Farewell American Samoa

We are close to departing Pago Pago, Am Samoa; bound for Apia, Samoa. We’ve been here 2 months, a little longer than anticipated but so much of our plans changed in the short term. Some due to maintenance and waiting for parts, and then the timing of our son’s wedding happened to coincide with our plans. It all worked out for the best, we were ecstatic to see at least two family members and share their joyous day. 20160916_175202-15433

Our  1 week vacation in Maui was very relaxing!

Just a few highlights of our adventures here in Pago Pago.

This is the fish sensor that was floating on the surface as we sailed from Bora Bora to Suwarrow back in July. The 8×8 foot square 2″ tubular frame has a sensor (the sensor is to my right) that sends a gps signal to the fishing fleet via a solar powered float. img_3288The sensor indicates the shadows or presence of fish huddling under the netting, an indication that large schools of fish are nearby. It took off a 3″ stripe of our bottom paint and stole our lucky fish line and squiggly squid hook. There are hundreds of hazardous counters floating on the ocean surface, mostly deployed by the Asian fishing fleets. This one washed up on the beach in Suwarrow. The solar panel was still intact.  As a result of losing our lucky line our catches dwindled in size and flavor. img_0833The always-so positive fisherman wouldn’t give up even the largest flying fish we’ve had, and I vehemently declined his smelly offer of dinner.   It became one of our shopping expeditions to find more hand line and fishing gear when we arrived in Pago Pago. No easy feat here amongst the giant tuna fleet that has scooped up all the “big fish”  gear leaving only 8 pound line and small hooks on the shelves. Fortunately we were able to buy more fishing gear while in Hawaii.

Speaking of dwindling fish, here is the ruin of our ocean. img_20160923_093121All the large fishing fleets use these one mile nets with “cork”(hard foam) floats to haul in all the fish, squid, anything that can be trapped. Starkist and Samoa Tuna packing companies are the largest employers on the island. Often times the nets break and drift away trapping and killing whales and dolphins, and ensnaring sailboats.img_0840 There is now a shortage of wahoo, restaurants serving fish here have signs posted  “wahoo shortage”.  One day soon, expect to see a sign posted  “Ciguatera fish only, take your chances.”

 

We woke up one morning to see a “bomb” floating towards us. John got into the dinghy to investigate, lassoed and drug it to shore. img_0868Turned out to be a tuna boat fender, heavy rubber with giant rusty swivels about 2 feet in diameter, 5 feet long. Another hazard out on the ocean.

We hiked along the Southwestern ridge of the harbor about 2000′ in elevation.  The old tram is still up there. The massive steel structure slowly rusts away.img_3396It was decommissioned after the 1980 Flag Day accident. The P-3 military airplane came in too low and caught the tram cable. The cable cars still remain on both sides of the harbor. img_3363This is the remains of the other side of the harbor tram and the view that people waited in line for. Beautiful scenery looking across the caldera from higher tram, the picture doesn’t do it justice.img_3395

 

The entertainment of the island, “The Bus”!  The buses are privately owned. For a buck you can ride anywhere but if you get off for one errand and get back on to travel to another destination looking for parts or groceries (no Fred Meyer One Stop Shopping here) you pay another buck. Add all up those “ons and offs” for 2 people, it’s not that cheap anymore. But the buses have their own personalities fashioned after the owners and they are very intriguing. The sound system deafens you, the blown speakers vibrate and beat against the wall of the bus. The small 30″ wide seats shared with large Samoans will cramp you and half of your butt will hang out into the 2 foot isle only to be pinched by the rider’s leg on the next seat over. We haven’t seen a bus that doesn’t have a picture of Jesus or a poster of religious saying. The exterior paint schemes, music and dash decorations represent the owners. The interiors range in beautifully treated wood, plywood flooring, bench seats, some padded seats, plexiglass windows that hang between 2 rails, the bus driver’s windows are home sliding windows and scabbed into the sides.

The music is a little strange. Western music, 70’s hits including BeeGees, Techno-Pop Reggae blend, Hymns, some Beyoncé, and other music sung in Samoan blasting away as we rumble down the highway,  or sung behind your ear by one of the riders.

Just a few of the buses…

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Just some other comical pictures of us hanging out in this place much like home, yet so far from home and family. 1 Pamplemousse for breakfast, lunch and dinner weighed over 4 pounds.

 

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A rainy day poking around the Southwest tram, we waited inside the car until the rain let up.

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The fiddlehead fern was over 7′ tall, the stem is a the size of a small tree limb.

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Hello! How are You?!!

Summer is winding down in the states. We hope you had a wonderful summer,  the Fall Equinox  is around the corner. Our favorite time of year!

We’ve been asked the same question from our families and friends since we’ve been in American Samoa – “What’s Up?”  We’ve had several passage plans written in the sand, completed the chart downloads and sent off the country applications only to be washed away by the ongoing waves. Fiji timing came and went, Tonga destination is still under consideration, waiting to see what the weather and the timing of the cyclone season brings us.

