We left Apia harbor in the morning on the 20th of August again finding ourselves motor sailing in calm seas with light winds trolling lines. We did not get a bite all day and by late afternoon we pulled into Matatu bay on the NW side of the island with an entire bay to ourselves. We anchored off a little village and a small resort in 50 foot deep water just off the reef.
Savaii is largely uninhabited with a substantial part covered in raw volcanic lava and forested mountains. The island has said to been inhabited since 3000 BC when waves of immigrants from SE Asia sailed across the seas to live here. Savaii is the largest island in the south pacific after New Zealand and Hawaii and is known as the homeland to all the tribes of Polynesia. The volcanoes erupted as recently as 100 years ago from 1905 until 1911 covering much of the fertile farmland. They left behind the twisted flows can be seen going through churches and buildings on your short walk through the village.
Daria and I took a bag full of gifts and went for a walk and founds lots of kids that timidly accepted them. A nice couple Sam and Ana gave us a ride to another small village that is build on the rim of an old volcano.
It was a Sunday and we met lots of kids coming home from church and they all received a gift and we soon ran out of things to give away.
On our way we were asked by a local if we wanted to come into his home and have a lunch of taro root and vegetables we declined but gave him a hat and were on our way. It was hot as we continued walking down the road across the lava flows and we soon had blisters on our feet and were looking for another ride.
We flagged down a mini van who gave us a ride back to the boat with 8 of us crammed inside with the AC on high. Daria got out with freezing numb fingers and me with numb legs from her sitting on my lap. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on Downtime.
The next morning we sailed down to Asau on the SW side of the island. The winds were going our way and we covered the 18 miles in just over two hours.
We sailed close enough to the western shore to see the jagged jet black lava covered coast line that shot waves splashing up in the air when they crashed up against it. At one time there must have been a massive eruption when the entire west coast was covered in a continuous layer of lava. We had the fishing lines out and wouldn’t you know it just when I went below to use the bathroom we catch a fish!! We rolled up the jib and started fighting the fish in bumpy seas. I was not going to loose this one, fresh ceviche was on the brain! We had a nice fish on and she was not giving up easily, but after 30 minutes we had a 30 pound Mahi on the deck. She was barely hooked on the outside of her mouth and we were lucky to have got her aboard.
The pass into Asau is another of those that is vague on the charts being surveyed over 100 years ago. The guide book says it could have been damaged by a recent typhoon and you must be very careful when entering. Really…. The charts turned out to be ½ mile off and we almost went on the rocks, bumping ground several times as we backed out of our first attempt. We were hailed on the radio by Don & Denise on their 41 foot Wharram catamaran Katipo and they told us to “GET LEFT there are rocks where you are at!!” Really? Is that what we heard scraping the bottom when the depth sounder went to 6 feet? But seriously thanks for he help Don and Denise. Safely through the channel we motored across the lagoon. We anchored close by and invited them for a fresh Mahi dinner later that evening. Don and Denise live in New Zealand and I am sure we will see them down the road.
The next morning we reloaded our goodie bag and went to shore for a look around. We landed SD at a nice resort and walked to town after handing out gifts to the people that worked there. On our way to town we met some of the locals, and our first stop at the bank to change some money was a lot of fun.
Last month when my sister Kelly and her family came out she brought a big bag of costume jewelry donated by her and the ladies of her church. The bag was full of shiny treasures they did not wear any longer. Well, one persons trash is another’s treasure and I am sure this bag full of jewelry will warm more hearts of more people that we could imagine!!! By the way, some of you ladies really gave us some nice stuff to give away!! So, if any one of you out there have any treasures laying around just send it our way and we will hand it out for you and post a story about it. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will arrange the shipping
We gave the ladies at the bank each a piece of the treasure and the guy working there a Downtime hat, in return they gave us an orange(hard to find in these parts) and big smiles. We continued down the road handing out Downtime tee shirts, toys and candy (Bom-Bom) to lots of smiling faces. My favorite stop was to a pre school where we handed out little toys and candy. The kids in return sang for us Jesus Loves Me and a few other songs all in really good English.
On thing that stands out in these island are the churches, lots of beautiful churches. Many of these beautiful structures are over 100 years old and can hold the entire islands population several times over. The faith is primarily Christian and the balance Catholic. All the services are still in Tahitian language and the ladies dress in white with their finest hats. The men where white pants and shirts, very traditional. On Sundays it seems the whole village goes to church and all the stores shut down just the opposite from Kansas. In Kansas everyone goes to Walmart and the churches are empty? I think if you could broadcast a message at Walmart you could realistically reach over 60% of the community on Sunday!
Across the way we met a group of ladies having a meeting and they invited us in. As Daria opened up her bag of gifts the ladies transformed into little girls before our eyes, each so excited with her new treasure. Then they saw the candy bag and all had out reached hands while wearing their shining new gifts. The candy did not last long and soon they were asking questions about our journey, we gave them stickers with our website and cards with a picture of the boat as we told them our story. Who knows if they will ever be able to get on the internet?
