_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Niuatoputapu, Tonga (say that 3 times fast!) Ginger

We left Apia, Samoa yesterday morning, Tuesday. Our trip lasted only 27 hours but we arrived in Tonga at noon on Thursday. We lost a day but gained another stamp in the passport and a notch in our cruising belt. Neither of us has ever crossed the dateline before. The trip here was fast. We were on a beam reach most of the way with 8 foot seas on the beam. It was a bit salty but as we got close to our destination the rain squalls washed off most of the salt. We saw two whales breach in the
distance as we approached the island and as we threaded our way through the pass it was a welcome relief to enter the calm blue lagoon. We're anchored in 30 feet of beautiful water and are reminded of our time in the Tuamotus. We're enjoying the first cool breeze through the boat we've felt in weeks. The water is clean and inviting and we're finally away from the big city again. There are 3 villages on the island and we are looking forward to going ashore to explore tomorrow.
We were warned by email from several boats ahead of us that the island is out of cigarettes. Well, as anti smoking as we are, we understand that they are marooned here on an island and the next supply ship isn't due until Sept 25th. So, we bought 5 boxes ("packs") of cigarettes. Interestingly, the cab driver in Samoa told me proudly that they will never run out of cigarettes in Samoa as Pall Mall cigarettes has a plant in Apia, Samoa. So, there are only 2 kinds of cigarettes available in Samoa;
Pall Mall regular and Pall Mall menthol. The things one learns while traveling! The only problem is that the WHOLE islands seems focused on this problem. Apparently when the last supply ship was here a month ago all of the cigarettes they delivered were smoked within a week. We're not sure if they couldn't afford to buy enough to last or if willpower wasn't very strong. Probably a little of both. As the Marcy crew does not have an unlimited budget we couldn't even supply one cancer stick for
each person on the island so we brought our small supply with the best of intentions. We were grilled by the customs/immigration/agriculture group about our cigarettes. Actually the subject came up as Peter was filling out the declaration form for customs. He looked at me and innocently asked "Do we have 4 or 5 cartons of cigarettes?" You can imagine the pitter patter of the happy hearts around the table with that kind of talk (10 packs to a carton!) I quickly corrected that it was only 5 packs
(20 cigarettes per). The group around the table asked if we smoked to which I replied no. They asked if we brought them to trade and I replied that we brought them as a gift. They said they would take 4 boxes and leave us 1 for someone else. I suggested they could split 2 boxes between the four of them and they were happy as they munched on their cookies and anticipated those smokes. We had been forwarned to have cookies and beverage available for customs agents and it's excellent advice. They
were happy to see the cookies as they came aboard.

We enjoyed our stay in Apia, and it was spectacular to see the opening ceremonies of the South Pacific Games. The city was beautifully cleaned up and EVERYTHING that could be painted was. I know, some of it is still on my pants! The fruit and veggies currently on Marcy are the best we've stocked up on in the South Pacific. The people we met in Samoa were friendly and welcoming and it was a fine stop. Apia has a nice bay for anchoring with a mud bottom and perfect holding. Unfortunately, anchoring
for free is no longer an option there right now as they have just opened a new marina and are enforcing a nightly fee whether anchored or at the dock. The harbor master in Apia is a bit of a control freak who wields his power with a heavy hand. He was constantly on the radio. This is usually a job delegated to lower employees in other ports but he seemed to enjoy the interactions with boats. He played favorites or rather, anti favorites. We heard some incredibly rude exchanges where he repeatedly
denied dock access to one boat who had gotten off on the wrong foot with him. He made promises to many boats about discounts on marina fees and charged full price to the next boat. Normally this behavior wouldn't be so obvious but most of the exchanges were carried out on channel 16, the hailing channel. Further, as yachties are a tight gossiping community a good deal had by one will be discussed by all. As the marina was opened to yachts last Saturday we were there for the move in festivities.
The Harbor Master called all yachts at 7AM on the radio and informed us that he needed our boat information and we would be moving our boats that day. We were the 3rd boat into the marina and the first (of several) to run hard aground on the way in. After several minutes in reverse Peter was able to back out of the mud and we were placed at the end of the dock. The mosquitoes were happy to have us closer to shore and the sun came out for the 2 full days we were at the dock. The temperature inside
our boat on the two hottest nights was 85F or more. It's tough to stay covered to avoid mosquitoes on those hot nights. The marina rules were extensive and are sure to be relaxed over time. There were 4-6 guards on duty. No visitors are allowed on the docks. No laundry, no washing and many rules for things they don't even have there. To leave the dock one must have the ID card which cost approx $2 US but was to be turned in before departure with no refund. The number on the card as well as
our names and the boat name had to be recorded by the guard in a book. Each time we returned to the dock our leaving entry had to be located so they could check us back in. After all of that there was usually someone a few feet down the sidewalk wanting to know where we were going in town. Like any new system the details will probably be worked out as the reality of their business becomes clear. Peter reminded me again that we are visitors and we are just passing through. We felt fortunate to
experience the excessive officialdom for only a short time and then be able leave it behind and head back out to sea.

