Suwarrow and American Samoa
06 November 2014
Sept. 3rd, Bye Bye Bora Bora
Finally got everything ready for some ocean sailing. Drop the line to the mooring ball after lunch and headed for the cut in reef along with another solo sailor on s/v Last Unicorn - a Tayana 42. He's going to some islands to the SW of Bora and I'm going NW. We'll stay in touch as long as we can via SSB radio. Winds are almost perfect, coming from the SE at 15kts with seas in the 2 meter range. Weather forecast said the winds will be more then that so I started out with a reef in the main sail. Later that night winds pick up into the 20's and switches to the ESE. Still not a bad ride, but I put in a reef to the jib just in case. Then the winds pick up to the high 20's so I put in another reef to the jib. Moving along at 6-7kts, just not in the right direction, this old boat don't like to go dead down wind and the windvane autopilot don't like it either. I decided to drop the main sail and roll out the staysail. This helped Windy steer a bit better. That big main sail keeps making the boat round up and with the 2 head sails they kinda pull the boat downwind. Now Windy can steer and Otto can take a break and I won't have to start the engine to recharge the batteries since it's been mostly cloudy and the solar panels just not putting out enough without sunshine. And if it is sunny the sails cast a shadow over them in the afternoon. I didn't think of that problem before.
Why do you only come close to a collision with a fishing vessel at night? Just before sunset one day I hear voices on the VHF radio which I assume to be Japanese and if so that make it a high probability that it's a fishing vessel and they usually don't run with their AIS turned on. So I'm on alert looking for it. I see a blip on the radar a few hours later. And when he gets within 6nm I can see his lights, but no AIS signal. Keep an eye on him and sure 'nuff we on a collision course, so I hail him on the VHF several times before I get a reply "No English" in which I replied "No Japanese". But I tell him anyway that I was altering course to past behind him. So I turned 90° to port and he's still coming at me so I turned 45° to port and he's still coming at me so I turned another 45° to port and turned the engine on because now I'm going into the wind and then he turns on his AIS for about 10 minutes or until we pasted each other. Now why did he keep turning when I turned? Best I could figure out he may have been towing a fishing net and didn't want me to run into it if I went behind him and if that's the case why he didn't turned to go behind me 6 miles ago? One day I'll find the answer to that, but in the meantime I can't sleep longer than 20 minutes.
I have been keeping in contact with Silhouette, the Last Unicorn, the Isabella Net, and the Pacific Seafarers Net via SSB/HAM radio. Phil started complaining first that he was having a hard time hearing me, I'm thinking it's because he's the farthest away. Last Unicorn stopped at Aitutak and is doing a relay for us. Then the guys with them big HAM radio transmitters and antennas couldn't hear me very well on the PacSea Net. Something is wrong with my radio, so instead of thinking about stopping in Suwarrow I'm now aiming straight for it, or as straight as the wind will allow.
Just to keep things interesting the winds die down to below 10kts and switches to the ENE. So had to jibe. Then the wind die to less then 5kts, but the seas are still coming in at 1.5 meters which make for a rock and roll ride. Not enough wind to keep the sails from flapping. So sails come down and the motor comes on. Then I unroll the staysail, trying to lessen the roll. Motored for the next 24 hours and arrived just in time for lunch on the 9th of Sept.
Was greeted by the crews of a couple of boats that I met in Bora Bora. While waiting for the Park Ranger, Customs, Immigration, and Health Officer to show up they helped me reanchor. I dropped the anchor in what I thought was a sand patch but Matthew snorkeled over it and said I was wrap around a coral head. He tried to direct me to which way to steer the boat to get it unwrapped but no luck. Someone will have to put on the scuba gear and go free it. Matthew volunteered and his crew Claudia steered the boat while I worked the windlass. After a few minutes it was free and we're off to find a better spot. This place reminds me of anchoring in Penrhyn, coral heads everywhere with a few patches of sand. I drop the anchor in another spot only to have the boat swing too close to another boat. So go find another spot and everything Irie. All the officials come aboard for the check-in process, only one guy with many hats. He informs me that since everyone had a good morning of fishing he was sponsoring a pot-luck dinner that evening ashore. Good I don't have to cook but what do I bring on such short notice. I got a few bake potatoes and a few boil eggs that I was planning on eating underway and got some left over corn and some left over beans - what the heck I'll make something and call it a salad. One definition of a "pot-luck" is to bring something that you would never eat by yourself.
