to the customs house, not sure what repercussions would take place over such a display.
Upon reaching the check-in window, I was told that my paperwork had to be completed at the boat. I walked back, with the heat of the day sweating me up like I had been in a downpour. I hadnít been this hot since the Galapagos. About 30 minutes after I returned to Iwalani, the customs officer arrived. We expected to have some trouble, as we had cleared for Fiji, not Samoa. We heard that Renegade had the same problem. Amy and I decided that if Samoa didnít want us to spend our American dollars in their country, we would continue on the Fiji. Our mission to Apia had been completed. We got our mail from Willy Bolton and had given them the regulator they needed.
The officer hemmed and hawed. We kept telling him that we didnít want to cause him any problems and would continue on to Fiji. After five minutes of furrowing his brow and slumping his shoulders, he said he would check with the boss. He got in his truck and drove the 60 seconds back to his office. He soon returned and said we would have to see the comptroller personally. What a rigamarole. You may recall that I had already visited the customs office. We met with the comptroller and were interrogated for another 5 minutes. He finally relented and sent us on our way. The customs people of Apia were far and away the worst officials we have met.
Next stop was the immigrations office, a 70 cent taxi ride away. A LARGE Samoan greeted us. While filling out our paper work, we discovered that he had 13 dogs and four cats. Amy has always said that animal owners are the best people to deal with. She was right. He glided us through the paperwork and told us how to get clearance to Savaii. Amy had heard about a rainforest walkway there, which she wanted to visit. Then it was back to Iwalani and re-anchoring in the harbor.
We went to shore that evening with the Renegade and Chewink crews and had a so-so dinner ashore at the Rainforest. Apia is a true tourist town. Lots of loud bars and chic restaurants. A real contrast to Pago Pago.
Tuesday morning Paul from Renegade came by and told us about the twin towers disaster. We were in total disbelief. Paul has a reputation of yanking peopleís chains, but this time he was serious. We went ashore later in the day and wandered around town shell-shocked. While getting our e-mail at a cyber cafť, we watched the television in horror. Again and again CNN re-played a video of the disaster. It was hard to realize this wasnít a Hollywood movie. Our e-mail included news of a friend that works as a fireman in New York City. He had been off duty at the time, but was called in to help pump water from the harbor to fight the fires. Years ago he worked on the airplane crash off of Fire Island. I have no desire to be a fireman.
Wednesday we were back in town trying to hunt down some leather for the gaff jaws. After walking to almost every possible business we found a leather nail pouch in a hardware store that would work. We also needed to update the web site. Apia has at least 6 Internet cafťs, which is about the only good thing to say about a tourist town. We were having some trouble getting FTP Voyager to work. It seems that someone had installed FTP Voyager then uninstalled it by throwing the program files in the trash instead of using the uninstall program. (Are you reading this Peace and Aloha?) We explained our dilemma to the clerk and were soon directed to their webmasters office. Howard helped us get things updated using one of their own machines. It was a bit of good luck for us as Iím not sure what we would have done. I do feel an obligation to update the log on a regular basis.
On the way back to Iwalani we stopped at the Samoa Museum. It wasnít very impressive from the outside. The entrance sign pointed to some stairs that were in need of a coat of paint. First impressions are not always a good gauge. Once inside, we were greeted by a somewhat old, but well-done display of Samoan history and artifacts. On the way out we signed the guest book and noted the wide variety of counties represented by the visitors. Clearly, Apia Samoa is a world wide tourist destination.
That evening we went to the buffet and show at Aggie Grays with the Willy Bolton Crew. After seeing the dancing at Papeete and eating at the buffet at the Kia Ora Hotel in Rangiroa, I was not impressed with Aggie Grays. In fact, we had learned at the Samoa Museum that the fire dancing we saw being performed was actually developed by the Samoans while doing dance tours in the United States! So much for the "Native Experience".
