Back in CooksBay, we enjoyed the museum where we learned about early life in Polynesia.The whole village would team up to heard fish into their nets by having many small boats line up from a distance, each boat would have someone on the bow splashing the water with a carved stone attached to rope hand woven from palm leave fibers; the bigger the stone hurler the bigger the carved stone.We saw a large collection of these stones on display.After the big fish haul they would have a big beach party to celebrate the many special days in honor of the many gods required to keep the village running smoothly.
We got to work an ancient island hole drill, a very clever device made with a pointy cone shaped sea shell attached to the end of a straight stick with half a coconut thru the stick & a length of fiber rope.The idea is to rotate the stick to wrap the rope around it, pulling on the rope then twirls the stick, the coconut gives a bit of twirling momentum, the rope wraps around one way & after pulling it again it wraps around the other way & soon the abrasive cone shell will bore a perfect hole.On display & for sale where a nice collection of hand made nose flutes :-OThese would seem to be sort of a disgusting concept, I assumed an instrument over flowing with mucus effluent but a nose flute, as it turns out does not require nose blowing power, just a gentle exhaling thru one nostril while pinching off the other with one’s index finger.Bobbie, a lover of flutes, has collected quite a number of exotic hand made flutes from all over the world;for our wedding anniversaryI bought Bobbie a very special nose flute which was hand carved & inlaid with Polynesian graphics by the guy that runs the museum.
The next day in CooksBay we attempted the long hike up to a lookout point way up in the mountains.Normally we love to take long strenuous hikes but nearly the last two weeks we all had some bad cold flu to deal with & Bobbie had the terrible Dengue fever so our endurance was not up to par, also the cruising life doesn’t allow for consistent hiking exercise so there are sometimes long periods of time where we just can’t get in much hiking such as the 7 weeks we spent in the Tuamotus; there just isn’t enough land there to take a long hike & absolutely no hills to climb up.We hiked way up the mountain through very beautiful lush tropical vegetation along a quite dirt road.After nearly two hours on a steady up hill we came upon a Marae, an ancient place of worship where sacrifices of fruit, fish & humans were required to appease the many gods as required allowing the village to run smoothly.These are incredible stone monuments with stone walls, structures, walkways & stairs.It is evident how large stone lifting has remained a popular sports activity for the island champions of today; at the big Pacific Puddle jumper party we attended the week before, part of the competition at the event was to lift large stones of 80lbs, 150lbs & 200lbs.I would have used a block & tackle to accomplish this task smarty but the Polynesians have developed a technique which allows them to heft these big stones which was crucial back in ancient times to build their many walls, structures, walkways & stairs.
After enjoying the ancient Marae, the thought of hiking another long haul further up the mountain seemed too much so we took a most splendid path down the hill.We walked along the ancient stone lined path past a few more Marae areas amongst some of the most densely lush tropical forest we’ve ever been in.After a while we came out into a large pin apple field which gave us a short cut back to the dirt road we came up on.The temptation of liberating a nice pin apple was just too much & one just sort of hopped into my backpack; later back at the boat we enjoyed the tastiest pin apple we’ve ever tasted.
The next day I dug out my bike, repaired the leaking tires, broke free the rusting chain, lubed it up & took a ride.Riding a bike on Moorea is a blast, there’s so much island to be seen as opposed of walking; in just over an hour I rode over a quarter way around the island before turning back around.The next day we brought the boat back out to OpunohuBay, the water is very clear & snorkeling the reefs right off the boat is amazing.We took a dingy ride about a half an hour down a channel by the reef & swam with the hand fed & tame sting rays.These are the same sting rays that killed the tough guy from Australia that wrestles crocodiles, but these are an exception to their species; still it’s hard to cuddle up to these creatures.They are about 2 to 3’ feet across & have about 4’ tail with those nasty stinger barbs.These have been hand fed by the local tour boats for years & they come right up to you & sort of hug you with their winged arms flipper thingies.
The next day I rode my bike up into the end of Opunohu bay & took the road way up the hill.On my bike I soon came upon the Marae we hiked to a few days earlier with much more ease than I did hiking.I then pressed on & peddled up to the awesome look out point called Belvedere.From there I could see both Opunohu & CooksBay, along with stunning views of the vast tropical forests abounding as far as the eye could see & the coral reefs surrounding the island.While there I met a cool young local dude that offered me a cold local beer called Hinano & some locally grown smoke, of course I don’t smoke but thought I could at least smell it…:-) … the ride back down the hill was what dreams are made of!
The next day I went scuba diving with Mike from Apple, we dingy’d outside of the reef & tied up to a mooring ball & dove in 20 to 40 feet of very clear water.The coral was vibrant & the tropical fish were spectacular.The highlight of the dive wasn’t the intimidating sharks that kept checking us out but the large sea turtle that was interested in us.I took a bunch of pictures of Mr. Turtle & some are posted on the web site.
The following day Bobbie & I took a long ride along coast road.It’s really a great way to see a lot of the island.The day after I took another ride up to the Belvedere look out point & then took a trail that went another mile up & over to another even more spectacular view point.I then came back down thru the ancient Marae path, cycling amongst the gods.Bobbie biked up the Belvedere point after I got back while Robin played with a local friend he met on the beach.Robin’s friend had a sleep over that night & the next night his mom took them to the carnival in the village & a sleep over at their house while Bobbie & I had an extended happy hour on a sail boat couple we met in Puerto Don Juan last summer while hurricane Norbert was blowing by.We make fast friends with bonds of a life time out here.
