American Samoa-Work Hard…..cruising is a team sport!!!

Slow Flight (and 5 other boats) left for a 450 mile passage to Pago Pago, American Samoa on August 9th.  It was gusting 15-20 knots with gusts up to 25-30 knots and swell was still 2-3 meters in height.  We left knowing the first days was going to be heavy winds and big swell but was supposed to lie die as we progressed west. Our average speed was about 7 knots but while surfing down the waves we saw 11.1 gps speed!!!!  We flew our jib on a pole and jigger (mizzen sail) both reefed.  Let’s just say it was a washing machine.

This guy was cruising by our boat while we were preparing to lift anchor at Suwarrow.
The fleet sailing after the pass in Suwarrow. There were 6 boats that left the same morning, 4 of us headed to Pago Pago American Samoa (SV Me Too, SV Terrapin, SV Sky Blue Eyes, and us)

As predicted the winds settled to 15 knots and swell softened to 1-2 meters.  We saw lots of heat lighting which I had never seem before…just flashes in the clouds that would light up the sky. The 4 boats headed to American Samoa stayed within VHF radio range of each other which was pretty fun to be able to chat if need be…in our case, we hailed everyone to say we saw whales!!!!

This humpback whale (I was told later) is about 40 feet from our boat! You can see its spouting water. We were both excited to see a whale so far north as we heard most of the humpbacks migrate farther south and nervous as whales can “bump” into the boat….damage or turnover a boat.

We finally arrived and anchored on the morning of August 12th.  Pago Pago harbour was hit by a huge storm back in 2009 and the harbor floor is littered with trash (mattresses, cars, boats, tires, lawn furniture, etc.) and we heard this creates for challenging anchoring and holding.  We double anchored in about 45 feet of water, backed down on it at 2000 rpms for about 10 minutes and called that good.  We’ve been good thus far.

The American Samoa flag along with the “Q” quarantine flag flying as we came into Pago Pago harbour.
Land fall
The Pago Pago anchorage with all the cruising boats.
Slow Flight at anchor… 2 anchors down….getting ready for 30 knots of wind predicted. We backed down on the anchor at about 2000 rpm and finally held after moving backwards at 1.2 knots

First priority….. PIZZA!!!!

Coors light and Valima (the local beer) and I ate all of that pizza in this photo…no joke!

Pago Pago is a slice of American in the middle of the Pacific ocean.  We learned that the NFL likes to recruit from American Samoa so you can imagine lots of football fans (Seahawks, 49ers, Raiders flags).  Cricket was a big thing here too, though I know nothing about it, you would see matches being played.  We mostly enjoyed the stores that had brands we knew : )

This store is like a Home Depot combined with target….just no perishables…we love it!!!!
Well not quite the blue and yellow sign we are use to seeing….these buys sell appliances and household electronics…close

There is a large fishing economy due to the Starkist tuna factory here.  We heard that the plant actually shuts down when there is not enough fish to process…them someone told us there was talk about expanding the factory….nobody knows.

Every once in awhile there is a terrible smell….
The group photo by the Starkist Tuna staue
A fishing net…seriously!!!!
Containers, containers, containers…..

Transportation – The bus was so much fun, each individually owned they have the freedom to decorate and provide entertainment….loud music and even TV?!

The gang boarding the bus…there are bus stops but you can generally pick one up as they maybe honk at you to see if you need a ride.
The driver….they sit way far down and their dash was always covered with “fur”…it must be an thing
Inside the bus…we think the passenger part of the bus is all custom made on top of a ford van….there are lines to pull for your stop…some had cushions on the seats, some not…and the windows of plastic with wood handles could be pushed up to keep the rain out…otherwise it was nice having the breeze in your hair.
Since each bus is individually owned…most of them had some kind of theme…this one was Hollywood!


Checking in- What a process…. the long and short is that we were doopped for the first time.  Usually there is a way to find out how much it is in fees to come into a port.  But in this case it was not clear and we ended up paying for a health inspection (they never came aboard our boat) that needed to be paid in cash only! The issue arose further when other cruisers we talked to said they didn;t pay it and some asked to write a check (we are in “America”) but they didn’t take it…so it seemed fishy.  After some research, there is federal code (USA) and local code that didn’t really specify for “non commercial” vessels.  We ended up paying $50 out of the first assessed $100 fee…even though Trevor said to the guy “I would be glad to give you the full amount if it would promote a sign of the fees and regulations associated with it”.  He gave us back $50…

The gang in line at 1 out of the 5 offices we went to….
View from the customs office…lots of fishing vessels
You probably can’t see the little labels of a glass of wine …I am trying to set the tone assuming this container had wine in it according to the label. Maybe you just had to of been here : )

We have been here now for over 2 weeks.  We have been ordering parts and waiting for them to be delivered.  We have been taking care of some boat projects and provisioning for all things 110 volt since we won’t be able to find these things as easily for a long time.

Here has been some of the “work” we have been doing….the fun stuff will be the next post : )

Boat Work – One of the items we had delivered here was a replacement for our broken wind turbine that blew up during our passage across the pacific to French Polynesia.  We have been without one for 5 months!.

