Category Archives: Samoa

Adios Samoa! We’re Putting to Sea! Next Stop Tonga!

The transmission only took one and a half (frustrating) days longer than we thought but we finally aligned it perfectly and it’s spinning smoothly as designed. We’ve cleared out and are working hard to pull our anchors and put away the dingy. We plan to leave the bay at 1700 this evening. The conditions are forecast to be excellent with 15 – 20 on the stern quarter tonight and then lightning up over the weekend. We should be sailing into Vava’u, Tonga Monday morning in a light SSE breeze just forward the beam. Tuesday through the rest of the week it is supposed to howl 30 knots so we have to be in before that. We expect to cover the 325 miles in two and a half days. We’ll write en route.

I was able to upload some pictures and two videos so check them out below. Cheers

Boat Projects (almost) Complete – Some Theft – and Our Exit Strategy

After a long weekend of boat projects, we are finally wrapping up and planning our departure for Tonga on Thursday. We received the batteries and the new transmission on Saturday. I had the 300 lbs of new batteries installed by Saturday evening and tackled the transmission install on Sunday. With the Mermaid passing me tools, we had the old transmission removed and the new one in place by Sunday evening, but the shaft coupling was a half an inch above the transmission coupling. As a result we had to raise the entire engine up and then align everything. This proved very difficult because the bolts on the engine mounts had not been spun in 30 years and they were almost seized to the posts. After an entire afternoon of soaking them in PB blaster and removing a huge stainless bar from the galley to get more leverage, we popped them loose and were able to raise the engine up the required half an inch. This would not have been possible without the use of a bottle screw jack I borrowed from the large yacht ARIA. I am happy to report that as of this evening the transmission is installed, the shaft couplings aligned (to within .005 of an inch), and the stuffing box adjusted. The only thing left to do is place a new piece of starboard under the exhaust riser and then test everything out. Hold your breath for me as this is by far the largest and most technical mechanical project I have ever undertaken by myself. I had my trusty book by Nigel Calder to guide me on the alignment but I’ll still be holding my breath when I put her in gear tomorrow.  

So about the recent theft… We were doing our laundry the other day and while the clothes were drying we decided to go grab a beer at the hotel. We also filled the propane bottle earlier that day and I was really tired of hauling it around so I left it in the laundry room, that was FULL of video cameras. I thought that someone would have to be pretty bold to steal it in front of all those cameras. I also knew there was a decent chance it would go missing if I left it but I was tired of carrying it around and we have another one anyway. Sometimes I like to do these tests of human decency. Well, humanity failed and the bottle went missing in the hour we were gone. Two local girls saved the day and told me to ask next door at the store because one of the workers took it. The response from Chinese lady #1 was that the cameras don’t record and there is nothing they can do. The local girls didn’t like this answer and stormed into the laundry room to confront Asian lady #1 and #2. They were adamant that worker guy #1 took it and wouldn’t give up. I was just enjoying watching this drama unfold and was more amused than upset. Asian lady #2 ended up driving to the guys house up in the mountains to retrieve my stolen bottle. After the bottle was returned by Asian lady #2, worker guy #1 appeared in the laundry room to explain to me that he was just keeping it for us and was going to return it the next day…..riiiiiiiiiiight. I didn’t buy it and neither did the two awesome local girls. We tried to thank them by buying them something from the store but they would only accept our thanks and friendship. Thank you again Loige and Kisa!!!!

Despite the run-in with sticky fingers worker guy #1, we’ve really been enjoying Samoa. The locals are so helpful and incredibly friendly, the landscape magnificent and the amenities convenient, but this anchorage leaves much to be desired. Truth be told the fish smell from the cannery is starting to get to me. There is also a really bad Dengue Fever epidemic on the island and people of all ages are dying every day. We have to completely cover ourselves in mosquito spray each time we go to shore. Those who have been following the blog know just how much I love mosquitoes, and those that can kill you put my paranoia into DEFCON 5. 

We are riding out yet another shear line tonight that is whipping 30 knots into the bay with driving rain. We’re very glad we tied off to the large ship mooring while it was calm. Looks like the SE winds will start to clock easterly by mid-week. We’ll use the rest of the passing high to put the trades on the beam and sail the 325 miles SW to Tonga. Thursday night and Friday will be in stiff trades on the beam but the weekend looks really nice. We’ll leave Samoa Thursday evening and plan to arrive in Tonga by Sunday afternoon. Vava’u promises clam anchorages, great diving and kiteboarding, cruising friends old and new, and all the amenities to keep the Princess happy. We’re both very excited.

