Posts Tagged ‘American Samoa’

La Passage’

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Day 1: Finally, we had the gear stored on the boat and were ready to head out. sv Carolina had already left and we followed an hour later. The Sun was out; surprisingly. We upped our main anchor and I cleaned off the mud as well as removed a large plastic piece that had caught on the shank. Had it made it’s way to the anchor horns we would have dragged. Lucky!

As we tooled out of the harbor the breeze remained in our face. I would have loved to set at least one sail but no, for now it was not to be. Steve liked to describe Pago Pago as Hotel California; you can check in but you can’t check out. For many boats that appears to be fitting. Even leaving while it was not raining the breeze wanted to push us back. Winds were predicted out of the SE and we hoped that for once the GRIBs would be spot on giving us a nice beam reach to the Kingdom of Tonga.

We reached the entrance with no issues and began our turn rounding the corner of the island. A small swell was rolling in and as we turned the winds remained in our face. We didn’t see sv Lady Carolina who had just left. They were somewhere over the horizon already.  We have established an ad hoc SSB net  twice daily with sv Hotspur, sv Lady Carolina, and if they leave – sv Elutheria.

Almost 2 hours after upping anchor we were able to raise our sails and begin our journey. We started out with a reefed main and full Yankee Jib.  With those up and a rain shower on the horizon we slowly inched our way south at one point going so slow children on all fours could easily keep up with us. After two rain showers the winds began to fill and Elysium was in her element; a close reach with relatively flat seas moving along at 5-6 kts.  I’m happy, W/ is happy, the boat is happy!  We set in for a two to three day transit.

By the evening I had already checked in with the Pacific Seafarer’s Net and shaken out the reef; we’re doing 6 + kts now on a mild sea, checked in with our ad hoc net and began our night watches.  Not putting the reef back in for the evening  gave us a lot of speed, a LOT of speed all night long. The winds increased to about 15 kts in the evening and we were now on a close reach nearing close hauled (meaning sailing into the wind) which increases the wind speed over the deck to about 20 kts., the max I prefer to have this sail combination up in.  By the am the winds had not abated any so we added one reef to the mainsail. It slowed us down from the mid to high 7s to the low 7 kts but made for a much more comfortable, controlled ride.

Day 2: With the sail reefed, the wind vane steering, the Sun shining, about all there was to do was enjoy the ride. Oh, we still needed to take care of boat stuff  and our own needs. W/ produced a grand breakfast; prepared mostly before we got underway, we ran the generator, etc.  As the day wore on we were hopeful but continued to be disappointed. The winds slowly died back such that we were making 4-5 kts  instead of the 7’s earlier. I had already taken out the reef and while the boat was comfortable making it into Vava’u before dusk turned to night was not looking good. The moon would not be up for a few hours after the Sun set and entering a new harbor in the dark; although we’ve done it before, is not a smart thing to do. Who ever said I was smart would best re think that idea! 🙂

So…. we practiced Heaving To. Jill on Dameon (they just completed their circumnavigation) told me that Westsails prefer to heave to with the main only. So we reefed the main all the way and began the process of setting the boat up. We still could not get the boat to be slower then 0.5 – 1.0 kts  off the island and with the light wind speeds. Even that speed is too fast and may have had something to do with the currents near the island and using a double reefed main as opposed to a storm main. As we practice more we will find out.  Very experienced ocean sailors will stop the boat to rest if the seas are uncomfortable, or to just have a meal with out danger of food attacking from being launched off the plate.

Sunset N Coast of Tonga

Sunset N Coast of Tonga

That evening was an easy one; however we still kept a watch.  I know some boats that lie a hull or heave too for the evening just let the entire crew hit the sack but I am always wary of something going amiss that ought not to and creating a greater danger than had someone been awake to deal with it.  While currents will not run over land they do move over reefs and we like to keep the boat afloat. At first light we began our final approach to Vava’u.

Day 3: We had entered the outer islands and turned the VHF to channel 26 – morning net here. And … what a net; it reminded us of Martinque or Grenada where they do about everything, including run commercials. Most of the establishments in Vava’u say a little something to the cruisers hoping to entice them into trading money for any variety of goods. For us it was TMI and we mostly just listened. But as there is a place for new boats to check in I chimed in and asked about clearance procedures. Go to… fly the Q flag… wait.

