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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gaining and Losing While Cruising

It has been am emotional several weeks for everyone aboard Hotspur.

As we are staying in American Samoa for a year or more, I put the feelers out and began looking for a job. Undoubtedly, we can always use the income. But mainly, work keeps me from feeling slothful and going bonkers. More importantly, my marriage remains healthy. Hey- cruising here and there is interesting and Jim and I don't get bored. Hunkering down to wait out hurricane season somewhere for who-knows-how-long is different... and feeling cooped up on the boat 24-7 can become a terrible trap.

It didn't take long to find a job. And I'll tell you my secret how I did it:
I met a man on a jet ski while I was at the dock picking Carolyne up from public school one afternoon. He hired me after a 3 minute conversation.
Mean Ms. Meri gives a test

Honor students wear lava lava to school
I am teaching Math, History and Spelling (and soon, Science) to 6th, 7th & 8th grade students at Manumalo Academy, a private school. The pay is decent; it's based on my Master's degree. I love the job. There are books for every student... also desks (although the termites love to chew on them and make a mess on the floor!) and the kids have learning pads in the classroom. My largest class is comprised of 24 students.
Carolyne's and my sweet ride to school

Entertainment provided on the big screen as we roll to school
The twist? Carolyne had to attend their 9th grade program. She was furious for having to change schools, but the good news is that she has adjusted nicely. The private schools on the island have good reputations and most parents wish they could afford to send their children. In the public schools there are simply not enough teachers. And, there are too many students - 40+ kids to a classroom is not uncommon... not enough desks, so the kids sit on the floor... not enough books so the kids share. Once football starts, rivalry among competing schools is fierce... there is a lot of fighting. 
After school with her Samoana school friends

At Manumalo, Carolyne is one of 5 students in the newly developed freshman class... she gets a lot of attention and is, therefore, learning more. As a bonus, as long as she keeps her grades up she is allowed to meet up with her public school friends regularly after school.

Meanwhile, hurricane Odile did a number on the Baja last month... where we just left 7 months ago. Many of our friends lost their boats... and three people we new well lost more... their lives. 
Guenter Trebbow
Guenter, a popular German sailor, was a well known character in La Paz and had lived there for years aboard his boat Princess. I loved chatting with him – I never walked away from our conversations without laughing. He was fond of his little dog, Fritz. His sweet heart gave out during the chaos brought on by the hurricane and he was lost to us. The folks on sv Guenevere wrote a touching tribute to Guenter here.

Paul and Simone were fairly new to the La Paz scene... a year or so... in their 40's... a fairly young couple, divers and in good physical shape. It is simply tragic that they were killed.

Hurricane Odile left wreckage all along the Baja. Santa Rosalia and Escondido weren't spared. Many friends lost their boats. 

The internet here in Pago is horrifically slow and I am unable to link to much. However, here is a place where you can make donations to the La Paz effort to find homes for the now homeless sailors.
(Photos of Odile's devastation and our friends used by permission from Shelly Rothery-Ward)

But being so far away from the devastation in Mexico didn't spare us grief. 
Ray & Jenny (formerly of sv SUKA) emailed us the Curley family's guestbook entry from 1982
Our friend and long-time cruiser, Jack Curley on the 41' ketch Kulkuri, was preparing to sail towards Japan from Pago Pago. Jack was Jim's closest friend here in Pago. 
Photo of KULKURI from blogsite of Domino Marie
Jim knocked on Jack's hull one Monday, but there was no answer. He figured Jack might have hitched a ride into town with someone, as his dinghy was there. By Wednesday, we felt uneasy. Jim and I went together to check. When still no one answered our knocks, Jim boarded Kulkuri. We weren't prepared mentally or emotionally when Jim discovered that our friend had died a few days earlier. It was shocking. Jack was in excellent physical condition. He rode his bike hard from Pago to Tafuna every Sunday to keep his cardiovascular system healthy. He was full of life and energy.

As far as death goes, it appears Jack spent the day riding his bike. He had a glass of wine with a friend that evening and then watched a movie on his computer. And then it looks like he fell asleep.

The weeks have been taxing physically and emotionally for many cruisers as we mourn the loss of our friends.

R.I.P. Guenter, Paul & Simone, and Jack.

