August 29, 2011

New sailing plan until 2014!

We updated our sailing plan! You can check it on the right site under our photo albums!
Enjoy,
Daria and Pete

Western Samoa, Savaii Island



We left Apia harbor in the morning on the 20th of August again finding ourselves motor sailing in calm seas with light winds trolling lines.  We did not get a bite all day and by late afternoon we pulled into Matatu bay on the NW side of the island with an entire bay to ourselves.  We anchored off a little village and a small resort in 50 foot deep water just off the reef.  



















Savaii is largely uninhabited with a substantial part covered in raw volcanic lava and forested mountains.  The island has said to been inhabited since 3000 BC when waves of immigrants from SE Asia sailed across the seas to live here.  Savaii is the largest island in the south pacific after New Zealand and Hawaii and is known as the homeland to all the tribes of Polynesia.  The volcanoes erupted as recently as 100 years ago from 1905 until 1911 covering much of the fertile farmland.  They left behind the twisted flows can be seen going through churches and buildings on your short walk through the village.







Daria and I took a bag full of gifts and went for a walk and founds lots of kids that timidly accepted them.  A nice couple Sam and Ana gave us a ride to another small village that is build on the rim of an old volcano.







  It was a Sunday and we met lots of kids coming home from church and they all received a gift and we soon ran out of things to give away. 

















On our way we were asked by a local if we wanted to come into his home and have a lunch of taro root and vegetables we declined but gave him a hat and were on our way.  It was hot as we continued walking down the road across the lava flows and we soon had blisters on our feet and were looking for another ride.


 We flagged down a mini van who gave us a ride back to the boat with 8 of us crammed inside with the AC on high.  Daria got out with freezing numb fingers and me with numb legs from her sitting on my lap. We spent the rest of the day relaxing on Downtime.

The next morning we sailed down to Asau on the SW side of the island.  The winds were going our way and we covered the 18 miles in just over two hours.  


We sailed close enough to the western shore to see the jagged jet black lava covered coast line that shot waves splashing up in the air when they crashed up against it.  At one time there must have been a massive eruption when the entire west coast was covered in a continuous layer of lava.  We had the fishing lines out and wouldn’t you know it just when I went below to use the bathroom we catch a fish!!  We rolled up the jib and started fighting the fish in bumpy seas.  I was not going to loose this one, fresh ceviche was on the brain!  We had a nice fish on and she was not giving up easily, but after 30 minutes we had a 30 pound Mahi on the deck.  She was barely hooked on the outside of her mouth and we were lucky to have got her aboard. 

The pass into Asau is another of those that is vague on the charts being surveyed over 100 years ago.  The guide book says it could have been damaged by a recent typhoon and you must be very careful when entering. Really…. The charts turned out to be ½ mile off and we almost went on the rocks, bumping ground several times as we backed out of our first attempt.  We were hailed on the radio by Don & Denise on their 41 foot Wharram catamaran Katipo and they told us to “GET LEFT there are rocks where you are at!!”  Really?  Is that what we heard  scraping the bottom when the depth sounder went to 6 feet?  But seriously thanks for he help Don and Denise.  Safely through the channel we motored across the lagoon. We anchored close by and invited them for a fresh Mahi dinner later that evening.  Don and Denise live in New Zealand and I am sure we will see them down the road.

The next morning we reloaded our goodie bag and went to shore for a look around.  We landed SD at a nice resort and walked to town after handing out gifts to the people that worked there.  On our way to town we met some of the locals, and our first stop at the bank to change some money was a lot of fun. 

Last month when my sister Kelly and her family came out she brought a big bag of costume jewelry donated by her and the ladies of her church.  The bag was full of shiny treasures they did not wear any longer.  Well, one persons trash is another’s treasure and I am sure this bag full of jewelry will warm more hearts of more people that we could imagine!!!  By the way, some of you ladies really gave us some nice stuff to give away!!   So, if any one of you out there have any treasures laying around just send it our way and we will hand it out for you and post a story about it.  You can e-mail us at downtimecat@gmail.com and we will arrange the shipping

We gave the ladies at the bank each a piece of the treasure and the guy working there a Downtime hat, in return they gave us an orange(hard to find in these parts) and  big smiles.  We continued down the road handing out Downtime tee shirts, toys and candy (Bom-Bom)  to lots of smiling faces.  My favorite stop was to a pre school where we handed out little toys and candy.  The kids in return sang for us Jesus Loves Me and a few other songs all in really good English.