Wait, we did; we tied up to the fishing pier and waited for Health, Quarantine, Customs and I had to walk to Immigration. No big deal but about 3 hours later we had completed all the paperwork, I had stopped at the bank to change some $$$ into Ponga $$$’s and paid our fees. There we left the fishing pier to found a mooring off the town as the waters are most of 20+ meters deep here.  Yippie!  We’re here in the Kingdom….of Tonga!

From the Customs Dock Vava'u Tonga

From the Customs Dock Vava'u Tonga

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Thoughts on American Samoa

Monday, July 6th, 2015
Cleaning the Waterline...Again

Cleaning the Waterline...Again

First, because of the weather and anchorage we were not fond of American Samoa (AS). We spent three fair length wind / weather events there which jailed us for the most part on the boat. The anchorage is quite messy. The water is quite dirty, the dinghy docks “sketchy”, and the people although friendly when approached seemed rather dour from afar. And…on top of all that, it rains constantly.

We tried to get a tour of the Starkist Tuna plant and that went nowhere. Sandra ( Cassandra.Satele@StarKist.com ) was pleasant when we (Steve from Carolina Lady) and I went to visit and she passed us off to Mr Lavea   ( Michael.Lavea@StarKist.com ) who, while he emailed a couple of times, never followed up and ignored both Steve’s ; from Lady Carolina, and my emails. We were a group of 9 with 3 middle school / high school aged children who would have benefited from the educational experience.  In the end I even contacted Starkist USA through their website and emailed the General Manager: Sangdong Kwon ( Sangdong.Kwon@Starkist.com ) of Starkist AS who never responded either. I didn’t expect him to respond personally  but not having any response from a secretary or from Michael was quite a disappointment.  This experience makes me wonder what Starkist is hiding and personally I will now avoid purchasing any Starkist products when ever possible. In my life I’ve toured many manufacturing plants from Alcohol to Potatoe Chips and every company has been more than accommodating. Star Kist, for some reason, was not and all we received was a run around wasting our time and theirs. Shame on Starkist!

The AS anchorage was slippery. While we were there 5 boats dragged with every type of anchor. A Rocna dragged twice, a Spade once, a CQR once, a Delta once and one large Navy 200 kg mooring anchor. Because of a switching wind no one deployed a Fortess or Danforth. We were lucky we never dragged but we came close. After hearing Steve’s tales of woe (sv Carolina Lady) we became a little worried about our own anchor and put out a Tandem anchor rig. I have a 60 lb CQR for the main anchor and we backed it up about 50′ behind with a 85 lb Luke fisherman. I figured even if the winds picked up enough to lift the Luke, it would be a heck of a kelt on the all chain rode. We were the third boat there to have a tandem rig deployed and none of the boats with two anchors deployed either as a tandem or a  Bahamian moor ever dragged. One boat on a mooring broke free of the mooring and had to be removed from the shore via a tug (   insert link here).  The middle of the anchorage appears the slipperiest and from all appearances the dragging is not all because of the bottom quality but because of what is on the bottom.

When sv Lady Carolina dragged with the HUGE Navy anchor and he picked it up to re – deploy it he found, wire, plastic, clothing, and an old old bicycle with the anchor trip line all wrapped up.  The tsunami from ’09 appears to have washed every item people leave in their yards  into the harbor and with the water quality as murky as it is; to our knowledge, there has not been any effort to clean it up. I even watched other boats when cleaning their anchors to redeploy them just dropping what caused them to foul back in the water. Shame on them!  When we picked up our anchor, the Luke on our tandem rig had wrapped some cloth around the shank. When we picked up the primary anchor the shank had a good size piece of plastic wrapped around the shackle. Had that plastic made it to the anchor horns we would have been moving across the harbor too! The flotsam has been taken ashore and disposed of properly!

The best anchoring bottom in AS appears to be on the south 1/3 of the anchorage. If one is interested in wi-fi then stay as far east as you can and the Blue-Sky signal will be stronger.  (There is a 30 ‘ bump in that area that has coral and m/v Domino wrapped his chain around a head and had to dive the anchor when they were leaving). We never used the alternative ISP (I think VCX) as another geek cruiser said they lost  / fired their network guy and the system was quite problematic at the time often having a 50% packet loss.  Unless you are sitting on top of the various hotspots for Blue Sky (McDonalds, Sadie’s, DDW, etc.) don’t expect any awesome speed. On the boat I would have burst to 150 mb/s but for the most part I was at 20- 60 mb/s. On Elysium we use a high gain antenna system from Island Time Wifi that allowed us to share the connection to the tablets, phones and computers aboard.