As Jack used to say, “Fair winds and Foul Friends”.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pago Pago, American Samoa – Week 3

View at the starting point of Mt. Alava Trail

photo by Jim

The anchorage from high above taken by Jim

photo by Jim

photo by Jim

photo by Jim
Mount Alava Trail:

There are numerous hiking trails on the island of Tutuila. I wanted to come back to a clean and tidy boat before we took off so insisted that we leave for our trip after chores... and so we got a late start. It was a sweaty, hideously steep transit from the anchorage up to the beginning of the trail – I almost turned around. Carolyne complained and balked at every step – and I might have agreed with her except that I had to save face in front of my husband, who claimed I would “never make it”. It was a cloudy day, but all three of us were soaking wet by the time we reached the trail head at Mt. Alava. It was totally worth the effort - he view was breathtaking!

What is left of the tramway atop Mt. Alava following a terrible

 plane accident

 in 1980

photo by Jim

Nature... in alien form     photo by Jim

photo by Jim

I believe we all got our second wind and eagerly began the winding trail through the rainforest. Unfortunately, we didn't get far. Because we started so late, the mosquitoes were in full force! And when Carolyne lost something on the trail and wanted to back-track to find it, we decided to make the trip again at a later date... next time starting much earlier in the morning and bringing a larger bottle of insect repellent.

Fa'a Samoa – the Samoan Way:

Carolyne arrived at her first day of classes last week only to be told to come back at 1pm for Registration. And at the point that she was finally registered she was then directed to return the following morning for a placement exam. Carolyne was stressing a bit because she had wanted to begin her first day with everyone else … when everyone is new. But she shouldn't have worried. After her placement exam we were told all the the students had been released for another week. The school administrators were very slick and told us it was due to unfinished renovations in one wing of the building. But the news on the radio was that the principal at her school had been fired and refused to leave. That was a bit of drama, which the villagers found quite entertaining. We still don't really understand.

Decked out in school uniform

You-know-who... caring for a stray mama and her pups

Cruiser Relationships:

We had really hoped to meet new people (cruisers and expats) through the Pago Pago Yacht Club we had heard so much about. It was disappointing to learn that the club is no more... it dissolved a year or two ago - something political with the governor's office. Then, we received an email from Chuck, a cruiser friend in Argentina, who offered to connect us with his friend living in American Samoa. (Cruisers tend to be wonderful in this way!) The same day, Michael called us and Jim and he made plans to meet for lunch in the future. Hopefully, we'll get some information on what jobs may be available, expat venues and other tips and helpful hints.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pago Pago, American Samoa – Week 2

Beautiful, yet blustery, Pago Pago anchorage

Lovely local girl

Decorating for Labor Day

Two men taking a lunch break wearing traditional lava-lava (or sarongs)

Wet & Windy Weather Week:
It blew like stink for an entire week... 25+ knots... with no reprieve! Rain, rain and more rain. And I know while some of our friends are waiting out serious droughts in other parts of the world... desperate for even a single drop of rain... that I shouldn't be complaining. But wet dinghy rides – getting drenched in sudden cloud bursts – saturated right down to your undies – salty hair plastered quite undignified-like (and only on one side!) after being slapped around by saltwater waves – plastic poncho doing very little to ward off the wet... changing into dry clothes AGAIN... finding yet another place to try and dry out wet clothing... well, after a week it's a little much. Factor in restless sleep as the boat shudders and mutters endlessly throughout the night? That's a recipe for Cranky Crew.

'The Healing Garden'- memorial to those lost in the 2009 tsunami
located in the village of Leone

Nicest surprise:
I just met a cruiser (from Dallas) who is a friend of a non-cruising friend of mine (who also lives in Dallas, but with whom I became dear friends in San Antonio over 20 years ago)... who happens to be crewing on a boat that is anchored in the same anchorage as Hotspur right here in American Samoa! Greg and I finally met after missing each other in Tahiti and then again in Bora Bora. And what a delight he is... we chatted for hours like old friends! (Thank you, Mark, for introducing me to Greg!) I just love small world encounters.

Windblown in Pago Pago with my new friend Greg 
Luckiest in Line:
I was first in line... that's right... #1... to buy Samsung UNLOCKED cell phones for only $15 each! It was a Blue Sky promotion and I arrived well over an hour before time to start the line (and I looked a bit pathetic standing there hungrily all by my lonesome)... but I saved $70 locally (almost $200 had I purchased from Amazon!)!! And I didn't look so pathetic walking away from that mile-long-line that accumulated behind me with my cell phones and free T-shirts (that are way too big for any of us but they were FREE!). Yep... I'm a cheap cruiser. With my cheap cell phones for the family. Uh-huh... uh-huh... uh-huh...

And, after minimal effort, we have Carolyne enrolled in school! She starts 9/2.

One of the numerous fabric stores on the island...
we paid less than $7 for Carolyne's school uniform material!

