Janet Finds a Mall!
July 27, 2012, 1:53 am, Caneland Mall, Mackay, Australia
Corinne (s/v Brizo) quickly informed me upon arrival to Mackay that she had found a mall. She was going the day after we arrived and I begged Mark to go. I did get up at
6:00 a.m. that morning to help Mark take down the main sail that needed repair and pack it up before I left for the mall. Yes, I wanted to go that badly that I was willing to get up at 6:00 am. I renamed the mall Candyland given that we had not seen a mall since Panama. I also quickly found out that the mall had a Target. I was in heaven. We had also quickly discovered on our arrival in Mackay that it was quite a bit colder than we were used to. I had only brought one sweater with me while Mark seemed to pack a whole slew of warmer clothes. I was not the only one who hadn't thought through the fact that we would be in Australia during their winter time. Many of the women were quickly sharing information on where to get the best deals on some warmer clothes.
I think Corinne and I were completely overwhelmed by the mall. We spent about a half an hour in a store which had just pajamas. I am not sure why. We got a pedicure, ate lunch and kept wondering around in amazement. I ended up buying a purse and a very cute pair of open toe boots. I needed neither of these items and neither was very practical for the boating life. I also quickly ruined my new pedicure trying on the cute boots. Regardless, we had a fantastic time at the mall and vowed to return to purchase some things we actually needed.
One word on the malls in Australia - now that I have visited two. They have absolutely everything from doctor's offices, pharmacies, spas, banks, small police stations, grocery stores, butchers, and your typical mall stores. Very convenient.
Much of the rest of the time in Mackay was spent fixing things on the boat and spending time with the fleet. The boat services in Mackay were exceptional. The workers were very skilled and punctual. We found workers able to fix things that we had been unable to fix over the past six months. Mark was thrilled to get so much done and I was thrilled to make several more trips back to the mall. I was much more focused on things we actually needed for the boat and could not find since leaving Panama. It was odd to be thrilled by buying new pillowcases for the boat at Target. It was also odd when I discovered that shopping wasn't as much fun as at home because you really can only purchase things you need. We went into a great home goods store where I found a gorgeous set of stone foo dogs (I have quite a collection at home). I really, really liked them but quickly figured out that Mark would kill me if I bought them and I would never find a place on the boat to store them until we returned home. They were really cute though.
We also did have a brush with fame when we were interviewed and photographed for the local paper in Mackay. They were very interested in our travels and extremely welcoming. Here is the link to the article on the World Cruising Club web site: http://www.worldcruising.com/WORLDARC2012/newsarticle.aspx?page=S634791563913219219&ArchiveID=1&CategoryID=123&ItemID=220429&src=
We are off to Hamilton Island in the Whit Sunday Islands to pick up Eileen, Tony and their son Jake who is six. They will be staying with us for the next week and an half to sail the Whit Sundays. We are thrilled.
What an Interesting Sail!
July 26, 2012, 1:48 am, Mackay Marina, Mackay, Australia
What a trip from Vanauatu! We started across the start line without a single sail up. We had to replace the furling line for the main sail right before we left (due to some severe chaffing) and were a bit behind in getting started. There was little wind for the first hour or so but once out from behind Vanauatu a gentle breeze began. The forecast called for light winds so we raised the spinnaker. We broke our rule of never flying it at night and kept it up because the winds were predicted to stay light. Unfortunately, the wind clocked around to the point where we could no longer us the spinnaker so once again at night we were pulling down the spinnaker and changing sails. We were much more successful this time and began motor sailing due to light winds. After putting 14.5 hours on the engine, it was never to be turned on again during the trip. The rest of the sail was primarily 20 - 30 knot winds and 10 - 15 seas with spurts of light winds and flat seas. I think we reefed and unreefed the sails more times than we had in the previous five years of owning the boat. We got quite good at it by the end of the trip. We also had many, many squalls which gave us much rain - we were grateful to have the full enclosure up around the cockpit which kept us dry. Some of the squalls were wet and windy while others were wet and without wind. One of the hardest parts of the trip was discovering in the middle of the night that you had too much sail out. Then, we would have to decide whether to wake the other up or wait until the next change of shift to reef the sails. Waiting caused us to work the boat much too hard at times. Overall, we sailed quite well and were ahead of many of the boats that are usually right around us. Mark attributes this to me breaking another Kindle and deciding to do sail trim instead of reading. He did gently point out to me that during his shifts his average speed was about .4 knots higher than mine. He got my competitive nature to kick in and thus I did work much harder on sail trim.
