Thursday, September 1, 2011

Apia, Island of Upolu, Samoa

Apia, Upolu, (formerly Western) Samoa, 31 August 2011.
Here are some pics from Samoa. And pics from American Samoa.
After having chafed through a few dock lines during my stay at the public dock in Pago Pago I now have a good collection of short pieces of rope for trading on my next pass though the Marquesas.  Twister is back in a marina for the first time since departing Marina Del Rey in April. The authorities require all yachts to take a slip in the marina here in Apia which is the only port of entry in Samoa.  Apia Marina is actually much nicer than either Bar Harbor in LA or Marina Village(San Diego) where Twister stayed the ca 1.5 years before departing on this trip. The cost is somewhere around $12 per day. That’s of course $12 more than I have been paying to anchor most other places, so I plan to move on toward Tonga (Vava'u) tomorrow. My stay in Pago Pago lasted one day over three weeks.  Interesting place, American Samoa.  Did I mention that people there are extremely friendly and helpful? Also as there in basically no tourism there, almost everyone I met were curious what I was doing on their island. I attempted to surf a couple of times with my friend Corie from Rutea.  Even though the waves were at most 6 feet and mostly less than that, I received a humbling assessment of my surfing level. Surfing in American Samoa is, “experts only”--every wave in AS seems to break on quite shallow reefs.
The passage from Pago Pago to Apia took 24 hours. I had a solid 20 knot winds most of the way (aside from a few hours in the lee of Tutuila) and numerous squalls, the tail end of a front that had been sitting on American Samoa for the last week. I had taken down the large genoa headsail to patch it, and the smaller jib was perfect for the conditions. Most of the way I used what has become my standard downwind setup—just the jib (sometimes poled out) with the mainsail furled. I had been concerned about boat traffic from the many fishing boats based in Pago Pago but didn’t see a single boat. Here's a video of the passage:

For comparison, here's a video of RV Moana Wave in the Drake Passage earlier this year

The difference between Apia and Pago Pago that immediately stands out is how clean and tidy it is here. In the South Pacific Lonely Planet guide (thanks again, Tim), they eloquently describe the American Samoans’ “carefree approach to litter disposal.” Ie there’s a bunch of trash along the side of the road and in the water. Unlike American Samoa, tourism looks to be a major industry here. With that comes, of course, the usual array of hustlers trying to extract money from the tourists. I can’t walk more than a few meters down the road without a taxi driver offering his services.  Somewhat less frequently I’m offered marijuana or methamphetamine.
 In 2009 the government decided to switch the side of the road they drive on from the right to the wrong—er, left , apparently to be able to import inexpensive used cars from New Zealand.  So there is a roughly 50/50 mix of left and right-hand steering on the vehicles.
Yesterday I walked a few miles up to the village of Vailima and Vailima Estate where Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) spent his last 4 years. The mansion is now the RLS museum. RLS’s grave is another ¾ mile hike up a steep trail. While in Suwarrow I read a fictionalized account of RLS’s last years in Samoa. It’s called, “Home From The Sea,” the last four words in the poem RSL wrote for his own tombstone.
I’m still debating whether to head to New Zealand or Australia at the end of this leg. Sometimes I dream of instead taking “the logical route” as described by Bernard Moitessier—eastward around Cape Horn.  But there are a few reasons not to attempt that. For one, there is probably a reason they call it the “Roaring Forties” (the Southern Ocean south of latitude 40 S). It appears that I will be invited back to work on AMLR 2012, so it would be convenient in that respect to sail to Chile.

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