With the Blue – Sky wifi there are some issues to be aware of. First, if you purchase data on a tablet it is only good for 15 days, not 30. There is as of this writing no 30 day data package and to add more data you must take the SIM card to the Blue Sky kiosk or their store and have them add more data. It is not possible to do online. Obviously as time transpires I would assume this will change. Second: if you use the Blue Sky wifi (which is the best deal) the connection is time bound, not data bound. And although you can purchase the time in a day,  a week or one month increments you can easily extend the time by logging out when you are not using the network. We easily had our month card working for 6 weeks and we had a lot of time left when we left. When we left we gave ours  to another cruiser so they could use it. So if you are new to the harbor you might wish to find someone leaving and politely see if they have any Blue Sky wifi cards they won’t be using.

There are two areas to tie your dinghy, one by McDonalds on the eastern – south end of the anchorage and the other by the public ramp on the southwest end. Depending on the winds and the waves in the harbor each has their own good / bad characteristics. I have heard that the dock by McDonalds will sometimes lock the gate later in the evening but we never knew of that occurring while there. The dock on the SW end is used by a couple of local Tuna boats and can become rather messy at times.

There are plenty of Laundries and the closest is by the SW dinghy dock up towards the Chinese groceries – which are quite good for supplying. The Laundry up the hill a bit farther on (it has a Laundry Sign on the second floor of the building) is much quieter and we preferred that one. Dorah who owns the laundry said she would let us use her wifi but after our first contact we never saw her again to get the password. 🙂

There was often a Taco night at the Mexican place on the corner by the park (SW corner dingy dock) but do not count on it happening. While the owner / employee’s are quite nice, about 1/2 the time they had private functions and didn’t reserve any area for the cruisers. Taco’s are a US dollar each ( I enjoyed them but some cruisers complained a wee bit about how their stomachs reacted to them), Beers 3 or 4 bucks.  On Tuesdays a group of us walked around to the Pizza place on the N side of the harbor and for the most part it was a good value. There are NO deals here like in Mexico where you can feed a family of 4 for $5 !   We enjoyed Sadie’s by the Sea’s Goat Island Cafe, which is the old Rain Maker Hotel. It was priced a little more for the tourist but we found the food to be good, the view enjoyable, and overall a  fair value.

Boat supplies are next to non-existent here. Mee Won has the best grouping of small boat supplies but even there you are rolling the dice to find anything specific. At the Tool Shop; on the water front of the harbor, there was 3m  5200, and a good supply of general hardware; after all it is a hardware store. At the True Value across from Carl’s Jr (a typical fast food restaurant) we found chip brushes that were quite reasonable. Steve on s/v Lady Carolina needed some new deep cycle batteries and there were none on the island available for purchase. It seems that for most parts people ship in whatever they need. The Yamaha shop only carried new engines and spark plugs.  There are some boating products at the Purse Seine company and they are willing to bring supplies in for boaters that are more problematic to ship compared to the Post Office. Purse Seine told me that they have a container leave the states every two weeks and I could order and ship through them. Total time to order and receive I don’t know but they are worth looking into. You can find some stuff for yachts there but they mostly supply the Tuna fleet and the boating supplies there are big, Big, BIG!  I did pick up some spare small shackles and some diesel fuel conditioner as well as some oil pads. However; you don’t buy most products individually as we had to buy 100 oil pads!  Shackles and fuel conditioner were sold individually but any line is all by the spool!

Most cruisers stop in AS for the US post office, not the tourist stuff. Shipping parts in is best via free Flat Rate boxes but sometimes you must be persistent in acquiring your package. I said persistent, not aggressive. We had ordered some CHEAP prescription glasses from Zenni Optical (I can’t recommend them as they are CHEAP) and they came from Hong Kong.  I received a tracking number from Hong Kong Post and it never transferred to a US tracking number so I didn’t have one to provide the Post Office. Finally after several attempts to locate the item one of the employees asked exactly what I was after and she looked more thoroughly through the boxes. Another employee had written my name wrong on the package when my name was correct on the shipping label but she did find it and we finally received it.  To make your time there more efficient have the packages gathered at a friends and repacked to ship – USING THE FLAT RATE PRIORITY boxes that are free at any post office and have them  shipped  to AS before you cross to AS.  Any package in Hawaii by Thursday will be in AS on Saturday. Saturday afternoon you can go to the door behind the Post Office and pick up the packages. Of course if you love lines you can wait till the week day and go to the front desk to ask for your packages there! 🙂

The local transportation is quite good and the vans / busses are each unique. Ask the driver if they are going by where you wish to stop and they will make sure you arrive there. Ask them too about returning or you may have a bit of a walk to catch the next bus as they will often go out of their way to drop you at the door.