Once we were about 125 nautical miles outside of Mackay, we went through a passage that cut through the Great Barrier Reef. We were told to expect currents and countercurrents of up to five knots. We were lucky to enter the passage during a favorable time and had a three knot current pushing us through most of the trip. We entered the passage during the dark so both of us were up during much of the last evening at sea. We were both a bit anxious about the reefs and the increased traffic once we entered the pass. We did end up motor sailing through much of the reef due to the wind being right on our nose. Although the passage was a shipping lane, we were grateful not to see many cargo ships. We were welcomed by a pod of whales upon entering the harbor of Mackay. They were huge and amazing. We actually saw one's tail flip up right out of the water. Beautiful.
The passage was shorter than we expected (seven instead of eight) due to the high winds. Our average speed was 6.7 knots which makes this passage one of our fastest yet. So far for the entire trip, our average speed has been 6.2 knots. You should see Mark's excel spreadsheet on these figures. We log every three hours during our passages keeping track of everything from miles per shift, average boat speed, wind speed, wind direction, etc. The most miles we have traveled in a day on this passage was 176.8 nautical miles. The highest number of miles per day since the beginning of the trip was 180.6 nautical miles on our way to the Marquesas.
Cooking while underway continues to be a dangerous undertaking for me. I had made two individual size pizzas for us on the last day of the passage. I needed to get rid of all the meats in the freezer and all of the fresh vegetables before entering Australia, so I made a veggie pizza and a meat lover's pizza. When taking my veggie pizza out of the oven I caught the pan on the safety bar and dumped the hot pizza on my leg and foot. I quickly wiped off the hot pizza with a dish towel but did get about five good size burns which quickly became huge blisters. I once again found myself sitting on the galley floor in tears for a brief moment. The scares on my body will be able to tell some great stories about the difficulties of living on a boat for two years!!
Overall, the trip did not feel as difficult as the last passage to Vanauatu. I think that I am beginning to understand that the future passages are just going to be more difficult, meaning bigger winds and seas. This passage was uncomfortable at times but also held some excitement with all of the reefs, squalls, and changing winds and seas. We did feel that we worked the boat a bit too hard at times and as a result we are entering Mackay with some repairs to do. We discovered a rip in the main sail while we were in the passage to Mackay. We also sheared four bolts on one side of the mast where the boom attaches to the mast. Luckily all of the bolts on the right hand side were intact. We discovered this also in the passage to MacKay. This failure was a potential disaster if the other bolts sheared off. These difficulties led us to many of discussion on maybe not pushing the boat as much and going as fast. Arriving safely and in one piece surely ranks higher.
We arrived in Mackay around 4:00 pm in the afternoon and were quickly boarded by customs and quarantine. We did need to throw out some of the food items on board but we had done a fairly good job of cleaning out all of our meat, fruits and vegetables. The quarantine officer checked all of our cabinets for any sign of infestation by any type of creatures. He also went through our food and souvenirs. I was happy that the wooden kava bowl we had bought in Fiji was not a problem and the woven basket we were given in Vanuatu also passed inspection. He did have me put the woven basket in the freezer to make sure any bugs in it would be killed. I had to leave it in the freezer for 7 days. This was not an issue since our freezer was now just about empty. We seemed to have an easier time with quarantine than other boats. Some of the boats were boarded by dogs that were sniffing for any drugs. Several of the boats were also unlucky enough to have the dog pee on their beds. We completed customs and were in our slip by dark. We were thrilled to have the crew from Samsara and Brizo take our lines as we pulled in. Almost all of the World Arc boats were on the same dock. We were quickly whisked away to a cocktail party on Anastasia. What a wonderful welcome to Australia!!