We had spent nearly three weeks in Moorea, lots of other boat had come & gone, now it was time for us to sail on over to the next island down wind about 100 miles.We set sail for Huahine at sunset & sailed thru the night & arrived about noon the next day.Huahine is considered the garden isle for its intense lush tropical setting; it is sparsely populated & is not touched by over tourism.Like Tahiti, Moorea, Riatea, Tahaa & Bora Bora, the island is surrounded by a barrier reef.There are only a few places to enter the reef thru passes where the coral reefs are open to the outside sea.Once in the waters are calm with the reef blocking the big swells of the open ocean.We anchored again in very clear water & enjoyed a beautiful view of the island & the ever increasing waves breaking on the near by pass.In fact the waves were increasing each day enticing the surfers out to test their nerve.They had to have great skill to ride the monster waves while avoiding being crushed into the sharp jagged hard abrasive coral heads which produced the huge waves.I have lived & windsurfed in southern California for decades & have never seen better shaped & huge waves as those in Huahine.I love to kayak in the waves but these monster waves were very intimidating, so I kept my distance from their grip of destruction.I’m sure if I hung out long enough I’d be drawn into their rapture.
I took two great rides their on Huahine, which took me around the entire upper ‘Nui’ island the other took me up dirt roads & paths to very remote peaks & private roads.My second ride took me through a lagoon area that looked & felt like ancient Polynesia, I rode thru a small village & witnessed a life style that was pure & simple.After going almost completely around the island at sea level the road got very steep & I gained lots of altitude.At the top the view was amazing & the ride down the other side was fast & dreamy as I zoomed thru the tropical forest.
We happened to be there in Huahine during a week of local celebrations they call Hieva.There was several days of out rigger canoe races.They had one man, 6 man & 12 man out rigger canoe races.At night there were big events at the local ceremonial party place.The night we went we saw the most awesome Polynesian drummers we have ever seen.There were at least 5 different large groups of drummers each playing very complex percussion arrangements of their own uniqueness.At times all of the drummers would band together to produce earth shaking rhythms in a massive 50 man drummer band.
One day I took a kayak ride out to a moored Polynesian catamaran out near the barrier reef.I brought my snorkeling gear & dove the area.There I found a 10’ foot anchor from the days of the old square riggers.The tropical fish there were abounding in a rainbow of spectacular colors & were used to be hand feed.This first trip out I didn’t bring any fish food but still I was followed around by hundreds of ‘aquarium’ fish for an hour.Later these huge tuna fish with purple outlines were swimming in large numbers; I wished I had brought my spear gun to bag some of these big meal sized fish.Then the pesky sharks showed up to put me in my place in the food chain.I went back a couple of days later with Bobbie Jo & Robin, his friend Haley & her dad; luckily the sharks didn’t show up that day.
We then sailed over to the double island of Raiatea & Tahaa & anchored near a small motu a mile off of Tahaa; both islands are surrounded by a common barrier reef.We took in a pearl farm tour today where they showed us in details of pear farming.They buy the oysters from the Tuamotus which are about the size of dime to about a quarter.They place these in net bags & suspend them in the bay about half way down in about 50 feet of water.After two years they are now big enough to place the starter ‘nucleus’ & a piece of grafted oyster part.The nucleus is a rounded piece of a sea shell & the graft is a small part of another oysters black lip flesh; place into the oysters’ pearl sack, the oysters will produce a pea sized pearl in about two more years.After this pearl is harvested, another nucleus the same size as the recently extracted pearl can be inserted into the oyster’s pearl sack & then in two more years an even larger pearl will be formed.
7-12-09We sailed within the barrier reef from Tahaa to Raiatea & met up with our friends Mike, Veronica & their wonder dog Apple aboard s/v Apple.Veronica carried a care package back to Los Angeles for Bobbie’s daughter Aubrey.I took a bike ride around one day & the next day kayaked way out to an abandoned fishing shack around the island; it was built over the water a mile from shore near the barrier reef with breath taking views of the huge ocean swells crashing on the windward reefs.Surfing the huge swells that break over the reefs near passes out here in the Society Islands are truly world class.In all my years of beach going in S. Ca. I’ve never seen such huge & perfectly shaped waves.I had kayaked out to the waves at the passes at Huahine & was quite intimidated by the magnitude of the waves so I kept a safe distance.The waves are formed by large off shore swells rolling in from a distant storm traveling in very deep water they rise up & crash over the shallow reefs.A skilled rider knows to ride the waves towards deeper water towards the reef’s pass & bail out before it crashes violently into the shallow reef; even the skilled riders bear the scars of brutal encounters with the sharp & shallow reefs.
7-14-09We headed out the pass of Raiatea & sailed to Bora Bora with it’s majestic volcanic peaks enticing wayward sailors since time immemorial.The views of Bora Bora at sea are what dreams are made of giving rise to a climax of landfalls we’ve previously came upon. We got to see the volcanic peaks change shape at the various angles as we sailed from one end & towards the island’s one pass.We picked up a mooring in front of the Bora Bora Yacht club & soon the yacht club’s owner came out to us with a cruiser friend who had heard us play a cockpit concert in Huahine.Tony had raved about us enough to inspire the owner to come out & invite us to perform that night.We were so well received that they asked us back the next night & the following Tuesday/Wednesday.We were treated to free moorings, dinners & drinks.Our percussionist friend Allen from s/v Follow you Follow me happened to be at our boat when the owner came along so we all got the special treatment including our support crew Robin & Allen’s wife Reena.We met Allen in La Cruz Mexico where we played a couple of jams & have played together since quite a few times.His talent went far beyond the ‘middle aged new to the drum circle’ pool that is so prevalent in La, by the first jam back in La Cruz I could tell he had deep talent which fueled some seriously intense free form jams.We’ve played a number of cockpit concerts that it seems like we’re a band together on a world tour :-)They have a PA system & we all get mic’d up & the sound is excellent.The owner talked us up good to the big Hilton over on a motu island & they wanted to hire us for the entire month of August, we were flattered but had to decline because our cruising permit has expired & it’s time to move on to Samoa, Tonga & New Zealand.We only hope we are this well received in other places along the way but Bora Bora sets a high standard of coolness.
