Aug 28 - Pago Pago, Am. Samoa

Well, it sure rains a lot here! I guess there's a reason why Mt. Pioa is called Rainmaker Mt. Our Lonely Planet states that Pago Pago Harbour has the highest annual rainfall of any harbour in the world. I'm glad we're here in the 'dry season'! The winds, however, have calmed down enough to allow everyone to get off their boats and stretch their legs. Yesterday, Sue and a few friends went to Cost-U-Less (like a Costco), and this morning, we both left the boat and took the bus to Ace Hardware to pick up a few items, then went to an early lunch at a Chinese restaurant in town. The cruisers have set up a morning VHF net, so this morning I had suggested a Happy Hour get together and one of the local cruisers who has been here for a long time arranged for us to use Sadie Thompson's bar/restaurant, a well known local establishment nearby. They discounted their beers ($3 for Steinlager or Vailima) and served free poupou's as well - two sure ways to attract yachties! Most all the boat crews showed up, and many ended up eating dinner there also. Folks are starting to talk about where they're going to next, and many people have ordered parts to be delivered here. One boat we know is having a Honda 2000 portable generator shipped from Marine Warehouse in Miami to here! For you Westsail fans, there are two W-32's, ourselves, and a W-39 (also called the Fair Weather Mariner 39) here; a pretty good showing, I'd say!

Aug 25 - Pago Pago

We've all been boat bound these last few days. Brisk SE winds of 25, gusting to 30, with a 2-3' chop from the long fetch here at the anchorage, make any dinghy rides wet and uncomfortable. A few boats dragged yesterday, but most are holding. One boat went to reanchor and found his anchor fouled on 1" chain; what that goes to is anybody's guess. His windlass wasn't powerful enough to bring it all up, so there he sits...not necessarily a bad thing, but would you want to trust that kind of anchor holding? Me neither. Another single hander arrived on a 40' Benateau. He traveled around the anchorage for about two hours and tried multiple attempts at anchoring without success. Our neighbor took his dinghy over and helped him out; turns out this guy's running around with 50' of chain and a small anchor - nope, I'm not kidding. What are some folks thinking? It was finally arranged for that boat to raft up next to a big steel fishing boat. One thing was for sure - there was no way in hell he was going to get a good anchor set with that sort of inadequate ground tackle in this anchorage. Another boat came in, a friend of ours in fact, who had to divert here because his autopilot broke and his engine heat exchanger went bonko. They had a pretty nasty ride from Suwarrow to here. So...wx progs forecast another day of strong winds (it's raining with winds 28-31 knots for the last 15 min) and then it should lay down a bit. From VHF conversations, it's evident the fleet is all getting just a bit stir crazy and are ready to get off their boats and go explore this beautiful island.

Aug 22 - Pago Pago

Today was interesting. Here's a chronology of events:
This morning at 0400 we woke up in some heavy gusts and noted the 53' boat anchored in front of us had dragged to within a dinghy length of our bow! This was a single hander on a 53' vessel, and he was the only boat in front of us, as we had anchored in the front row of boats in the harbor, and he was a new arrival. After hailing him on VHF 16 with no reply, repeatedly blowing our air horn into his cockpit, and shouting as loud as I could, he finally awoke and retrieved his anchor, all in lousy conditions and without hitting us! Exciting stuff.
At daybreak, squalls were rumbling thru. White out conditions occurred and the VHF was busy with lots of boats dragging and reanchoring. Now...there's a reason for this....Pago Pago harbor is renown for difficult anchoring conditions. Here's why: there used to be three tuna canneries here that for years dumped their debris in the harbor. Then a tsunamai occurred two years ago that washed tremendous amounts of crap into the water. There's all kinds of stuff on the bottom: corregated metal roofing, building materials, tables, cars, fencing, get the idea. We helped the catamaran next to us when he dragged as his Bugel anchor had snared a tire exactly in the middle of it! (he got a ringer!) It took two of us to get that anchor out of the tire! In the meantime, with heavier winds, calls were going out as other boats were dragging, snagging old mooring lines, wrapping their props in old cables, experiencing engine failure...hmmm. We launched our dinghy to run out some fuel to another dinghy that was towing a disabled boat to the government dock. I had just got back to Infini when a 35 knot gust blew us off our anchor and we dragged. Again, no telling what you get when you anchor and use the engine to pull down on it. It might feel good, but not be a secure hold. So...we reanchored and, so far, things appear OK. The winds are blowing 25, but that's a lot better than 40! There's about 20 boats anchored here, and most have dragged, reanchored, set anchor watches, and the crews are a bit fatigued, all of us waiting for the weather to abate!
Meanwhile, while all this was happening, it was a good day for baking! So...Sue got busy and decided to bake a banana bread. She heard a popping sound in the cockpit (our propane solenoid) and the propane breaker shut off. Racing into the cockpit, she noted the solenoid smoking! Not good. I quick shut off the manual valve to the propane tank and cut the 12 volt wires to the solenoid. There was a hole in the casing of the solenoid, smoke was pouring out, and it was apparent the unit had stuck, overheated, and blew a hole thru its casing! Never enough excitement around here. Of course, let me mention that the solenoid is in line within inches of the propane tank....Well, I dug out our old solenoid and replaced the failed one, never being one to stand in the way of a chef and a banana bread, so all's well. I might mention that Sue was on a roll...she also baked a peach cobbler for dessert and an artichoke-crab dip for dinner. Good stuff.
We're planning on being on anchor watch tonight, as most boats will be doing. If conditions permit, we'll check in with Officialdom tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Picture - Michael and Dennis from sv Lardo off to help other vessels in distress.