A Memorable Stop at Port Resolution
July 17, 2012, 7:35 pm, Port Resolution, Island of Tanna, Vanuatu
We arrived at Port Resolution on the Island of Tanna at about 3:00 am on July 10th. The trip over was very difficult in that we had 10 - 15 foot seas most of the way and at times it was gusting 30+ knots. The good news is that the trip was a quick one, lasting less than three days. I struggled a bit on the passage, broke a plate while trying to get the dishes done, and ended up sitting on the galley floor crying. Not my finest moment. I think I was just tired of getting knocked around. Mark and I have begun to discuss getting extra crew in the future. We have determined that the passages up to now have been very manageable but the seas we will be crossing are going to be more challenging moving forward. We agree that we could do them with just the two of us but we are starting to think that our emotional wellbeing would be better served with a bit of help. We are still in discussions about the extra help and this passage to Australia should convince us one way or another.
A funny thing did happen at the start of the leg to Vanuatu. The first hour or so of the leg was through several reefs. We even had a lead boat (a local motor boat) to make sure we exited the reefs safely. During this time the wind was favorable so everyone was sailing through these reefs. Very thrilling. At Last was sailing quite well and we found ourselves passing quite a few boats. This is unusual in that we are about the forth from the last in our handicap. As we were doing some sail trim, the wind took Mark's Texas Long Horn Hat (his favorite) and sent it into the ocean. We called to the boat behind us to see is they could retrieve it and shortly thereafter, they called to say they got it but whoops David (s/v Peat Smoke) dropped it. They radioed to the next boat behind them and shortly thereafter Mike (s/v Wind Dancer) announced that he had caught an orange fish. Amazing!!! The hat was saved.
We arrived in Port Resolution in the middle of the night and anchored in the dark. Not ideal especially since the walkie talkie that Mark had been using to anchor ended up in the water at some point during the process. Whoops!! We did anchor safely but the bay was quite rocky and we had a rather uncomfortable sleep that night once we settled in at about 4:30 am. We spent the next day trying to find a better spot to anchor but with 29 boats in the bay things were tight so we needed to stay put. We did decide to deploy our flopper stopper (a device used to stop the boat from rocking while at anchor). Of all the equipment that Mark purchased before we left, this was the last thing that we hadn't used. The flopper stopper was helpful and made sleeping a bit easier. We did have a bottle of Vermouth fall over from the rocking motion of the boat one evening. Luckily, Mark doesn't mind a very dry martini.
Our first introduction to Port Resolution was a walking tour of the village. Our first stop was the school. There are 122 children in school at this one village. We got to tour their classrooms and talk to them about their studies. They also sang several songs for us. The children spoke Bislama, the national language, but also spoke English. At times some of the teachers would translate what we were saying for the children. Mark and I brought them some gas for their generator which they use to run a laptop. Mark ended up spending quite a bit of time with the headmaster of the school helping look over his laptop. S/V Matilda also donated a laptop and Mark also helped set that up for them. They were incredibly grateful for the help.
Most people in Vanuatu live in this type of village. Most of the clan based villages are small and have about 50 people in them. Port Resolution's village would be considered large. A chief heads the village and speaks on behalf of his village; his word is accepted as law. There are about 30,000 people on the island of Tanna. The people here hold firm to their traditional customs and culture (called kastom). We have truly been amazed at how authentic our experience was at the village and how little it has been affected by more modern ways. Everyone was extremely welcoming and the children would often follow us around as we walked through the village. They loved having their picture taken and looking at the picture on the cameras.
Later in the day we were taken to another village to see a traditional Vanuatu dance ceremony. Most villages have a traditional area called a nakamal where the men go to talk, manage village affairs and drink kava. Kava is a traditional drink which is made from a root. We (the women) were not able to walk through the nakamal area while we toured the village because the men were meeting there. The area is also used to practice their traditional dances like the one we saw. After the dance, we went to the Mount Yasur volcano which is an active volcano. It is easily accessible in that we were able to walk right up to the rim of the volcano. It was cold, windy and sandy there but the sights we were able to see were amazing. The pictures really don't do it justice.