7-23-09I took a bike ride around the island which only took an hour & a half, a great ride around possible the most scenic islands in the world.The owner of the Bora Bora yacht club again let us borrow the big blue power boat to bring Bobbies harp back to the boat, we also brought our bikes back.We then hauled in the 340 feet of anchor & chain & headed for the other south end anchorage.We navigated thru a several coral head fields; squeezed thru some thin water & now we are anchored in about 9 feet of water.It looks like a swimming pool it’s so clear.We took a great snorkel out between two small motus, the fish were so happy to see us as they are routinely hand feed by the dive operations for the tourists.
It had been fairly calm when we arrived here but since the wind has been building & is predicted to increase until Wednesday the 25th, the day we plan to make our departure from Bora Bora to Samoa with a stop at Suwarrow.We are getting a bit apprehensive about this passage as we are hearing from other cruisers on the HF radio net that are under way or all ready there that it’s the toughest passage to date.With the closest stop at Suwarrow at about 700 miles, it will take about 5 days; every 3 or 4 days a storm front passes thru this area coming from the south so boats heading that way are bound to get spanked along the way.The last few days it has rained heavily each night, last night being the one of the heaviest rains we’ve had with winds way over 30 knots.We are hoping to snorkel near Point Tupitipiti, ‘the best spot in Bora Bora’ today but the rain & high winds are intimidating.I was getting cabin fever so I bashed out in the kayak towards the lee of the motu here in the southeast tip of Bora Bora in 20+ knot winds. Gaining the relative calm near shore I paddled out around the end of this motu Taurae & headed up wind to Point Tupitipiti where motu Taurae ends & meets up with Bora Bora’s barrier reef.Now the wind is blowing 25 to 30 knots, my hardest stroke would literally gain me inches, a medium stroke would have me drifting back in feet.It seemed like it took forever to reach the reef but the awesome view of the massive ocean swells bashing violently on the reef was a hypnotizing diversion to the paddling work out (like I said, cabin fever will have you out doing crazy things :-)The closest I could get was about 20 yards from the outer reef edge.The huge waves were crashing over the reef giving challenge to just staying nose to it.After taking in the power of the tempest I turned & surfed back down the wind & waves, racing along until I landed on shore to do some snorkeling here in ‘the best snorkeling in Bora Bora’.It really could have been the best snorkeling but on this day with the wind blowing up to 30 knots & huge waves breaking over the reefs there was a very swift current raging thru the coral beds.Swimming with fins as hard as I could would barely keep me in the same place.By ducking behind the coral bommies I was able to explore a bit of the area but soon returned to the kayak on shore & returned to the boat.
7-30-09We sailed out of Bora Bora in light winds until we broke free of it’s wind shadow where the wind gradually built in strength.By early evening the winds were 25+ with gusts to 35.The seas were about 10 feet, sort of big but mainly from a following direction.Just after sunset a rude wave slammed the boat, soaked Bobbie & Robin, poured thru a few open ports & slammed my camera against the cockpit ending it’s look career.The camera loss was not to bad since I’ve had it now for 11 years but this camera has a nice underwater case which is unique to that particular camera.By the following morning I discovered that in the night another rude wave tore off our $$ ultra light top of the line carbon fiber windsurfing masts which now makes all of the rest of the gear sort of dead weight.
We had been ripping along at very high speeds for 2.5 days, we even attained our highest speed of 11.3 knots.Then the winds gradually began to die.We poled out the jib to try to grab what ever little wind there was but that too became futile as the rocking boat was bashing the sails around with each swell so the motor was turned on.A few hours later the wind teased us so we set sail again but this time the wind was on the other side of the boat, the spinnaker pole was kept in place on the other side; we were certain the prevailing winds would clock back around & we’d use the pole again but soon the wind just died out so we fired up the motor again & motored until we reached Suwarrow two days later.
We entered the pass around noon on Tuesday August 4th & found our kid boat friends Whisper & a lot of other boats we’ve been meeting up with since Mexico.Suwarrow is the atoll where the Kiwi hermit Tom Neale lived by himself for most of the years from just after WW2 until 1977 & wrote the book “An Island to One’s self”; book that inspired many to the escapists dream of life on a tropical island.The atoll is 11 miles across, it has one entrance pass & basically one tine motu where Tom lived which one can meander slowly around it’s perimeter in less than 45 minuets.The other few motus are even smaller are somewhat connected by a fringing reef that circles the atoll barley exposed at low tide; the largest of these can be meandered around in less than 30 minuets & both are so thick with foliage that venturing in beyond a few feet is impossible.