Cost-U-Less will provide you with return transportation if you spend $300 or more. You must check with the manager; Mr Benson, prior as that service is not always available and while W/ and Carolina received one ride on a Saturday they say the service is only Monday through Friday. It may be that they spent way more then the $300 minimum and it does make the trip easier and more fun with other cruisers. Of course when you combine a couple of cruisers who are preparing for the land of less, jt becomes quite easy to spend a LOT more then $300 and Cost U Less  is much happier taking one trip.  W/ and Carolina would take a bus to KS Mart (another good grocery), purchase what they wanted there, walk to Cost -U-Less and purchase the bulk of their supplies there and then get the gratus  transportation back.

One caveat is make sure you have money / and or make sure the credit card machines are working. While we were there the credit card machines were on vacation for a week. Business’ had to turn away any CC purchases during that time. However some of the ATM’s still worked. We used the ATM exclusively at the Bank of Hawaii. We’re not sure how long that bank will be there as I understand they are wanting to pull out of AS.  Should you be planning on working in AS and want an account you must open it up in Hawaii as the Bank of Hawaii in AS is not opening any new accounts. The only bank remaining will then be the Bank of New Zealand.   There are two ATM’s in the bank of Hawaii  but only one ever worked during our stay. If you stop at the ATM during the day expect a line of between 3 and 18 people and some individuals will use multiple cards to get their cash. While there are ATM’s at the NZD bank, the Carl’s Jr mall, the airport, and the hospital, the one at the Bank of Hawaii had the cash more often than any of the others. Only once while we were were there was it out of cash and the others seemed to be out of cash more than not (reports from locals).

Flower Pot Rock

Flower Pot Rock

We wanted to hike the national park some and unfortunately while there we either had boat errands that needed to be completed during the nice wether or we had inclement weather and didn’t wish to go mudding on the trails. To hike to the top of one of the mountains and have no view was not on any of our lists.

May your stay be more pleasant than ours. As I said, when people ask us where our favorite place is I can not say; but should they ever ask where our least favorite place is I now have an answer.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Well…

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

Things are happening here, but the events are slow as walking a milkfish pond netting that tasty meal.

Fight the Wind Stitching the Main

Fight the Wind Stitching the Main

We’ve sewn up the mainsail and it now is 100%. The drifter/reacher is yet to do. For part of the sewing event W/ kept the main sail from flogging me to death while the wind blew. Due to excessive wind that days job was cut sort. The following day during a lull in the wind I finished the stitching using a Herringbone stitch. The herringbone is mostly for embroidery but I had read how effective it was in repairing stitching on sails and I really liked it.  The chafe was in a place that running the sail though our Sailrite machine would have been a lot of work. First pulling the sail off, then setting up the machine and finally folding the sail to run the 8 3″ stitches that I needed. After all that returning the sail to service. Thus I hand stitched it never needing to remove or reinstall the sail.  We’ll see how well the stitch holds on our next leg but I don’t foresee any problems.

We actually did a wee bit o’ tourist stuff.  Tehani – Li came into Samoa and with Carol and Phil we went to one of the premier restaurants; Tisa’s Barefoot Bar, for a delightful and not cheap Samoan feast.  We arrived early on the local bus saving a few bucks with transportation and spending more than what we saved on drinks. Oh well; penny wise and pound foolish often seems to be the American way.

Happy Masticator

Happy Masticator

We sat down to a meal with Banana leaves as plates and watched as they uncovered the above ground pit. Thanks to all our time in Penhryn eating with my fingers now was not a problem. The owner explained to us how they prepare and cook the food. Depending on the amount of food and what is being cooked, from start to finish

Uncovering the food.