Wam-V that will be following the Hokule'a and photographing the adventure
Good Deeds:
Carolyne was out of bed at sunrise for the spay and neuter clinic. She loves to volunteer and did so many times while in Mexico. She jumped at the opportunity in the Village of Leone here on the island. Numerous cats and dogs were brought in for free vaccines, de-worming and prohibitive procreation operations. The state of the pets here on the island is pretty dim. Mange, starvation, ticks and fleas... it's pretty bad. I think maybe worse than in Mexico.

Tanya preparing injections

Steve getting sleepy pup ready for ear tattoo tag number and belly shave

Zeke and Nina came along to help, too

Kitty ready for surgery

This friendly kitty is the stray
McDonald's cat... eaten alive by mange
 ( crew on sv Trade Winds rescued him- Carolyne and
 I will check on him next week

It is always the saddest part of cruising – saying “so long” to friends. Sv Mojombo departed on their way to Western Samoa, then to Fiji and finally back home to Tasmania.

Vicki, Nina, Gary and Zeke

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pago Pago, American Samoa - Week #1

Our biggest thrill visiting Pago Pago was the arrival of the Hokule'a (double hulled traditional voyaging canoe) and watching the premiere of Jean Michele Cousteau's 'Swains Island: One of the Last Jewels of the Planet' at the Marine Sanctuary.

Jean Michel (the son of diver and film maker Jacques Cousteau) presented his PBS documentary for the first time – a look at Swains Island, which is located about 200 miles north of Pago Pago. Marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle was also at the presentation- a National Geographic explorer in residence and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998. Carolyne and I were in the small audience.
Jean Michel Cousteau at his premiere presentation of
Swains Island

Carolyne in the Samoa News

Beautiful culture!
The Hokule'a and its team use wayfinding (or landfinding), a non-instrument navigation method used in ancient Polynesian traditions. Long canoes greeted the Hokule'a and her sister ship Hikianalia. There is a book that explains the methodology and techniques: We, the Navigators – The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific by David Lewis.
Hokule'a side tied

Amazing tree carving in Pago Pago harbor
Our biggest anx: Anchoring in the harbor is tricky. The 2009 tsunami that hit Pago Pago and killed 50 people has left the bottom very messy and the holding is precarious. We tried several times to drop the hook and set it our normal style: drop anchor, back down straight until chain is taut and no skipping occurs, increase RPM a few notches... increase RPM a few notches more... a little more... and we're set!. Our true and tried method didn't work for us here... we just slid on back. Instead, we dropped the anchor and floated above it until it nestled nicely into the sludge and then very, very gently backed down on it. We have been in the same spot for a week with various squalls visiting the anchorage with no problem... so far. But we always have someone on board. Always. And that makes family outings – well, they don't happen.
What I do during passages...Cherry Strata Pie... and why I need to go on a diet.

What Carolyne and Jim do during passages. Must be very bored to create
horror flick make-up: Hotspur Horrors.
(this particular toe grossy inspired by Kyle on sv Lady Carolina)
Our biggest surprise: the friendly Samoan people and the cheap prices of food and supplies. Rarely do we meet locals on the sidewalk where they don't say “hello” or “good morning” with a large smile. And they speak English (the majority). A local veggie and fruit market is nearby: $5 for a large bag of sweet potatoes, $1 for bag of fresh green beans, $1 for 6 fresh ears of corn corn, 6 lamb shanks $4... well, you get the picture. A laundry facility is close by the anchorage... $1.25 for a load of wash and $1.75 for a dryer. Buses cost about a $1.
The bothersome Boobie that wouldn't go away... until Capt. Crankpants appeared.

Carolyne's photo of fence flowers and me in the background
with my gigantic sunshade.
Our biggest disappointment: the marina really isn't a marina. They call it a marina, but it is for transient boats and small fishing boats only. Unless there is an emergency, cruising boats can only stay 15 days max and the cost for our size boat is $30 per day. No electricity and no water.

A happy dance! US Post Office in Pago Pago means sending and receiving supplies is a piece of cake. We bid on a used Raymarine replacement chartplotter on Ebay while we were in Bora Bora... 9 days later it arrived... and arrived 9 days before we did! And it works! Price of shipping varies – I find Amazon prices to be steep. Cheaper to beg a friend to accept a list of supplies shipped to their home in the States, sort the items into one large box and then ship that. (Thank you mi amiga, Jackie!)
Hokule'a inspired greeting by a lovely people
And our biggest news: We are planning to stay here through hurricane season. I will see about getting Carolyne into high school next week.