The ladies were having some kind of meeting where there was a big pile of money in the middle of the floor. From what I have read I think they still have a community based system where everyone shares and is treated the same. Money is pooled to buy the thing the village most needs. They have simple lives and take care of each other, not a bad system. Us bringing them small gifts is a real treat for them since most will never see the inside of a wal mart or any major shopping center. They just do not have the means to buy jewelry or makeup. Where ever we go we are always asked for all sorts of things like lotions, lipstick, makeup, bracelets, hair pins, rings, sunglasses, perfumes and many other things girls of all ages like even if they are half full. We would have brought more with us had we know there was such a need. So if you feel like helping spread the love send them our way and we will do our part giving them out.
Western Samoa mainly Savaii was our first real look at the true South Pacific. The people here are warm and still have traditional lifestyles. You can find the small villages where people still live in thatched roofed homes and live lives that are unbelievably simple. The value they hold for community would leave every American town at a loss. I look back to how I lived in Kansas and had no idea who lived two doors down? That definably does not happen in these parts! The people are genuine and I would love to come back here and spend more time with them.
It is strange at times to be sailing around the world, you do not know in advance what places to spend the most time. Western Samoa will probably be one of those places I will look back on a wonder why I just spent a week at.
Our next adventure will take us to Wallis and Futuna Islands.
Until then enjoy the journey through life and live your dreams!!
Peace!! Capt Pete and Daria aboard the SY Downtime
August 27, 2011
We departed Pago Pago on Sunday morning with the sound of church bells ringing along the shore as we slowly sailed along the western shore of the island. The winds were again light and the sails were doing little more than providing shade on the deck. We trolled lines along the drop off with out much success other than one 8 inch long skip jack tuna which we threw back. We saw whales blowing on the horizon but never really got close to enjoy the great creatures.
It took all day to cover the 65 miles to Upolu and just before dark we anchored in Fagola Bay on the NE side of the island in a bay all to our selves. There was a small village along the rocky bay and no place to land SD so we raised the anchor the next morning and set sail for the main harbor of Apia just 15 miles to the west.
Apia is the nicest harbor we have seen in the whole South pacific. The marina is fairly new and has modern floating docks with free water and power when you pay a nominal fee to tie up here. We were assisted by a crew of 4 guys that helped take our lines and get us securely tied to the dock. They no sooner tied us up and then asked “ hey Cap you have a soda pop?” sorry we do not drink pop but I offered a beer which they all accepted along with a Downtime cap for everyone. The customs and immigration agents took their time coming to the boat but handled clearing you in a very professional way and all of this for free without running all over town!! There is a departure fee of only $33 tala which is very reasonable and the dock is just over $130 US for the week.
Tuesday night there was a fire dance show at a little bar just a short walk from the marina. We met several other cruisers at the “Gourmet Seafood Restaurant” that served only fish and chips, after dinner we were entertained by the local talent next door. The fire dancers were performing so close to us close that we felt the heat and heard the roar from the torches spinning in their hands. The kids start training when they are very young and by the time they are in their teens have some real talent.
The island is very clean and the people are friendly and helpful. Everyone speaks good English and seem to enjoy their island lives. Prices here are just a little higher than American Samoa and the selection just OK. The local bus system appears to be overloaded with far fewer busses running the routs and most busses were crammed full of passengers at rush hour. The taxis here are all painted white and the fleet is made up of modern Toyota’s that charge a fair fee for their services. We hired a car for the day and it was $80 US for the trip around the island, not bad.
Our trip started with a quick stop at the cash machine money here is $2.19 Tala to one Us dollar. Then we were off across the island with our first stop at Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Museum.
The 100 year old home and plantation have been restored to the original splendor. The two story home is built of a Australian design with imported redwood from California lining the interior walls. Huge porches wrap around the west side of the home and it even has two fireplaces build just for show to make the place feel more like home in Scotland. The plantation sits at 2500 feet above the sea and it is noticeably cooler up here. First we took the steep and winding trail up the mountain behind the house up to his tomb. The 40 minute accent left us dripping wet and wishing we took our water bottles along. Robert died at just 44 years old from a stroke and was laid to rest next to his wife on top of the mountain with a beautiful view of his plantation and the sea below.
We continued across the island and our next point of interest brought us to a Baha’I temple of which there are only nine built in the world. They all have very unique architecture and this one in particular was surrounded with beautiful landscaping that keeps 8 gardeners busy all week. Apparently the former king was a follower of this religion and supported the building of this place. He is no longer king and recently was voted out of power, so this was definitely not the right road to be on….Nice gardens though.
There are many waterfalls on the island but now being the dry season is not the best time to see them. We stopped at a few along the way and they were just so-so. Arriving at the south shore we took a break for lunch at a beach resort and paid way too much for a crab special but enjoyed our brief stay there, you will recognize the place be seeing the cooks and waiters wearing Downtime hats.
We gave this little girl a tee shirt and toys, she was so shy but after a while we got a smile out of her.
This would be a fun island to spend a week traveling around, since there is way too much to see in just a day. You can rent a inexpensive rooms and bungalows just mere small roadside structures at many places along the shore. We stopped at a few more places along the coast and took pictures of the shoreline and had some refreshments (beer) at beachside cafes.