Suwarrow is a nature preserve, all the wildlife is protected here. The birds here have no natural predators so they lay their eggs right on the ground.The water in the lagoon is the clearest of any atoll in the Tuamotus, however all the passes are very clear.We could easily see our anchor making a good set at 45’ down & clearly see the many sharks that patrol the anchorage :-OThe care takers of the atoll are John, Veronica & their four boys, Tino, Vani, Johnathan & Jerimia.They have a system where they ask cruisers not to clean fish or toss in meat scraps in the anchorage but to take this refuge ashore where they often have a shark feeding frenzy on the open ocean side outside of the atoll.The oldest son Jeremiah is in charge of the shark feeding ceremonies where he will stand near the water & call out for the grays, soon to the amazement of the cruisers the grey sharks will begin to swim in for the fish scraps.Also the black tips, white tips & others will join the frenzy but when the grays are called it seems that only they respond to the call…very intriguing. This is a not an area to go swimming & it’s best to keep your toes out of the water here :-O
Each day here is packed with activities.The first night we treated our kid boat friends Whisper to a cheese burger dinner they really enjoyed since after three weeks here they had run out of most of their food supplies & had been alcohol free for over a week :-OThe next night there was a huge cruiser’s pot luck at the care takers open air meeting area under their two story beach house.Meals of great variety made a great spread & fish caught trolling from boats on their way to Suwarrow were cooked on a big coconut husk BBQ.The next night we had a music jam with two other guitarist, a mandolin player that could also play a mean blues slide on the guitar, the care taker John played us a few very cool tunes. The following days were spent kayaking out to remote motus & snorkeling the various reefs including one the center of the lagoon which was quite intriguing being a few miles from any land or the reef’s edge.Out there in the middle of the lagoon the depth is typically over 100’ with a few reef islands reach up to within a few feet of service for about 50 to 100 feet of shallow coral reefs then the depth rapidly drops off to the 100+ depths.Each time I’ve been snorkeling I find a new kind of fish or coral formation & more often than not, after a few moments of being memorized by the underwater views, as I’m checking out the sea life I’ll get the disturbing feeling something is checking me out, I’ll turn to look behind me & find a shark checking me out :-O
We’ve had two more music jam nights at the care takers place, each day new cruisers arrive so there are always fresh faces & excitement.After a week of low winds, low rain & lot’s of sunshine a weather system moved in & the wind began to pick up & up.It’s been blowing 20 to 40 knots for a few days & night with showers every few hours.The wind which normally blows from east giving our boats a flat calm anchorage behind Anchorage island has shifted to the southeast causing us to be on a lee shore with 11 miles of fetch which creates fairly large wind waves.Over the last few nights most boats had some issues to deal with & all lot of us had to keep an anchor watch through out the nights.Quite a few boats had their snubber line chafe through, a boat or two also had bow roller damage & at least one boat had their anchor windlass damaged by the sudden force of the chain pulling heavily on it when their snubber broke.The snubber line is sort of a shock absorber for the anchor chain & keeps the strain off of the windlass.
There had been a couple of dingies that have been liberated from their boats & another dingy lost one of it’s oars; a drag because it doesn’t have a motor.The next morning we discovered our dingy lost one of it’s oars.We were able to find it high & dry on the reef down wind of us at low tide.
As soon as the weather calms down there will be a wedding on the beach, this will be the first wedding ever on Suwarrow.The bride & groom to be are guests of Carinthia, they have a Morgan Outisland 41’ on the hard back in Mexico at the dry storage in San Carlos; we had met them in La Cruz just before we made our big puddle jump back in March.When the crew boarded Carinthia they announced that when they find the perfect idealistic tropical island they would like to get married there on the beach at sunset.If it’s calm enough Bobbie will bring her harp ashore for that.She has brought her harp ashore for one of the music jams with the help of the care taker’s large metal fishing boat.
Well it took a few days until the wind let up & the rain began showing signs of letting up so on Saturday 8-15-09 the bride & groom could not wait any more.John the caretaker came out to our boat & helped us bring the harp to shore; we stored it in the protection of his house.All the previous day or more, the gals got together & put together their craft talent to decorate the place.The caretaker’s wife, Veronica shared her talent at weaving palm leaves into many types of decorations, including a huge, free standing palm leaf wedding arch in which the bride & groom stood under for the wedding.
Well at 6:00pm the wedding was set to start, but at this time there was a torrential rain pouring down, but at about 6:06 the rain began to let up & we all made our way down to the beach they selected & we began the ceremony.Bobbie brought her harp & set it up with another faithful cruiser holding an umbrella over her she began to play a few pre bride songs.Soon the bride appeared in all of her glory & another cruising couple that are certified ‘Captains’ performed the vows.We made Suwarrow history that day at being the first wedding ever on Suwarrow.There was still no sign of a sun, the critical ingredient on a ‘sunset’ during the ‘I do’s’ part but just after that Bobbie started playing the closing song, which happened to be the Beatles ‘Here comes the Sun’ & as if by a divine blessing, a tiny opening in the clouds just & only where the sun was & brought in the most glorious sunsets one could hope for.Seriously, there was cloud cover everywhere but the small sliver of space the sun needed just a moment before it began to hit the horizon.
Immediately following there was the most awesome-est cruiser potlucks perhaps in the history of cruising.After most of the cruisers had returned to their boats, with just a very small handful of us cruiser hard cores, a bottle of genuine, one of a kind, never before & perhaps never again…bottle of Suwarrow brewed rum made it’s way forward.Just about a week before, a cleaver cruiser crew, who will remain nameless but let’s just say, built a ‘Heath – kit’ distillery in the jungle beyond the watchful eyes of those concerned;-)Most of us were of course ‘concerned’ & helped in the process or at least watching the master at work & ready with a shot glass for the initial tastings :-)I had just poured myself a shot of 80 proof (40%) Tahitian rum so I could make a potency comparison; I would have to say it to have been about 100 proof.Heath made his ‘kit’ with an old 20lb propane tank that was found discarded somewhere on the island/motu.He then found an eight foot length of copper tubbing & fashioned a connection with the copper tube to the top of the old propane tank.He had cleaned out the tank pretty good by this time but then proceeded to boil water thru the apparatus several times to sterilize the system.Then a 5 gallon water jug was appropriated to create the ‘hooch’.Hooch is the magical mixture that will later become de rum.This being a Suwarrow motu rum was made, for the first time, using de coconut.The rich white meaty coconut meat from a number of good coconuts were tossed in along with their sweet juice.An appropriate amount of yeast was tossed in along with the magical amount of sugar required to start the living culture.This hooch was set aside to ferment for a number dayz while the distillery system was prepared.Then on the holy day the rum gods deemed ‘good to go’, a portion the hooch potion was poured into the tank & a fire of coconut husks was stoked below the old propane tank.As the distilling process goes, the hooch boils, it’s steam rises up the copper tube but often falls back while navigating up thru the series of coils, water is boiled off as steam & the pure alcohol continues thru the coil which near the end of it’s run, passes thru a bucket of cooling water which re-condenses the alcohol & is then collected in bottles.
