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.