The south coast was devastated by a tsunami just two years ago and the ruins of many homes are still evidence of the wave that killed over 130 people that sad day. Entire villages were wiped out and were later relocated to higher ground. The only people left live in makeshift raised huts that have blue tarps for walls with all their worldly positions in the middle of the small structures covered with scraps of tin for a roof. The lifestyle here is a simple one.
There are 250,000 Samoan people and I would guess most live on less in a year than one US family lives on in a month. There are very few cars here and the kids walk to school in bare feet. The dress code for school is a simple one, everyone wears the same thing, a white shirt and wrap around knee length skirt like cloth. Some schools have different color bottoms but all have the white shirts. We gave out a dozen Downtime tee shirts to some of the kids we saw walking along the way, they were timid accepting the gift but showed true appreciation with a big smile when they understood it was just a gift. We saw kids hauling bananas and coco nuts along the road as well as others hauling water. It is a lot of work in life if you have to haul all the water you use any distance. Most of the island has water provided by a PVC pipe that lays along the roadway. In a few places the pipe is buried in the rocky soil, but most places it is exposed with smaller lines running up to the homes with a single faucet outside.
The lush island is covered in coco nut trees, millions of coco nut trees!! Sadly it has been years since coco nuts have had any value to them and now the fruits just fall into piles under the trees. Each tree bears 40 to 60 nuts a year and in places hundreds of new trees grow in clumps creating chaos. The only use they have for them now is to drink the occasional green one and to pick up the brown dried out ones and use the oily meat inside to feed pigs. We saw piles stacked along the roadside that a big truck would come by and pick them up hauling them to where the pigs were being raised. Men would then have to husk them, break out the meat and feed the pigs. Other pigs seemed perfectly happy walking around free in small villages or wallowing in roadside ditches rooting in the cool mud as we drove by.
In another village we drove through there was a bingo game going on with people lounging in any shade they could find within ears reach of the announcer.
We returned back to the boat by 5:00 and got cleaned up for another night out at Aggie Grays a hotel with lots of history for a traditional dance show and buffet. The show had 40 local dancers and musicians that put on a great show. The buffet was loaded with local delicacies that included roasted suckling pig, coconut cream tuna, stuffed sea urchins, taro leaf salad, coconut cream octopus and many other tasty dishes and salads. All this was only $35 US per person and was a good value in my opinion.
The next day we did some shopping around town and cleared out. Clearing out was not quite as easy as clearing in but we found the immigration office and filled out the wrong form, then filled out the right forms, got our passport stamped by a very large and happy Samoan lady and were on our way to the prime ministers office within 30 minutes. The prime ministers office is where you can get permission to go to Savaii the island just to the west, the less populated sister island of Western Samoa. I was told the office was on the 5th floor. I went to the 5th floor and was told it was on the 3rd floor and went there to be told to go to the tourism office on the 1st floor who told me to go to the 5th floor…..Back to the 5th floor the security guy had a weird look as I walked past to the office on the left. The letter was printed and passports scanned and we were allowed to visit. Then it was off to the port captains office to pay $33 tala departure fee. I arrived at 2:45 just in time to see them all leaving early for the day, than goodness one guy had a cell phone and called his boss to help me out. I am sure they all got overtime for collecting the $33 tala and filling out my clearance papers. Next step we had to pay for the dock and wouldn’t you know it I was $20 short!! Another mile of walking back to the boat and we were all set.
That night we went out to a nice Italian restaurant Paddles and had some of the best food and service we have had in quite a while. After dinner we had a few drinks at a little bar called Y-Not and swapped fishing stories with a local charter captain. Too bad we would not be here when the big fish come up in the summer months.
From all the stories we heard this is no place to be in the summer time. It rains continuously and they get something like 300 inches of rain!! And if that is not bad enough they are located right where the major typhoons come through.. I guess that would explain all the rain.. Several have caused serious damage in the past decade.
Every morning while we were here woke to the sound of drums beating to a rhythm at 5:00 am!! What’s going on? When the sun finally rose we could see the huge canoes out practicing, each had 40 men rowing and one helmsman at the stern and a guy banging the drum up front. The boats are over 70 feet long and move right along when everyone is pulling on the oars.
Having driven around the island and spent almost a week here I still always wonder how and island can survive let alone be it’s own country. They do not worry about the things big countries do, like defense, what is to defend? They have zero military and the police force is minimal compared to most countries we visited. We never seen the fire trucks leave the firehouse or ever heard a sirens blair. While we were in Pago Pago and American island the ambulances and fire trucks were screaming at all hours of the day. It seems that if the services are there the people get used to calling them out. If they are not, well they just take care of it on their own. It is amazing of what we are used to in the states but at what cost? Like most countries in the world over half work for the government. There was a 24 hr guard at the docks to guard 12 boats that paid an average of $20 per day to be there, no profit there….All the departments we went to were well staffed and helpful but you have to ask, where does all the money come from? This country has no real exports or manufacturing to trade with. The local hills are full of dense jungle but could be covered in hardwood tree farms. The plantations that thrived in the turn of the century are all but overgrown now and pastures have a fraction of the livestock they could sustain. There is some tourism but no main resorts just small 20 to 30 room locations. We did see a lot of New Zealanders traveling here, they have just a short 4 hour flight to paradise. Having said all that Western Samoa is still a place I would definitely come back to, next time for a month not a week!