Trevors work basket tied to our back shrooud in 20 knots of wind….He took of the bracket so we could insulate the wires that would “clank” in the mizzen mast…and would drive me crazy!!!! and we all know Trevor doesn’t need me more crazy : )
Da Bracket…. so we actually had to tie our mizzen halyard to the bracket and winch it off while Trevor used a torch to heat up the 5200 he applied to install it the first time.
Trevor using an old expandable hose to insulate the wires….though pulling it through the mast was not as easy as we anticipated!
Trevor up the mizzen mast to reinstall the bracket and wind turbine.
Trevor after the instal!!!! He was covered with 5200, a fast drying adhesive, that went EVERYWHERE. Let’s just say with the wind the caulking gun and half full tin of acetone fell from the radar platform and luckily it fell on the deck of the boat and not into the water…or my head! Let’s just say it was a shit show : )

The generator- Our generator literally shut down while we were preparing to have brunch on the boat for about 11 people….it was overheating and a sensor was shutting it down.  We had changed out the impeller a while ago but didn’t take apart the heat exchanger to find the parts as we assumed since it was working well, the parts had cleared itself.  Silly us!  After all the below work, Trevor found that he could’ve just taken out the cylinder where the water goes through instead of taking apart the entire things (seals and gaskets broken). The issues was finally resolved after Trevor went into the water (gross) and dove the thru hole where the water intake for our generator is and found a plastic bag stuck…even though we have grates over the thru hole…it was sucked up through the slates of the grate…..and also the impeller parts.  We are all good now!

The Northern lights generator heat exchanger….
After finding the old impeller plastic bits …hummm…what else could it be?
Exhaust…it was full of gunk!
The gunk….

Dragging boats With the predicted 30 knots of wind, a 35 ft sailboat who had come in under sail (transmission went out) started to drag…we can only assume they couldn’t back down on their anchor enough to hold in this heavy wind.  The captain was nowhere to be found (Trevor even dinghied over to Mcdonalds to find him) so everyone (but me) hopped into their dinghies and boarded the boat so that it wouldn’t drag into another cruiser and to secure the anchor.

Sv Pickles, SV Me Too, SV Terrapin all helping to pick up the anchor and try to steer the boat with dinghies on both sides. They all decided to put the boat on a mooring ball behind everyone, just in case. I am sure the owners came back and was like “where the hell is my boat”…but we did run into them later and they thanked us all for helping them. That’s what it’s all about!!!!

SV Shakedown – Hal and Nancy sailed from Nuka Hiva, French Polynesia straight to American Samoa, about 2000 miles.  They did not have a working engine and it was communicated that Nancy was having health issues aboard.  It took 9 people, 3 dinghies to get them anchored under sail…we even had a meeting before they came in to make sure everyone knew the plan.  We got them anchored and then got Nancy to the ER here.  Hal later developed pneumonia.  They are both on the mend now and we sincerely hope they are better soon so they can begin the necessary repairs to their boat.

Hal and Nancy on SV Shakedown after Nancy was released from the hospital. She received 4 bags of blood!
We took Hal to the ER a few times to visit with Nancy and make sure they have everything they needed both on land and on their boat (bread, beer, etc.) They told us their ER experience was really good and everyone was super helpful…it was good to hear!
SV Shakedown at anchor! Safe and sound

Provisioning – We have found the cruisers PARADISE!  Cost U Less is like a Costco…. we have been there many times!  SV Me Too retired military and we are told there is always a soldier support for any permanent bases, aka the Exchange. They were able to get things tax free and overall cheaper….so we took advantage of that!!!!  (Sorry Me Too).

Filling up on diesel We had to go to the commercial dock to fuel up Slow Flight since we were taking on too much to jerry jug it (180 gallons needed).  We had to prepay for a certain amount of fuel and then we got a refund for the amount we didn’t fill with.  Thank goodness SV Me Too and Phil on SV Terrapin were willing to wake up at 8 am to help us dock since we had no idea what to expect and more bodies to help equals less damage to Slow Flight.  We baked them lemon bars to express our gratitude.

You can see our life lines compared to the dock….let’s just say we have black marks everywhere on the boat but no outside we are all good!
Kimi driving…..WATCH OUT!

Getting water-  We thought this sign was interesting…

The sign states that they are supposed to test the water for fecal matter….eekkkss

Laundry – I hate doing laundry by hand!!!!  So you can image that I washed pretty much everything I could here at the laundromat.  $1.25 to wash and $1.75 to dry….a far cry from the $30-40 a load in French Polynesia.

Briley and I doing laundry together

Internet- There is always a need to find the best and fastest internet in each port we come to.  This time it was at the library…$5 per device all day!  We would plan library days to download updates etc…..unfortunately they wouldn’t let you connect to Facebook or iTunes…Trevor was not happy

Trevor, Briley, with SV Terrapin getting some screen time

Post office – We all were waiting for shipped packages to come to the post office.  We could order from Amazon, from suppliers who were willing to ship air mail and to American Samoa would arrive in about a week.  Most packages would go to Hawaii first then leave every Friday to AM. Samoa.  Saturday were very busy days for the post office.  Fed EX goes to New Zealand first….UPS won’t deliver to the post office.  Some people got their stuff (we did thankfully) and some didn’t…some are still waiting.  If you shipped something “ground”…it would arrive in Am. Samoa for a month.


Next up…. some fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *