Day 327, Year 1: Moving On to the “Other” Samoa

Day 327, Year 1: Moving On to the “Other” Samoa
Date: Saturday, September 9, 2006
Weather: Rain During the Night; Beautiful, Sunny Day
Location: Overnight Passage to Upolu Island, Samoa

It is about a quarter to eight in the evening and we are currently sailing along the south coast of Tutuila Island, American Samoa, and making our overnight passage to Upolu Island, Independent Samoa. It is interesting to see the island from out here. It is all lit up and we became so familiar with the island that we can recognize the villages from here. We leave behind an island of stunning physical beauty. It has its problems trying to be both American and Samoan, and probably the one most damaging thing that has happened to the culture in American Samoa is the existence of US welfare. WIC, Food Stamps, Unemployment, and general Welfare have changed the way people live. There’s no way to go back to the way things were, so I hope that the wonderful people of American Samoa can find a way to mesh the old and new and come up with something better than both.

We are so glad that we were able to spend an entire month here. This gave Mark a chance to relive his experiences here in the late 1960’s, and it gave us a chance to make lasting friendships. Evelyn Bowles Weilenman was so gracious and gave us a wonderful introduction to the island. We know we will keep in touch with her and through her we will keep in touch with American Samoa. Micah and Faaiuga van der Ryn and their delightful children welcomed us into their home and gave us a glimpse of modern day Samoan life. Micah gave us a wonderful video about Samoa that he produced as well as the video done when Mark was working in Samoa. Both of these videos document the Samoan culture and we feel so privileged to be leaving with them. Thank you, Micah. Reconnecting with Fa’fatai last night was the perfect ending to our time in American Samoa. She was able to help Mark fill in the memory gaps and it was great fun to hear them talking about the good old 1960’s in American Samoa. I somehow feel that we will return here to visit again, so I’m not saying a final farewell.

Today was another busy, busy time. There was more grocery shopping to do, more water to get to fill our tanks, a final check at the post office for a package we have been expecting (which did not arrive), laundry to do, saying good-bye to friends in the anchorage, and then getting the boat ready to go. We did a final e-mail check using that wonderful (but not always reliable) wireless internet connection and had a wonderful Skype conversation with our daughter Heather and her husband Jed. Heather had her webcam on and I got to see Heather and Jed and Heather’s pregnant little belly for the first time. That was definitely the highlight of my day. To this point, the day had been busy but it had been productive. But then when we tried to pull up the anchor, our first troubles of the day began. A rope from a nearby mooring caught around our prop and threatened to keep us in Pago Pago Harbor yet another day. Mark had to jump in the water and dive down again and again to get the line from around our prop. Finally, just before sunset we sailed away. Life aboard this sailing vessel is never dull!

Day 326, Year 1: A Visit to Sliding Rock Resort

Day 326, Year 1: A Visit to Sliding Rock Resort
Date: Friday, September 8, 2006
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day, Again With No Rain
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

On the west end of this island there is a rock just off shore known as Sliding Rock. It looks like you could sit on top and slide right down, but if you did (and some have) you might die because the undertow is very strong and it sucks you under the rock. In this same area, the surf provides challenges for the best of surfers. If they are not good, they are likely to wipe out on Sliding Rock or one of the many rocks in the area. We understand that professional surfers from around the world come here to test their abilities. And Mark’s friend, Fa’fatai Leach, owns Sliding Rock Resort just above the rock. We were there for dinner tonight and between the whales, the surfers, and the tremendous rollers, we had quite a show from the balcony while eating dinner.

Marvin Leach came here in the mid-60’s as a teacher. He ended up marrying one of his students, Fa’fatai, in 1968. Mark and Marvin lived in the same little government housing complex, so when Marvin and Fa’fatai were married, Marvin asked Mark to be part of the wedding party. A fellow teacher with Marvin, Tauese Sunia, was the best man, and he eventually became governor here. Too bad Mark didn’t have the same luck. That’s the background for today’s story, and now the story.

After an unbelievably busy, busy day, Mark and I took the bus out to Leone to have dinner with Fa’fatai. Marvin is in the US, so we didn’t get to see him. And it wasn’t until we arrived today that we realized that the place we were going to visit was Sliding Rock Resort. We have been there twice before trying to catch up with Fa’fatai, but somehow we missed the fact that her home is also a bed and breakfast. Signs are not big in the South Pacific, so you can often be in the middle of a very important area and have no idea. Anyway, we arrived and walked up the hill to the house that sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We sat on the front deck and truly marveled at the view. Fa’fatai took us for a drive to see the church where she was married, the malae where the wedding reception took place at her home right on the ocean, and then we revisited the housing complex where Mark and Fa’fatai lived. It was another great walk down memory lane for Mark. We came back to Fa’fatai’s and had a wonderful dinner and great conversation. Fa’fatai drove us back to the harbor area on her way to play Friday night Bingo, a serious “sport” here. We made one stop on the way at the home of our friend Evelyn to say good-bye and to meet her friend Leileo who just arrived back on island. Evelyn’s brother, Wyatt, and his wife, Meleke, were there. This is a small island and Meleke happens to be Fa’fatai’s first cousin. And that brings me to my next little story.

