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Day 2,305 - Pago Pago, American Samoa (14° 16.3S 170° 41.8W)
16:46hrs - September 22nd 2013
A New Country!

After leaving the whales, turtles and Palmerston’s unpredictable moorings behind, we set off for American Samoa and what was anticipated to be a short and easy 4 night passage. The wind had been blowing hard the whole time we had been in Palmerston, so we knew that the swell was going to be pretty high when we got away from the island, but as with most things talked about prior to setting off on a passage, discussing sea conditions and actually being in them are two entirely different things. So even though we shouldn’t have been, we were both taken by surprise by how hard the passage turned out to be. The 8-10 ft. swell was bad enough with strong wind but the same swell suddenly without wind combined with frequent SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) rain squalls made the 4 night passage feel a lot longer. I thought that because the mooring at Palmerston was outside the reef and basically in open ocean, it felt as if we were still sailing, and that was the reason for my passage exhaustion, until I said that out loud and then it just sounded ridiculous. So in the end we were just very, very happy to arrive at the flat well protected anchorage of Pago Pago Harbour. Our already happy arrival was especially sweet as we caught a handsome mahi mahi just as we were sailing in, and had it cleaned and in the fridge right before yet another windy rainy squall gave us one last blast going into the harbour.

We have only been here a few days but already we are in love with it. The busy fishing harbour and anchorage sadly have quite a bad reputation partly because of the noise and fishy smells coming from the tuna cannery, but also for the bad holding even from before the 2009 tsunami, and interestingly for record breaking rainfall. Apparently there is more rain in Pago Pago than any other harbour in the world due to the surrounding mountains. So what with the noise, smell and rain we had originally thought we would probably just get in, get out, and move on. But to our great surprise what turns out to make any perceived negative about the harbour simply disappear, is the Samoan people that live there.

From the moment we tied up alongside a huge friendly Samoan tug boat to be checked in we have been overwhelmed by how lovely everyone has been here. I know I’ve probably said this before but really, this place is different. Maybe it’s partly because there isn’t much in the way of tourism here, I don’t know, but at first I thought the harbour people here are so sweet, so polite, but we soon realized everyone we meet is the same sweet, friendly, kind, funny, gentle, soft spoken way. Wow, and huge, did I mention huge! This is the first Pacific island we have been to where pretty much everyone is bigger than Neville! I actually think its part of the reason they are all so mellow. They are just so big, they’ve nothing to prove, so there’s not much use for aggression or ego, so they can just be relaxed and happy!  Interesting thing is, I now realize I haven’t felt this way about any other Pacific island people so far, and we have been in the Pacific since 2009! I think I’m in love with Samoans. We are picking up a rental car tomorrow and doing a 2 day explore to soak up as much of this loveliness as we can, we’ll post more photos ASAP.




 



Quick Fix: 18° 02.8 S / 163° 11.6 W
September 12th
2013 (day 2,295)
Conditions:  Wind: 20-30/E  Sky: Overcast

Back Up a Minute
We're still moored outside Palmerston, but yesterday, during a particularly heavy wind gust, our mooring broke, setting Dream Time adrift, downwind, and out into open ocean. Earlier that day we had an invitation from locals to go ashore but politely declined, opting to stay on the boat during the heavy weather. A good thing, too, because if we were on the island, out of sight from Dream Time, she would have been lost at sea, and with no other yachts anchored here, no coastguard to call and only a handful of small local fishing skiffs, our boat would be drifting to Tonga now, which lies 600 miles to the west. I dove the broken mooring and found links worn to mere slivers. So from now on if a visual inspection is not possible, we'll back up at full throttle just to make sure.




 



Quick Fix: 18° 02.8 S / 163° 11.5 W
September 10th
2013 (day 2,293)
Conditions:  Wind: 20/E  Sky: Mostly Clear

Whale Watching
We're clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, hanging on to the very edge of a mountain that falls away under our keel to a seabed that rests over thirteen thousand feet below. Just off our bow lays the extinct crater, a ring of reef and just a handful of tiny islands grasping at the surface, a mountain summit just a few feet above sea level. And to our stern lays the deep unrestrained South Pacific Ocean. We're the only boat anchored in the lee of Palmerston Island, but we're not alone, a family of humpback whales, like us, are resting here, too. At night we hear their haunting calls resonate through our hull, and by day a curious calf glides, rolls and plays just below Dream Time's keel, and it seems as fascinated and dedicated to watching us, as we are with him. - NH






 

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Day 2,290 - Cook Islands (18° 51.8S 159° 48.1W)
09:32hrs - September 7th 2013
Nothing New To Report

We last dropped our hooks in the Cook Islands four years ago, and here we are again, with our bow and stern anchors holding Dream Time in a boat basin so small there's literally not enough room to swing a cat (of the sailboat variety).

We arrived in Aitutaki a week ago and were relieved to see that almost nothing has changed here since our last visit in 2009 - it's still a quirky little paradise, one that's endearingly peculiar and just oozing with unique eccentricities. There's still not a single dog on the island, the chickens, however, have been breeding like rabbits and are just about everywhere, and the locals continue to operate at a pace that would make even the outer islands of Belize appear positively bustling.

It took four days for the quarantine officer to visit our boat, and when he finally did we had to collect him. Because, ironically, the official responsible for clearing-in foreign vessels doesn't actually have one himself and must rely on the generosity of cruisers to shuttle him around the anchorage. Itty, the quarantine office, spent three hours on Dream Time, not inspecting our cabin or stores, in fact he didn't even glance below, but we had a lovely time chatting in the cockpit over tea and biscuits.

Yes, Aitutaki is a unique and special island group, and is probably the only place in the world where you can get an official stamp of a foot in your passport. Such is its allure that cruisers, who perhaps shouldn't even try and enter through the shallow pass, attempt to squeeze in. Just a week before we arrived a German boat ran aground and spent three days on the reef before being dragged off, apparently he chose to follow his chartplotter into the pass (the charts here have an offset error). A French boat, after narrowly making it through the pass, which at high tide has a scant six feet of water, hit a reef inside and bent his rudder. And an Australian boat entered after us and ran firmly aground halfway inside. It took all his sails with a side wind and three dinghies to get him inside.

We love it here, but unfortunately it's time to go, so we're leaving today (before the Australian boat) and heading to a country we have not visited before - American Samoa, and into an anchorage which claims to receive more rainfall than any other harbor in the world - Pago Pago.