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

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

APIA, BUSTLING CAPITOL OF INDEPENDENT SAMOA, to NIUATOPUTAPU, BACKWATER OF TONGA

South Pacific Games headquarters Apia

Apia, the proud hosts of 2007 South Pacific Games, was a beehive of activity. The city was freshly painted and decked out in the flags of the competing nations.

Marcy at the SPA dock Apia

Marcy herself was part of the decoration, with signal flags hoisted. We were informed by the harbormaster that we would be among the first boats to tie up in the brand new marina. Actually, we were told, there was no choice in the matter! On the appointed day, all of the anchored yachts were summoned one by one on the VHF radio to enter. Marcy, the second boat in, promptly ran hard aground in front of the appointed slip. It seems that the promised controlling depth had not yet been achieved. No matter, after it was fully understood why we were not proceeding, an alternate slip was quickly assigned and Marcy was tied to a dock in a marina for the first time since a short stay in Mexico in January. Much to Ginger’s disappointment SPA, which was all over the marina paperwork, stands for Samoa Port Authority so there was only a SPA day for Marcy. The marina is in a beautiful location, convenient to Internet, restaurants and cafes, grocery stores, laundry, and downtown shopping.

Apia marina opening day

Dinner with 'Miss Jody' Ron and Joanne

After dinner with friends Ron and Joanne from Miss Jody, a catamaran from Florida, we attended the opening ceremony in a packed stadium just a short walk from the marina.

SPG south pacific games opening ceremonies

Meanwhile, back at the marina, dredging resumed apace – fully one third of the boats in the marina had touched bottom one place or another on the way in.

Apia marina dredge

Polynesians are at home on or in the water. We noticed this makeshift raft shuttling marina construction workers.

Apia marina worker transport

Polynesians also like to paddle – except for the competition longboats we never see a rowboat rowed. Instead it will be paddled with one oar, the other oar presumably lost or given away. Even the dredge was moved from site to site like a giant canoe, with the bucket skillfully worked as a giant paddle. No tug needed! We did enjoy watching the longboat crews assemble and practice. It must be quite a feat for a coach to persuade 50 Samoans paddlers to show up regularly and at the right time for a workout!

Va'a team

With the waterfront activity at a peak, we decided to escape inland and visit the last home and final resting place of Robert Louis Stevenson, a distant relative of Ginger’s. We took a taxi into the mountains and found a quiet beautiful mansion set in a park.

RLS mansion

RLS’s study boasts a fireplace, probably the only one in the tropical South Pacific. Here a Scotsman could feel at home, and here he wrote his last books. He died downstairs at the age of 44.

RLS museum 3

We climbed the mountain behind the mansion to visit his last resting place. “Home is the sailor, home from the sea…” Remember all the fresh paint in town, in honor of the Games? Yes, as Ginger paused next to RLS’s grave for a photo, a nice neat white patch was left on her derriere.

RLS grave with Ginger

Back at the marina, shouting at each other to be heard of the noise of the dredging, we realized that it was time to move on. We set sail for Niuatoputapu - a small island in northern Tonga. Two short fast sailing days later, we dropped the hook inside the protecting reef of a quiet island. We arrived in a setting as quiet and rural as Apia was bustling and urban.

In response to our Q flag and VHF radio request a truck full of officials arrived at the wharf and blared the horn for pickup by dinghy. After the formalities were attended to we were free to wander.

the wharf Niuatoputapu

We exchanged money at the bank.

Niuatoputapu treasury safe

Tongan money

The island’s commerce is carried back and forth on the highway.

transporting pandanus Niuatoputapu, Tonga

The main road Niuatoputapu

Marcy alone in the bay Niuatoputapu

curing pandanus on the reef Niuatoputapu

fishing boat Niuatoputapu

It became obvious that we had come to the right place to decompress after a month and a half in urban harbors. What we didn’t realize was that we were about to become swept up in a very social scene. One family in particular that lives near the wharf likes to adopt and welcome “yachties” with potlucks, feasts, and offers of help. Niko is an energetic fisherman, and his wife Sia is the indefatigable matriarch. Shortly after arriving they hosted a Sunday feast with yachties providing much coveted desserts and gave a tour of their compound.

Sia's Sunday umu for yachties

'Chupo' Niko and Sia's dog

Sia's kitchen

When we expressed interest in climbing the island’s peak, Sia promptly organized a guiding party for us consisting of 10 of the younger members of the family! We set off in a noisy and cheerful band, singing, hooting, and calling to each other.

hike with Lo, Lemoto,Salesi, Moses, Helen, Tiu, Paki, Niko, Peter and friends

The views from the heights were spectacular.

the volcano from the ridge Niuatoputapu

West end of Niuatoputapu

Our worries about the lack of water carried by the guides turned out to be unfounded – the boys scurried up palm trees and kicked coconuts down, and with a few expert chops by 9 year old boys wielding machetes, drinks and snacks were served to all.

Moses getting drinks

Moses providing snacks for hike

hiking Niuatoputapu

By the time we had descended and were trudging back to the wharf, our group was much quieter, but still in good spirits.

tired hikers

clowning on the way home

LeMoto

rest stop

The standard island pose for a camera includes hand signs straight from music videos – pop culture is truly global. Another friend, Fehia, teaches Ginger how it’s done.

at Fehia's house

Fehia visited Marcy for some chocolate cake and admired the picture book of Washington State.

Ginger and Fehia

One sign of the power of the matriarch, Sia, is that she motivated the heathens Ginger and Peter to dress up and attended a Catholic service on Sunday. The singing was exquisite.

Catholic church Niuatoputapu

waiting for church

Sia at church

As sailors do, we started of thinking of our exit strategy. We started looking at charts of Fiji, and wondering how to say goodbye……. Monday is a good day to check out of the country and leave, but wait, Don from Sand Dollar just pulled in and we’re happy to return the favor of a dinner he provided in Fakarava when we were low on food and cooking fuel!

lobster dinner

Tuesday morning, dishes done, fuel transferred, and we’re ready for Fiji. Now, Niko and Sia have taken us up on a dinner invitation!

visitors Niuatoputapu

It’s Wednesday now and Sia has organized a pig roast! The carnivorous skipper of a boat with a vegetarian cook is not able to turn this down.

Peter approves of dinner prep

Sia making dinner

happy Peter

We’ve washed every dish on the boat several times over in the last week , we repaired the broken slides on the mainsail and storing all the items that have to be put away for sea, but wait again - we hear on the radio that Adelia, with friends Kip and Denise is about to arrive with mail for us!

Denise and Kip 'Adelia'

Adelia , who we first met in La Paz, Mexico, had not only brought to us from Pago Pago a couple of small boxes of late arriving books, but had loaded aboard several dinghy loads of various boxes sent by island relatives that live and work in Pago. After another nice dinner with them on Marcy, we told ourselves that tomorrow was the day to leave. That night, as the wind whistled in the rigging and rain torrents swept the bay, we wondered if we were destined to stay forever. So you understand why the next morning we double reefed the mainsail, hoisted anchor, and sailed out into a half a gale.

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