Our time at the marina was great social time. We visited again with Cap'n Fatty and Caroline and we met several new boats that we look forward to seeing in future anchorages. We also were invited to dinner aboard Salena, homeport Vancouver BC with Carol and Michele. She is a retired Canadian Coast Guard chef and he is a cruise ship captain. They sail for 3 months and then they meet his ship and he works while she goes along for the trip. It sounds very deluxe from where I sit, they even have
a bathtub in their cabin. But, he does have to go to work so we decided it's still a good deal to be out here full time. Peter didn't think it sounded like such a great deal if he had to work and I enjoyed room service during the cruise.

We had planned to go to the internet cafe before we left Samoa but did not get there before they closed on Monday evening. If you have written to us on our crew@svmarcy.com email we apologize for not replying quickly. We'll have internet access again in Fiji.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Apia, stars and South Pacific Games

We've been anchored for just over a week in Apia harbour, Independent Samoa. It's very nice here. The mud bottom is great holding and the grocery stores are not too far away. Ginger cleaned the prop and bottom as the bay is clean enough to swim here. We had a lot of growth from Pago Pago and our trip south from here should be much faster with a smooth bottom again.
We're visiting all the close tourist sites. We spent an afternoon at the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. Still trying to figure out how he's related to my family but it's fun to hear about the interesting life of a relative however they're related. His house is majestic and the view from the top of the hill where he and his wife Fannie were buried is beautiful. I even brought home an unexpected souvenir. Everything, including the rocks on the side of the road, is being spruced up for the South
Pacific Games. I leaned on his grave and got white paint all over my rear. I took this as a message from beyond that he thought my pants were not flattering.
We attended a dance show at the local, and apparently famous, Aggie Grey's Hotel. It was a fun mix of folksy and very talented dancers. The finale before moving poolside to watch the fire dancers was a dance by the daughter of Aggie, beehive and all, who is still involved with the hotel.
There were almost 20 boats in the bay when the brand new marina was opened and ready for customers. As we'll be paying the same daily fee (as opposed to the free anchorage before Saturday) whether we're in the marina or not most boats moved into the marina. We were the 3rd boat in and the first to come to a complete stop as we hit the bottom in the channel. A couple of minutes of reverse brought us out of the mud and we had to scramble to move lines and fenders to the other side to tie at the
end of the dock. The mean low water depth for the marina is supposed to be about 8 inches lower than our keel but even small boats were encountering very shallow depths on their way into slips. The dredging for the marina was done by back hoe off a barge. We had watched them move the barge (by paddling around with the back hoe bucket) several times back into the marina to get high spots. Apparently there are still a few spots to settle out. Anyway, all settled and it turns out we have to move
as this is the one float that's not completely attached. So, by Monday morning we'll need to be re-settled in a new slip.
As far as stars, we had a beer on the boat of Captain Fatty Goodlander and his wife Caroline. He's currently writing for Cruising World, has written for Sail, author of several books and will soon have a show on NPR. We haven't seen much of him as he's been working away on writing and getting his NPR shows ready. They're here "covering" the games and it was fun to meet them and hear their stories. He's been out for 45+ years and when they lost their boat in a hurricane in the Caribbean they salvaged
another from the same storm and have been cruising on the "new" boat ever since. They're gracious hosts.