After dinner we go coconut crab hunting. Only we didn't bring any home, this place is a Cook Island National Park and everything is preserved. No taking of anything is allowed except fish and pictures, and no leaving of anything is allowed. They have very strict rules and if you don't follow them they give you a fine. Like one boat sailed in at night. Full moon little wind, no problem, except one of the rules say something about unsafe navigation into the entrance of the lagoon. Cost him $100, could have been $500. One boat drugged anchor doing a storm about a month before I got there and ended up on the shallow part of the reef and halfway sunk. The fine for polluting the water with spilled oil and such was huge. And someone has to pay for its safe and non-polluting removal. I'm sure that guy is glad he had insurance.
Got around to trouble shooting my radio transmitter problems. Gotta get that fix because that's my only way of communicating to the outside world when far from land. A Satellite phone has been on my list since before I left Texas, but always had an excuse for not having one - like no money in the kitty. Found a corroded connector on the isolator. I have a connector in my spare's box, but no isolator. Was able to replace the connector and bypassed the isolator. Now everyone can hear me again. Now what's the reason for that isolator? Now when trying to send an email radio waves get into everything, like lights come on, inverter turns on and off, but the worst part is now the modem keeps locking up which mean no can send emails on some frequencies. That's not good, so I send Aaron the info for him to order me a new one so when I get to American Samoa it'll be ready to ship. Also sent Charlie a list of things to buy for me at West Marine and a spare starter for my engine and have them ready to ship when I get to Samoa. I don't have a problem with my starter but would like a spare just in case, because it's almost impossible to get a replacement where I'm at.
After 4 days in this little paradise I'm ready to go. Weather forecast is good for the next few days. But again I can't leave. That fricking anchor chain is wrapped around another coral head. This time I put on my scuba gear and go free it myself. Was pretty easy this time since the wind wasn't blowing. So late afternoon I'm off. The other boats are planning on leaving in the morning when the wind is supposed to be back. But my slow boat needs a head start. Once outside the reef the winds not bad, only 10kts so full sails flying. By sunrise I'm passed the lee of the reef and winds are light and the 2 meter swells has begun to roll the boat again. Mainsail just a flapping, beating itself to death and the jib not faring much better. So down they come and on come the motor. Just before midnight the wind picks up a bit out comes the jib and off goes the motor. Only doing 4kts but what the heck, what's the hurry I'm on a sailboat.
These conditions last until I reach American Samoan waters. Then around midnight I hear someone calling me on the VHF, its Nana Parahi whom I met in Bora Bora and Suwarrow, the guys who help me with my anchoring. They want to know what's it's like inside the harbor? I don't know I'm not there, where are you? I'm 12 miles behind them and Kwisil is only a few miles behind them and the other big boat is already there sleeping. Rats they passed me up. They decide to enter the harbor at night and I decided to stick to my rule about not entering an unfamiliar place at night. They tell me how easy it was, I tell them I need to run my watermaker for a few hours and fill up my tank before getting into that polluted harbor, besides when sailing solo I have enough things to be stress out about, why add more by entering at night.
Dropped the anchor in 40ft and it held. Reports were to expect poor holding due to a tsunami a few years ago that washed a bunch of stuff into the water. Next on the agenda, sleep. Woke up around noon and the 4 boats begun the check-in process. So how did I spend my birthday on the 18th of Sept? Doing the check-in dance. The group wanted to do something special for me but we were all too tired for anything but sleep. But I did get the birthday song sung to me in Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, and English. The dinner will be tomorrow.
How was American Samoa? The people are some of the most friendliest that I have ever met. Unlike the last time I was on American soil (HI) everyone actually greeted me with a smile and a hello. Everyone went out of their way to help you if you had a problem like finding the Immigration office. If you didn't know where you were going, just tell the bus driver and he let you know when it was time to get off the bus. The only turnoff was those sirens. Was the ambulance, fire department, and police needed that much or did they just like the sound of those horns?
I ran into another sailor from Texas, Steve at Sadie's bar they had a pool table for our nightly entertainment. This seems to be the place a few cruisers hung out every evening or at the McDonalds for free wifi and a burger. He knew some of the racers from Kemah that I knew since he raced with a few of them before. He's the guy that bought that old schooner from the Caribbean to start a shipping route between Tonga and Samoa.