The next day we went to a gift ceremony at the Port Resolution Village. We saw another traditional dance and then all of us walked to the Yacht Club together. Once at the Yacht Club, each of us received a handmade hat, necklace and coconut drink. Then the people from the village presented us with gifts of fruits, vegetables, and handmade gifts (baskets and jewelry). Then each boat also had gifts for the villagers. We were instructed what was needed by the villagers. I had a bag full of school supplies for the children, a bag full of clothes and some household goods. Many people gave large cooking pots and utensils. Others gave rope, fishing line, food, etc. I wish we could have given more and we were overwhelmed at how generous the village was with their gifts. It was an incredibly moving ceremony.
That evening the entire village put on a dinner for us, another very generous gesture. We were well fed with many unfamiliar things. The main course was fish and pig. And I do mean a whole small pig, split down the middle and grilled (head and feet still attached). I did skip that part of the buffet. I tried to find out what each dish was but was consistently given the name of a fruit or vegetable which I had never heard of. It is also difficult to find out what it is like because people in the village have never eaten most of what we usually eat. We did eat taro which is like a potato. And many of the vegetables were like squash. I did recognize a dish which looked and tasted like cole slaw. For dessert was fruit - bananas and grapefruit.
We had a pot luck dinner with a handful of other boats the final night in Port Resolution in order to say good bye to s/v Glamorous Galah and s/s Serendipity. We then had two full day sails with an overnight stop in Dillon's Bay on the Island of Erromango. Luckily, Dillon's Bay was calm and quiet and we had a great night's sleep. That is until we got up at 4:00 am in order to get to Port Vila before dark.
We are currently in Port Vila and making the mad dash to get the boat and ourselves ready for passage to Australia. We leave on Thursday morning for what will be about an eight day passage. We have been getting quite a briefing on customs and immigration rules and regulations for Australia. They are very particular about food entering the country. We cannot bring any meat, dairy, fruits or vegetables. The only items of this kind we can bring have to be canned or in original packaging that shows they are from New Zealand or Australia. We have been cleaning out or freezer and eating quite well since we got here.
Another first for our trip - I made a visit to a doctor today. I have been sick for the past week with a sinus infection and sore throat. Mark and I were very concerned about leaving on the passage when one of us is sick. So we went to the local health clinic. I gave my name and date of birth to the receptionist and within ten minutes I was in the doctor's office. He did a quick exam, asked a few questions and sent me off to the pharmacy with a script for an antibiotic and nasal decongestant. Mark paid the receptionist the equivalent of $48 US dollars (the local currency is the Vatu) and we walked next door to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy we had the two prescriptions filled for the equivalent of $69 US dollars. We were done with everything in about 25 minutes. If only I would feel better that quickly!!
Mark and I are very much looking forward to arriving in Australia. We are hoping that it will be easier to get items we need (boat parts and food). We are also hoping to get better internet access for the rest of the trip. But most importantly, we are looking forward to a visit from Eileen, Tony and their son Jake when we get there. They will be sailing the Whit Sunday Islands with us for over a week!
One last thing...interesting thing about our trip from here to Australia. We will actually not be able to sail in a straight line there. We have fourteen waypoints set in our chart plotter marking a route from Vanuatu to Mackay, Australia. These waypoints will keep us well clear of the reefs that we will be passing along the way. Two of the reefs are literally in the middle of our trip, in the middle of the ocean. The last 100 or so miles of the trip will also be a winding path through reefs into Mackay. Luckily, these route are well documented and we have it all programed into our chart plotter. And we have a backup of it on Mark's IPAD so as they say in Australia "no worries!"
All Together Again
July 5, 2012, 11:44 pm, Musket Cove, Malololailai Island, Fiji
Bula from Fiji. We arrived in Musket Cove on Wednesday where we joined up with the rest of the fleet. Although we saw quite a few people while we stayed at Port Denarau Marina on the island of Viti Levu, this is the first time we have all been together in a very long time. It has been great to reconnect with everyone!