Disclaimer: I’m from West Virginia and proud of it, so I just have to share this.

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia” . . . I didn’t expect to hear that song here, but we were riding on an aiga bus and the song was playing. First it played in English and then in Samoan! As soon as I got off the bus, I went into a store that sells CD’s and sure enough the teenage girl was familiar with the song. She didn’t have the CD, but she did know the song and could sing the words in English. It really is a small world. Many times while we have been here, Mark and I have commented on the cultural similarities between the Samoan people and the mountaineers of West Virginia-love of family, love of food, love of football, love of beer, and everyone is related in one way or another!

060908 Day 326 American Samoa–Visit to Sliding Rock

Day 325, Year 1: There’s A Moon Out Tonight . . .

Day 325, Year 1: There’s A Moon Out Tonight . . .
Date: Thursday, September 7, 2006
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day, Again With No Rain
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

The weather has really turned around and we are having wonderful sunny days again. Today we toured the island on an aiga bus that Penny on Long Tall Sally contracted with to take us on the tour. It was a tiny bus, but ten of us climbed in and had a great day. The driver was Junior. He is twenty-eight and has lived the last eleven years in Seattle, Washington. He moved there right after high school and just came back to American Samoa. Mark and I had already seen the island, but it was great to see it all again. It is really is a beautiful island from mountain top to seaside. And tonight it is even more beautiful under a full moon. The moon rose right behind Rainmaker Mountain which made for a very dramatic entry.

Mark made a couple of people connections today. We stopped for lunch near the TV studio where he worked when he lived here. He walked over to take a picture of the outside of the building and to say hello to the receptionist that he met a couple of weeks ago. When he went inside, she was not at her desk, so he walked into the engineering area to see how it had changed. When he did, a Samoan man introduced himself and said that he had worked with Mark as his apprentice when he was here. Mark was so glad to see him again. He had not been able to remember his name, but once he saw him today, he knew he was the person. Later in the day, we were driving by the home of Marvin Leach and his wife Fa’afatai. We visited there when we first arrived, but Marvin was off island and Fa’afatai was not home. Today when we stopped, Fa’afatai was home and she invited us to dinner tomorrow night. Marvin is back in the US with health problems, but since Fa’afatai lived next door to Mark when he was here, I know they will have many memories to talk about. Mark was in Marvin and Fa’afatai’s wedding. The best man at that wedding eventually became governor here. Mark has pictures from the wedding and we are going to try to find a place to scan them in so he can give Fa’afatai copies tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow promises to be a very busy day. We have a “to do” list that is a page long. Hopefully we can get everything done and we ready to depart mid-afternoon on Saturday. Amidst all of the “getting ready” for passage jobs on Saturday, we also hope to visit with Evelyn one more time. It will be amazing if we can really pull out of here late Saturday afternoon, but we do need to do this, ready or not.

060907 Day 325 American Samoa–Bus Tour East and West

Day 324, Year 1: Happy Third Anniversary to Our First Born

Day 324, Year 1: Happy Third Anniversary to Our First Born
Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day with No Rain
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

Just three short years ago our daughter Heather was married to Jed Goldstone. Their wedding day was magical and each year on this day we celebrate with them across the miles. Happy anniversary to you, Heather and Jed. We love you both so much and are so thankful that we have been blessed with such wonderful children.

Today was a rental car day, and we, along with Penny and Greg from Long Tall Sally, started our combination shopping/sightseeing day at the Post Office. Not a very exciting start, especially when we realized that the rental car had a tire that was almost flat. I stayed at the PO to check on the arrival of a package that did not arrive, while Mark, Penny, and Greg went back to get a different rental car. Once we got that settled, we continued with our shopping mission. We stopped at a store called F.L.Y. to buy whole wheat flour. We then went on to the airport to check out the shops there for local souvenirs, but we struck out on that one. The next stop was Cost-U-Less which is like our Sam’s Club back home. We bought enough to totally fill the back of the car, had lunch at a restaurant close-by, and then did some exploring of the south shore of the island where the black volcanic rock formations cause blow holes. We did get a tour of the star mound in Tafuna, but it was not nearly as interesting as the maraes in French Polynesia. Samoans evidently built these rock mounds primarily to catch pigeons as a sport. As our guide pointed out, we build huge stadiums these days to watch people run around with a pigskin, so we shouldn’t think it so strange that people would build these huge rock formations just for sport. I guess he is right.

We brought Penny and Greg and all of the groceries back to the anchorage before going to dinner. On the way to the harbor, we stopped to take a picture of our “favorite” road sign here in Samoa. Adjacent to each high school, the following is printed on huge signs. The words in upper-case are printed in bright red. What a happy message!

at an early age may result in UNFULFILLED
dreams, INCURABLE diseases and a BABY
that wakes you up at 2 am EVERY morning.