Thursday we were on shore by 8 am so we could begin the checkout process. Things went smoothly and by 9:30 we were finished. We rented a car with the Willy Bolton crew and got to see some sites outside "Tourist Town", Apia. The car was one of those three and a half person Japanese SUVís. I was designated driver as the Willy Bolton crew (from England) was used to driving on the wrong (left-hand) side of the road. First we went to Robert Louis Stevensonís Estate. This was a must see for me. It was RLS who really summed up ocean passages. "Stupefying of the mind." We had a nice tour of the house then were off to the other side of Samoa. I guess the most interesting thing about the drive was the reaction of the people that saw us. There we were driving around in a brand new shiny car while most of the people we saw had only recently gotten electricity. They either ignored us, waved enthusiastically, flipped us the "bird" or stuck out their tongue in a not so friendly fashion. Even the small children were not above the disdain. Once again Amy and I wished for our camouflage suits that would allow us to blend in.
We spent the evening getting Iwalani ready for the 65-mile passage to Asau Harbor. So as to avoid tempting fate by leaving on a Friday, we took a short nap and hauled up the anchor at 11:50 PM Thursday.
We motored till about 6 AM on Friday, then sailed for the next six hours to the harbor entrance. The GPS moving map program was off by a quarter of a mile, but thanks to the instructions we had gotten from the Apia Port Captain, we knew exactly what to look for. While it always makes me nervous to see the Fathometer go from depths greater then 1,000 feet to 24 feet, the Apia Port Captain reassured us that there was at least 7 meters. True to his word, we never saw less. Until Amy picked out an anchoring spot. Next thing I knew the depth sounder said 7 feet and the bottom was coming up fast. I quickly put Iwalani in reverse and backed out the way we had come in. It seems that the color of the water that worked in Bora Bora was not going to work in Asau! We anchored out in a depth of 40 feet and finally could relax. While running aground in this situation would not likely have led to loosing Iwalani, I am keenly aware that our trip could end at any time by making a small error in judgement.
Saturday morning I awoke to find Amy checking her pulse. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Checking to see if I have a pulse deficit." was her reply. She wasnít feeling very well. In reality she was a bit worked up about getting to the Rainforest Canopy Walk. After making several inquiries on shore the day before, we resigned ourselves to the fact that the best way for us to get there was to ride our bikes. It would be an 18-mile round trip up to a height of at least 1000-ft. She was feeling a bit like an astronaut stuck on a space ship. Out of shape! Not only that, it would be in some of the hottest weather we had seen. I told her to relax and we would take our time. She packed a lunch and I got the bikes ready.
Once ashore we biked the coastal road to the first store. There we stocked up on cold drinks (Coke and Pepsi!) and continued on. It wasnít long before we were walking the bikes up the hill. Every few hundred feet we would stop in the shade of a bush and drink some water. We did this for about two hours, as the road continued to go up. After about 8 miles we were able to coast down hill to the Rainforest Canopy Walk. We did not return to sea level, so our return trip would not be a reverse of our arrival. Following the signs we came to a "fale" with two sleeping men. They rose wearily and explained the varying prices for seeing the different tourist attractions in the area. Not wanting to do any more biking in the heat, we explained that we only wanted to see the Rainforest Canopy Walk. "That will be $10 tala each." he said in a soft mumbling voice, we could barely understand. Paul on Renegade says itís like the natives are talking with a mouth full of lettuce. And quietly at that. $20 tala ($7US) for the two of us and there wasnít a rainforest in site.
We were guided to the base of a giant tree, surrounded by a high fence and barbed wire. He unlocked the gate and Amy and I climbed the steps around the tree like a spiral staircase. When we reached the uppermost platform we were taken aback. The surrounding rain forest had been burned down. Hundreds of silvery gray trunks jutted up into the sky. We sat down and ate our lunch, taking in the vista we had worked so hard to achieve. Our guide came up looking for us. I think he expected us to be back down in short order. We explained to him that we had worked hard to get to this point and wanted to get our monies worth. He left a short time later and returned to his fale and continued his nap.
The tree we were in and a second one connected by a cable walkway were the only two trees not killed in the fire. After crossing the walkway to the second tree, we could see the south coast and a strong trade wind kicking up lots of "White Horses." We were glad to be anchored in a quiet harbor.