Uncovering the food.

takes about two days and for most of Samoans this is a Sunday family / community  event.  There is no pit and all of the cooking is done above ground.  They build a fire heating hot rocks, then layer the rocks with food and more rocks building up the mound. Finally they cover the entire mound with various leave trapping in all the moisture. No moisture must be seen to escape. The owner informed us several times that no matter what event happens on the island, tsunami, hurricane, fires, etc. they will always have food and be well fed. Westerners like to call this subsistence living but I think the better word is sustainable. She actually said she believes the west (that is our country)  to be in more danger of food shortages than the Samoans are. Any day Samoans can go pick what they need from the island, swim and gather from the sea, and they will have plenty. And we did have plenty; from Octopus, prawns, lamb, pork, turkey, breadfruit, squash, and topped off with Kava. I didn’t have any kava not wishing to apply a neuro toxin to my mouth. Yeah, I missed out but there will be other chances.

Saturday we picked up some goodies at the Post Office.  The correct plumbing supplies arrived from McMaster-Carr and our Alternator arrived from Great Water – finally. I had to email Great-Water a couple of times but finally when I used the website to contact them they responded immediately. I was informed that it appears the first alternator that was shipped has gone missing and they would send another. Ok, I was a little concerned and said the alternator needed to be in Hawaii by Friday to be on the plane here Sat.  I never thought it would go so smoothly and yet having contacted them Sunday, received an email Monday, replied Monday that yes I want the alternator and what needed to happen to get it here promptly. Finally all went well. When we were at the post so was our alternator.  Now that project can begin.

Rainmaker doing it's Job

Rainmaker doing it's Job

Back at the boat the weather was beginning to deteriorate. In our almost 7 years of cruising this has been continuously the worst weather we’ve had. We’ve  now  been in American Samoa a little over 6 weeks we’ve had less than 10 nice days. Often in those 10 days there have even been periods of intense rain.  As we returned to the boat we barely beat another rain shower and from then on the winds started to increase up to gale force. This being in the harbor. In the gusts the boat would heel over 5º.  And so we mostly sat on the boat and entertained ourselves. W/ invited Mary (from sv Hot Spur) over for Scrabble – Mary scored a 150 pt word – you know who won 🙂 . I played chess online with FICS, we did puzzles on the iPad, played FreeCell, and read on the Kindles.  Two days later the weather was abating and I was able to again do work on our engine issue.

Temperature Sensor Shorts on Plumbing

Temperature Sensor Shorts on Plumbing

In Tahiti I had made a change to our cooling system when we had to replace our thermostat. I had raised the plumbing so the fresh water cooling tube could not short out the temp  sensor on the engine.  Now I don’t know if this issue is effecting the clicking I hear when the water pump is running but I did want to return the plumbing to it’s normal position. To complete that project I needed to pull the sensor, put the elbow in place and put it back together. As I cruise and do a greater amount of engine work myself I find I respect mechanics more and more. For the most part there is never an easy time working on the

New Sensor Elbow

New Sensor Elbow

engine. Here I thought I  would unscrew the fitting, screw in the elbow and then add the sensor.  To accomplish this simple task, to screw in the elbow I discovered that one of the marinized brackets was in the way eliminating a complete rotation of the elbow. I had to remove that bracket and that entailed removing two other brackets, one holding the transmission, oil cooler, the other controls the cable for the shifter.  Almost 3 hours later I was finished with all items restored to their original position.  I hope, I hope, I hope …. this solves the riddle.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Sideways

Saturday, May 30th, 2015
Pago Pago, American Samoa - Rain etc...

Pago Pago, American Samoa - Rain etc...

We have the illusion of making progress. We’ve received a large amount of our supplies / spares and have even picked up some things that do not work or we will never use. And….the rain is NOT our friend. We are not farmers.

I received the impellers the other day and installed one on our Yamaha 15. It started to rain. Stopped, finished a bit later, then was installing the lower unit and it started to rain… again.  Stopped. Finished a bit later.  Now we need some gear oil. If I can, I like to stay with the products

Changing a Yamaha Impeller

Changing a Yamaha Impeller

of the manufacturers although I know they are NOT always the best, I’m betting in general they may be better than average. During a respite in the rain we walk to the Yamaha dealer.

Now for me this is funny sad.  We walked to the Yamaha dealer and I asked for some Gear Oil for my lower unit.  Every Yamaha outboard has need of gear oil for their motors. Every motor.  Guess what? They don’t have any. As this is the second time I’ve tried to pick up a Yamaha part here in American Samoa I decided to ask what parts they do have. The only spares they have for any of the motors are …. get this…. spark plugs!  I couldn’t believe it. The dealer (if you can call them that) is listed on the Yamaha international web site. Hell, given the inventory they have I could be a dealer!  Forget it. I have enough aggravation as it is.

