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School on Savaii
Sophie
08/06/2010, Auala village School, Savai'i, Samoa

While we were in Samoa, I visited a school on the island of Savaii.

The school was a big, blue, wooden building with two floors. It was a primary school and was situated in the middle of a gravel schoolyard.

I visited year 6(what Americans call fifth grade). My teacher's name was Mrs. Matamea. There were maybe 15 kids, and most of them had Samoan names. I took English and math class with them(The only classes spoken in English). The curriculum was different than it is in the States. The class was just beginning multiplication and division. The kids all shared an eraser and each received one pencil for the whole year.

I sat next to a girl named Anna. I shared her pencil to do my assignments. I used a new notebook for my English and math, which I got to keep afterword. While there, I observed that the kids used shells to count instead of math blocks. In between math and English, while the kids had break, I sat in the library and ate butter crackers and drank Samoan cocoa with the teachers. After my half day was over, I watched some Samoan kids perform "The morning meal" and "the three little pigs" in English. They were very good actors, and they spoke good English.

I had a nice time and they invited me back for another visit.

Leaving Samoa
Eric
08/06/2010, Asau, Savai'i

After a very pleasant week anchored off the Va'i Moana resort, we are ready to move on. The bug started to set in a couple of days ago. We are finding we consciously need to slow ourselves down. We have the time in our amended cruising schedule, and part of the goal is to take in the local culture.

It took a few days before we really started to engage. We quickly met the resort guests, but have also gotten to know the staff by name, and have conversations with them as we wait for meals. (We are not being charged to anchor off the resort, and use their beach and showers, so we try to have a meal a day in their restaurant.) Yesterday Sophie visited the village school and spent half a day with them - I am hoping she will write a post and describe this in more detail. Joanna from the resort invited us to attend church with her on Sunday, but I think at this point we do need to get moving again. The longer we stay in a place though, the deeper the experience.

The snorkeling here has been great for the kids. Lots of very colorful fish in shallower water to build their confidence. Across the bay there is a coral island that used to be the airstrip. The ocean side of this island is the best snorkeling we have had on the trip so far. There are also fantastic shells on the island, I believe left there by the birds.

Our next planned stop is Niuatoputabu, a Northern island of Tonga. We will either leave tonight if the winds are fair for loading the dinghy and transiting the pass, or more likely at first light tomorrow. This should put us in on Sunday. We can't clear in on Sunday, but it will be a short wait until Monday morning and a little isolation time to tidy the boat and do school work will be nice. If the weather is unsettled as we approach Niuatoputabu we will continue on to the Vavau group, arriving around Tuesday. As always, this could change with the weather.

Leaving Samoa
Eric
08/06/2010, Asau, Savai'i

After a very pleasant week anchored off the Va'i Moana resort, we are ready to move on. The bug started to set in a couple of days ago. We are finding we consciously need to slow ourselves down. We have the time in our amended cruising schedule, and part of the goal is to take in the local culture.

It took a few days before we really started to engage. We quickly met the resort guests, but have also gotten to know the staff by name, and have conversations with them as we wait for meals. (We are not being charged to anchor off the resort, and use their beach and showers, so we try to have a meal a day in their restaurant.) Yesterday Sophie visited the village school and spent half a day with them - I am hoping she will write a post and describe this in more detail. Joanna from the resort invited us to attend church with her on Sunday, but I think at this point we do need to get moving again. The longer we stay in a place though, the deeper the experience.

The snorkeling here has been great for the kids. Lots of very colorful fish in shallower water to build their confidence. Across the bay there is a coral island that used to be the airstrip. The ocean side of this island is the best snorkeling we have had on the trip so far. There are also fantastic shells on the island, I believe left there by the birds.

Our next planned stop is Niuatoputabu, a Northern island of Tonga. We will either leave tonight if the winds are fair for loading the dinghy and transiting the pass, or more likely at first light tomorrow. This should put us in on Sunday. We can't clear in on Sunday, but it will be a short wait until Monday morning and a little isolation time to tidy the boat and do school work will be nice. If the weather is unsettled as we approach Niuatoputabu we will continue on to the Vavau group, arriving around Tuesday. As always, this could change with the weather.