We climbed back down and returned to the fale. It was then that we were told about the fire. It started in a neighboring village and only by heroic effort were the two trees saved. Here is my theory. The money that we paid to see this "Rain Forest" goes to the village chief. He then decides how it will be distributed to his villagers. This is the same throughout Samoa. Income from attractions on native land goes directly to the village it happens to be in. I can see a rival village wanting to deprive their neighbors of that income. Remember, these are people that were taking their neighbors heads not so very long ago.
After walking the bikes uphill for about 2 miles, we were treated to a long, coasting, downhill ride. It was the highlight of our day. While the natives we saw while biking didnít "flip us the bird," they werenít exactly friendly. Most would walk by, ignoring us until we said "Hello." Then would respond with a soft grunt. The children painted the picture by almost never saying "Hi" but always saying "by-by" over and over till we were out of site.
Thatís it for this week. PS
Log for the week of Sunday September 23, 2001 Savaii Western Samoa to Savu Savu Fiji, by APW
In the time it took Iwalani to bound from the crest of one wave to the trough of the next, we left yesterday and entered into tomorrow. We had crossed the International Date Line. Now as a kid, I did pretty well in Science classes, with the exception of Earth Science, which always left me a little flummoxed. While driving with Phil one night in Maine several years ago, during a typical Downeast blizzard, Phil tried to explain the relationship between the earth and moon and the resulting tides. We got out of the truck and trudged through the snow around a flag pole, with me acting as the moon, until I finally grasped the concept, several inches of snow later. The International Date Line similarly made sense on paper, but when you actually had to apply it to life, it became a brow-furrowing monster. But for this one brief time in history I actually had an earth science concept figured out better than Phil.
"What time is it back home?" he asked me, while pushing the send button on another email, in a long line of unanswered e-mails to Nathaniel. We had just finished a Sunday breakfast of crepes and whipped cream, once again confined to the boat waiting for a Monday morning check in this time to Fiji; both of us pretending that the Sunday paper was in a neat pile waiting to be read.
"What does the watch say?" We have a wristwatch in the Nav. Station, which is still set on "Maine Time".
"Five Oíclock" he said.
"Well, then itís five Oíclock" I replied.
"Yea, but is that a.m. or p.m., and is it Saturday or Sunday?"
This is where it gets tricky.
" Five in the afternoon on Saturday." I said. When we left Maine, we went West. With each fifteen degrees to the West, we had to set our clocks back an hour, (which we will still continue to do.) Right now we are eight hours "behind" Maine. When it is five in the afternoon in Maine, it is nine in the morning here. When we crossed the International Date Line a very strange thing happened. The time of day stayed the same, since the sun didnít actually vault at an accelerated pace across the heavens, but the actual day changed. All of a sudden we went from Thursday to Saturday, never even seeing the light of day on Friday. It was as if Friday September 21, 2001 never existed for us. I aged a day without even seeing its sun. Now we are ahead of Maine, by sixteen hours. A huge gyp if you ask me. We had sort of forgotten about this when we left Savaii on Monday. The passage to Fiji was 530 miles. Now that we have our speedy new French bottom paint, we actually have gained almost 1.5 knots on Iwalaniís average speed. We got here in four days, which put us in port on Friday. But, wait, there was no Friday, so we actually got here on Saturday, too late to check in and since Sunday no work is ever done, weíve been boat bound.
When we lifted up the anchor in Savaii, I felt no sorrow on leaving. Every other place has left me with a little pang of sadness, as I know we will never be back. The only sorrow I felt was that we had reached a crossroads. Iwalani was now going down the road less traveled. The entire class of 2001 was heading to Tonga and from there to New Zealand. Willy Bolton, Sunbow, Renegade, Peace and Aloha, Talisman and our newest friends on Chewink are all braving the Tasman Sea, while the wimps on Iwalani will go to Australia and fly to New Zealand. They had hoped we would change our minds at the last minute and go South with them, but that would have added a whole extra year to our itinerary and Phil and I are decidedly not "career cruisers."