Our next adventure will be Savaii the sister island to Upolu
Until then, Live your dreams!!
Peace!! Capt Pete and Daria
August 22, 2011
Sailing was slow going after we left Suwarrow and we were just averaging 5 knots, We ran the motor for over a day during this crossing when the winds died. The chart plotter showed 450 miles to Rose Island , a small nature preserve that is part of American Samoa. We arrived at the deserted island three days later and navigated out way through the uncharted narrow pass on the western side of the atoll. The pass was just over 100 feet wide and had a minimum depth of 10 feet but the rocky bottom looked much shallower as we inched our way through the unmarked pass. Once inside the lagoon opened up and the bottom was 50 feet down under clear blue water.
We woke the next morning to a lagoon that was smooth as a sheet of glass . The water was a shiny mirror and you could see 4 sharks swimming through the reflected clouds just behind the boat. A few hundred yards away I spotted some turtles splashing in the shallow water along the reef, we lowered SD and slowly went over to them. There were several huge turtles swimming together as Daria slipped over the side to joined them. One turtle must have been over 8 feet long with a head the size of a bowling ball!! Another swam right up to the dink and looked at me before he swam off leaving a large wake on the water above him.
Rose Island is only 1000 feet across and home to thousands of sea birds, we walked the shores and the birds would hover just over our heads squawking and they showed no fear of man. There were fluffy babies sitting in their nest on the ground and they just stared at us with their big innocent eyes as we walked by. It was nice to see that there are still places like this in the world where man has not destroyed the wildlife.
We set sail that night with our next destination just 85 miles to the west. There are two small islands located just 65 miles east of Pago Pago that are remote and definitely on the road less traveled. We arrived by the next morning and motored along the first one Ta’u but found the anchorage to rough to anchor in, so we drove to the next islands just 14 miles west. Ofu showed an anchorage on the chart and we dropped the anchor in 35 feet and it landed on solid rock, not the best anchorage. We planned on staying a day or two but the anchorage was rolling and uncomfortable not to mention the anchor was dragging around on the bottom! While we were sitting on the back cockpit I noticed sprays of water coming up from the surface? Whales!!! Giant Whales!! There were several just 500 yard away from the boat!! We had not seen a whale since we left the Galapagos and here was a pod of them just off the back of he boat. There were several calves with the giant mothers keeping a watchful eye on them. The calves are so fun to watch they would bob out of the water when they came up for air and several times two of them jumped completely out of the water together spinning and landing on their backs!! This made the anchorage worth stopping at just to see the whales!
We watched the whales all afternoon and set sail at 8 pm for the leg to Pago Pago just 65 miles away. We had 20 to 25 knot winds all night and had the rare experience of actually trying to get the boat to go slow enough so we would not arrive in the dark. With just half the jib rolled out we were still going 7 knots at times. Approaching the island we had sails stowed and were sill moving along at 4 knots.
We arrived in Pago Pago on the 8th of August and motored into the harbor just as the sun came up. The anchorage here has a reputation of having poor holding and lots of garbage on the bottom left over from last years tsunami and several hurricanes that have hit the island. We set the anchor and it felt solid, but an hour later noticed anchored boats going by!! We were dragging!!! The second time we set both anchors and this kept us safe for the week.
Clearing in was just about a ridiculous as it could get, hello!! Were in America where they create jobs for people to do nothing! The first stop was to go find the port captain his office is up a filthy dirty three flights of stairs in a little office on the roof? Well, he was still at lunch it being just 2:00. We would climb those stairs three times to find him. Next we went to customs which was on the first floor behind the yellow door. There were 5 guys here sitting in a air-conditioned 70 degree room, two of them taking a nap. We were asked for a crew list which I wrote Dairia’s and my name on a blank sheet of paper. One more office with 3 people in it and we filled out one more form. Then we walked a mile downtown to immigration where at least 8 people were working. We showed our passports filled out a crew list, again on a blank sheet of paper? Back at the port captains office we showed our stamped passport and they had us fill out yet another form that we would need to bring back when we cleared out. This was like a big treasure hunt, none of the offices had any signs on their doors, what’s up with that? There must be 30 people working, when we cleared in any other port the most we saw were two. They could easily clear cruisers in one simple office with two forms after all there are only 40 or 50 boats a year that come through here. They have recently raised the charges to clear in from $25 to $150, this will just keep more cruisers away, thanks Uncle Sam!
Pago Pago at one time had 4 tuna canning plants in operation employing over 2000 which is about half the island. Our government stepped in raised the minimum wage and two plants promptly shut the doors and overnight the islands unemployment rate shot up to 28%! Sound familiar? Well the good old government employs the other half of the people and now they even have cops patrolling the mile long harbor on jet skis! The number of government vehicles you see here is ten times more than any other country we have been to. Every government branch has its own fleet of supper duty crew cabs to drive the 40 miles of road on the island.
The western diet is taking it’s toll on the world with people getting bigger by the minute. Mc Donalds, pizza hut, Carls Jr all do a booming business here making the large Samoan people even larger. In the last year the number of patients on dialysis here has risen 30%, there is definitely a nutrition problem!! The availability of good food is not the problem since the markets have everything you could imagine, the problem is educating our kids on the importance of a proper diet.
