Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Pago Pago, American Samoa – June 22 – Aug 5 2014

Our passage from Suwarrow to Pago Pago was downwind…I mean dead down wind, which for most of us rag hangers can be somewhat unpleasant especially in light winds.  We departed Suwarrow with 15 kts of breeze, making good speed.  But on the morning of the second day the winds faded leaving us with lumpy seas as we rolled off one wave top into a trough, back winding the sails which announce their unhappiness with the conditions by emitting and ear splitting crack akin to a rifle shot.  We were not able to turn on the engine for any prolonged periods as we were dealing with a considerable leak in the fuel injection pump and it was important to preserve that pump at all costs for when we really needed to run the engine on our arrival into Pago Pago harbour.  And so alas, we were forced to Gybe back and forth adding extra miles to the passage but necessary to keep some pressure on the sails and keep the boat moving.  On day three after two days of fishing and not a nibble I decided it was time to catch a fish.  I had been dragging my Tuna squid and based on the condition of the squid, there were fishing biting but not hooking.  I decided to try something new.   I took my largest red and white Rappella with two #6 treble hooks and ran it in tandem with a 10” silver bullet with blue and white feathered skirt with a double #9 tuna hook on 85 lb. test on my trusty Penn Senator and laid it out approx. 150 ft. behind the boat.  I settled down with my book to wait for a strike.  About a minute and a half later I heard that line pop and my reel was smokin.  I mean it was running fast and hard.  I grabbed my heavy leather gloves and grabbed the line and within seconds realized my glove was on fire.  My glove was smoking.  I want to tell you the rest of the story, but as it turns out it is such a good story it has been purchased for Publication by Bob Bitchin Editor of Cruising Outpost soon to be in a store near you.  (this is the first story I have ever had published.  It is called A Whale of a Tale, or A Tale of a Whale)
We arrived in Pago Pago in the afternoon of June 22.  As described in Lonely Planet’s South Pacific Guide American Samoa juts out of the Pacific like the jagged outline of a shark’s smile.  This small set of islands has natural beauty in profusion. Enroute Pago Pago we sailed by the extravagantly handsome Ofu known for having some of the world’s finest islandscapes and beaches with white sands, clear waters, abundant marine life with a majestic rainforest backdrop.
Pago Pago, is the Tuna Capital of the planet, home to Star Kist Tuna and the large protected anchorage is lined with wharfs and docks two and three deep in the large Tuna fishing fleet boats knows as Seiners.  These are not small boats, ranging from 100 – 200 ft. in length complete with their own helicopters to find the Tuna.
The anchorage is not ideal for cruisers accustomed to some of the more exotic coconut lined sandy beaches to park their boats.  And the sweet smell of Frangipani and Banana palms is outweighed by the smell of Charlie tuna being processed on Cannery row which is upwind of the sailboat designated location.  However, aside from the obvious, Pago Pago has a great deal of charm.  It’s friendly people who love to smile, the simplicity of life, the great little buses playing their music or movies who happily turn off the major road to deliver you to the doorstep of exactly where you need to go. Try asking that of a transit bus driver in Toronto or Chicago, lol I'ma tellin you now, it ain’ta gonna happen amigo.
Upon our arrival we met Eagle thru our friends Todd and Gayle Sv Small World II. Eagle is Samoan and delightful.  She loves to hike and along with Kaija and Gayle they have hiked all over this island and enjoyed so much of the natural beauty. 


The girls took a ride on the Ferry to Aunu'u Island and discovered some of it's many mysteries.

Even I, not a hiker so much, have enjoyed hikes to the far side and to Nu’uuli Falls which are spectacular.

Kaija and I decided to fly over to Upolu for a 4 day break, no cooking or cleaning for Kaija, and no sailing or maintenance for me. A mini vacation.  There was a lot of wind and this flight could have been our last.
The plane, on landing, experienced what is termed in Airway’s parlance as an ‘Off Runway Excursion’, what that means, dear traveller, is the plane did not land on the runway.  The fact that I am writing about it lets you know we survived. 
Suffice to say, it was a cross wind landing involving a lot of ‘crabbing’ by the pilot and at the moment when the wheels should have touched down, a gust lifted us and sent us flying, skidding, bouncing, trembling 500 feet thru the adjacent grass gully stopping only when the tail of the plane was hanging over the boundary fence. 
We were very happy to walk off that plane and give thanks to the pilot who maintained a steady hand and thankful that his hand was in the Master’s hand. Thank you Heavenly Father.
We enjoyed our stay on Upolu starting with Apia the capital of Western Samoa. However, we were soon caught up in traffic light and lots of traffic driving on the wrong side, commercialism at every turn, people hocking and begging on every corner, something you do not see in American Samoa. We were happy to take our rent a car and see the quieter side of this island. 
Over the next three days we did find some natural beauty and spent stayed in two lovely hotels and one evening in a very exclusive resort spa equipped with Tennis, Golf, swimming pools, hot tubs, sauna, massage and a 5 star dining experience.  And why not, you can’t take it with you.
We enjoyed a visit to the home of Robert Louis Stevenson who live here for 4 yrs. before his death.   His Estate is surrounded by acres of beautifully manicured botanical gardens.  The Estate tour takes you into his inner dwelling furnished with well kept antiques including a side table of which we own the exact match and a Settee set the matches a set owned by my parents.  RLS had two wishes regarding his burial.  To be buried with his boots on and buried at the top of the familiar mountain behind his home where he often rode his horse and received the inspiration for his writing.  Both of these requests were in outside of local custom, but because he was so revered on the Island, both wishes were granted. The long hike (similar to the Vancouver Grind) to his tomb, in a heavy downpour, was rewarded with brilliant sunshine and spectacular views.
We recommend for anyone visiting this island to start with the STA (Samoa Tourist Association).  Jade and Patricia along with the remaining staff welcomed and assisted us in a most professional yet personal fashion.
Our flight back to Pago Pago was thankfully much less exciting than our flight over.  We were happy to be back aboard KaijaSong and return to the comfort and familiarity of our own bed.
It is time to prepare for the next leg of our journey, the Kingdom of Tonga which will begin with a Relief stop at the Island of Niuatoputapu in Tonga’s far north.  This island was struck by a Tsunami in 2009 that killed 9 and they are still in a state of recover.  They have no electricity on an island of 900 people and in need of help.  We have purchased bolts of fabric, fishing tackle, collected used eye glasses and sunglasses, dive fins, clothing, school supplies and candy for the children.  We are looking forward to our visit there.