This was a very limited run & just a few bottles were capped before the distillery system was recycled back to boats heading for proper disposal.It was a very special night cap to a very wedding day on a very special remote tropical motu hundreds to thousands of miles from anywhere.We made fast true friends there with everyone there & especially the caretakers family.Robin had many sleep overs with their kids, went fishing for big fish & even helped catch & release a large shark or two (sorry Bruce; we named one of the Sharks Bruce from the Nemo fish movie:-).Bobbie enjoyed Veronica’s company & learned to do some palm frond weaving.John cherished our music & we cherished his.We all enjoyed his Sunday church services.This was the closest we got to anyone we’ve met in any other place we’ve been to so far & we really hope to someday meet again.
A few days later the wind & weather made the signs for us to go, so we reluctantly had to haul the anchor & sail towards the provisioning attractions of American Samoa :-O
8-20-09We sailed out of Suwarrow at around 4:30pm with heavy hearts but the wind & seas were perfect…at least for the first few hours.We had the wind on a nice comfortable broad reach while making for a rum line course to Pago Pago but after a few hours the wind was moving towards directly behind us which actually makes sailing quite difficult.The only sail plan the really works with a wind directly astern is the symmetrical spinnaker, which takes a large crew of sail handlers constantly adjusting the many ropes & lines & guys & lazy guys & sheets & lazy sheets & pole support lines & … So we just sail as close to down wind as we can & gybe the boat every 5 to 20 miles or so; thru the night we tend to gybe when we have both crew on deck during our watch changes.The next day we decide to sail wing & wing, with the jib sail poled out & the main prevented way over to the other side.In rolling seas this is a pain in the arrrs, so after about a half a day at this we go back to a broad reach & the pesky gybes; annoying because we are never sailing straight to where we want to go, especially annoying when you’re sailing slow :-OSo then we are going reeeaaally slow so we set the genniker sail, it’s an asymmetrical spinnaker sail that can be deployed by only one or two people & can fly without constant adjustments.About 36 hours out of Suwarrow, the wind just tanks & crank on the motor for about 12 hours of motoringbefore the winds begin to come back.We set the gennaker in the very light winds & manage to get moving at nearly the slow speed of the wind.
A few hours before sunset on 8-23-09 we sight Tau, one of the American Samoan island of the the Manua group about 40 miles away.By about 11pm the winds that had been light & directly behind us began to clock towards the north & build in strength.It was nice to be gaining speed & heading directly towards our destination but by around midnight the wind was exceeding the gennaker’s maximum wind range & direction.For the first time ever the gennaker did not come down like normal, normally a thin nylon bag is hoisted up & snuffs the sail but this time the stuff bag got jammed so I had to wake up Bobbie from her off watch sleep to help be drag in the sail.Soon we had the jib & main sail flying & we were flying along at top speed in rainy squalls.By the morning the wind was blowing 25+ hard on the nose, which then had us tacking towards our destination instead of gibing towards our destination.
We made landfall in Pago Pago harbor Sunday afternoon on 8-24-09.We found a ‘nice’ spot with good holding but then we noticed a reef area where we could swing into if the wind would shift, so we found a ‘nice’ spot in the back of the harbor. On Monday we checked in with the harbor master & then went straight over McDonalds golden arches, our first taste of America for nearly two years.After a few days the wind began to howl & we found ourselves oozing back towards the boat behind us.We hauled the anchor to re-anchor & found it impacted with quite a number of plastic bags & a huge glob of oily muck.I removed the mess, we re-anchored a bit further up & laid out a bit more scope. Reggae is very big out here, in fact it's big all over from the Marquises, Tuamotus, Tahiti & here in Samoa. Bob Marley is still a god. Plus they've got new roots reggae that hasn't strayed too far from the classics. They've got these cute little busses that are privately owned that run all over the island for a buck; they look like they're right out of a funky movie. Some young & often a Rasta like Samoan dude starts with say a little Toyota pick up truck, then using mostly wood, builds a short bus chassis, paint's it wild like, mounts a huge car stereo power amp above the driver's seat, tapes down the car stereo player to the dash board with a nail hammered in to keep it in place. We took the busses all over the island getting stuff we needed like a new computer.Then we rented a car to pick up the ton of provisions we’ll need for the next couple of months.We met a gal that was working on a traditional Samoan sailing catamaran, she heard about our music & invited us to play at here beach restaurant – Tisa’s Barefoot Bar.Her beach bar is absolutely a dream place that is often imitated but we’ve never seen a place with so much authentic tropical perfection.It’s right on the beach in her own village that has owned the land for over 150 years.Their specialty was a Samoan pit BBQ called the umoo.The umoo is made by creating a 4’x4’ fire ring area, layering in special umoo rocks that have been hand selected from their own river.They use hard wood that is collected from their own plantation for the hot burning fire.Once the wood is nearly burned down, banana stalks & trunks are layered in to keeps the fire moist & then the food is arranged with the larger meats near the larger rocks.Coconut half shells were filled with shrimp, veggies, sauces & seasonings.This is then covered with about 80 banana palm leaves.The whole process for a medium umoo takes about 4 hours.Tisa’s partner ‘Candy Man’ is from New Zealand, he came to the island 11 years ago on a work project, fell in love with Tisa & Fa’a Samoan way of life & has gone native.He learned the ways of the umoo from Tisa’s dad & puts together the best meal experience we have ever had. Last night we attended the Samoan Circus which was quite an event.They perform all over the pacific islands with performers from Samoa, the pacific islands & from all corners of the globe.The most revolting act was a gal from India that after drinking a bucket of water could spew it back up like a human fountain :-OThen to top that, she drank down live little fishes, then a short while later brought them back up one at a time…still alive :-OThen there was the 12 year old contortionist from china that could rest her head on her butt…along with many other impossible spine defining positions.The act that most were totally amazed at was a motorcycle stunt inside a metal ball cage that was maybe 12’ from top to bottom.At first two riders enter the ball & start riding