The island had a the feel of a combination between Mexico and Hawaii. The local buss system was made up of a fleet of home made wooden creations. They start with a pickup chassis and cut the cab off leaving just the windshield and dash. From there they start building the rear cab with wood. Un padded wood benches serve as seats, Samoans have their own padding. Plexiglas windows rattle in their sliders on the wall and to finish it off they put in a flat screen TV and the loudest stereo system you have ever heard. The whole bus is them painted with a brush with crazy colored paint. They all have creative names like, Sunset Express, Island Cruiser and Sky View.
We heard there was a boat here with another Russian aboard. The boats name was Puppy, Natalia and Tolik set sail from Los Angels two years ago and both spoke Russian. Daria was finally able to speak her native tongue for an afternoon while she and Natalie went shopping.
The prices here were back to normal, amazingly similar to what we paid for things in the states. We rode one of the custom busses to a Cost U Less, a store that used to be a Costco and the 30 minute trip cost only $3 for both of us. All the goods sold here are shipped in from the states and they even had fresh California milk!! Some things cost more not less, milk was $10 a gallon and frozen multi grain bread was $8 a loaf, eggs were $4 for a 18 pack. The food selection was the best we seen since leaving the states, the refrigerators were full of all kinds of fresh California produce and Daria climbed inside one and was in heaven picking out the freshest veggies!
The people here are so friendly and the checkout lady called us a taxi that charged us just $10 for the ride back to the dock with all our groceries. I think the taxi cab drivers are imported here just like in the states, this guy spoke very little English but knew where we needed to go.
Later in the week we went out to dinner with three other boats, Savanna, Ratea and Aeolis to a little Mexican restaurant just down the bay. It was a slow Wednesday night at the restaurant and it took almost two hours to get our food! Needless to say I would not recommend the place…You have to wonder when you see takeout food coming into a restaurant…I should have ordered Pizza Hut like the cook did!
Friday afternoon we went to a little bar, Tisa’s Beach Bar with our friends, Andy, Monica and his son Jake from Savanna and Bob from Braveheart. This would be a farewell party for Savanna and us since they would be going north from here as we continue west. We would see Bob down the road in the next islands.
We spent time internet shopping lining up parts and things we would have brought to Tonga in October. We were able to pick up a pretty good signal with our Island Time PC Internet Booster and had free internet all week. It was nice to talk to the family back at home for just pennies a minute on skype.
Our next adventure will take us to Western Samoa
Peace Captain Pedro and Daria
August 16, 2011
Suwarrow (Suvorov) has a reputation of being a very friendly island and our stay was amazing. The island was discovered by a Russian explorer Lazarev in 1814 aboard the Suvorov for which the island is named.
The islands fame originated from a man named Tom Neale who lived on the island as a hermit from 1952 until his death in 1978. He wrote a book about his life here “An Island To Oneself” an appropriate name since the island is 500 miles from the closest land.
The fishing was good on the trip over and we landed 2-tunas 1-wahoo,our first this season!! 1- barracuda and 2-mahi-mahis!! It took us 4 ½ days to make the crossing and we cleared the passage and anchored next to “Anchorage Island”. Things are so simple here, names you can read and people speak English… We found our selves anchoring with 12 or so other boats, many of which we had seen previously in Polynesia.
The caretakers of the Nature Reserve , John and James we so welcoming and made the stay enjoyable for all. James has had this post for the past 18 years, staying for 6 months though the cruising season greeting an average of 130 boats a year. This was Johns first season and he fit right in. John would organize the diving and snorkeling trips while James showed all his cooking skills. Cruisers are allowed to stay two weeks and enjoy this tropical paradise but some get lost in the beauty of it all and extend their stay a few weeks.
The first day we were there John took a group out to Perfect Reef which was located 4 miles away on the far side of the lagoon. The simple name said it all it was “Perfect” The reef was teaming with life and was enjoyed by everyone.
A few times John came diving with Andy from Savanna and myself and we saw some of the best reef life I have ever experienced. There are lots of big groupers and sharks swimming around on the reefs, a bit scary swimming with sharks especially grey sharks!! They are a more than just a little territorial!! Spear fishing is allowed in moderation but it is a challenge to get the fish you speared to the boat before a shark steals your catch. Several were snuck past them and we ate some really tasty grouper on a few of the nights!!
Other nights there were potlucks on the beach along with volleyball. James put on a “Cooking with Coconuts” class and there were many tasty dishes with coconut creams and sauces.
Three other nights we had a $10 Texas hold em tournament twice on Downtime with 30 people aboard and the other game we played a the ranger outpost. Daria placed third the first time she ever played!! I won the first night, Andy the next and Larry on Magenta took home all the cash on the last night. Daria cooked up some amazing fish dishes and other cruisers brought lots of goodies to snack on.
This was the best anchorage we have been in so far in the South Pacific, everyone was so friendly and we were able to make some life long friends. There was even another boat with kite surfers aboard and one day we broke out the kites with Gavin and his crew on Squanderer, a boat bound for Australia.