Still, the radio reports came in- "Tonga is the most beautiful spot in the South Pacific." Juvenile whales were frolicking amongst the boats moored off Niue. People are nice and the anchorages beautiful. Most of the fleet took the Southern route from French Polynesia. If I had to do this again and had a boat that had a draft less than five feet, I probably would too. The Moorings charter business is in Tonga, so maybe someday we will go there and rent a boat, but for now, Iwalani will continue her back door tour of third world countries, every mile and every wave bringing us closer to home.
We wandered the streets trying to find a way to post the log. No such luck. This was not a tourist island at all. While re-conning we were met along the road by several children, all asking us where we were from, this just a few days in the wake of the Twin Towers Disaster. They would laugh, because that is what South Pacific Islanders do in the face of anything horrific. Then still giggling, they would ask us our names. We would ask them theirs too. One girl who experienced the greatest mirth of all, told me her name was "Ootsiefootsie"
"Whosiewhatsie?" I asked her.
"Ootsietootsie?" I asked laughing and slapping my knee, still rather annoyed at her laughing at us Americans, "How do you spell that?"
There was a whole lot of "uís" and "sís", the spelling of it only made it worse.
Later, while Phil and I were napping on the boat, two boys and a girl came out to Iwalani in a wooden dugout canoe, balancing with paddles and a sinking outrigger, trying to protect the two inches of freeboard. They asked where we were from and the rather pretty girl, said without a touch of merriment, she was sorry to hear about the disaster. I thanked her for her genuine concern. Her name was Suwasawaii and her brothers were Daniel and Jeremy. If I had my wits about me, I would have invited them back for some home made ice cream, but they paddled off before I fully woke up. They were the only ones not to laugh or giggle about the people in New York.
The next to arrive in another wooden outrigger, was a young fellow wishing to do business. He told us "Boosh is calling out reserves." This is how we get our news of the world now. For trade goods he had a woven "going to church" kind of hat and a plastic bag containing one pawpaw and ten bananas. Now bananas in the South Pacific are not the usual Star Market ten inch variety; here they are all no more than three inches long. Some are good and some are pretty pasty. His were good.
I told him right off the bat that we had no more tallah, (Samoan Dollars). He wanted eighteen tallah for the fruit, which is equivalent to about $6 US. I told him his fruit price was too high and the hat size was too small. I went down below and brought up some of the trade goods Philís mother and my mother sent to us in Pago. I spread out the T-shirts and reading glasses, while all this time he was standing in the outrigger trying to hang onto the hull of Iwalani. I never realized that outriggers were so tippy. He spent the majority of his time swaying back and forth like a palm tree in the wind, trying to keep from tipping over. Meanwhile he was using one hand to hold onto his pareu or lavalava, or really I should say old bed sheet, as that is what it was, which was wrapped around his waist, where shorts should have been. A big gust of wind came up and he grabbed on to Iwalani with both hands, the bed sheet falling into the canoe. Fortunately for both of us, he had underpants on, but he was still incredibly embarrassed.
"What you need is a pair of shorts" I exclaimed.
I didnít have a spare pair of shorts. Then I remembered a pair of ripped blue jeans I kept forgetting to throw away. These I brought up and gave him as a present, cutting the legs off, much to his approval. In his exuberance, he let go of Iwalani. For several tense moments he stood there swaying in the tippy canoe, much like a windmill, arms frantically paddling the air. When he realized all was lost, he dove into the water and popped back up saying he was glad there were no sharks.
I told him while he was drying off, that he could have one T-shirt in exchange for the pawpaw and ten bananas. He picked out one of my fatherís bottom drawer specials- which said something to the effect that "god forgives those whose time is spent messing about in boats" or something like that. He was quite insulted at my surprise in finding that he could read English. Hey, Iím an ignorant American, I admit it. Total time spent doing this US/Samoan trade deal, was about an hour and a half. We saw him the next day, standing on the shore leaning up against a signpost, looking just like an American in his T-shirt and shorts. "May god bless you!" he yelled out to us. I never did get his name.