Aug 20 - Team Infini is safely anchored in Tutuila, Pago Pago, American Samoa

We had a four day passage here from Suwarrow. Quite a bit of it was dead down wind, and the sails took a beating. Conditions were much lighter than I thought they'd be, and we ended up motoring a lot more than we had planned. No fun since that means hand steering...the autopilot is not working. Sue had a special event occur two days ago; we were motoring in very calm conditions, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and she saw the green flash at sundown---her first. She says it was the most brilliant green...and big, not a tiny dot. She feels so very special to finally have witnessed one of the rarities of nature. The harbor here is picturesque with the high hills and dense green. The tuna fleet and tuna cannery take up a lot of the shoreline, with a huge generator and lights. Such a contrast to the remote anchorages we came from! Here in Pago Pago, internet 24/7 is $20 for one week - quite a change from the very high prices in French Polynesia. We straightened up the boat today and will go exploring tomorrow (Sunday). Monday is check-in and expected weather changes. Many other boats and people we know are here also; unfortunately, holding is poor in the harbor due to so much debris on the bottom, so dragging anchor is said to be very common.
The pic is of our final approach to the anchorage at the head of the bay

Aug 16 - Suwarrow to Pago Pago, Samoa

We've departed Suwarrow for American Samoa. Actually, it's just called Samoa now, and the main port is pronounced Pango Pango. There are nine boats on this same passage at this time, so we've set up an informal SSB radio net twice daily, and we check into the Pacific Seafarer's Net also. Winds, so far, have been lighter than we like, and there's an awful lot of banging, slatting, rolling and general noise as we head downwind. But the sun is out, and the meals are fabulous as usual! It's about 450 nm distance, so we figure a 4-5 day passage. So far, no fish.
The picture is of the boats at Anchorage Island behind the reef. Sad farewells....

Aug 15 - Suwarrow

Suwarrow has been a very pleasant stop. One cruiser referred to it as adult day camp! Most days there are organized activities, as the two rangers here, James & John, offer "guided tours" to the reef, dives, shark feeding, bird watching, fishing trips, night time lobster hunting, potluck dinners, bocce ball, as well as lessons in coconut husking and meal preparation! Unbelievable, isn't it? These are the same (and only) officials that check us in, stamp our passports, and give us departure paperwork! There are also a variety of boat to boat activities and visits amongst the twenty five boats (give or take) and a daily (except Sunday) VHF radio net (channel 16 at 0830). Some cruisers stay for weeks here, as officialdom is very relaxed and quite accommodating…we know of one boat that finally left on their 39th day! So, little boredom, beautiful water colors and scenery, and a great spot to stage for our next stop, which is Pago Pago in American Samoa. Life is good!
Pic- We're collecting the 'properly sprouted' coconuts for the lesson in making coconut pancakes- they are sooo delicious!

Aug. 8, 2011 A very special day....

S - As we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, my memory goes back to this day in Olympia, WA, where our friend Dale had brought his shipshape and decked out 26' Seabird Yawl down from Seattle to be our wedding platform. We moved to Florida shortly after and built our first boat, a steel Chuck Wittholtz design Departure 35 we named Beyond which became the first big project we undertook. After 'outgrowing' her, we restored the 73' custom Derecktor built ketch Anore, as well as raised a family and attended a very busy medical practice. We purchased our present Westsail 43 Infini in 1998, and have cruised parts of the Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba and Florida while constantly upgrading her. Our dream to 'go cruising' had never changed, and we finally saw the timing was right when our youngest son went off to college.

We look back and marvel at the road we've traveled, and the many blessings we've had. We wouldn't be here without the help of many friends and family. We are fortunate to know some very gifted and talented people. We continue to meet and marvel at the diversity of backgrounds and knowledge of the cruisers out here. The experiences we've been having are priceless - we truly feel fortunate. We miss family dearly, but know their busy lives are taking their own path and we look forward to each trip back home to see them.

I know I'd make the same commitment I did back in Olympia. I'm looking forward to the next 30 years - Manuia!

M - I couldn't have put it any better! Although, I regret not having married her a hundred years earlier! She's been my saving grace, and is truly a unique and lovely woman, mother, friend and cruising partner. I love you, babe!