in circles, round & round, upside down, in a blur of speed & directions.Then they seem to have the record of getting 5 motorcycles in there roaring around inches from each other.Finally there was a young Chinese guy that did some amazing hand stand tricks on this platform, adding chairs to hand stand on until was over 40 feet in the air without a net. The next day we had a great hike in a rainforest, complete with…rain :-)In a few days we’ll be sailing over the other Samoa for some more gigs & a marina slip. 9-5-09We spent the next few days being buffeted by high winds & driving rain.On this Saturday there wasn’t much wind but the rain was spritzing us about every hour in the usual fashion, the weather forecasts foretold of a front with a near tropical depression to move over the island on this day & linger over night.That afternoon the rain came down in torrential buckets & the rivers were over flowing into the harbor.Roads were flooding into the harbor as well with cars & trucks making huge rooster tails as they made their way thru what must have been over a foot of water.With this excessive flooding the back of the harbor where we were anchored became more like a swift moving river, at this point the boats began to waltz around in different directions being moved by the strange swirling of the swift current.Large light catamarans move quite differently from full keel boats like ours, the large unmanned cat near us was traveling quite fast in erratic movements; surelyit’s mooring dead weight was dragging around on the bottom, quite nerve wracking to see this boat moving at high speed getting as close as a few feet away at times.Then the wind began to howl & boats began to drag their anchors; after a while it was apparent that ours must be oozing back thru the muck; we were getting close to the boat behind us.The wind now was blowing 25 to 35 knots with higher gusts, a heck of a time to be maneuvering in a crowed anchorage.When the anchor was coming up but still 10 feet down, a large fishing net was tangled up in the chain & anchor.I had to cut away over 30 feet of this old fishing net, all while Bobbie kept the boat from going sideways to the wind & sweeping back into the boats behind us.If a piece of this netting would have managed to get caught in our propeller it would have stopped our motor with disastrous results; this happened to at least one other boat when we were there.Once the anchor was up it was covered with more netting, quite a number of plastic bags & a huge glob of oiling muck.We moved up to the front of the pack & laid out 300’ of chain where we held quite securely. 9-8-09On Tuesday we checked out of the country & changed out minds about leaving several times.Again that sever weather front was to be lingering over the islands promising more high winds, big rains & rough seas.Boats that had just been arriving told of very rough conditions with large breaking waves crashing constantly over their boats, some boats having their new main sail ripped in half, rigging breaking & on & on.After agonizing over to go or not we decided that it might be better just to get out of that harbor with the questionable holding & the hazards of other loose boats. So at 4pm we hauled anchor, which this time came up with bags or muck :-OWe set a double reef in the main & ran our small stay sail.We motor sailed up & out the harbor & the pass against 20+ knot winds, gusting to the high 20’s.After battling our way out we finally rounded the pass buoy & turned towards the far side of the island, shutting off the motor & sailing along nicely.After being so nervous about facing the harsh conditions, we soon realized that we have been in much worse & it wasn’t as bad as we had worked ourselves up for.Bobbie was actually enjoying the ride with a smile; later the ‘other shoe would drop’ :-OWe have been sailing this boat around for over 5 years now with our two stern ports open at all times, except when we motor to keep the fumes out, all this time we’ve never had a drop of sea water come into these ports.About midnight with Bobbie sleeping in bed & I’m in the cockpit on watch, a huge rude wave smashed into the back of the boat & sent what seemed like hundreds of gallons of sea water into the boat completely flooding our aft cabin.Bobbie screamed like the boat was sinking.Our inner spring mattress, our 3” memory foam, the mattress cover, all the sheets & a bunch of other clothes & towels that had been just washed was now completely soaked.We have a shelf that goes all the way around our aft cabin, it was sloshing around with a few inches of water, water was now draining into our drawers & soaking all of the other just washed clothes.Now our off watch time was not so restful, attempting to sleep on settee pads in the very rolly conditions. We arrived near the pass of Apia Samoa around 7am.Following our digital charts we were alarmed to find our position on these charts to be over a half mile off; we had to alter course when we noticed breaking waves over what should have been the middle of the pass.This was the first time our charts have been off.Once we got into the harbor, the port control boat came out & guided us to our slip.For some reason they guided us way around the back, around what looked like an impossible hard turn to a row of slips made for small 30 foot boats, but with plenty of line handlers we were soon tied up safe & sound.With no sleep & too tired to feel hungry, we set to the task of hauling out our queen sized mattress out of the single sized companion way opening but with lots of pushing, pulling & cursing we got out our beds stuff, hosed it off completely & laid them all out in the sun…the first sun we had seen for weeks.The government agents then started making their way to our boat, customs, immigration, marina, quarantine…it was a confusing process but at least they were coming to us instead of us running all around town like some places.Bobbie had gotten sea sick during the night while dealing with all the water mess in the very rough conditions, now it was my turn to get land sick.With the lack of sleep, not enough to eat & the very high heat I soon got a sever headache that cranked to barfing conditions…I thought I was gonna die :-OThat night we just left our mattress stuff out under the cloudless night only to wake up with heavy rain in the morning :-OWell, another fresh water rinse should be ok. After being out of a slip for nearly six months there is a lot of work to be done & drying out the bed stuff & all the clothes made for a marathon. After changing the motor’s oil, the Honda generator’s oil, added hydraulic steering fluid, flushing out the two large water tanks, hauling out all 400’ feet of rusty chain (realizing now why the chain was ‘such a good deal’, it was probably a cheap made in China chain & all the galvanizing has worn off prematurely) …& the list goes on & on.We passed on getting duty free fuel in Pago Pago, it seemed a hassle to have to call the port Captain for permission to go there & leave.It turns out the fuel situation in Apia was way more