Speaking of the games, we attended the opening ceremonies of the South Pacific Games last night. There was much fanfare as dancers, choir, and athletes entertained for over 3 hours. There were even vendors selling food out of large laundry baskets. Our favorite "Tasty Treats" appeared to be bags of Pringle type potato chips. Really, with a name like that who could resist a bag or two? Of course, no island in the South Pacific is immune to shipping woes. The biggest firework show ever planned
in the Pacific and donated by China for the opening ceremonies were delayed when their ship had trouble and was diverted to New Zealand for repairs. Always flexible as islanders they will have the fireworks for the closing ceremonies. We already saw fireworks here when the marina opened on Friday night. They shot off 3 distress flares. One of the flares was shot into the middle of the anchored fleet of sailboats and landed in the water right in between the 2 anchored boats next to us. We're
glad to not be in the stadium as the fireworks are lit as we'd prefer to take our chances at sea with water rather than on land (or sea) with fire. On the subject of fire, or at least exiting the stadium, the fire chief at home would have had hissy fits over the exits for the stadium here, even though all was well with the seats and the stadium is cement and the stairways seemed wide enough. The problem is that everyone and his brother, cousin, friend seemed to have permission to take their cars
through the gate and there were wall to wall parked cars blocking the pedestrian exits from the stadium. We left way past our bed time in the middle of the speeches at 9PM. By the time we left many of the athletes had headed off the field and the bleachers were quickly emptying. Luckily we didn't have to deal with large crowds and cars at the end of the night as threading our way away from the stadium was crowded already.
Our first night in a marina since January in Mexico and we're ready to head back out to anchor ASAP. It's still and hot when you're bow doesn't face into the wind and worse, there were a few mosquitoes at anchor but they're quick and stealthy and much thicker here in the marina.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Apia, Independant Samoa

The preparations for the South Pacific Games here in Independant Samoa are at a frenzied pace.  The opening ceremonies are Saturday night and the bay is filling up with boats from all over arrived for the games.  A large ship brought about 400 people (7 busloads) from Tuvalu and we read that the Tokelau team is all here for the games.  This is probably the closest we'll come to being near an Olympic Games and it's fun to see all the fanfare.
The radio wiring is all fixed and we're up and running again.  The tin can of a generator we got in Pago Pago has now revealed some of it's secrets to Peter and our batteries are charged up.  We've done some tourist trips around town here and are looking forward to heading to Niuatoputapu, Tonga on Monday.
Today is Toni's birthday (Peter's Mom) and we're thinking of her today and celebrating her birthday from afar.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Samoa: two governments, one people

Pago pool flying fox

Our long stay in Pago Pago, American Samoa was interesting, to say the least. The longer we stayed, the lower our spirits sank. Our primary reason for visiting Pago was to receive mail, most of which never arrived. The weather was an endless procession of vicious windy, rainy squalls alternating with hot muggy days. On the hot still days the smell from the tuna canneries that line the bay could bring tears to your eyes. The litter on the water and on shore was overwhelming. Underfed and unhealthy looking dogs lurk in the streets. This small island, with both McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, does not seem to thrive with close association to the United States. The people are friendly, and we were told many times, Apia is nice, we are one people with two governments.

Pago squall

Pago rainy day

There were a couple of major boat dragging incidents, partly because of the wind but also because the bottom didn’t provide good anchor holding – some say because of all of the plastic bags littering the harbor bottom. We felt we could not stray far from Marcy because of danger from dragging, or being dragged upon. Also demoralizing was a mayday call early one morning that ended in a cruiser sailboat sinking just three hours later off the east end of the island. It was unclear what caused the boat to sink but definitely a shocker to all of us in the bay.

