The Perfect Spot

 

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We stumbled upon it, during the waning hours of a day sail between one Leeward Society Island and another. Instead of continuing to the pass we’d planned for entering Raiatea’s lagoon, we made the spot-decision to sail through another, more easily made on the point of sail we’d enjoyed all day. Our Morgan Out Island was close-hauled in about 12 knots of breeze with barely discernable seas, the sun setting fast on a beautiful, blue sky tropical day. “This is one of those sails we’ll always remember,” Brian said. He was right, and the best was yet to come.

Our most informative cruising guide for the Society Islands, written back when I was in kindergarten, called the inner bays of this pass “isolated” and the authors confessed they hadn’t anchored in either one. Another guide described it as an excellent stop if you’re looking for tranquility, fishing, and surfing, but cautioned that coral growth made it impossible to transit from here to other bays within the lagoon. Charlie’s Charts had the briefest of mentions: “Passe Tiano is not recommended.”

Continue reading “The Perfect Spot”

Sunday No Fun Day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first Sunday in American Samoa dawned clear and blistering hot and all I wanted was to enjoy what we usually enjoy everyday: fresh sea air to breathe and clean, cooling water in which to swim. But we were anchored in Pago Pago.

All of the cruiser descriptions of American Samoa’s main port are quick to mention that the harbor is much cleaner and more tolerable than when the tuna canning factories used to dump the fish guts directly out the door, letting them stew in the narrow, enclosed, protected waters of the town.

Now they load the offal onto a boat and motor a few miles offshore to dispose of it, but the canneries themselves still smell like try pots for all the dirty underwear of the world. When black smoke billows out of the top of the Starkist factory, they’re making fertilizer, one local told us, which exudes it’s own greasy, noxious stink.

Between our boat and Starkist, an enormous generator roared 24-7, and from the hours of 8am-8pm, it was in stereo, as one of the resident cruising boats beside us ran his gen set all day. When it rained, which was daily, trash coursed down the city streets and streams and drifted by the boat in shimmery swirls of fossil fuel runoff. The American Samoa EPA posted ‘No Swimming’ signs along the shore and the daily paper ran a list of all the bays and beaches that had tested unsafe for swimming, which was pretty much all of them in the vicinity of Pago Pago.

I was craving the cool, pacifying effects of water, but it was Sunday in a country that had been ravaged by overzealous missionaries. Continue reading “Sunday No Fun Day”

Every Day to the Good is a Good Day

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On July 2, 2016, we departed Majuro, Marshall Islands, for a long, upwind sail to Samoa. Crow flies, it was an 1800-mile passage that we thought might take two weeks, three at the most with the light winds that were predicted for our first few days at sea. It was 25 days later that we finally sighted the island of Savai’i on the horizon.

The first two weeks we had wind so light it barely filled the sails, coupled with seas so calm we felt like we were just hanging out on the boat while she happened to be moving. We deliberately went looking for the Equatorial Counter-current and a big part of our days were spent evaluating our progress and determining when the current was giving us a 1-1.5 knot boost and when we’d sailed out of its helpful push to the east. Evening squalls were easy going and it wasn’t until we dipped below the equator that the wind filled in from the southeast, eventually building to 20-30 knots and kicking up 8-10 foot seas as a passing low caught up with us. The last five days were the most difficult. Overall we sailed more than 2200 miles, averaging 75 miles per day, making this our slowest, longest, and most interesting voyage.

This is the passage in photos. Continue reading “Every Day to the Good is a Good Day”