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.
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!!!!
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.
First priority….. PIZZA!!!!
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 : )
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.
Transportation – The bus was so much fun, each individually owned they have the freedom to decorate and provide entertainment….loud music and even TV?!
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…
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!.
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!
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 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.
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.
Getting water- We thought this sign was interesting…
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.
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
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!