Since we have internet here data independent on the wifi in the harbor I’ve decided to update many of the apps we use on the iPad. With BlueSky wifi the monthly cost is $50. Not great but then I don’t have to worry about data and I can leave the apps updating while I”m off the boat. Well, I updated one of my Navigation apps; SeaIQ, and guess what. It crashes when I try to open it.  I thought about deleting SeaIQ  and reinstalling it but if I do, then I lose all the data with it. I am not fond of losing my data yet.  I emailed the company and they informed me that the update ONLY works on iOS 8.  Q#$T#$T them! Why didn’t they say that apps information where I read about what changes have been made.  They hinted that Apple is the one to blame. Isn’t  that the good ol’ American way…. Pass the Buck. I tried some downloads at the fast place I could find, still using BlueSky; Mickey D’s.  Day one I was downloading at 150 kps. Not great but I could tolerate that. The following day I tried it and I was averaging 50 kps. About the speed of an old fashion dial up. Pitiful!

So back to the boat. I changed my antenna position and had now the same speed as at Mickey D’s.  But from there it all went down hill. Sunday is the pits. I’m hoping the network gets reset for Monday and I can get the iOS updated. Else I’ll have to call AppleCare and whine to them. Doubt there I’ll get much sympathy. Apple or SeaIQ caused this frustration but where can one go? Microsoft! Ha. Linux, talk about limiting what I can do on the boat.  So right now I’m screwed and just waiting to get lucky and have a time when BlueSky has some thru put and I can get the iOS updated. At least I have some backup Nav programs to get us to Fiji where we hear the internet is not 3rd world quality.

While getting fuel the other day; we put on 135 gallons by jery jugging them from shore, I discovered that one of the gate vales Westsail had installed is locked up. DAMN!  There are 3 fuel tanks each with their own valve. Fortunately I can get to it; unfortunately it will be a wee bit O work to undo the old valve and put a new one on. I’m going to change out the gate for a 90 degree on / off valve.  Gates are a PITA on boats but I never expected where it is installed here to have an issue.  Even after filling the tank with fuel and blowing PB blaster at the valve it will not open or close. Just better to replace it.

I go to the Post Office to pick up our weekly set of packages. Only one arrived; from McMaster-Carr. Great, I can work more on the coolant system on the Perkins!  But when I get the parts I see that they are the wrong size. No; McMaster-Carr didn’t mess up. I did. I HATE PIPE FITTINGS!  The thread is 3/4″ and I actually thought I had ordered the correct size. But NOOOOOO!  Pipe fittings are sized differently so while I ordered 3/4″ pipe the size is larger than 3/4″. I needed to order 1/2″ pipe to have threads of 3/4″. At least I received the supplies in less than 2 weeks so now I will reorder and then add the ball valve to the order so I can fix the fuel value too.  Sideways.

While looking over things in the engine room I saw a small coolant leak in the top of the generator. No problem. I will just tighten the bolt a bit. W/ gets me a 10 mm wrench and I go to tighten it. Nothing. Obviously the bolt is bottoming out. Now I have another job, not minutes but a couple of hours. I’ll pull the bolt, make a smallish washer gasket add a flat washer and some gasket caulk and put it back together. It’s not really the best case scenerio, but if it seals the drip leak I’ll be happy. We plan on replacing the engine when in Fifi anyway.

The rain just plain makes me lazy, mistakes make me crazy, and here I am…still in the sweaty (rainy) arm pit, (anchorage), of American Samoa.  When I whined a bit on FB one person commented that a lot of people would give up their MacMansion, cars, and even kids to be here. Well….. if that’s what you want…. go for it.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Quack Quack

Friday, May 15th, 2015

It I walk like a duck, talk like a duck, swim like a duck….I’m duck. No one every said “Wet like a Duck” ! My good friend; I refer to as my lil’ bro, who spent time here told us we were lucky to have spent the season in Penrhyn -not Samoa. He said it has been raining in Samoa off and more on all season. And raining  it still is.

Early Evening Rain

Early Evening Rain

I posted a pic on Facebook and commented on how I think it rains here more then in Seattle. One of  my former students who now spends a good part of his life in Seattle said it hadn’t rained in Seattle for the last 30 days!  I know where the rain has moved to. HERE!