hassle, they bring a truck to a cement wharf & use a huge hose made to fill very large vessels at a very fast pace; most cruisers report that they spilled vast quantities of fuel into the harbor because it only comes out very fast & at least 5 gallons will continue to flow after the stop command is shouted.So we opted to borrow a cruisers’ large supply of jerry jugs & made two trips via a taxi to buy double the duty free price… WHAaa :-O This is the hottest muggiest place we’ve been to so far.The sun comes out often & it rains often also.The marina is down in a basin & the wind just dosen’t make it thru to cool off the boats.We’ve played our music with other cruiser musicians in our cockpit & at a huge dock party.I’ve ridden my bike around town twice now but it’s not very bike friendly.All day there was a crowd of people staring at a building, later when I rode by & asked I was told that the image of the Virgin Mary has formed on a water stain from a roof drain on the building.Well the power of suggestion really works & it really did look like the Virgin Mary benevolently looking down on the crowds complete with a halo.People were coming from miles around in taxis & tour busses.This stain must have been there for a long time until someone put the power of suggestion to use…Amen;-) Robin had one of his cavity fillings fall out so we had the adventure of finding a dentist & getting a new filling.After waiting in a very hot & stuffy waiting room we were ushered into the very old school dentist room.The kindly old dentist was barefoot & wearing the traditional Samoan lava lava shirt.In 20 minutes Robin was all patched up & heading back to the boat. The traditional sailing catamaran we saw back in Pago Pago has just arrived with our friend Tesa from the Barefoot Bar should be on board. We soon found our friend Thadeus that is crewing aboard the Samoan cat.He told us Tesa didn’t come along for the sail; perhaps a good thing (as it turned out the tsunami that hit two weeks later would probably require a lot of clean up work, we hope she & her Barefoot Beach Bar faired well), she seemed a bit nervous about the long passages & has never been off shore sailing before.A famous Maori actor from New Zealand was aboard along with a film crew, they are to film a documentary of the ships adventures while they navigate by the stars & sail with the whales in special places along the way. We had a nice cockpit jam with a few of the other cruisers, Steve & Ydine on guitars & Steve’s witty ad lib lyrics, Glen & Jens from s/v Vinsang on guitar & mandolin.Two days later we had a very large dock party with over 20 cruiser musicans, we were breaking the ‘no beer on the docks rule’ & often had to hide our beers from the security guards or talk our way out of their wrath. I brought my bike out for a few rides thru town.Heading a bit out of town on a dirt road I came across the dreaded ‘bad dogs’ guarding some house.A vicious pack of frenzied dogs barking & chasing be like they were about to eat me.I can normally ride just fast enough to out run them but soon I noticed that I was coming to the end of the road & had to turn around.I was using the my only trick I know of yelling ‘bad dog’ as loud & alpha male like, the end of the road was coming up & the dogs would be on me in a moment.Just as I was sure I was about to be munched the dogs owner yelled a single command from his house, the dogs stopped dead in their tracks & yelped like they were about to be beaten…I was thankful for their owners hard core training :-OThere was a nice ride long the waterfront starting at our marina & all the way to the other side of the large harbor.Robin & I did that short & sweet ride.I had done a fairly long ride going way up the main road & then coming back this way the day before; it’s tough riding along with the heavy traffic & narrow roads.It had started to rain while quite a ways out & before long the rain was driving so hard I had to put my sunglass back on to keep the rain from stinging my eyes.The rain out here is refreshing to the hot & mugginess of the area. Highlights of Apia were the pizza parlor with great pizza for low doe.We took in a tour of the Vailima Samoan beer brewery.It was interesting to see the process of how the returned bottles are cleaned, inspected & refilled.The brewing process was fascinating, our questionswere answered & the free drinks made a nice touch.We also took in our first movie of 2009 at the local theater, we saw the latest Transformer movie about robots that change into cars… :-OI managed one nice kayak trip & discovered nice clear water & some unspoiled tropical shores along with a dense jungle river excursion. After taking in about as much Apia as we could stand, Bobbie did the check out procedure & secured our duty free booze permits, we loaded up with supplies & made arrangements with the harbor patrol boat & other cruisers to help us move our 51’ boat out of the 30’ slip without hitting the nearby rocks.We headed out of the slip around 4pm with 190 miles to go to Niuatoputapu Tonga. Light winds had been predicted so we expected to arrive a day & a half later at first light sailing at 4 to 5 knots, however the winds were quite a bit stronger than predicted so we had to painstakingly keep the boat moving slowly.We could have easily been sailing along at 7 to 8.5 knots, making good time & the wind would have kept the boat a lot more steady on the down wind run but with a double reefed main & about 1/3 jib rolled out we were rocking along slowly like a wobbly duck so we wouldn’t arrive in the dark :-O On watches we often do some reading or lay down for 15 minuit breaks, my watch alarm reminding me to look around, check the course…We keep an eye out for any boat traffic & their lights in the distance, we use the radar about once an hour to see in the dark for any unlit boat or rain squalls.Once while switching watches we came across a fishing boat a drift working it’s nets right in our path, we had to change course to avoid.The odds are slight of encountering a vessel over 100 miles from the nearest land directly on our path but that was a sobering conformation of on watch diligence.I had set a course for Niuatoputapu which has us passing a small island about 12 miles to our starboard & a tiny reefy motu less than 6 miles to our starboard.Even knowing this, it is somewhat of a surprise to see these appear in the dawns’ early light, less than an hour after scanning the horizon with the radar.With a heavy rain squall in the area, it is often difficult to discern solid objects within the rain squall. Our electronic charts had been so absolutely accurate all along the way, especially impressive back in the Tuamotus where they accurately pin pointed under water reefs in remote atolls.They we accurate while entering Pago Pago American Samoa but were over a half a mile off in Apia Samoa; we were very leery of trusting it from here on out.We were happy to discover they were very accurate while entering the narrow entrance pass into Niuatoputapu.The sun had just come up & the customs people had not