Andy from Savanna and I did several dives together and he being a retired navy dive photographer took some amazing underwater pictures. Daria was finally ably to get it all together and enjoy a dive here also, but she was squeezing my hand a little too tight when a sharks swam by. We had several black tip, white tip and grey sharks circling curiously around us while we dove. Andy took some great pictures of a moray eel that was hiding in the rocks and of a giant manta ray cruised by over head.
The time flew by and soon we needed to be on our way again….We said or farewells and set sail the following day. We were under way by seven in the morning and I had 4 poles trolling off the back as we cleared the pass and within minutes all 4 poles were bent over with a fish tearing line off the reels!!! It was crazy aboard for a while!! I was somehow able to get 3 of the fish aboard and then I called Andy on the radio to come take some fish back to the other cruisers, We no sooner had the boat turned around with re-set poles and hooked two more on our way back to port, but only managed to land one of them. Andy met us just as I was gaffing the last fish. we off loaded three of the 30 pound of yellow fins in his dingy. Amazingly thirty minutes later we had another, much bigger fish on the line!! The last tuna was the biggest I have landed so far on Downtime 50 plus pounds. By now I was wore out and we put the poles away with the freezer again full of fish.
Thanks for an amazing stay James and John!!!
In the next adventure we set sail for American Samoa.
Peace Captain Pedro and Daria
August 12, 2011
We made landfall the afternoon of the June 4th and anchored in calm bay next to the town of Tautira ,a small village on the mountainous NW coast of Tahiti Iti. The 4th was a Saturday and the locals had their outrigger canoes out practicing for the big island regatta coming up in a few months and the black sand beaches were full of the local kids splashing and playing in the water. It had been quite a while since we gave Downtime a good scrubbing, so Daria and I gave Downtime a good detail while we were anchored here, taking advantage of the calm weather and waters in the anchorage. By the next morning the weather was changing and storms were on the horizon, we decided to find a better anchorage on the protected side of the island. Tahiti is a island that has two main land masses connected by a low-lying narrow piece in the middle. Tahiti Nui the is larger and Tahiti Iti is the smaller part of the island. The marina we were going to was where these two meet and where they have the most rain we soon found out…
We raised the anchor and set a double reefed main sail and full jib headed south along the rugged western coast of Tahiti Iti with a brisk 20 knot wind and the outer reefs roughly a mile off shore in places just off our starboard side. The winds soon became blocked by the mountains a few miles into the trip and we found ourselves motoring around the southern end of Iti. A very large swell was coming up from south and huge waves were crashing on the reef to our right as we rounded the corner. We stowed the mainsail and continued with motors on pushing us along the coast through the big waves. At 4:00 pm we had Teputa Pass in front of us, a narrow 150 foot wide cut through the reef with ten foot waves crashing on both sides! This was one of the few times I was truly scared while driving the boat, I had one shot to get through to safety on the inside of the narrow pass. We had winds gusting to 25 knots behind us and pouring rain as we approached the pass!! With all sails stowed Downtime was still going 7 knots with giant waves coming from directly behind us, occasionally breaking just before hitting us and then roared past the boat. I pushed the throttles forward as the channel markers came into view through the driving rain, they confirmed that my electronic charts were right and were safely in the middle of the pass. We rounded the second mark making a 90 degree turn into a calm lagoon behind the reef in Port du Phaeton. By 5pm we had the anchor down as it continued to rain through the night. We woke to a muddy harbor from all the rain and decided to move to Papeete, the main city in Tahiti Nui. The seas were still huge as we exited the pass but we were able to sail to the next anchorage just off the Tahina Marina just south of Papeete on the eastern side of the island.
Papeete was the largest city we had been in for the last few months, by now we needed to make a few repairs to the boat and to restock the provision lockers. We were able to access internet through our Island Time PC WIFI booster and order parts online from the states. My sister Kelley and husband Todd and tow daughters along with my daughter Cassandra would be packing a few extra bags when they arrived on the 22nd. Other repairs on the boat included getting two of the sails repaired and other small items that wore out along the way. For the most part Downtime has been an amazing machine, with minimal breakdowns and thankfully no reoccurring problems associated from the lightning strike we had last August. But boats are boats and things do break..
The grocery store was just a 10 minute walk from the marina and was well stocked with all the things we needed for the most part, several trips and we had the lockers stocked again. You were always shocked by the prices because they were crazy high!!
I had developed a ear ache after my last kite surf in Rangiroa so the next day we went to the local clinic to have it looked at. We walked in and within 15 minute I was in the ear doctors chair with a diagnosis of having a ear infection . The bill was just over $60 and he prescribes antibiotics and no swimming for a week. In the states this would have been a all afternoon affair and cost a few hundred dollars.
We spent the week ordering parts and provisioning the boat and getting sails to the repair shop. On the weekend we motored across to Moorea a short 14 mile trip and stayed in Papetoai Bay, one of the most photographed bays in Polynesia just a mile past Cooks bay.
