As our time in American Samoa winds down (we're hoping to set sail for out next destination - probably Western Samoa - on Monday, Oct. 24), I thought it would be fun to compile a photo essay of our time here, to give you a small peek into the island that we got to know over these past eight weeks.
I read somewhere that Pago Pago Harbor is the wettest harbor in the world, receiving up to 250 inches of rain every year. We've experienced several of those inches while we were here: most of it coming in brief, drenching showers quickly followed by bright sunshine, rather than in dreary, day-long soakers.
It also usually comes without all the theatrics that sometimes accompany tropical downpours: thunder, lightning, high winds. Once, it rained hard all night long and the wind blew 25-30 knots (the night we had to re-anchor three times), but that was the exception. Most of the time it just rains, which is nice.
Two extra anchors on deck, just in case.
And when it rains, we make good use of it: if our deck is clean (we try to keep it clean), and we aren't downwind of the tuna cannery exhausts, we open our scupper and collect gallons of rain, to replenish SCOOTS' water tanks. As in most industrial ports, the seawater in the harbor is too dirty for us to run through our watermaker, so we really appreciate a source of fresh water. It's free, too!
We also take showers in the rain on the swim step. But we keep our clothes on since we're in the middle of the city!
Van rinsing off after a rain shower.
And of course, after the rain, there are rainbows...
There's always something going on in Pago Pago Harbor: tuna boats continually move around in the harbor, switching places on the wharves, nudging up against the cannery loading docks, or rafting up alongside each other. I call it the tuna boat shuffle.
Tuna boat shuffle.
Three cruise ships have visited Pago Pago Harbor while we've been here, all in the space of three days: two arrived (and left) within hours of each other one day, and the third arrived two days later.
Two ships at the dock.
It was amazing, to watch the tug boats tuck both massive ships in along the wharf, leaving a gap of maybe thirty feet between their sterns.
These are big ropes!
We enjoy listening to the chatter of the skippers of the two tugs, Tatoso II and Sa'ilele, on the VHF radio, and watching them go about their work in the harbor, moving big boats around. Tatoso II has a squeaky whistle that makes me smile each time I hear it; it seems much too dainty a sound for such a burly boat.
The huge mooring can that sometimes seems to looms too close...
...also provides a roost for terns and sandpipers, which are fun to watch.
A quiet morning in the anchorage.
A most gracious host.
Eric and I visited Tisa's Barefoot Bar, overlooking beautiful Alega Beach, twice.
The first time, on our anniversary, we, and a couple of other cruisers, dropped in for dinner on a Tuesday night. We didn't know that we were supposed to call ahead first, to see if they were open. That they weren't open became clear as soon as we'd wandered down to Tisa's beachfront deck from the street, where the bus had dropped us off. The lights were off, the chairs were leaned up against the tables, and no one was around. Uh oh. Getting back was going to be interesting...we'd arrived on the last bus of the day.
A minute later, a door opened on a small apartment adjoining the bar, and a beautiful Samoan woman came out. "Welcome," Tisa said, with a big smile, as she came down to the bar. "Can I make you a drink?"
"Er, aren't you guys closed?" we asked.
"Yes, but you're here and you should have a drink and enjoy the sunset. What can I get you? We make great pina coladas."
We ordered pina coladas and sat down to enjoy the lovely South Pacific sunset from Tisa's deck.
Van and Eric at Tisa's
A little while later, she came back and said, "I talked to the master chef, and he has agreed to make you something for dinner."
"Are you sure?" we asked. "We don't want to be any trouble. You're closed."
"No problem," she said. "It won't be fancy, but it will be good. If you want fancy, come back for our Polynesian Feast some Wednesday night."