I’ll try and get the pictures and a couple videos uploaded before we leave. In the meantime here are a couple pics of the transmission install:

Out with the old...
Out with the old…
...in with the new
…in with the new
I only had to adjust the mounts 80 times each...
I only had to adjust the mounts 80 times each…

Samoa – The Pains of Trying to Accomplish ….. Anything

We’re almost done with our errands and the waterline is showing it. We have provisioned up and our tanks are full. We missed an excellent weather window this week to sail for Tonga as a result of delayed shipments from the US. Our batteries are supposed to arrive this Saturday. They were delayed as a result of the hospital equipment that took priority on the plane. We were told our batteries were booted and are sitting in the hangar in Honolulu. I also decided to order a new – very expensive – gearbox from the US. Having a reliable engine is of the utmost importance when you transit the treacherous reef-strewn waters of Tonga and Fiji. If you don’t remember, our gearbox was giving us trouble in Penrhyn, but has been working fine since. It was sent overnight express so we are very hopeful it will also arrive on Saturday.

Eric on ZEPHYR was kind enough to send us an ipad to replace our salt-crusted laptop that bit the dust on the last passage. I was very excited to fire it up and load it with charts and navigation software, but it was not to be. The ipad needed a big software update in order to run and despite three days of effort and frustration, we were unable to download the update. Samoa is not yet connected to the outside world via fiber optic cable yet so the internet here is about dial-up speed. We tried to let  the download run from the boat via a wifi booster but it was too slow and kept dropping the connection. So we scouted out the fastest internet in town and it was at the only nice hotel on the waterfront. We got the download going, had a couple beers, and dug in for a long afternoon of waiting….and waiting…and waiting…until we came to the realization that it still had 13 hours remaining. It was now evening so we decided to take drastic measures and rent a hotel room for the night to let the download complete. We enjoyed the AC and cable TV while the status bar slowly creeped across the screen. When we woke in the morning it said 78 minutes remaining – we were very optimistic and I jumped in the shower. When I got out Alyssa had a look of dispair on her face…..it had dropped the connection – or rather timed out – and when it was restarted, it began the download from the beginning! We were crushed. A whole day spent in vain trying to download software that would probably take half an hour back home. We decided we’ll try again in Fiji, where they have a fiber cable and high-speed internet.

Frustrated, we set out to try and accomplish something else….anything….to try and regain some control over our to-do list. We needed a new gas tank for the dinghy so we jumped on the bus and went to  the gas store that we knew had the tanks for sale. After a 40 minute ride, we entered the store only to be told Andy, the owner, was out and not back until the afternoon….and he had locked up the tanks and had the only key. We spent the next few hours taking 5 more buses (two of which we took to arrive back at the same departure point) and the only thing accomplished was eating a very fattening meal at Carl’s Jr. We finally returned to the gas store and were able to buy the fuel tank. A small victory in the battle to check boxes off the to-do list.

Yesterday we pulled anchor and motored out of the harbor to make water. The harbor control asked curiously why we were going out for only three hours. I replied that we were making water. He must have been very amused as we motored out into the rain to make water. I will admit that I felt very silly and questioned my sanity when we were desalinating water in the rain. I think we’ll set up a rain catchment….and make an appointment with a shrink.

When we returned to the anchorage we tied off to a huge ship mooring and set a stern hook to keep us off the mooring when the wind dies. I climbed on top of the mooring and shackled our chain to it. We then buoyed the chain with three fenders so the weight of the chain doesn’t pull us into the big rusting steel mooring. We are now very secure and there is no risk of dragging anchor when it blows again. We can now leave the boat unattended without worry. 

There is no wind today and it’s hot, humid and wet. Our mold colony is doing very well on our nice teak interior. We are currently providing it with the perfect growing conditions and look forward to each new patch with unbounded enthusiasm. I hope you can sense my extreme sarcasm. It’s a never ending battle whenever we are on the windward side of a high island in the tropics.

Today I run the last errand on the list – propane fill. Then we get to relax a little more and wait for our parts to arrive. Today is taco night with all the other cruisers and live-aboards. We just met Steve on a very small boat (23 feet?) SPARROW, who just sailed in from San Diego after 58 days at sea. I am really looking forward to his full story of the passage.

Oh, and the proper way to pronounce Samoa is: Saaaahhhh moh ah. We’ve also been corrected on our butchering of the pronunciation of Tonga. It’s pronouced Toohhhnga.

Cheers from Saaaaaaaahhhhhhh moa,

Lewis & Alyssa

July 9, 2015

Pago Pago, American Samoa

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Pago Pago is Not So Bad – Pleasantly Surprised by American Samoa

After writing the last blog post we sailed into Pago Pago (pronounced Pango, Pango) Harbor. The rain was torrential and made entering the harbor exciting. We used radar and chartplotter to feel our way into the large bay and we made our way past the enormous tuna fishing boats into the head of the bay, where yachts anchor. We dropped our hooks (in series) just as darkness overtook the bay and let out 175 feet of chain in only 40 feet of water. It was blowing 25 all night and squally but our gear held and we didn’t move a foot. In the morning we found ourselves surrounded by 1,000 foot lush green cliffs, a very different setting from the low-lying atolls we are used to. We went to shore and completed entry formalities, which required a visit to five separate offices. The harbor office actually used a type writer for our forms – haven’t seen one of those in a while! Despite all the running around and paper pushing, we found it fairly easy and the officials were very friendly. It was nice to hear the immigration official say to us that we have no limit to our stay and to just let him know when we wanted to leave!  After clearing in we had a celebratory lunch on the waterfront and then went to a few markets for fresh produce, eggs and other items we haven’t seen since Hawaii. In short, Alyssa is in heaven.