The lagoons here are spectacular! It is like being in a giant aquarium, swimming in crystal clear water with thousands of tropical fish. There is a special place in the lagoon where they have trained sting rays to take fish out of your hand. There are over a dozen rays swarming around you when you open you bag full of fish!! They brush right up against your body looking for the free meal! They have a mouth similar to a horse when they nibble the fish from your hand, stingrays have no teeth just grinding plates in their mouths. Thankfully they their barbs have also been clipped so it is perfectly Safe to play with them. Their soft skin is smooth rubber like and they are amazing swimmers.
The next morning we rented a scooter and toured the island and stopped along the way at beautiful lookouts, a pineapple plantation and then had a nice lunch at the Sofitel resort. The trip around the island took us about 5 hours and was about 25 miles long on the only road on the island and left us with sore scooter butts.
Relaxing back on Downtime we were visited by two guys on jet skis, they were just looking at all the sail boats when I asked them if they would like to come aboard for a beer? The countered and asked if we would like to come aboard for sundowner? I accepted having no idea which boat they were even on at the time? They said “we are on the big blue one at the head of the bay right over there” Ohh the 200 foot expedition boat with three decks? Ya that’s the one!! We were greeted by his crew as we arrived and were served drinks on the aft deck. I should have written down all the names because I have no memory of any of them, not even the boats name, names are so hard to remember when you meet 20 people a day…But I do remember the boat, It was an amazing machine!! One of their generators was bigger than both of my main engines! And this thing held enough fuel to go 10000 miles I can only imagine how much that is. The staterooms were beautiful with rich wood work and it continued throughout the boat. Granite counters and full size everything from refrigerators to two sets of laundry equipment aboard. This was not a boat but a floating palace!! Time flew by as stories were swapped and soon we were asked if we would like to stay for diner? Silly question…heck ya we will have dinner aboard your mega yacht!! Up to the third deck we went to a elegant table set for 8 and meals were served. The chef aboard served a wonderful fish dinner with a nice desert following. Thanks for the amazing night you lucky people on the “Big Blue Boat”!!
The next week we went back to Tahiti to get the final provisions prior to my family arriving. We set the anchor and in a few hours our friends Jason and Karen anchored next to us with their catamaran YOLO (You Only Live Once). We first met them 5000 miles back in Isla Providencia, Columbia on the Pacific side. Funny how we run into the same few boats all the time….this was the 4th time with YOLO.
My family flew in on June 23rd and we had just a week to spend seeing the sites. The first thing we did was to go snorkeling at a little preserve just a mile from the boat.
This was the first time my sister’s girls, Cheyenne 7 and Shanoa 10 had ever been in the ocean and they were surprised how salty it was. It took them a while to get used to all the fish, especially when Uncle Pete was throwing pieces of bread in the water and swarms of fish would surround them.
Next we sailed across to Moorea and swam with the rays!! The sail across was a little rough and we had some green faces aboard Downtime when we arrived… Luckily it was just a two hour sail and soon all was well again.
The next morning the gang took a hike up to the lookout where Daria and I had taken scooters the week before. It was much easier riding up the mountain on a scooter as Daria would find out, I stayed back on the boat repairing a few things.
Later we all jumped in SD and went to town for some shopping and ice-cream. When we got back from shopping we drove Downtime to the other side of the island to the Sofitel Resort to see a Polynesian dance show and eat an amazing diner.
We woke to a beautiful morning and snorkeled again in crystal clear waters with lots of reef fish.
Daria and I had heard that Brando Is was a cool place to go so the next day we sailed 30miles out to go see.
The sail out was again rough, but this time I gave my sister the scopamine patch and we tried to get the kids to take dramamine by grinding it up and putting it on French toast, it did not work but thankfully they slept the whole trip. The winds were blowing 20 to 25 and Downtime was really moving so at least they were able to get some good sailing in. We trolled lines every where we went but had no luck in catching a fish, sorry guys… The week flew by and Brando Island was hard to access by boat, but we saw some amazing sites.
Back in tahiti we rented a van and drove around the island and visited some beautiful sites that included mountain lookouts and waterfalls. A narrow winding one lane road took us up the mountain to the belveder (french for lookout) and we had a nice lunch with an amazing view. The water falls turned into a quick stop with lots of hungry mosquitoes moving us along. The next morning Todd and I put on the dive gear and dove on a sunken ship and plane wreck while the girls went shopping. One last dinner ashore and it was back to the boat to pack. It was all over way too fast and I wish we had another week to spend together, maybe next time?
It was so nice spending a week with my little girl, well not so little any more at 21. I really miss my kids and that is the hardest part of the trip, being so far away from them. Thank goodness for internet!!
We dropped off the family at the airport and did some last minute shopping. Later that afternoon we bought tickets to a dance exhibition downtown. The show was part of a month long dance competition that all the schools participated in. The main theme this night was fire dancing and man was there allot of fire!! Kids of all ages spinning fiery batons with tradition costumes made the show a real highlight to our stay in Tahiti.
With 30 crazy days in Tahiti behind us we set sail the following day for Huahine 90 miles NW of Tahiti. The weather was not cooperating and we had squalls off and on our whole way there. We anchored on the SW side of the island as the weather continued to deteriorate. Daria said “why is it so F@#$#! windy!!” We spent two days waiting the storm out afraid to leave the boat for fear the anchor might drag in the gusty winds.