We’ve been here for 3 weeks. We’ve picked up the boxes Mike and Jenny sent us with all our necessary parts and I’ve even installed the ones that required immediate attention. We’ve stored most of the rest.

We’ve been to the shopping district and while much is what we had hopped for here much is not. I expected this to be like Hawaii 30 years ago. Now truth be told I never was in Hawaii 30 years ago but I still expected this would be an improvement over French Polynesia. We’ll; for the most part, I was wrong.

Groceries are equal to much of FP. Hardware is equal to Papettee, Boat supplies are fewer then anywhere in the Marqueses. Unless of course you are a commercial fishing boat. You can buy HUGE blocks ( a big as W/ ) , line by the spool 600′ minimum, and various other sundry supplies by the bucket full. But stuff for the sailing yacht….hmmm; not so much.

For us there is one very important improvement here; shipping. As this is an American territory the United States Post Office is here and we have been using their services to the max. We can easily purchase goods from ebay, Amazon, and our boat supply places. For the most part we had purchased items we needed NOW and that’s what M/J sent. Currently we are looking at some changes our passage politely informed us we need to make as well as trying to anticipate the stuff that the boat will require in the next season or two.  Always tough to do.

A rare clear few hours; Pago Pago

A rare clear few hours; Pago Pago

Timing it right to head to the post office is fun. Just the other day the weather was looking settled…. well almost. The Sun was in and out and the rain that the mountain creates  was for the most part a light spritzing. I talked W/ into doing some errands in town and the dinghy dock is all of 10 minutes away. I have our 2hp on the dinghy as our 15 is waiting for (you guessed it) parts – specifically spare impellers. (I can’t believe I never picked them up in Tahiti where it was easy).  We left in the dinghy with just what looked like a mist coming over Rain Maker Mountain.  And about half way we both knew I had screwed up; again.

With the 2 hp on the dinghy there is no outrunning the rain. Steve (a fellow cruiser) implies that it will not outrun him swimming – I’ll take that bet 🙂 . Heading back to the boat we would have gotten soaked and continuing on we were going to get soaked. W/s decision. Lets just go; we can’t get any wetter. And we did. Ashore we hid in the McDonald’s till the rain eased. In the restroom I wrung my shirt out and hoped it would dry further as we walked to our destination. Finally with the tropical downpour reduced to a mist we set out.

While walking W/ noticed a new flying object. Bats!  Huge Bats!  We had not ever seen bats out flying in daytime, not ever but here they were flying all over. Estimating maybe 25 or so about the size of large kittens.  I asked a local later about them and he said they are fruit bats and they are reputed to taste good but currently if you hunt them you will spend an inordinate time in jail as they are a protected species. Fortunately being fruit bats they had no interest in W/ and I but they did on several occasions come close enough to recognize them.

Completing our errands we returned to the boat there walking still through a light mist / drizzle and having walked about 5 km we were marginally comfortable. Returning to the boat was not as adventurous as our trip ashore had been but we were still in need of showers and some more body warmth.

W/ heated water as our solar showers were still cool; the Sun here has mastered the art of Hide and Seek with hiding being the operant word. We filled up the showers, cleaned up as best we could and settled in for the evening.  I’ve still a few more orders to complete  and W/ likes looking through our video library for something good to watch.  Unfortunately she’s been finding mostly B / C movies. As sleep approaches I bid you fair winds.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ouch!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

We had ordered heaps of stuff while in Penrhyn. As out of the way as the atoll is they have good; relative to most of the pacific islands, internet.  So the last 6 weeks there we had ordered spares as well as some new things we needed, had them sent to one of our shore support team members and she consolidated them to send on to American Samoa when we left.

USPS Priority Only

USPS Priority Only

About a week before we left we asked her to go ahead and send them suggesting the USPS Flat Rate boxes and Priority Mail.  She wasn’t able to send with the Flat Rate boxes but luckily  she sent with priority mail  (we hear horror stories of not sending supplies Priority Mail) and we didn’t figure that would be too problematic-or costly. It wasn’t problematic because she had packed well but turned out to be more expensive.