Asau Anchorage
Christine
08/02/2010

Asau is a village on the island of Savai'i, the lesser populated of the two large islands that make up Samoa. It is located on the Northwestern coast, a perfect stop for us before we round the point and head South for Tonga. If it sounds like Hawai'i, that is no accident. It is believed that Polynesians left Savai'i to travel to other islands and landed in the Hawaiian islands and further East to French Polynesia. There are a few islands scattered about to the East of Samoa with similar names - all supposedly pointing back to Savai'i.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog, we caravanned with a couple other boats, Roger Henry and Mahina Tiare III. Glad we did, entering the pass through the reef was harrowing, but as we were sandwiched between two sailing all-stars so we were in the best possible position to be successful. Now we just have to get ourselves back out of this place when we want to leave.

It was time to leave Apia (that City bustles quite a bit for its size), but we weren't quite ready to leave Samoa so spending a second week in Asau, Savai'i turned out to be the perfect compliment to our first week on Upolu.

It is sleepy here in Asau, We are anchored out from the Va-i-Moana Resort, a small collection of fales on a sandy beach. Sale, the resort-owner is a New Zealand citizen but hails from this village. His family owned the land that he turned in to a lovely resort with just the right amount of rustic and comfort. Saturday night was local food night - what we got was a beautiful selection of seafood (tuna, prawns, octopus, mussles) with rice, taro, bananas cooked in coconut milk, asian noodle salad and mango ice cream for desert. Sale and his friends were playing island music and invited the kids to try their hands at the bass, constructed of an upside down plastic bucket with a thick cord through a hole in the middle attached to a stick. They wedged the stick against the bucket top to put tension on the cord and voila, a bass.

As we found at Aggie Grey's, hospitality is a hallmark of Samoa. Sale invited us to come ashore and play on the beach anytime, we can take showers ashore and he's arranged a tour of some lava tubes for us tomorrow. In return we eat meals at his place and enjoy a cold Vailima or two. This morning as Finn and I were having school on the foredeck in the shade of the boom, a policeman paddled up in his outrigger canoe. He was checking in on behalf of customs and immigration. When we left Apia, we said we were sailing to Asau; customs was following up on that plan. He was kind and low-key and we figure he drove the coolest police car in history. This is our most relaxing week of our trip so far.

Touring Savai'i
Christine
08/01/2010

On Saturday, shortly after our arrival in Asau, we met Alvah, Diana and the Mahina crew ashore so we could jump in a mini-van for a tour of the island. We were driven around the whole island, more of a drive than we anticipated, but quite interesting.

In Samoa, there appear to be a few careers: construction, civil service, tourism, and retail. If you don't run a resort or work for one, you can push papers for the government or help build yet another church for a village, or sell water and fruit at your family's roadside stand. Unless .your land contains some curiosity that you can charge tourists to see!

On our trip around the island we stopped at a few of these curious places. Some were worth the cover charge. On the southern coast, the Alofaaga Blowholes would blow your mind. As breakers hit the shore, the water flows underneath the lava and shoots up through holes - just like geysers at Yosemite. Water and mist shoot straight up into the air and hang suspended for a while. A crazy old man drops coconuts into the holes so they rocket skyward with the right wave. However, perhaps more interesting than the holes themselves, is the political intrigue surrounding the ownership of the holes. Apparently, a family used to own the land with the holes and they charged a visitor's fee. This is common practice; we had already paid a few Tala each to view Lover's Leap, the Methodist Church with lava flowing through it, a rainforest banyan tree and suspension bridge, etc. To get to the blowholes, we had to drive through the village. Recently, the village grew tired of the traffic and wasn't getting a cut of the revenue. The village took the family to court and won the right of ownership. It probably helped that one of the village high-chiefs also served as a judge. Now the village owns the first 200 feet of blowholes and the family was left the final bit. The catch is, once we paid the village we saw what we came to see. There was no need to continue down the dead end road to pass the family fence and pay them another 10 Tala to view the same holes. A few family members stood and grumbled while we stopped short of their fence to view the spectacular water show. They weren't angry at us but at their village counterparts who had collected our fees. It sounds to us like the family got a bit of a raw deal, but they weren't giving the village a cut to begin with. Sounds like a mediation might have resulted in a more equitable solution, but it looks too late for that now. The only difference between that kind of dispute in Samoa and in the US is that in Samoa, you can't pack up and move elsewhere that easily. Family and village life are nearly inextricable.

