09/28/2011, South pacific
Eric left American Samoa on the evening of the 25th sailing into one of the northern most atolls in the Tongan archipelago 36 hours later. Samoa was a stop packed with welding repairs to the stanchions, mail in / mail out / water / fuel / laundry / replenishing the food stores / rebuilding both autopilots and enjoying an anchorage not subject to 20 knot daily wind and waves. Eric found a fellow Tacoma YC member anchored in Pago Pago harbor, Don Patterson there with his Tahitian crew on Balquhidder. Don & crew did some traveling and hiking around the island with Eric while the country was riveted to the Rugby World Cup and the crucial Samoa / Fiji game for which the country shut down on the 24th.
Eric now starts his travels through the 176 north to south islands of Tonga eventually exiting south to New Zealand. Here is his e-mail from midday on the 27th.
I am sitting in a nice calm anchorage at Niuatoputapu. For such a short passage
it was quite eventful and I am going to be glad to get a good nights rest
tonight. the three highlights were the weather, the fishing, and the landfall.
The weather was interesting. The gribs [weather files -ed.] were wrong which is not unusual. It was almost dead downwind the whole way which is not a fun point of sail for my boat. It is fine when it is windy but yesterday was about 10 kts and the boat rolls rail to rail non stop. I ended up reaching and doing some jibes to save the sails some wear. Interesting that light air is way harder on them and the rig than heavy air.
Also yesterday the trade wind clouds went away. There were some
nasty looking big black cumulus about but no wind associated with them. It just
made me think "something is not right here" and wish I could read the sky
better. Also I slayed sportfish! I was using a lure that we made in Canton out
of some bird feathers, an onion bag, and a piece of big coax cable with a SS
wire leader. The secret is the color. I wish I learned that long ago. I had on a
seamonster that ended up getting away. It was just as well because it had to
have been 50-60 pounds. I never saw it but I fought it with my gloves on for a
while and it was really big. Later that day I killed the biggest fish of the
trip and my favorite. It was a 4.5 foot long 35 pound Wahoo. It was almost as
long as the cockpit, which looked like a murder scene afterwards. I just now
finished cleaning up. My fridge is full, and There is a BBQ tonight for the
yachties and I think Ill bring some with John's secret sauce.
And on the landfall. It decided to get windy late this morning. As you approach the island you sail in a channel with Nuiatoputapu on one side and a spectacular volcano on the other. It goes from real deep to less than 100 feet deep. The breeze was north of east which was bad. The seas were heaping. I saw a wave "explode" and was like holy shit. It would have hit my spreaders if it broke on my boat. Long story short it was really scary but I was careful and made it in OK. It was obviously not windy when the guy who wrote the cruising guide was here. Anyway ......... Im safe and happy and Ill write more later.
There was a massive, bulldozed pile of coral around the west side of the atol. Miles and miles of it incase the Japanese invaded the island.
Here is me making my Kiribas courtesy flag on Naomis sweet hand crank sewing machine.
This is rush hour on Canton.
This is Nanisan he is the elder of the village and also the medical officer.
Shell art with Naomi. We were both keen to learne and our friends were keen to teach us.
Canton kids playing on Sunday.
Davis and Baby
Well... I just got on the internet for the first time since Western Samoa a couple of months ago. I resisted going into McDonalds, but as it turns out it has the best internet in town. The Internet in Apia was OK, and it was Ok in here in Pago Pago last june when there were only a few boats here. There are now many many boats here, maybe 40, and they all love the Internet spend lots of time on it so I have not had the luxury of spending my evenings on the boat blogging. Everything Dad wrote about Canton was true. I will suplement it with my own words and photos in the next few days. I am keen to get out of town, but now that I have found the real internet I promise you some stories. I am on a new computer and will have to download picsa again before I put up photos. The highlights were two rough passages, and an epic atoll with wonderful people. Ive been here for several days and by far the hardest part of single handing is being in port. It is nice to be in a calm anchorage with a store, but when you are single handing and want to get out of port quickly you have exactly twice as much work to do as a yacht with two people on it. I have learned this before and it is very much true, especially when you create two months worth of new boat projects since the last port, and still need gas, and food, and water, and to deal with the authoraties. Anyway Canton was epic and Ill tell you all about it before I leave Samoa this week.
09/08/2011, South Pacific
Eric left Canton Island Wednesday morning and has a general plan to sail south to Pago Pago for a brief stop and then further south to Tonga. With stiff SE tradewinds that means a rough beat into the wind for the next week. Here is his brief e-mail from the first day out.
I am sailing south toward Pago Pago. At the risk of sending a whining email,,,
it is quite rough. This is about as high as I ever want to sail and myself, the
boat, and everything onboard get air about five times per minute. That being
said it could be worse. Bugger me if it gets worse. I broke a stanchion and it
is very wet. Only 600 miles to go. It was very sad to leave my friends. Lots of
tears. I am looking forward to getting in and out of American Samoa and on to
08/30/2011, Canton Atoll
It's time to leave Canton Island as Eric will sail out of the atoll near the end of the week. After fussing to keep the anchor attached to the bottom for the last month it will be pulled out of the sand by the mechanical windlass. I can sense in my son a sadness to leave having made such a strong connection with the people of Canton........ Here are a collecton of e-mail exerpts since my last blog entry. The first is a response to Darryl who asks how the 19 inhabitants of this very remote place make some form of a living.............
...the medical officer, the police officer, and the teacher get about $400 a month from the government for their duties. All the other families make money by fishing. The populated islands like Tarawa, Christmas, Washington, and Fanning have very little fish. A rice bag of salted fish goes for about $300. The fishing here is insane so everyone is quite wealthy. My friend John and I say all the time how we are never going to be able to fish at home again after this.
