August 29, 2011

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 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