The virgin's grave was kind of a funny little anomaly in the flow. As lava flowed through a Methodist church between 1905-1911, it came to a grave of a missionary and flowed around it instead of over it. The family created a miracle out of it and now charges a few Tala to walk tourists through their property, along the old lava flow through the church and up to the grave. The best part of the tour was the sign out front (see photo) that read as if Virgins Crave Methodists. I had to giggle about that one for quite a while.

Entering Asau Bay
Eric
07/31/2010

We plotted a 66 nm trip to Asau, Savai'i. As this would take about 12 hours with typical boat speed, and there is about 12 hours of good daylight in our tropical days, we could leave at first light and race to get into a tricky harbor before the sun began to set, or we could leave in the late afternoon, sail slowly, and arrive once the sun was up: we choose the latter. Alvah Simon of Roger Henry had the same plan. John Neal and his crew on Mahina Tiarre were in another anchorage on Savai'i, but planned to arrive in Asau at the same time because Sale, the proprietor of a local resort had offered to meet us and guide us in the channel.

The entrance to Asau is tricky. There is rusting fishing boat on the reef to the west, and just two months ago a sailboat from Seattle was lost entering this harbor. Its 22.5 meter mast rests along a boardwalk at the resort. The report is that they did not use enough power entering, and the west setting current pushed them onto the reef. The narrow channel dredged many years ago cuts from northwest to southeast through the breakers, but despite what is indicated on the charts it is not well marked nor easy to see from outside the reef. Reports of typhoons changing the rock configurations in the channel made the range suspect. The chart also indicated tidal rips in the channel. We backed up our navigational aids with Google Earth photos from 2010, which showed the channel depth clearly. While the image is helpful, the coordinates were not reliable.

We reached the channel entrance after a bumpy night sail. The weather was unsettled, with winds around 25 knots. Sale waited for us in the channel in his aluminum skiff. Our three boats along with a catamaran we saw in Apia, Two Oceans, lined up to enter following the guide. Mahina Tiare first, our Jenny P next, Roger Henry, then Two Oceans. Mahina Tiarre started in slowly, then gunned their engines through the pass. They appeared to pass without a hitch, so we followed. I had Christine standing on the "sissy rails" by the mast looking for the reef and Sophie calling out the depth so that I could keep my eyes on my guide. All started well with Sophie calling out 25+ foot depths. I kept the throttle high to counter the swirling water. Suddenly, Sophie called a depth of 1.9. My heart raced and I braced for a bump. The depth sounder measures the depth under the boat: we need 6 feet in total, 3 feet under the hull for the keel. Sophie then called out 2.0, but I didn't feel a bump. A wave picked us up, I pushed the throttle fully forward and hoped to be set back in the channel and not on the reef. No bump came, and Sophie called out 28 feet. A few seconds more and we were through the dangerous part of the channel. I wondered if I had crossed a sandbar and just didn't feel it, I could only think that the swirling water had somehow kept me off the bottom. I radioed to Alvah and warned him that I had gotten shallow: he responded that he would stay east of my track. Alvah passed through without incident. John told me that he had suddenly seen only 2 feet under his keel, so we both considered ourselves lucky. We were all concerned about how our luck would hold exiting the channel though.

The next day John, Amanda and Alvah took a dinghy, GPS, and depth sounder into the channel and snorkeled it. After three passed they could not find anything shallower than 25 feet while staying on the range, so we have a safe strategy for getting back out of here. John is going back today to take some GPS coordinates of the range for Sale, which should increase the safety for future visitors.

So what did we see coming in? While it seems strange that two of us would have an anomaly with our depth sounders, there are a couple of possible explanations. Thermalclines, or sudden changes in water temperature are common and can throw off depth sounders. (Submarines look for strong thermalclines to hide in.) The locals also warned us of a 5 meter tiger shark that sometime hangs out in the channel current. That, or a school of fish could have thrown off our tranducer. At 1.9 or 2.0 feet, we should have grounded, so I think we were in the channel, but had a sounding error. On our electronic chart, we sailed over the western reef. This was not particularly concerning, because charts here in the pacific are not as accurate as in the States, and quarter mile error in charts is not uncommon. Experiences like this remind us why we do not enter at night.

We will relax here in this beautiful bay for a few days, and leave early some morning, when the winds should be light and the visibility good.

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