Any future cruisers visiting AS be sure to have anyone in the states shipping you supplies to use the FLAT RATE boxes.  I include  pictures of two almost identical sized packages. The one is

Priority vs Flat Rate Priority USPS

Priority vs Flat Rate Priority USPS

sent priority mail; insured and it’s cost is $81 where as the FLAT RATE is about $18 with the same amount of insurance.  Lesson Learned. If at all possible; ship in a USPS FLAT RATE box to American Samoa!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Change of Plans

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

I’ve always admired Eric and Susan Hiscock (I believe it was them) who, when sailing in the Pacific once, they were going to a specific atoll. About 5 days away the winds changed and they were needing to work hard to make their destination. They changed course and went to another slice of paradise that was much more favorable for the wind and sea conditions.

I have always been goal driven. So much so that if I choose something and that’s where I want to go, I will go there come hell or high water.  Cruising has for the vast majority of my life been the goal.  Move to Florida, get a boat, sail the Caribbean etc.  If something got in the way I figured a way through it. I never looked for a way around the problem.

Well, finally I / we have broken through my glass highway.  We said when we left Bora Bora we were heading to Pago Pago (American Samoa).  While fixing things on the boat in Maupiti and with the weather crappy for a few days and with an email from two cruising friends in Pago Pago we began to  look elsewhere for where to hang our hat during the cyclone season.

With the cyclone season upon us we were getting a little concerned. Maybe more than a little concerned.  Elysium is our home and although we lived 30 some years in Florida where hurricanes oft were our frequent visitors; here in the Pacific we don’t have the same constraints nor the same methods of protection for our boat.  In Florida we knew where to go, what to do in event of a storm. We knew how to prepare the boat and we had a place to store stuff that was removed. We were in a comparatively safe harbor 3 nautical miles from the Gulf of Mexico entrance.  But here?

We received an email from two cruising friends; Mark on sv Mystic and Meri on sv Hotspurs. Pago Pago had just had a tropical depression move close to it.  Now, remember a depression is two steps below a cyclone. The order is: depression, tropical storm, cyclone and the worst is a category 5 cyclone. Cyclones and Hurricanes are synonomous..  Mark had planned on working in Samoa and spending the cyclone season there as well. He said that with the weather that had just passed his boat dragged it’s anchor across the entire harbor.

We had known that the harbor has a soft bottom and is not good for anchoring. We had planned on paying to have a mooring installed or purchasing / renting one there. Hotspurs has a mooring they were able to secure and they said there was no issue for them during the squalls that rolled through. But too we like to research what others have experienced as well. During our stay in French Polynesia we had written to other friends that had been there this season and while staying for any length of time in Samoa was a mixed bag; some loved it and others said stop only for supplies and move on …quickly, we figured that was just the way people are anyway. Some love Disney, some hate it.  But what started to scare us a little wasn’t our boat and the anchoring / mooring situation but others.

We had read that if a Tropical Storm (TS) or worse is predicted then all the nearby fishing fleet will also come to Pago Pago to hide from the worst of the storm. So while we might be secure we would be surrounded by 100-200′ steel fishing vessels anchored in a soft squishy bottom. And while I understand too that no one, commercial or otherwise wants to have an issue with their boat during a storm I also know that if just one of those boats had an issue and dragged through the fleet, Elysium would be as bug brushed by a steel flyswatter. We began to think that we didn’t want to cast quite so much of our fate to lady luck. We began to look elsewhere.

Our shore support team had suggested Kiribati (pronounce Kiribas) as a good place and so we looked N. The cyclone box begins at 10 degrees S latitude and we began researching.  The farther W we went would mean the more likely we would skip some of the islands we wished to visit and with the shipping of American goods to Pago Pago being the easiest in the Pacific we wanted to ensure we stopped there. While we are still well supplied in the spares department there is always something we need.  It was in our search N we came across Penhryn or as the locals refer to it Tongareva.

The only downside we can see to Penhryn is that there are no boat services there, no stores there, no restaurants there; but there are some people there and it is 99% safe from cyclones. They’ve only had one nearby in 30 years. Hell, if we have enough warning we can make the run from Penhryn to Kiritabati which is in the Northern Hemisphere less than a week away.

And with our new knowledge and our new sense of fear (caution)  we changed plans. We’ll head N to Penhryn and seek shelter there for 5-6 months. We’ll complete the boat projects we can, read a lot, met and share stories with the residents on the island (they speak English- Yeah), and maybe volunteer for things the community is working on. It will be a safe place with what we hear are friendly people. What more can we ask for?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long