We ended our day today in the home of Micah and Faaiuga van der Ryn. They, too, have three wonderful children. I have some children’s books onboard and took a few to Jacob, Joshua, and Patricia. Patricia is not quite two years old and wasn’t all that enthralled with books about fish and turtles, but Jacob and Joshua were quite interested. I took one book about how to draw bugs and Jacob spent the entire evening doing quite a credible job of drawing every bug in the book. Faaiuga had prepared some traditional foods for dinner with my favorite being the leaves of a type of hibiscus tree cooked with coconut cream and onions. She also had a fantastic lettuce salad and a homemade pizza. My favorite was the vegetarian pizza with all sorts of veggies and pineapple. It was delicious.

We are still trying to work out the details of getting Micah to sail with us to Apia. He has to be added to our crew list and then have a way of getting off the crew list once we are in a different country. Apia is Samoa, but not American Samoa, and we think he has to purchase his plane ticket home before we leave here in order to legally enter the country there. Hopefully we’ll figure this out and he will be able to sail with us on Saturday. At least at this point, we have set Saturday as our departure day.

060906 Day 324 American Samoa–Tafuna Area and Community College

Day 323, Year 1: Sun at Last

Day 323, Year 1: Sun at Last
Date: Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Weather: Rain Overnight; Mostly Sunny Today (a downpour just after sunset)
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

Well, the Convergence Zone didn’t move north, but it did move. It headed south and everyone on this island is thankful. We’ve seen enough rain for quite so time, so let’s just hope that CZ doesn’t decide to head back north anytime soon.

I put what will be the last coat of varnish on the Dorade boxes today. I had hoped to get 15 coats on, but with the rain and humidity, drying was sometimes slower than expected, so I’m just going to be happy with 12 coats for now. They look beautiful and maybe they will get a few more coats once we reach New Zealand.

This afternoon we took an aiga bus to a Transpac store in Nu’uli. We have been trying to find this place since just after we arrived as they sell the only really good map of the Samoan Islands. Better late than never. We now have the map and it will be very useful in independent Samoa. On our way back, we got off the bus and walked the last half mile. This was the first time I have actually walked in the village of Fagatoga and it was wonderful. We got to take some in town pictures and just enjoy the walk. My ankle is terribly swollen and doesn’t feel great when I am walking, but I am so grateful to be able to finally be a walker again that I don’t care how slow the walk or how much the pain. I know it will get better with increased use.

Tomorrow we are renting a car to make reprovisioning easier. We have invited Penny and Greg from Long Tall Sally to join us for the morning and we hope to be able to visit the star mound we missed last week, plus visit a few other sites that we have missed. On Thursday, all of us here in the anchorage have hired an aiga bus for the day to tour the island. It will be the second time for us, but we can’t wait to see the beautiful sights one more time before leaving. Friday will be refueling and cooking day, and then we will be off on Saturday. Tomorrow night we have been invited to have dinner at Micah and Faaiuga van der Ryn’s home. He hopes to sail to Upolu with us and we will make those plans tomorrow night.

We have spent a lot of time doing weather research and Saturday looks like the time to leave here. That will get us to Upolu in independent Samoa on Sunday. Once there, we will begin to prepare for the arrival of our son Justin and my niece Lynn. We so look forward to their visit, but it is going to be very hard to leave here. We have had a wonderful time, despite the weather, and have grown very fond of American Samoa. Hard as it will be, it is time to move on. There’s a lot more world out there that needs exploring.

Day 322, Year 1: The Sky is Falling

Day 322, Year 1: The Sky is Falling
Date: Monday, September 4, 2006
Weather: Rain All Night, Sunshine at Daybreak, Then Rain All Day
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

The rain has finally stopped for a few hours but it has felt like the sky was truly falling. The rain seems endless, but we are hopeful that the Convergence Zone will move north and that we will once again have normal weather. There is no indication that it will be moving soon, but the clearing tonight at least makes us feel like it might be moving on.

We spent Labor Day in our cockpit, despite the rain, and had three computers going all day. I have been working on naming pictures on one computer, and Mark has been using the other two-one online for internet researching and one for trying a new navigation program. On a rainy, rainy day, most sailors would be curled up with a good book, but while in a port with wireless internet, we love taking advantage of the time to make Skype calls and to do internet research.

During the day, we did have a bit of excitement in the anchorage. A new boat that arrived yesterday, Secret Affair form New Zealand, drug anchor in the middle of one of our midday tropical storms. The boat drug down between us and Thistledown and at one point looked like it was going to wipe out Thistledown’s windvane steering. Mark, Johah an his brother John from Araby, and Greg from Long Tall Sally were all out in the driving rain trying to prevent a disaster. Soon the boat’s owner returned and motored off to a better anchorage.

We spent our evening aboard Long Tall Sally having dinner with Penny and Greg and learning to play Baja Rummy. We had a great time.

Rain of no rain, we still plan to enjoy American Samoa.

060904 Day 322 American Samoa–Quest to Reanchor Secret Affair