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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.


  1. Having lived and worked in Pago for a couple years in the 70's I hope you find it as interesting as I did. The yacht club was the social scene for all the expats. The thing I find the most amazing is the US pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the country each year. Where does it go? Even 20/20 couldn't find out.

    Wishing you all the best


  2. Glad to hear you made it safely to American Samoa. Go you Tocksters, Go!

  3. Hello Hotspur,

    We are back in Ireland and we are enjoying again to read your blog. So you are staying put for the hurricane season, that is good and it will allow you to get some well deserved rest. I am glad to hear that Carolyn is going to school it will be such a great experience for her meeting new friends.
    We will be in Ireland for the next two weeks and a bit, expecting the imminent arrival of Robert's 6th grand child ( denial is the best attitude)! Than we will be back in Mexico, in La Paz where we had to live Wahkuna due to a stater motor problem. We are looking forward to getting back on the water as we have been missing our big Girl.
    Anyway that it is for now. Keep posting those blogs and photos! They are a delight to read.

    Big hugs and bisous to the three of you

    Delphine and Robert