On thing that stands out in these island are the churches, lots of beautiful churches.  Many of these beautiful structures are over 100 years old and can hold the entire islands population several times over.  The faith is primarily Christian and the balance Catholic.  All the services are still in Tahitian language and the ladies dress in white with their finest hats.  The men where white pants and shirts, very traditional.  On Sundays it seems the whole village goes to church and all the stores shut down just the opposite from Kansas.  In Kansas everyone goes to Walmart and the churches are empty?  I think if you could broadcast a message at Walmart you could realistically reach over 60% of the community on Sunday!


Across the way we met a group of ladies having a meeting and they invited us in.  As Daria opened up her bag of gifts the ladies transformed into little girls before our eyes, each so excited with her new treasure.  Then they saw the candy bag and all had out reached hands while wearing their shining new gifts.  The candy did not last long and soon they were asking questions about our journey, we gave them stickers with our website and cards with a picture of the boat as we told them our story. Who knows if they will ever be able to get on the internet?




The ladies were having some kind of meeting where there was a big pile of money in the middle of the floor.  From what I have read I think they still have a community based system where everyone shares and is treated the same.  Money is pooled to buy the thing the village most needs.   They have simple lives and take care of each other, not a bad system.  Us bringing them small gifts is a real treat for them since most will never see the inside of a wal mart or any major shopping center.  They just do not have the means to buy jewelry or makeup. Where ever we go we are always asked for all sorts of things like lotions, lipstick, makeup, bracelets, hair pins, rings, sunglasses, perfumes and many other things girls of all ages like even if they are half full.  We would have brought more with us had we know there was such a need.  So if you feel like helping spread the love send them our way and we will do our part giving them out.


Western Samoa mainly Savaii was our first real look at the true South Pacific.  The people here are warm and still have traditional lifestyles.  You can find the small villages where people still live in thatched roofed homes and live lives that are unbelievably simple.  The value they hold for community would leave every American town at a loss.  I look back to how I lived in Kansas and had no idea who lived two doors down?  That definably does not happen in these parts!  The people are genuine and I would love to come back here and spend more time with them. 

It is strange at times to be sailing around the world, you do not know in advance what places to spend the most time.  Western Samoa will probably be one of those places I will look back on a wonder why I just spent a week at.

Our next adventure will take us to Wallis and Futuna Islands.

Until then enjoy the journey through life and live your dreams!!

Peace!! Capt Pete and Daria aboard the SY Downtime

August 27, 2011

Western Samoa, Upolu Island

We departed Pago Pago on Sunday morning with the sound of church bells ringing along the shore as we slowly sailed along the western shore of the island.  The winds were again light and the sails were doing little more than providing shade on the deck.  We trolled lines along the drop off with out much success other than one 8 inch long skip jack tuna which we threw back.  We saw whales blowing on the horizon but never really got close to enjoy the great creatures. 

It took all day to cover the 65 miles to Upolu and just before dark we anchored in Fagola Bay on the NE side of the island in a bay all to our selves.  There was a small village along the rocky bay and no place to land SD so we raised the anchor the next morning and set sail for the main harbor of Apia just 15 miles to the west. 

Apia is the nicest harbor we have seen in the whole South pacific.  The marina is fairly new and has modern floating docks with free water and power when you pay a nominal fee to tie up here.  We were assisted by a crew of 4 guys that helped take our lines and get us securely tied to the dock.  They no sooner tied us up and then asked “ hey Cap you have a soda pop?”  sorry we do not drink pop but I offered a beer which they all accepted along with a Downtime cap for everyone.   The customs and immigration agents took their time coming to the boat but handled clearing you in a very professional way and all of this for free without running all over town!!  There is a departure fee of only $33 tala which is very reasonable and the dock is just over $130 US for the week.