Aug 6 - Team Infini is safely anchored at Suwarrow Atoll

We ran out of wind 9 miles away from the pass and had to motor into Suwarrow. Our anchor was down at 1500 hours, and we saw a bunch of other boats we knew. Tomorrow being Sunday, we can't check in with the caretakers, so our official check into the Cook Islands will be Monday, Aug 8. All's well, we'll catch up on some rest, and relax here nearby an island that has no internet, no stores, no airstrip...not much of anything, and you can only get here by private yacht! Lovely!
Here's what I wrote earlier about Suwarrow...
Have you ever thought about living on a deserted island by yourself? We're traveling to Suwarrow to pay homage to a New Zealander who did exactly that, as a hermit, more than 50 years ago. His name was Tom Neale, and he reputedly treated visiting yachties well during his stay there from 1952 thru 1978. There's a book written of his life at Suwarrow entitled "An Island to Oneself" and it describes his solitary existence on this 11 mile atoll in the Pacific. These days the atoll is a Cook Island's national park, and two caretakers live there and are rotated on a regular basis every six months. There are bird sanctuaries as well as several wrecks, which attest to the place as being unsafe to anchor in any weather except routine tradewind conditions. A visit here also breaks up the passage from Bora Bora to American Samoa or Tonga into two parts rather than one long leg.

Aug 6 - Day 5; enroute to Suwarrow

Position: S13deg17.5min/W162deg54min
Day 5 run: 152 nm
Avg speed: 6.3 kn
Course: 285 T
Wind: 6-8 kn (Speed is presently 4-4.5 kn)
Seas: 3'
Sails: full main, Yankee jib, and staysail. Starboard beam reach.
Ship's log: We had one of those magical nights. Swells were about 3' with no chop; winds were NNW at 13-15, and our boat speed was about 7 knots the entire night. There was very little sail or vane adjustment necessary, and all we had to do was go along for the ride. A billion stars were out in clear skies, and a few shooting stars were also visible. Landfall is expected later this afternoon. It's ten miles to to to the outside waypoint off the pass into Suwarrow.

Aug 5 - Day 4; Enroute to Suwarrow

Position: S14deg14.1min/W160deg33min
Day 4 run: 148 nm
Avg speed: 6.2 kn
Course: 290 T
Wind: ENE 12-15 kn
Seas: ENE 6'
Sails: full main and jib; starboard tack
Ship's log: A nice day and evening run. If winds stay up (they're forecast to go lighter), we'd arrive at Suwarrow during daylight tomorrow afternoon; if not, we lay off and go in Sunday morning. Took the anchor chain (250' of it continues for another 100' stowed under the starboard V berth) out of the chain locker earlier this morning to mark it with wire ties. Thru the years we've painted the chain, marked it with wire ties, marked it with special rode markers, and used the guesstimation technique to approximate chain paid out. Nothing works all that well. One friend of ours just installed an expensive electronic chain counter and it didn't work at all - probably installation error! So, it's back to inexpensive colored wire ties; replaceable and, when they're there, easily readable in the dark.

Aug 4 - Day 3 Enroute to Suwarrow Atoll

Position: S15deg04.6min/W158deg14.8min
Day 3 run: 135 nm
Avg speed: 5.6 kn
Course: 290 T
Wind: NE; 12.5 kn T
Seas: NE; 6'
Sails: full main; full Yankee jib; starboard tack
Ship's log: It was a beautiful night sailing on a broad reach. Calm weather; no problems. About 300 nm to go. All's well aboard.

Day 2 - Bora Bora to Suwarrow Atoll

Position: S15deg43.7min/W156deg05.2min
Day 2 run: 137 nm
Avg speed: 5.7 kn
Course: 285 T
Wind: 10-12 kn
Seas: ESE 4'
Sails: 2nd reef main; jib
Ship's log: Not a bad day's run. So far everything's been a dead run (not our most favorite point of sail) or broad reach, with lots of gybes thrown in. There's been a few light rain showers with not much wind in them. Approximately 430 nm to go. Update: in midafternoon the wind speed has fluctuated; we've shaken out both reefs and put the full main up; boat speed is in the low 6's.

Day 1 - Bora Bora to Suwarrow Atoll

Position: S15deg41min/W153deg58min
Day 1 run: 145 nm
Avg speed: 6.0 kn
Course: 280-330 T
Wind: ESE 12-18 kn
Seas: ESE 4'
Sails: 2nd reef main; full to partial reefed jib; reaching pole used when running
Ship's log: We departed Bora Bora and took down the French courtesy flag that had been flying for 3 months. We've spent a total of 9 months in French Polynesia over 2 seasons, and it's now time to head west. We were a little rusty for the first few hours, as it's been a while since we've been on passage. Winds were good and the seas were calm, allowing good passage time running and broad reaching. Sue had precooked some meals and we're on a 4 hour watch schedule in the evenings. Max is doing a good job steering. We're checking into the Pac Sea Net every afternoon (14300 mHz USB at 0330 UTC), so you can follow our progress on our blog (click "Where we are"). All's well aboard.