08/27/2007, Pago Pago, American Samoa
Sand Dollar made landfall in Pago Pago, American Samoa at 9:15 this morning after a challenging entrance into the harbor. The wind was blowing at 22 knots with 8 ft. seas and there was a dogleg turn up into the wind required to avoid a reef near the entrance. In light wind and seas this would be no problem but the "Sailing Directions" stated that the waves break over the reef in heavy weather so vessels should go around the buoy at the end of the reef. The buoy, however, is very close to the shore and the surf and no sailor wants to be anywhere near a lee shore in stiff winds. So, I fudged it a little and went inside the buoy so as to have a much better wind angle to make the harbor entrance. As it turns out, there were no breaking waves, there was plenty of depth, and the tuna boats go right across the reef in all but the worst conditions. The initial entry into any harbor or through any passage always makes me anxious, no matter what the conditions or where it is. This is just a fact of life for cruisers because virtually all the entries are for the first time.
Welcome back to civilization. I spent three hours dealing with U.S. officialdom. There were visits to the boat by the health official, the quarantine officer, the harbor master, and the customs squad including a sniffing dog. The immigration officer did not show up so I trekked off to his office to get my passport stamped. Everyone was very polite, just a little slow. No, make that very, very slow. Seems to be the way of life here, which is not all bad.
All else is well onboard except the food situation. I have had little to eat the last 24 hours besides fresh ahi tuna.
08/26/2007, En Route from Suwarrow Atoll to Pago Pago, American Samoa
A beautiful yellowfin tuna, estimated to be 40 lbs., was brought onboard this morning after a long struggle getting it up over the rail. All this happened in 8 ft. seas and 20 kts of wind. The whole procedure, hooking, landing and filleting, took about 2-3 hours. I'm not sure it was worth it but I did have an exceptionally nice lunch of chilled sashimi with wasabi and pickled ginger. I will now need to give away 20 lbs. of fish at the anchorage tomorrow.
Sand Dollar continues to make fine progress in good weather. The noon-to-noon distance for today was 128 miles for an average speed of 5.3 knots. I will "heave" to this evening to kill some time in order to make landfall at Pago Pago early tomorrow morning, thereby avoiding a nighttime entrance to the harbor.
All else is well onboard. There has been insignificant rain for the past 36 hours.
08/25/2007, En Route from Suwarrow Atoll to Pago Pago, American Samoa
The wind has changed very little in velocity or direction in the past 24 hours and the sailing has been about as good as it gets. There is a six foot swell with a long period so Sand Dollar gently rolls from side to side. There is just enough sail set to move along at 5.5 to 6.0 knots which is plenty of speed to maintain comfort and get to Pago Pago on Monday.
This afternoon I heard an engine noise off in the distance that kept getting louder. I quickly concluded that it was an aircraft. Out of nowhere came a US Coast Guard four-engine jet. He was flying low, banked over my boat and then gained altitude and was gone. I surmise that he was on patrol looking for illegal fishing boats because I am now probably within the zone of American Samoa fishing grounds. Perhaps a satellite image told him where I was and he just wanted to check me out. I will never know.
All else is well onboard but the selection of foodstuffs is now rather limited and boring. The bread I baked last week was finished yesterday so I am down to eating my tuna salad with crackers. The only fresh produce is garlic. I am dreaming of Costco in Pago Pago.
08/24/2007, En Route from Suwarrow Atoll to Pago Pago, American Samoa
The southeast trade wind has been blowing at 12 - 15 knots except for numerous periods of rain squalls at night during which the wind direction and strength will change rapidly. Last night I was up and down, reducing sail, changing the sail configuration and adjusting the windvane self-steering apparatus. Despite all the interruptions, the noon-to-noon distance was respectable at 134 miles for an average speed of 5.6 kts. I am on target for making Pago Pago on Monday.
There is a band of unsettled weather known as the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) where equatorial easterlies mix with the southeast trade winds producing occasional heavy and squally downpours and gusty winds. This zone seems to be more active this year and a little farther north than normal. I see it on the weather charts but it moves around a lot and is hard to avoid. There is nothing dangerous in this weather and rarely does it last more than a day, but it is definitely a hassle. At least Sand Dollar is getting the salt washed off.
All else is well onboard. No fish stories today.
08/23/2007, En Route from Suwarrow Atoll to Pago Pago, American Samoa
Sand Dollar weighed anchor and departed Suwarrow at 11:30 AM along with the German boat "Ludus Amoris". She is bound for Apia, Western Samoa, Sand Dollar for Pago Pago, American Samoa. The passage is 450 miles and will take four days more or less. So far the wind is fair and the sailing very pleasant. The swell is only about four feet.
Suwarrow Atoll has been a favorite island among cruisers for many years and it is definitely one of my favorites. There are very few like it, possibly some similar atolls in the Indian Ocean. The place is wild, pristine, beautiful and full of sea life. The caretaker and his family are very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Some day I would like to return.
Two interesting things happened this afternoon while sailing. First, I popped my head out of the companionway after having lunch and saw a huge marlin leaping behind the boat. I could not understand how that could be. My handline was not even taught. Well, to my surprise, the line was broken and we're talking 300 lb. test monofilament! More tackle never to be seen again.
The second thing that surprised me was a whooosh sound. I turned to starboard and there was a thirty foot whale surfacing only 35 ft from my boat. He floated on the surface for awhile looking at me and then swam under the boat and repeated this two more times on the port side and then disappeared. I guess he was curious and wanted a close look.
All else is well onboard. The sky is mostly clear and the moon is waxing.
08/22/2007, Suwarrow Atoll, Northern Cook Islands
There was no wind today. The lagoon was like a mill pond. Nevertheless, three boats left this afternoon and I am sure they are running their engines still. As they were leaving the atoll I could see them in the ocean, rolling from side to side in the swell with no sails to dampen the movement. I decided to wait here another day and put my faith in the forecast which calls for 10 - 12 knots of wind tomorrow. We will see. If there is no wind tomorrow I may leave under power. There is enough fuel to take me at least half way to Samoa.
All else is well onboard. I have been cooking some meals to save for the coming passage.