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