So what else are we doing? Wellll, it’s pretty boring stuff working on the boat. We’ve gone through the entire boat cleaning sails, lines, polishing the stainless steel, digging through lazarettes. Cleaning the mold growing on the cabin interior, drawers, shoes and clothing; the humidity here is 99%, just shy of dripping off the ceiling. Discarded galley items we deemed useless, moldy books, old ratty and new clothes that are too hot to wear, bits of this and that. It’s truly amazing we filled several boxes and hauled it off the boat. The goal is to be able to sleep in our v-berth while in port, the salon bed is pretty cozy for the two of us on a regular basis. We spent 3 days between cleaning the dinghy bottom covered with algae and fouled with nasty green growth, and re-sewing the chewed up dinghy chaps. We scraped and polished it back to new.

The 3 year old 250’ anchor chain nearly corroded through a couple of links from using a stainless steel snubber hook, fortunately John caught that when we moved to the dock. Really bad news – it was in the middle of the chain. John cut out the rusty links and pounded in a joining link, took him about 2 hours in the hot sun on the dock using a ballpeen hammer and piece of steel. We used some bad advice cutting off 50’ of the new chain before we left Portland to reduce the bow weight. Next time we’ll bring a regular hammer too.

We purchased a lot of boat spares and routine maintenance items from home and had those delivered via USPS. And as always, one small routine maintenance turns out to be an add-on to some other issue that needs attention. The electric bilge pump gave out, the raw waterpump couldn’t be fixed, and the new laptop wouldn’t boot, and 3 of the Renogy flexible solar panels stopped working, along with several other typical maintenance items that are necessary to maintain a great sailing boat. A lot of island time, swearing and ranting, head scratching, and a flattened wallet, all is now taken care of.

So on to the good parts. We’ve done a 9 mile hike across the island ridgetop, hiked up to the refreshing waterfall,img_3392

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and had one day of snorkeling and feasting at a famous place called Tisa’s. We enjoyed the traditional Samoan Umu roast during the August Sturgeon full moon.img_3418

First the fire is built above ground, rocks are added, then layers of green banana leaves are laid on top. The meat and fish are wrapped in banana leaves, layers of taro root, pumpkin squash, and bananas are added;  tuna and octopus roasted in husked coconut shells,img_3425 with more layers of leaves and left to steam for several hours. Great food and fun with other cruisers.

John installed a cockpit table, it is wonderful to sit outside and eat at a table or work on the computers. It swivels 360 degrees on a swing arm and has adjustable height.  img_0875We purchased the same Lagun swivel arm and bracket mount that our friends on SV Sababa has. Thanks Tim and Lindsey for the great idea! The table is removable when underway.

Am Sam is a wonderful relaxing place to hang out, and the term “island time” really originated from this place. The family owned buses are on their own schedule, the food comes out when it is finally ready (and cold), even the airport is laid back. People are in no rush to be anywhere in particular.

There are several unpleasant facets to this island. I’m on my soapbox now. Trash is one of the biggest complaints. They just don’t seem to care enough. Styrofoam containers are used on top of serving plates, plastic utensils and cups are used – there isn’t a water shortage for cleaning, they just like the disposable system. The wind blows it all away.

The portion sizes are mind boggling! I asked for a $3.50 sundae, I got nearly a quart of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup, cherries, and whipped cream all overflowing from the container.img_20160909_125951 Of course it was served in a Styrofoam container on a plate layered with waxed paper. We stopped for a “quick” burger lunch the other day. A giant bun, ½ pound of meat, cheese, no lettuce available, large portion of crispy fires, a large scoop of macaroni salad and a coke. I overstuffed myself with 1/3 of the lunch. “Skinny Pelangy” (pelangy means white person) as John has been called by several people did manage to eat his entire meal but he needs to eat. The lady next to us ate her entire meal and shouldn’t have. It’s no wonder these people have the highest obesity rate in the world as they continue to gorge and enlarge; and they’re on our healthcare system! PUT DOWN THAT DAMN FORK! The poor kids are built like little building blocks with bags of chips and soft drinks glued to their sides. Boycott McDonalds, Carl’s Jr, Coke, Pepsi, and any other junk food producers. Tax the hell out of junk food.

If it wasn’t for the humidity, lousy anchorage and bugs, and expensive commute back to the states, we’d consider calling Am Samoa home 4 months out of the year. We enjoy the beautiful island and friendly community, the bus system, hiking, and limited shopping.

The timing of our projects and washed away sailing plans all worked out though. Our son is getting married in Maui this week so we flew in yesterday. It’s a nice vacation sitting here in the rented air conditioned condo with a comfy couch, king bed that doesn’t roll from side to side, 2 bathrooms with lots of  hot water, a regular oven, full size upright refrigerator with ice cubes pouring out, and neighbors who knocked on our door to hand over 3 bags of food including a large bottle of vodka. We’re taking advantage of the fast-fast wifi to update the new computer, complete more downloads of the North Pacific region for our upcoming journey.

Wonder if we’ll make Tonga, we’ll keep you posted. I promise!