Port Denarau Marina was a great place to stay. It was a very nice marina with beautiful docks, lots of facilities, great dining and shopping. What fun! We had the sails taken to a sail maker for some minor repairs and to get a thorough inspection. We also had the rigging inspected and our rigger, Bruce, found a shroud (one of the metal wires which holds up the mast) with a crack in it. Bruce also went up the mast to inspect the rigging everything there. We were happy to have the shroud replaced instead of having it break while we were at sea! We also had a couple of coats of Cetol (varnish) put on the teak toe rail. The hot weather has really caused the teak to wear very quickly.
We were able to do a little shopping while in Denarau at the nearby town of Nadi (pronounced Nandi). The prices were much better than what we have seen in French Polynesia for many things. Mark and I also decided to buy traditional Fijian outfits to wear at one of the nice events at Musket Cove with the rest of the fleet. I spread a rumor among the men that everyone was buying the traditional sulu to wear. I even took several men to the store to help them purchase them. There is no easy was to say this but a sulu is a skirt for men. We have seen them in the last three places we have been - American Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. Ted (s/v Glamorous Galah) took me to a very nice tailor and I was fitted for a chambra which is the traditional dress for a Fijian woman. Here is a picture of Mark and me in our outfits. The men who wore the sulus earned a lot of points from the rest of the fleet, mostly for their bravery.
Sadly, we did bid farewell to Magali and David (s/v Ensemble) who are returning to Australia. Their boat is being sailed there by hired crew with the hope that the boat can get the repairs it needs. We went to a fantastic dinner with them right before they left. We will miss them very much. Another two boats are leaving the rally in Fiji while three other boats have joined us here. Approximately six other boats will be leaving us between now and Australia. Several people will be staying for another year in this area or making a detour to New Zealand. If only we could!!!
While in Musket Cove we did have a great afternoon of sports. We formed teams, played volleyball, tug of war and a rather interesting game of bucket brigade. Our team tied for first place for the tug of war and won the bucket brigade. I skipped the tug of war which left almost everyone quite sore the next day.
We are quite sad to say good bye to Fiji. We spent quite a bit of time working on the boat and not enough time enjoying Fiji. We would love to find a way to come back to Tonga and Fiji and do some more exploring. They are magical places. We have a three day sail to Vanuatu starting tomorrow morning. We will then depart from Vanuatu for Australia on July 17, 2012.
By the way, we received the amazing photographs that Shadow Van Houten (s/v Zoe) took of us in Mariner's Cave in Tonga. Look under the Tonga photo gallery for the additions.
Malo e lelei from the Kingdom of Tonga
June 21, 2012, 10:47 pm, City of Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga
A view of the city of Neiafu from the top of Mt Talau
After several weeks of difficulties, we are happy to report that Tonga has brought us safe anchorages and sunny skies. As Wendell Ritchie, a colleague of Mark's from Baystate Health, wrote to us, "Even though you've had some bad weather and exciting (stressful) experiences, as you already realize, the memories and friendships you are making along the way will be so wonderful in the future. The rainy days (or weeks) and anchor slippages will melt away into the glistening ocean views, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and times enjoyed with your fellow travelers." Tonga has done just that for us!
Tonga is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy and the only Pacific nation never to be brought under foreign rule. The total land area of the Kingdom is only 691 square km although the 170 islands are spread over 700,000 square kilometers. The population of Tonga is approximately 100,000 people with half living from subsistence agriculture, fishing and collecting. Both men and women in Tonga wear a traditional woven mat around their waist called a ta'ovala. The men secure theirs with a coconut fiber cord while the women wear a kiekie waistband. The dress is conservative in Tonga with women covering their shoulders and wearing skits that cover their knees. Religion is a very important part of life in Tonga. We went to a Catholic church service while we were here. Much of the service was sung and all of it was in Tongan. Everyone was dressed very well to attend church. The people here are some of the kindest we have yet encountered on our journey. It is an exceptionally relaxed and happy lifestyle.
We spent all of our time in Tonga in the island group of Vava'u. It is one of four major areas in Tonga. Vava'u is known as the most scenic region and we were not disappointed. In Vava'u alone there are about forty pristine anchorages with beautiful white sand beaches. We spent much of our time in the city of Neiafu and then went on to several of the recommended anchorages.