The next few days were spent catching up with cruising friends, provisioning, getting fuel, doing laundry, and picking up parts from the post office. Michael on DRINA was still here (he left today) but Ruby and Levi sailed to Tonga on an Israeli-owned Halberg Rassy 50, so we’ll catch them down there. Our cruising friends on LADY CAROLINA, an Island Packet 45, were also here so we had a lot of catching up to do. It was great fun seeing them.

The provisioning run was an all-day event but a great success. There is a Costco-type warehouse store here called Cost-u-less that is essentially the same as Costco and has most of the same products. We loaded up with two carts’ worth of food that should last us 2-3 months and hopefully longer. We also visited a regular grocery store after and then arranged for a truck to drive us back to the dinghy dock. We had serious concerns about the dinghy sinking under the ridiculous load we were transporting, but after a long ride across the bay to Ellie we got the food all onboard safely and both breathed a huge sigh of relief. See – our poor dink has a huge leak where the floor is connected to the pontoon and it allows water in so there is almost always 3-4 inches of water in the bottom. I need to spend a day finding the leaks and patching it all up. In the meantime we waste 10 minutes every morning bailing the damn thing out.

Our friends all warned us to avoid Pago Pago like the plague and the cruising guides echo the same. We think the rumors are from when there were many more tuna canneries in operation and much more trash in the harbor. Despite the muddy water and dubious holding n the anchorage, Pago Pago is not so bad. The locals are all Samoan….and without exception both friendly and enormous. There are these wild buses that are all-wood built on top of flatbed trucks and they blast reggae music and are always entertaining and excellent people watching. For obvious reasons the Samoans don’t like walking so these buses are everywhere and you rarely have to wait more than a couple minutes before catching another one; and they run to every place on the island. The buildings are nicely painted and most grounds are well kept and attractive. The lush green mountains tower around the bay and make for an impressive tropical setting. We had set our expectations to find a smelly dump but instead we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice little city in a gorgeous setting. We said that Pago Pago seemed to be a combination of the US, Mexico and some third world island nation mixed up in a blender and placed on a lush tropical island. We dig it.

Our 4th of July was lame as they didn’t have any fireworks, but we did our best and grilled some dogs with friends aboard. Seems the Samoans don’t get too excited about Independence Day…or they were all at McDonald’s.

Today Alyssa spent the entire day finding places for all that food while I schlepped five loads of laundry to the mat and back. We finally have a fully-stocked livable boat and clean sheets! The Princess is very happy that her nest is cozy and well stocked again instead of moldy, damp and barren. 

We plan to run some more errands over the next few days and hope to leave by Thursday. We are still waiting on our batteries to arrive and hope they were sent Express mail as requested – that way they can arrive via commercial flights that are due to arrive on Monday and Wednesday. If we don’t get the batteries before Thursday then we miss an excellent weather window to sail south to Tonga and will likely be heading to (Western) Samoa to wait out the next SE blow. We are not going to stress too much about it. It’s out of our hands for now.

In the meantime we still have to fill our propane, buy some tools, load up on fresh fruit and veggies and sample all the limited culinary delights of the island.

Here are some pictures of Pago Pago, our provisioning, and Ellie at anchor. I plan to do a big batch upload of videos and pictures from the past month once we find a better internet connection.

Salud from Samoa!

Lewis & Alyssa

July 5, 2015

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Welcome to Pago Pago. Park dinghy near sunken sailboat.
Welcome to Pago Pago. Park dinghy near sunken sailboat.
Brian and Liz - Pura Vida is here!!
Brian and Liz – Pura Vida is here!!

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Ridin' da bus. Ya Mon!
Ridin’ da bus. Ya Mon!

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The scenery is breathtaking here. Are we in Thailand or Samoa?!?
The scenery is breathtaking here. Are we in Thailand or Samoa?!?
Found our beloved Costco Premium canned chicken breast. We live off this stuff!
Found our beloved Costco Premium canned chicken breast. We live off this stuff!
One of two carts....at one of two stores...
One of two carts….at one of two stores…

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The tuna don't stand a chance....
The tuna don’t stand a chance….

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Lunch with Michael on DRINA at Don't Drink the Water Cafe (DDW)
Lunch with Michael on DRINA at Don’t Drink the Water Cafe (DDW)
Our view at lunch. That's rainmaker mountain the the background
Our view at lunch. That’s rainmaker mountain the the background