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

2 Comments

  1. Evelyn Lilio-Satele's Gravatar Evelyn Lilio-Satele
    October 11, 2015    

    Thank you for portraying somewhat positive side to your Pago visit. I do hope you’ll revisit your comments re Samoan patriotism…we have lost more young men and women to recent wars per capita than any State in the Union. Should you happen to be here on April 17 when we celebrate Flag Day, the raising of the US flag on Tutuila , AS, you would experience an event that rivals. Mardi Gras.
    And, we love to walk…just not in the hot sun or rain! Who does??

    • October 11, 2015    

      Evelyn,

      Thank you for pointing out my comment. It was easy to mis-read what I was saying. I was isolating the comment to the recognition of July 4th, Independence Day. I have updated my post accordingly. I am aware and appreciate the great sacrifice the Samoans have made for the U.S.

      Thanks again. We LOVE American Samoa and it’s home to the friendliest people on earth!

      Best regards,
      Lewis

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