Two of the most interesting things that we did while here was visit two caves with entrances on or under the water. The first cave was Swallow's Cave on Kapa Island where we took the dinghy into the cave. The caves had many bats on the ceiling and a magnificent rock formation. We took this picture of At Last from the entrance to the cave. The second cave we visited was Mariner's Cave on Nuapapu Island. We had to swim through an underwater tunnel to get to the cave. You swam down about six feet then across about 12 feet to the opening of the cave. Many thanks to Dave (s/v Southern Cross) who was the first one into the cave and led the way for the rest of us. It was incredibly worth the effort and anxiety once you were inside the cave. Shadow (s/v Zoe) took some amazing pictures with her underwater camera and a video of us swimming out of the cave. She is getting them to us and we will post them in the near future.
Another highlight of our trip was the anchorage off Tapana Island. There was a floating art gallery there called "Ark Gallery." In addition there was an excellent authentic Spanish restaurant called Le Paella. There were 16 of us from the fleet who went one night for dinner. We had a delicious meal of croquettes, Spanish tortilla, gazpacho soup, and a huge dish of paella. There was also a very friendly dog and a goat who was happy to give a little head butt to anyone who was willing to do the same to him. They even had a helmet available. After dinner, the chefs surprised us by donning instruments and singing some beautiful Spanish music. We liked the paella so much we ordered some from the restaurant and picked it up the next morning. It is now in the freezer ready for the passage to Fiji.
I cannot believe how much we did here. We had a fantastic hike to the highest point in Vava'u. We had a rousing game of Liar's dice one night on At Last with Steve (s/v Southern Cross), the entire Zoe clan, Mark and me. We had two trips on At Last with a whole crew of people from three other boats to visit the caves. We did some amazing snorkeling at a place called the Coral Gardens, which is a perfect name for such an amazing place. We went to a dance performance which was a fundraiser for a local dance group.
But probably the biggest news for the trip to Tonga is a status on our hair. Odd thing I know but here is the thing. Mark's hair is now in a ponytail. Not a big one, mind you, but a ponytail none the less. Several people in the fleet have commented on how it suits him. My, how things have changed. I also got my hair cut for the first time in eight months. We found a delightful woman named Fatima who has a hair studio in Tonga by the same name. She is married to the nephew of the couple who own the Le Paella Restaurant. She sat me in a chair and told me my hair was a mess - a truer statement could not be made. I told her I was open to whatever she wanted to do as long as I could put it in a ponytail. She made me a redhead again and I love it. I was growing tired of the plethora of grey hair on the top of my head and the bleached out blond hair on the bottom. Five of us from the fleet got our hair done that day by Fatima and we ended up there for most of the day. It was so much fun to be pampered for the first time since the spa in St. Lucia.
We are quite sad about leaving Tonga. It is a beautiful place and we have had an amazing time. We would love to figure out a way to return. We are leaving tomorrow for a three day passage to Fiji. We will be reunited with the rest of the World ARC fleet there. We will be there until July 7th when we leave for Vanuatu.
By the way, we crossed the International Date Line on the passage to Tonga. We actually skipped the day June 11, 2012. It is lost to us forever. It is now June 22, 2012 for us and June 21, 2012 for you. We will catch up to you again as we do time zone changes from here back to the Caribbean.
McDonald’s, Costco, and a Real Laundromat
June 8, 2012, 5:54 pm, Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Somoa
Everyone arrived in Somoa safely and Ensemble had no difficulties on the trip over. We feel so relieved and today, as I am writing, their boat is being pulled out of the water. It has been a long two weeks for everyone. It has been amazing to watch the fleet come together and come to the aid of Ensemble. Everyone has been so sensitive to each other's needs. We even had the crew of Eva come to our boat yesterday because our outboard motor wasn't working. They gave it a full servicing and got it working. I paid them with a plate of brownies.