The next morning at anchor he runs into me. He dropped his anchor about 40 meters in front of me the day before. Late that night the wind starts to really blow. I wake up and set my anchor alarms, don't want to wake up on shore. And take a look around, everything okay. A little later my alarm goes off and I go check things out. I'm not drifting just swinging and swung further then the alarm is set. Take another look outside and that big boat is now maybe 15 meters away. Shit he's dragging and headed my way. I called him on the radio, no answer, sounded my horn, one long blast. He sticks his head out of his companion way and asks "what?" I yell that your anchor has dragged. I heard him say something like I'll take care of it when . . . Didn't get it all due to the wind noise, but I thought he said when it stops raining. Now I'm up keeping an eye on him. It stops raining but he's not doing anything. The wind is still blowing about the same and maybe his anchor has caught unto something because he's not getting any closer. So I go down below and maybe took a little nap when this little inner voice starts yelling at me to wake up and take a look outside. I did obey and what I seen scared the shit out of me. This big 80 ton of rusty steel is heading my way fast. I had made a mental plan of what to do if that would happen. Got my air horn out and blew 5 short blasts - the danger signal. Turn on the engine and hit reverse. Run up to the bow and undo the anchor snubber and start letting out the anchor to try to get away from this monster. He again pokes his head out the companion way half asleep mumbling something like "I told you I would take care of it when the sun . . . Oh shit!" He gets into action turn on his engine and hit hard reverse. About this time Jacob from Krysil dinghies over to help. He manned the windlass while I went back to steer the boat. Told him if he had to, let all the chain out and we'll cut the rope when it gets to the end. We have to get away from that monster. Well he manages to miss my bowsprit by 1 meter. Then he started sliding down the side of me and his bowsprit missed my rigging by 1 foot. Then his anchor snagged my anchor rode which then starts to pull the two boats together, side by side. For awhile my anchor was holding the both of us, then it pull loose. Now the both of us are drifting down on the next anchored boat. Another cruiser who heard the horns made it over in his dinghy and has tied to the side of me trying to pull us apart. Jacob's dinghy is caught between the two boats acting as a bumper and the crew of the big boat is setting fenders out and dumbass Captain Steve is pulling up his anchor with my chain attached. Then a third cruiser shows up in his dinghy and position himself between the two boats where the anchor was coming up. He was able to free my chain from the monster's anchor and the big guy was able to motor away from me. I reset my anchor back in the same spot as before. The only damage done not counting growing a few more grey hairs was my snubber line is now in the bottom of that filthy place. It can stay there, I'll make another one. After several failed attempts of reanchoring in the same spot that big ass boat finally moved to the back of the pack and found some good holding. Now if he drags he'll hit the rocks before he hits anyone else, unless the wind switches from a different direction. After everything settles down he comes over and apologizes. He taught it could wait until the sun came up and maybe his first cup of coffee. And he owes me a beer. Hell he owes me more than that, I didn't pay for any more drinks or pool games as long as he was there. Even got a dinner out of the ordeal. Lesson learned or new rule - next time an asshole refuses to reanchor, I think I'll move my boat or start cursing and raising hell until he does.
The Hawaii canoes are tied to the dock. And have an open house scheduled. I got a first look at these in HI from my sister's husband's cousin, Tia. Got a brief visit and view when they came to Bora Bora. Now I get an inside view and get to talk with some of the crew. Met Linda who said she was a fan of Tia or he was her hero. Tried my luck and another crew member knew him. He must be famous or he keeps good company. Their next stop is Tonga so maybe I'll meet them there if I sailed fast enough.
I didn't get around to doing much touristy stuff. Mainly because there isn't that much touristy stuff to do here. This is not a major tourist destination. For that type of thing, Western Samoa is the place to go. Sure there were the beautiful vistas and great hiking trails. But for an island this size, no scuba diving, etc. So I spent my first week removing every piece of that sorry no good POS generator. It was easier to disassemble it then to try to get it out of the hole in one piece. I tried to find a place that accepted scrap metal, but this must be the last place on earth that doesn't have one of those things. They just throw everything in the water here. And when it rains, the harbor is full of plastic bags, cups, and everything else that floats and don't float. There is a major campaign going on to try and stop some of the littering, but it'll take years to reverse the trend of "just throw IT on the ground and it'll end up in the ocean and the ocean will eat it."