When the weather cleared we set sail for Raiatea just 20 miles to the west. Raiatea is located just south of Tahaa and both islands are surrounded by one continuous reef that has 8 passes in which you can enter. We entered through Teavapiti Pass and motored to an anchorage in the NW part of the island. We had our first calm night in 3 days and got some much needed rest. The following morning the weather cleared and we took SD on an adventure around the island. Raiatea is the only island in French Polynesia with a navigable river and we headed that way. We too SD all the way around the island to get to the inlet and slowly progressed up the narrow winding river. The river was similar to Monkey River in Belize, zigzagging through the jungle. Along the shore there were beautiful flowers and we picked enough to make a nice arrangement. We met a local in paddling a canoe and he was really nice letting us know we could get bananas and papaya from his brother up the river. We continued another mile through botanical gardens and met his brother who gave us a bunch of bananas and papayas he would have gave them to us for free, but we offered to pay and we gave him an Ice cold beer for which he was most thankful. We made our way back to Downtime with 70 something more miles on SD and another adventure behind us. Oh, and a new friend a gecko that climbed aboard with the flowers!!
The following day we went to fuel up Downtime. We had are dock lines and fenders ready patiently waiting our turn behind a water taxi. The taxi finished fueling and pulled away from the dock and we slowly approached the dock in a cross wind, just as we were 50 feet away a local fishing boat comes racing up and cut us off!! F#!$@!!! French @%@$$ards!! This guy was so rude!! He would not even make eye contact and took his sweet time unloading his catch and gear while fueling his boat. This is one time I wish I had a crappy old boat I would have rammed him right off the dock!! Instead I patiently waited again and did the right thing. No hurry afterall we are on a sail boat!!
After filling the tanks we motored to Tahaa just to the north 10 miles and moored in the Bay Huripiti with the intention on going for a tour the next morning to the vanilla plantation.
The tour was canceled so we rented bicycles, which is not such a good idea on an island with steep mountains….
I had to use the Fred Flintstone breaks a few times going down the steep hills!! We made it over the mountains and found the vanilla plantation and were given a personal tour by the owner. Vanilla grows like any other bean, on a vine. The flowers have to be hand pollinated and it takes the bean 9 months for the beans to mature. After they mature they are harvested and dried in the sun and then massaged and fermented in big crates for several months. It is a labor intense process which reflects in the price they charge for vanilla, about $2 US per 8 inch long bean pod.
Crossing back over the mountain we peddled to the east side and had lunch at the turtle farm, For $100 Euro you can release one farm raised turtle back into the wild.. Or heck you can eat it if you like!! They let you take them back to your boat after all!! After lunch which was chicken by the way… Daria decided to continue around the island which turned out to be like 20 miles!! And I went directly back over the mountain having my fill of peddling.
Next it was off to Bora Bora which is said to be the most beautiful island in the world, and we think they are right!!
The Lagoon is amazing with nice white beaches and turquoise blue waters. The reefs in the lagoon are still full of lots of tropical fish and protected from the locals. One of the few places they do not let locals fish on the reefs.
All the hotels are built with the same appeal, bungalows built out over the water with thatched roofs. Most are located on the outer reef with access only by water taxi witch has it advantages if you want to get away from it all.
I was finally able to kite again with my ear feeling fine and 20 knots of wind blowing , I was having a great time until my inflator valve popped out and my kite fell limp in the water. A local came to my rescue and soon I had the kite pumped back up and was of surfing again skimming across the lagoon in clear waters.
The main island in Bora Bora has a few small town and during WW2 it had 5000 soldiers based in them. There are still a few huge guns pointing out to sea that remind us of those darker times….
We officially cleared out of Polynesia and were in the country just over the 90 days they let you visit. After all we had learned about the clearing process, we would have done a few things differently. First of all instead of buying a bond for Daria we would have just purchased a refundable airline ticket, much simpler. Second we would have waited to clear in until we reached Tahiti since nobody asked for any papers along the way, this would give us much more time here. Next we would have cleared out of Tahiti instead of waiting until Bora Bora which only added to our time chasing paperwork. Some people used an agent for a few hundred dollars, but we found it not to be necessary.
I spent the next day scrubbing the bottom of Downtime and getting her ready to make some serious miles to our next islands. We set sail in squally weather and made a short hop just 27 miles to Maupiti one of the last Polynesian atolls we would visit. The pass was really narrow with waves breaking on both sides.
We anchored just inside the pass along the channel in 30 feet of water. The next two days the wind blew and I had the kite in the air with the lagoon all to myself. At one point more squalls came through and I was kiting in the rain with 30 knots gusts, I was ready to let the kite go and just barely staying in control!! I was luckily able to safely get back to shore and lower the kite down behind a grove of palm trees, but for a moment I had my doubts about ever seeing that kite again!!
After getting my fill of kiting we set sail for our next Island the following day. We set our course for the Northern Cook Islands with the destination of Suwarrow (Suvorov) Island some 640 miles to the north west. This passage would be the longest Daria and I have ever taken alone and thankfully we experienced good weather and calm seas for the most of the passage.
Thanks for all the memories and beautiful Islands French Polynesia!!
Our next adventure will take us to the Cook Islands and on to American Samoa!!
Until then , Peace Captain Pedro and Daria