Unfortunately the excitement didn't end when we reached Somoa. The night we arrived, we all decided to celebrate by going to the Sadie Thompson Bar and Restaurant. This would be the future location of Janet and Shadow's (s/v Zoe) karaoke rendition of "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" later in the week. While at the restaurant, a call came out over the VHF that several boats anchors were dragging. We were aware that this anchorage was not that good holding. Unfortunately, a tsunami hit the island approximately three years before and many things ended up in the bottom of the harbor. Several boats pulled up old buckets, a bike, a barrel of hay on their anchors. Fortunately, the boats that slipped were okay and did not hit anyone. After everything we went through in Suwarrow, this was not how we wanted to start our stay in American Samoa. Again, many of us needed to re-anchor and keep watch to make sure we stayed put. And again, the rain was pouring in and the winds were blowing. This wind and rain did not stop the entire time we were here. Let's just say we were wet every day.
American Somoa is a Unites States territory and the only US territory south of the equator. In 1951, American Samoa was run as a naval base but with military advances it became obsolete. In order to replace lost income from the base closure, US companies were encouraged to build tuna canneries in the territory. Both Chicken of the Sea and StarKist can their tuna here. Unfortunately, Pago Pago Harbor smells like a tuna canning factory most of the time. The two tuna factories employ one third of the work force here. The Government of American Samoa receives annual subsidies and grants from the United States.
As a result of being a US territory, American Samoa has many of the conveniences that you would find in the US. They have two McDonald's, one being open 24 hours. The McDonald's has a dinghy dock and free internet. These are two things that are very important to boaters. Mark and I have gotten our fill of French fries and real diet coke.
I was thrilled to find a Costco like store called Cost U Less. It actually had Kirkland products. I was dancing down the aisles, carrying real diet coke which I have not had since Panama. Coke Zero and Coca Cola Light are just not the same. I also was able to get Lysol Wipes, paper towels and Bisquick. I am sure this is hard to understand, I know. Anyway, we spent almost $1,000 restocking the boat with much needed supplies. The store even delivered everything to the dinghy dock for us. Four boats had gone to the store together and there we all were in the pouring rain loading tons of supplies into our dinghies trying desperately to keep everything dry. I was so happy with my purchases, I hardly noticed. Okay, maybe that is a slight exaggeration.
Another wonderful thing about being in American Samoa is that they have a laundromat. I don't think I have ever really blogged about the laundry situation but let's just say that it has become a major budget item. When we did laundry in Bora Bora we were charged $26 per load. Almost every place we have been since leaving the US does your laundry for you then charges you by the pound or by the load. For about four loads of laundry we have paid anywhere from $30 to $125. Mark did graciously buy me a hand crank laundry "machine" which I have begun to use more and more frequently due to the high cost of doing the laundry. We have also been amazed by how much our clothing seems to be getting ruined. Rips and stains seem to be the norm for our clothing. Luckily, being boaters, the dress code is quite casual. So while here, I took everything off the boat that could be washed and went to the laundry mat with my huge bag of quarters that I saved before I left. Since it has rained every day since we arrived everything was wet and getting quite smelly. I washed everything in about two hours and came back to the boat with everything wrapped up in trash bags because yes, it rained as we were returning the laundry to the boat.
Due to the rain, we haven't done much exploring of the island. We did take the local bus to the Cost U Less which was about a forty five minute trip around the island. Because of the great stores and services, we spent much of our time here restocking and fixing things. It has been a tough time for many of us due to the weather difficulties which have changed our plans, the damage to Ensemble, the terrible anchorages we have been in, and the overall stress of keeping our boat and ourselves safe. Mark and I actually had a conversation about whether we were happy and wanting to continue the trip. Regardless of the difficulties, we feel that this has been a once in a lifetime experience. And in the end, we will be able to say that we sailed around the world double handed. Now, that is truly amazing!
We are headed off to Tonga tonight. We will be sailing with six of the eight boats that came here with us. We should arrive in approximately three days. We stayed a couple extra days in American Samoa to wait out another weather system. The weather is quite favorable for us now. We should be able to catch up with some of the fleet in Tonga. We are hoping for safe anchorages and sunny skies in Tonga.
A Terrible Night
May 31, 2012, 4:32 pm, Island of Suwarrow, Cook Islands
The following is the full story of what happened the night we arrived in Suwarrow. I wrote this when I was on anchor watch between 3:00 am and 6:00 am the following morning.