The master chef, who is also Tisa's boyfriend, CandyMan (I don't know how he got that name), returned from picking fresh fruits and vegetables in their organic garden for our dinners, and suggested a salad topped with local wahoo. The wahoo, he told us, was canned by the two canneries in Pago Pago. A couple times a year, he said, the canneries stopped canning tuna and canned wahoo instead. It was something that originated in American Samoa and could only be bought here. The salads were beautiful and tasty, too! We ended up buying a few cans of wahoo the next time we went shopping.
The wahoo salads.
A Polynesian Feast
A couple weeks later, we returned to Tisa's with some friends on a Wednesday night, to experience her traditional Polynesian Feast. (And yes, we called ahead to make reservations this time.) We began the evening on the deck, enjoying some more of Tisa's yummy pina coladas, watching the sun go down and the flying foxes come out.
Van and Eric at Tisa's
Tisa came out onto the deck to announce that dinner was ready. CandyMan was going to dismantle the umu (traditional Samoan above-ground oven), which had been cooking our food for a few hours. We followed her over to the place where the umu had been built on a bed of banana leaves, and watched as CandyMan and a helper uncovered our dinner...
Taking apart the umu to reveal the different layers of food, while Tisa explained the custom.
The we returned to the deck where we sat at long tables, chatting with some of the other guests as Tisa, CandyMan and their staff served us the elements of the umu dinner - squash, pork, octopus, chicken, breadfruit, bananas, and a leafy green veggie whose name we don't remember - all cooked to perfection. Yum!
Our umu dinner
Some local folks.
We met a nice guy named Ian, who was spending a sunny morning on one of the other sailboats in the anchorage. Ian works for the National Park Service here in American Samoa, though he hails from California. Later that day, he came over to share some beers with us on SCOOTS, and a few days later, he and his girlfriend very graciously took us shopping...in their truck! This is a very big deal for cruisers, who ordinarily have to take buses or taxis or walk, to get their groceries. It allowed us to get a huge bolus of provisions at one time. Thank you Ian and Nerelle!
They also invited us to their neighbors' house to watch the second presidential debate and eat pizza. It was fun to actually watch the debate (we'd streamed the first debate audio over wifi), to eat pizza, and to hang out with and talk to people who aren't cruisers.
Watching the debate
The dinghy dock. One of two docks where our terrestrial excursions begin and end.
Another one of the gaudily-adorned American Samoa buses. How many tree-shaped air fresheners can you count?
Enjoying barbecue pork skewers at the little Filipino restaurant.
One day, we stopped in to the Jean P. Haydon museum, which houses an eclectic collection of artifacts.
There were examples of traditional tattooing arts,
Polynesian crafts, extensive descriptions of the medicinal uses of indigenous plants along with some dried specimens, this really old "portable" radio,
a large portrait of this guy,
and some actual moonrocks. I don't have a photo of these, but they were about the size of a grain of rice. I learned that American Samoa played a role in the Apollo Missions, by being the nearest island to splashdown, and so all the astronauts were brought here after they returned to Earth.
I like to look for animals everywhere I go, especially in places where they might be overlooked or ignored. And I almost always find some!
Because we flush with seawater, our toilet bowl sometimes becomes a fish bowl. (That's just saltwater it's swimming in.) We also get tiny shrimp, too. I scoop up the fish and shrimp in a plastic cup, and put them back into the bay.
Like Mexico and French Polynesia, American Samoa has many free-roaming dogs that don't seem to belong to - or be cared for by - any person. I like to watch them as they go about their business: trotting confidently around town, lying in the shade, confronting or greeting each other. They have their own independent canine culture going on, in parallel with the human culture.
Here are some photos of some Pago Pago's canine residents....
Using the crosswalk
This pup has dreadlocks
Most of the frogs we see are of the flat, road-killed variety, so it was nice to see some three-dimensional ones on one of our hikes.
How many frogs can you see?
A gecko that visited me at Tisa's.
Can you find the sea-horse-like creature attached to this stick? It's long and straight, not bent like a regular sea horse.
I hope you've enjoyed this peek into some of the things we've been up to, here in American Samoa.