So on one side the harbor is the town with its pollution and the fuel dock for the ships that are always spilling lots of fuel. Then on the other side of the harbor is the Starkist processing plant. And a fleet of fishing vessels - make that at least two fleets. Now I'm guessing that they have a way to dispose of the fish guts and other stuff that is not suppose to go into the can, but I'm also guessing that it ends up in the harbor after treating. One story goes that the system broke a few years ago and there were fish heads floating around the harbor. And the smell of processed tuna all day and all night. Only time I didn't smell it was when the wind was from the other direction, once. Or maybe I had just gotten use to the smell and didn't notice it anymore for that one day. Now with all this shit and stuff in the water you would think that noting could live in it. Wrong, I usually try to take the dinghy out of the water every night. Not to prevent a thief like in other places of the world but to prevent algae and stuff from growing on it. Even by removing it I still had a bunch of barnacles attached to the motor and dinghy bottom. The boat bottom was in need of a cleaning before I left Bora Bora but now, it look like extra long and extra thick shag carpet. Even barnacles growing on the bottom paint where just a week ago there was none. Heck if those little bugs can live in this pollution a little copper paint is not going to slow them down. They eat that for desert.
The story goes - you go to Western Samoa because you want to; you come to American Samoa because you have to. My packages all showed up the following Saturday after I had them shipped from the mainland on a Tuesday. No extra charges, nothing missing. And all a little more than $100. That's the reason to come here. Other boats are here for the same reason, and soon as the packages arrive. Out of here. Another reason to come here is to ship things out, like all those new generator parts I was waiting for in Raiatea that I can't used now. But Charlie can use them, so I shipped him those and strip down the old generator for anything else that he might could use.
But you must be careful, there are some boats that have came and stayed for years for one reason or the other. Most American flagged. You can get your McDonalds everyday and everyone speak English and it's good protection from cyclones and before you know it you have so much shit growing on your boat bottom you can't leave. One guy in his 70's died on his boat while I was there. He only had been here for 10 years. So before that happen to me I checked out on a Friday and it took me until Sunday the 5th to leave for Tonga.
The anchor rode was covered with this brown looking algae or some type of monster slime from the depths. I finally get to use that anchor wash down pump I bought in HI. But it's only good for mud, this stuff needs a high pressure washer, but since I don't have one of those a wired brush and some elbow grease will have to do. Only took an hour to raise the anchor this time. The good thing is I didn't have to put on scuba gear to get the anchor up this time. Since my water tanks are low I decided to just motor at a slow speed for the first few hours and make a little water. To motor slowly I was almost at full throttle. Damn that shit on the bottom of the boat is slowing me down. Or AS don't want me to leave.
Only 300+ miles to go to Tonga. The other boats I've been hanging with left last week, since they weren't American it was easier for them to leave. Weather conditions good, wind at 15kts from the E, seas only 1.5 meters. Partly cloudy. 1st reef in the mainsail, Jib and staysail all the way out and Windy steering without any problems. Boat speed only 4-5kts. Going to be a long passage at this speed. On the 3rd day out the predicted higher winds appear. Glad I left the reef in the main, when it got up to the mid 20's I took in the Jib, and just sail under Staysail and reefed main. I didn't need to go fast because it was going to be another night time arrival. I almost got to see the total eclipse of the moon on the 8th of Oct. At least that's the date where I'm at; somewhere along the way I crossed the International Date Line. The clouds blocked the view but compared to the night before when it was almost a full moon it was like sailing with no moon. Then once the eclipse was over the clouds moved away and the sky brighten up.
Reach the island of Vava'u Tonga around 0300, so only the mainsail up and drifting around until sunlight, might as well get some sleep. Opps slept too long, I drifted out 6 miles further out to sea, that's a whole hour to get back and into the wind. So on comes the motor and then I notice a little smoke coming from the exhaust. That's not normal, so I take a closer look and it don't look like smoke, look like steam, take a look at the temperature instrument and it's running close to 200°F when it normally runs 160°F. Now What? Lowered the rpm's down to 1000 and the temperature return to normal. Took a look at the exhaust again and the water flow is a lot less then it suppose to be. Easy fix is to clean the strainer but there is nothing in it. Maybe the waterpump impeller has broken, but I have a strainer on the discharge of it to catch any parts that may break off. Nothing there. Well maybe one of the blades has broken and stuck in the hose or I have sucked something up the thru hole restricting the flow. Well I'm thinking I have a sailboat so I can motorsail to an anchorage or someplace and find out what's wrong.