When we arrived in Suwarrow, we were anchoring in the rain but there was little wind. By the time we were done anchoring we were soaked and the anchor chain had wrapped around a coral head before we could safely back down on the anchor to make sure it had dug in. We decided to let out more chain and wait to see if we would break free from the coral.
We began to start our regular post passage duties, putting everything on the boat back together. We began to look forward to a quiet night on the boat and a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. As I write this blog, I have only had four hours of sleep in the past 24 hours and it doesn't look like either of us will be getting much more sleep soon.
The wind picked up in the anchorage around 5 o'clock and we quickly realized that we were much too close to another boat in the anchorage. They kindly asked us to move and luckily we had Mark and Pau from Beatoo and Gavin from Sapphire on the boat for a visit. We began to take up the anchor and the wind starting blowing about 28 - 35 knots. As we were picking up the anchor we started moving much close to the neighboring boat, Peat Smoke. The guys on the boat threw out fenders while Mark continued to bring up the anchor. I was at the helm of the boat trying desperately to get away from Peat Smoke while Mark kept pointing that I needed to move closer to them to get the anchor up. After a bit of a struggle and one close call, the anchor was up and we quickly moved to deeper water to figure out what to do next.
Gavin from Sapphire suggested a spot to anchor given that another boat had left that spot today. We moved into position and the wind was now consistently at 30 knots and the rain was coming down in sheets. We dropped the anchor in sixty feet of water which we understood was as good as it would get in this anchorage. After some questioning of whether we were holding, we determined that the anchor was set. We were bobbing up and down greatly which made us feel as if we could spring loose at any time.
As we finished, the VHF radio was active between the boats as about half of the boats in the anchorage began to reanchor. Some were concerned about their location while others felt they were dragging. The most concerning call was from Magali on Ensemble asking for help because their boat had dragged and was now on a coral reef. As we looked over to their boat is lay abeam of the wind as several other World Arc members raced to their boat to help.
The next few hours were incredibly stressful as we began to contemplate our situation and Ensemble's crisis. Mark commented on how Lee (s/v Samsara) had read to us from a guide book that stated how Suwarrow was an anchorage which should only be used in good conditions. The evidence of this statement being clear as one can view abandoned boats wrecked on the coral reefs around the atoll. We began to discuss all we could do to keep the boat safe.
We had set a waypoint (a big "X") on our GPS unit when we dropped the anchor. We knew that we were approximately 237 feet from where we dropped the anchor. Ideally, we would have about 300 feet of chain out but we only have 250 feet of chain. We put out all put five feet. Wind was also blowing us toward the island instead of away from it. So we had no protection from the wind and approximately 400 feet between us and the shallow waters and the coral. It felt like it was about five feet. We kept the engine on for the first several hours in case our anchor began to drag. Mark also has a neat app on his IPAD which is an anchor alarm. He entered the latitude and longitude of hour anchor and then set a distance that our boat should not exceed from that spot. If the distance were to be exceeded an alarm would sound. Finally, we decided that one of us would have to stay awake at all times through the night to make sure the boat was safe. Thus, I fixed us dinner and we began anchor watch. At least we could sit down below and watch the GPS screen which will transmit onto our television. I decided to bake cinnamon buns and brownies so I could deliver them to Ensemble in the morning. We also used the lap top to watch movies. If you have to stay awake all night, it's not a bad way to go.
As we were making these preparations, we learned over the VHF radio that Ensemble was off the coral reef but was taking on water. There were requests for more people to help and they were asked to arrive donning their PVDs. There were requests from Ensemble for pumps and any other equipment that would help them. We had a collision mat (a mat that you can put around your hull to stop the water from entering the boat) and some plugs (to plug holes in your hull) that were quickly picked up by another boat and brought to Ensemble. There continued to be requests over the next five hours for all sorts of help. We felt completely helpless in that we couldn't leave our boat to go help. Luckily, numerous people sent help while others stayed on their boats to keep watch.
It's now 6:00 am on Saturday morning. Since yesterday at 6:00 am, I have only slept three hours. I am running on adrenaline and honestly don't feel that tired. As Mark put it, we have sold the house, this is our only home and we need to protect it. Well said.