The mood in the entire village was subdued tonight. John and Naomi and the patrol boat both left today. I watched Renova sail over the horizon, and later after a run watched the ship sail into a very beautiful sunset. I am having some of my good friends over to the boat for dinner tomorrow night and will make spaghetti. I think I will have one family at a time as there are three... (Eric is approaching the difficult job of saying goodbye)
It has been quite fresh this week here. I was going to go lobstering last night but it was windy and squally and pitch black so I stayed home. Today my friends Katua and Kabuta came over and helped me do the "mean clean" on the bottom. I had already done a lot but it was a lot of work and great to have two extra guys. Expecially guys who can hold their breath for two minutes. I was also thinking about heading out soon. However Its only 660 miles to Samoa which is less than a week.
I had a very nice Sunday. Church and feast played soccer with the kids, made some really cool fishing lures out of 1 (inch) coax cable that is buried in the ground from the war or one of the NASA stations. I went running and have been every day. One of my friends, Katua, has been running on his own but Isnt quite up to running to the airport and back yet. I don't know how far it is but it is about 45 minutes I would guess. I do it in the evening when it is cooler. We are all going to play basket ball today. They have a nice half court and a ball. They don't play much because there are only four guys my age. I think I will teach them how to play "horse".
The rest of the to and fro have to do with the potential of mailing replacement supplies to Eric if he stops in Samoa. His tentative plan will be to head south and eventually arriving in the Kingdom of Tonga (with or without a stop in American Samoa with it's very helpful US Post Office)
08/21/2011, South Pacific
Thank you very much for the emails. It is very nice to hear what is going on in
your lives, and I miss you all very much. Today is Sunday which means church and
feast as usual. I have been keeping track of the weeks by "church" and this is
my fourth I think. Forgive me if I repeat myself but Dad has been the editor of
this blog and I have no way to see what he has posted or not. Some Highlights:
Last week I drug anchor. I had been hooked on a big bommie (coral head) and had
been stuck for countless gnarly squalls and waves without moving. The night was
not particularly windy. My dinghy was on shore getting fixed. I had dinner on
Renova, my friends boat, and was rowing home in one of their dinghies. It was
taking a lot longer than I thought it should. I got back and went to pee off of
the side of the boat and noticed that the bottom looked a lot different from
what I usually look at when peeing over the side. I flipped on the instruments
and was in 15 feet of water at high tide and decided to reset. It wasn't too
late but dark and my friend John came over to help. In the end we pulled and set
it three times before we got it right. I have the full spread out which is my
danforth and CQR in series. The CQR has a place to hook on another anchor and
chain in front of it, a trick I learned in Surawwow. It was the first time I
have ever had help re-anchoring. It was really nice to have John, who has
anchored a thousand times in the last two years, drive. It was totally stress
free, no yelling, etc.
Other than that we have dove on a liberty ship several times that is wrecked in
the pass in shallow water. There are heaps of fish. We took the camera last
times and got some great photos. Also, we had a couple of days of fishing out in
the ocean with a pod of dolphins. They didn't make for good fishing, but we
didn't catch any sharks which was nice, and it was very cool to be in the dinghy
with dolphins jumping all around. Other than that it has been more exploring,
chilling with the locals, house building, boat work, and thinking about what's
next. The patrol boat is coming today so I should be able to get water. I am
going to run out of propane soon. The supply ship could possibly fill my bottle
but they keep getting delayed. I really want to go to Niuataputapu, so if I cant
get the gas sorted I will have to stop in Apia again. That wont be so bad
because I can get some more food as well, and see some friends and maybe my cat.
Niuataputapu is a small atoll 200 miles south of Samoa and is the furthest north
island in Tonga. There are 3000 people there which will seem like the big city
after Canton. The other thing I discovered here was weather faxes. This has
happened to me several times. When I discover how to forecast weather better I
am like "crap I should have done that two years ago". They are great and come
out of NZ and Hawaii. There is a wealth of data and it will take time to get
good at using it. You can see everything in the Pacific and together with my
gribs gives me a pretty good idea of what is going on. It will be very nice to
help me get behind a low on passage to New Zealand. That's all for now. Thank
you again for the emails. What's up to the Point Defiance runners, Eric, Jana,
KT, Armand, Jon, Gretchen, and Allison and Ingrid.
08/13/2011, South Pacific
Here's an excerpt from this week's e-mail ....
I have no plans of
leaving Canton. I feel like I just got here. Perhaps the week after next if the
weather is good. We are getting hammered as I write. 35 kts and big waves. It is
raining very hard which is good. I am almost totally topped off with water after
heavy rain yesterday morning and today. John and I have been fishing the last
few days and eating lots of fish. The day before yesterday we were out in the
pass and John was de-hooking a big fish. I heard some cussing and he had dropped my good channel lock needle nose pliers. We took some good bearings and went
back and got out masks and fins. It was really cool swimming in the pass. The
water was super clear. There were some sharks, big tuna, and a school of great
barracuda that were as big as I am. Our Kiribas friends were out diving too and
they came over and helped. My friend Davis had a "vision" of where the pliers
were and found them in about 35 feet of water. We then went over to the south
side of the pass and dove on a wrecked liberty ship. It was amazing. So many
fish and big ones. There was a school of jacks swimming through the hold that
were the biggest I have ever seen. They looked mean and were over 100lbs. The
sun was going down and there were sharks so we only spent about ten minutes but we are definitely going back and Ill bring my camera. After this I am going to
either Niuatoputapu, or Vava'u if I am out of food and propane.