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 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

August 16, 2011

Suwarrow Atoll, One of the Cook Islands


Suwarrow (Suvorov) has a reputation of being a very friendly island and our stay was amazing. The island was discovered by a Russian explorer Lazarev in 1814 aboard the  Suvorov for which the island is named. The islands fame originated from a man named Tom Neale who lived on the island as a hermit from 1952 until his death in 1978. He wrote a book about his life here “An Island To Oneself” an appropriate name since the island is 500 miles from the closest land.

The fishing was good on the trip over and we landed 2-tunas and a wahoo, our first this season! 1- barracuda and 2-mahi-mahi!
It took us 4½ days to make the crossing and we cleared the passage and anchored next to “Anchorage Island”. 
Things are so simple here, names you can read and people speak English… 
We found our selves anchoring with 12 or so other boats, many of which we had seen previously in Polynesia.












The caretakers of the Nature Reserve, John and James we so welcoming and made the stay enjoyable for all.  James has had this post for the past 18 years, staying for 6 months though the cruising season greeting an average of 130 boats a year.  This was Johns first season and he fit right in.  John would organize the diving and snorkeling trips while James showed all his cooking skills.  Cruisers are allowed to stay two weeks and enjoy this tropical paradise but  some get lost in the beauty of it all and extend their stay a few weeks.
The first day we were there John took a group out to Perfect Reef which was located 4 miles away on the far side of the lagoon.  The simple name said it all it was “Perfect”  The reef was teaming with life and was enjoyed by everyone.




A few times John came diving with Andy from Savanna and myself and we saw some of the best reef life I have ever experienced.  There are lots of big groupers and sharks swimming around on the reefs, a bit scary swimming with sharks especially grey sharks!! They are a more than just a little territorial!! Spear fishing is allowed in moderation but it is a challenge to get the fish you speared to the boat before a shark steals your catch.  Several were snuck past them and we ate some really tasty grouper on a few of the nights! James put on a “Cooking with Coconuts” class and there were many tasty dishes with coconut creams and sauces.
Three other nights we had a $10 Texas hold em tournament twice on Downtime with 30 ppl aboard and the other game we played a the ranger outpost. Daria placed third the first time she ever played! I won the first night, Andy the next and Larry on Magenta took home all the cash on the last night. Daria cooked up some amazing fish dishes and other cruisers brought a lot of goodies to snack on.





This was the best anchorage we have been in so far in the South Pacific, everyone was so friendly and we were able to make some life long friends.  There was even another boat with kite surfers aboard and one day we broke out the kites with Gavin and his crew on Squanderer, a boat bound for Australia.

Andy from Savanna and I did several dives together and he being a retired navy dive photographer took some amazing underwater pictures.  Daria was finally ably to get it all together and enjoy a dive here also, but she was squeezing my hand a little too tight when a sharks swam by.  We had several black tip, white tip and grey sharks circling curiously around us while we dove.  Andy took some great pictures of a moray eel that was hiding in the rocks and of a giant manta ray cruised by over head.

120ft under water!

























The time flew by and soon we needed to be on our way again….We said or farewells and set sail the following day.  We were under way by seven  in the morning and I had 4 poles trolling off the back as we cleared the pass and within minutes all 4 poles were bent over with a fish tearing line off the reels!!!  It was crazy aboard for a while!! I was somehow able to get 3 of the fish aboard and then I called Andy on the radio to come take some fish back to the other cruisers,  We no sooner had the boat turned  around with re-set poles and hooked two more on our way back to port, but only managed to land one of them. Andy met us just as I was gaffing the last fish. we off loaded  three of the 30 pound of yellow fins in his dingy.   Amazingly thirty minutes later we had another, much bigger fish on the line!! The last tuna was the biggest I have landed so far on Downtime 50 plus pounds.  By now I was wore out and we put the poles away with the freezer again full of fish.


Asian style! Yummmm

Thanks for an amazing stay James and John!!!

In the next adventure we set sail for American Samoa.

Until then,

Peace  Captain Pedro and Daria