The island around the harbor resembled one long strip mall, with some unique Samoan twists.

Pago church

Of course, this being the South Pacific, land of the missionary, there are many churches.

Unique to American Samoa are hundreds and hundreds of front yard graves, some simple like this one:

frontyard grave amsam

Some elaborate like this one:

Pago mausoleum

It was explained to us that this is a recent phenomena, arising out of land disputes. If you plant mom and dad in the front yard, it makes a serious ownership statement!

Open air, communal structures called “fales” are dotted along the road.

pango fale

Apia fale roof

Apia fale curtain

One evening many of the cruisers in the anchorage got together for a Samoan traditional dinner on a nice beach north of Pago.

mmm.. meat

Peter says, yummy, meat! Ginger says, is there anything I can eat here?

Pago traditional feast dancer

After waiting fruitlessly for mail for a month, we decided enough was enough and hoisted anchor for the overnight hop to Apia, the next island over and capital of the independent nation of Samoa. We are fortunate to have met Zero, Southern Star’s paddling coach as he agreed to check our mail and forward anything that comes in the next few weeks. Hopefully our mail will come while there are still cruisers heading our way from Pago.

'Southern Star' gets a paddling lesson AmSam

The anchor chain had grown a sticky sludge during the long stay, so we broke out the pressure washer that we had bought in Mexico.

Cleaning chain Pago

It worked well, but it was still a three hour job to blast all of the muck off.

Pago chain scum

Apia, in contrast to Pago, turns out to be a clean and scenic little city. It may be spiffed up more than usual because this year Apia is the host of the South Pacific Games, due to start in a week. Our anchorage gives a front row view of practicing long boats called Va’a. Each boat has it’s own drummer in the bow to try to keep the stroke well timed for all 40 oarsmen. Sometimes they use a whistle too - it’s a bit like Carnival in Rio.

Apia va'a

long boats in shed AmSam

We also have a good view of the working port. These two well kept tugs maneuver a constant procession of big and small ships onto the quay.

Apia tugs

We went to the Saturday market and picked up delicious fruit and vegetables. It was a very busy place in the market and on the street. It appears that everyone comes to this market on Saturday.

Apia food market

Queen Poto Apia

This being the capitol, there are many government offices. Some of them we just aren’t sure what purpose they serve…..

Office of the regulator Apia

With our spirits rising again we look forward to a week in Apia before we head south to Tonga.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Apia, Western Samoa

We anchored in 30 knots of wind yesterday afternoon in Apia, Western Samoa. It was a fast and bumpy overnight passage from Pago. We were happy to haul our anchor out of the Pago Pago bay mud - without a hitch. While we were there we helped several boats untangle from cables and debris in the bay. We checked into Western Samoa yesterday afternoon and this morning (a lengthy process including customs, quarantine, Harbour Master, immigration and health.) This morning all of our office visits were completed in tropical a downpour which cleared just in time to bring our computer into the internet cafe.
We've got several electrical things to repair (HF radio, computer, inverter) and are still catching up on sleep from the passage here. The tropical air, and sea air are taking their toll and we're redoubling our efforts to repair and protect our electronics.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Video under sail

We've uploaded a short video as a test, that we took from Marcy's
cockpit a few weeks ago. Hopefully it won't take long to open. If it works well we will post some longer videos.

Life here in Pago Pago continues - we wait for mail, and we deal with the other yachts in the anchorage dragging anchor in the periodic wind storms. The anchor holding is poor, and the bottom is sprinkled with debris that catches on anchors. Its a bad combination that results in sailboats careening out of control through the bay. We sometimes feel like a bumper in a pinball machine! Our own anchor has held well, which
may mean that it is hooked on debris.

Between wind storms and trips to the post office, we're getting lots of projects done so our time here has been well spent. Our steering has been overhauled, boom gooseneck and vang lubricated and improved with plastic washers, and we bought an inexpensive gas generator to top off the batteries.