Tuesday night there was a fire dance show at a  little bar just a short walk from the marina.  We met several other cruisers at the “Gourmet Seafood Restaurant” that served only fish and chips, after dinner we were entertained by the local talent next door.  The fire dancers were performing so close to us close that we felt the heat and heard the roar from the torches spinning in their hands.  The kids start training when they are very young and by the time they are in their teens have some real talent.   




The island is very clean and the people are friendly and helpful.  Everyone speaks good English and seem to enjoy their island lives.  Prices here are just a little higher than American Samoa and the selection just OK.  The local bus system appears to be overloaded with far fewer busses running the routs and most busses were crammed full of passengers at rush hour.  The taxis here are all painted white and the fleet is made up of modern  Toyota’s  that charge a fair fee for their services.  We hired a car for the day and it was $80 US for the trip around the island, not bad.

Our trip started with a quick stop at the cash machine money here is $2.19 Tala to one Us dollar. Then we were off across the island with our first stop at Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Museum.



 The 100 year old home and plantation have been restored to the  original splendor.  The two story home is built of a Australian design with imported redwood from California lining the interior walls.  Huge porches wrap around the west side of the home and it even has two fireplaces build just for show to make the place feel more like home in Scotland.  The plantation sits at 2500 feet above the sea and it is noticeably cooler up here.  First we took the steep and winding trail up the mountain behind the house up to his tomb.  The 40 minute accent left us dripping wet and wishing we took our water bottles along.  Robert died at just 44 years old from a stroke and was laid to rest next to his wife on top of the mountain with a beautiful view of his plantation and the sea below.




We continued  across the island and our next point of interest brought us to a Baha’I  temple of which there are only nine built in the world. They all have very unique architecture and this one in particular was surrounded with beautiful landscaping that keeps 8 gardeners busy all week.  Apparently the former king was a follower of this religion and supported the building of this place.  He is no longer king and recently was voted out of power, so this was definitely not the right road to be on….Nice gardens though.

There are many waterfalls on the island but now being the dry season is not the best time to see them.  We stopped at a few along the way and they were just so-so.  Arriving at the south shore we took a break for lunch at a beach resort and paid way too much for a crab special but enjoyed our brief stay there, you will recognize the place be seeing the cooks and waiters wearing Downtime hats.

We gave this little girl a tee shirt and toys, she was so shy but after a while we got a smile out of her.


This would be a fun island to spend a week traveling around,  since there is way too much to see in just a day.   You can rent a inexpensive rooms and bungalows just mere small roadside structures at many places along the shore.  We stopped at a few more places along the coast and took pictures of the shoreline and had some refreshments (beer) at beachside cafes. 









The south coast was devastated by a tsunami just two years ago and the ruins of many homes are still evidence of the wave that killed over 130 people that sad day.  Entire villages were wiped out and were later relocated to higher ground.  The only people left live in makeshift raised huts that have blue tarps for walls with all their worldly positions in the middle of the small structures covered with scraps of tin for a roof.  The lifestyle here is a simple one. 











There are 250,000 Samoan people and I would guess most live on less in a year than one US family lives on in a month. There are very few cars here and the kids walk to school in bare feet.  The dress code for school is a simple one, everyone wears the same thing, a white shirt and wrap around knee length skirt like cloth.  Some schools have different color bottoms but all have the white shirts.  We gave out a dozen Downtime tee shirts to some of the kids we saw walking along the way, they were timid accepting the gift but showed true appreciation with a big smile when they understood it was just a gift.  We saw kids hauling bananas and coco nuts along the road as well as others hauling water.  It is a lot of work in life if you have to haul all the water you use any distance.  Most of the island has water provided by a PVC pipe that lays along the roadway.  In a few places the pipe is buried in the rocky soil, but most places it is exposed with smaller lines running up to the homes with a single faucet outside.

The lush island is covered in coco nut trees, millions of coco nut trees!!  Sadly it has been years since coco nuts have had any value to them and now the fruits just fall into piles under the trees.  Each tree bears 40 to 60 nuts a year and in places hundreds of new trees grow in clumps creating chaos.  The only use they have for them now is to drink the occasional green one and to pick up the brown dried out ones and use the oily meat inside to feed pigs.  We saw piles stacked along the roadside that a big truck would come by and pick them up hauling them to where the pigs were being raised.  Men would then have to husk them, break out the meat and feed the pigs.  Other pigs seemed perfectly happy walking around free in small villages or wallowing in roadside ditches rooting in the cool mud as we drove by.

In another village we drove through there was a bingo game going on with people lounging in any shade they could find within ears reach of the announcer. 

We returned back to the boat by 5:00 and got cleaned up for another night out at Aggie Grays a hotel with lots of history  for a traditional dance show and buffet.  The show had 40 local dancers and musicians that put on a great show.  The buffet was loaded with local delicacies that included roasted suckling pig, coconut cream tuna, stuffed sea urchins, taro leaf salad, coconut cream octopus and many other tasty dishes and salads.  All this was only $35 US per person and was a good value in my opinion.

The next day we did some shopping around town and cleared out.  Clearing out was not quite as easy as clearing in but we found the immigration office and filled out the wrong form, then filled out the right forms, got our passport stamped by a very large and happy Samoan lady and were on our way to the prime ministers office within 30 minutes.  The prime ministers office is where you can get permission to go to Savaii the island just to the west, the less populated sister island of Western Samoa.  I was told the office was on the 5th floor.  I went to the 5th floor and was told it was on the 3rd floor and went there to be told to go to the tourism office on the 1st floor who told me to go to the 5th floor…..Back to the 5th floor the security guy had a weird look as I walked past to the office on the left.  The letter was printed and passports scanned and we were allowed to visit.  Then it was off to the port captains office to pay $33 tala departure fee.  I arrived at 2:45 just in time to see them all leaving early for the day, than goodness one guy had a cell phone and called his boss to help me out.  I am sure they all got overtime for collecting the $33 tala and filling out my clearance papers. Next step we had to pay for the dock and wouldn’t you know it I was $20 short!!  Another mile of walking back to the boat and we were all set.


That night we went out to a nice Italian restaurant Paddles and had some of the best food and service we have had in quite a while.  After dinner we had a few drinks at a little bar called Y-Not and swapped fishing stories with a local charter captain.  Too bad we would not be here when the big fish come up in the summer months.


From all the stories we heard this is no place to be in the summer time.  It rains continuously and they get something like 300 inches of rain!!  And if that is not bad enough they are located right where the major typhoons come through.. I guess that would explain all the rain..  Several have caused serious damage in the past decade.


Every morning while we were here woke to the sound of drums beating to a rhythm at 5:00 am!!  What’s going on?   When the sun finally rose we could see the huge canoes out practicing, each had 40 men rowing and one helmsman at the stern and a guy banging the drum up front.  The boats are over 70 feet long and move right along when everyone is pulling on the oars.



Having driven around the island and spent almost a week here I still always wonder how and island can survive let alone be it’s own country.  They do not worry about the things big countries do, like defense, what is to defend?  They have zero military and the police force is minimal compared to most countries we visited.  We never seen the fire trucks leave the firehouse or ever heard a sirens blair.  While we were in Pago Pago and American island the ambulances and fire trucks were screaming at all hours of the day.  It seems that if the services are there the people get used to calling them out. If they are not, well they just take care of it on their own.  It is amazing of what we are used to in the states but at what cost?  Like most countries in the world over half work for the government.  There was a 24 hr guard at the docks to guard 12 boats that paid an average of $20 per day to be there, no profit there….All the departments we went to were well staffed and helpful but you have to ask, where does all the money come from?  This country has no real exports or manufacturing to trade with.  The local hills are full of dense jungle but could be covered in hardwood tree farms.  The plantations that thrived in the turn of the century are all but overgrown now and pastures have a fraction of the livestock they could sustain. There is some tourism but no main resorts just small 20 to 30 room locations.  We did see a lot of New Zealanders traveling here, they have just a short 4 hour flight to paradise.  Having said all that Western Samoa is still a place I would definitely come back to, next time for a month not a week!

Our next adventure will be Savaii the sister island to Upolu

Until then,  Live your dreams!!

Peace!!  Capt Pete and Daria


August 22, 2011

American Samoa

Naked selfie hehe
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
Until then,
Peace  Captain Pedro and Daria