started their day yet so we anchored & got the boat ready for their boarding which they did about an hour later.Robin went ashore in the dingy to pick up the customs, immigration, health & port officials; they were all nice & friendly folks.We were invited to a free traditional Tongan umoo feast from Piea & Leki the health gal a few days later on Sunday.We were also invited by Sia & Neco to a special dinner with the other cruisers at their nearby house.It was a great pot luck meal with two piggies BBQ’d on an open fire by a rotating pole that the kids all took turns turning. The next night we had a music jam at Sia & Neco’s place.They have a very enterprising life style.Sia works for the government regulates the prices of goods & keeps track of what is imported to the island from the main islands.They also have plantations in the jungles above their house & on the volcano island 5 miles off shore.They grow taro, bananas, tapioca & a few other tropical goodies in the nearby plantation & they grow the kava plant on the volcano island.Neco takes visitors out to the volcano forhikes to the top; great views of the area & even the whales that frequent the sea in between the two islands.Neco also works in New Zealand during the apple picking season, has worked as a DJ at a night club there, works in construction in the house finishing trades in NZ & the main Tongan island & he has a license to make & sell his own beer on Niuatoputapu. The next day the three of us went on a hike all the way around the island.We followed a path that led us fairly high up the volcanic mountain.We saw many of the island’s ‘plantations’ along the way.Now our definition of a plantation is quite different from an island jungle plantation.Some of these ‘plantations’ are barely noticed from the rest of the jungle being just the native coconut trees, other have cleared the brush & non producing plants & cultivated the ground to grow taro, bananas, tapioca & a few other tropical goodies.We had hiked all the way to the far side of the island where we cooled off in a fresh water spring feed from under ground.It was very clear & had lots of small fishes that loved to be fed; it was quite amazing that they could see the crumbs flying thru the air & would be racing to intercept the flying tid bits while they were still in the air.We got lucky & hitched a ride on a school bus for our way back to the anchorage area; actually is was a large van cram packed with kids sitting on each other’s lap & standing in the isle.Bobbie got them all singing songs; they hadn’t heard of the Beatles but all could sing along with Bob Marley songs. The next day we enjoy the traditional Tongan umu with Piea & Leki’s family.At their house near the beach in the main town a few miles down the road from the anchorage, Leki prepared the umu in a special above ground umu hut.Leki has built a special umu hut which is basically a traditional Tongan kitchen, instead of the digging a pit into the ground, he has built up a three foot high area about 4’ x 6’ contained within a corrugated metal roofing material which is filled with sand.A 55 gallon steel drum cut in half is set in the sand which is where the cooking is done.First a layer of wood is set on fire, when the wood is burning nicely stones are placed on top then more coconut husks are placed on top of the stones & quickly start smoldering.Once the wood & coconuts are burned up the rocks have become very hot, some even glowing red, at this point the various meat & veggies are placed on the rocks & covered with banana leaves if available.In this case there were not enough banana leaves available so a layer wet towels were placed over the top to keep the food moist & keep the heat in, then a layer of food sacks were placed on top of that to keep the heat in for hours. While working the fire Leki showed Robin & I how to gut a chicken, one of his boys had already rung its neck & plucked it.We also got to see how to skin the tapioca root & a few other veggies.Freshly caught fish were cleaned & added to the umu.Most of us were then led over to a private resort on Hungana island, the small island across the pass which is less than a foot deep at low tide.The boys were off to collect & husk drinking coconuts; there were expert coconut tree climbers.Leki would follow with the hot umu food when it was ready.Laura, the owner of the resort was off of the island at the time but was nice enough to allow her friends Piea & Leki use the place for cruiser umu feasts even while she was away.Her place was double bug screaned in with an impressive view of the sea & the volcano island a few miles offshore.The meal arrived & even fresh lobsters were included, they really made us feel like part of the family.After we ate Bobbie sang a few church like songs & there family also sang a number of songs together.They may not have a lot of money but they ate like kings & had a special family bonding that was priceless. Leki had been trained by the Tongan defense as a radio operator.After his years with the Tongan Defense navy he worked on large fishing vessels as a radio operator; he has been to Pago Pago many times off loading their catches.He then spent years working with the Tongan government where he met & married his wife Piea who is currently the health administrator for the island; she meets arriving cruisers with forms to fill out & works at the islands modest hospital.Leki is semi retired but is looking forward to picking apples in New Zealand in order to make enough money to buy a motor for Laura’s nice boat.Leki looks forward to doing some off shore trolling for the larger game fish. On Monday 9-28-09 I went on what was one of the best bike rides I’ve been on so far cruising.I’ve had some hard core ruff rides in Mexico near Santa Rosilia; it was very hot, no plant life, just hot barren desert.Moorea & Bora Bora was nice but it was ether a paved road or a brutally steep dirt road.Niuatoputapu is only 3.5 x 2 miles in size with a 450’ tall volcanic crest in the middle, most of the surrounding land is very low lying at less than 25 feet above sea level.There are no paved roads on this island but there are truck & horse paths that lead to the various plantations & beach access to several spots.Riding along on these road paths were an amazing tour thru dense canopy of jungle.At first I passed by many plantations & saw the local islanders working their land.Then after a while I came to the end of the road which came to a beach access.There as far as the eye could see were white sand on the beach & coral reefs just offshore; there was absolutely no sign of people at all.I then followed the road path back to the main road path & took the next path which again passed by some more plantations & ended with a view of the sea which was just as deserted as the previous one.The 3rd off shoot trail way went on for over an hour but I did not pass by any active plantations, there were some areas that looked like they may have been farmed very very long ago.The path was getting more & more dense, the canopy of lush tropical growth was fascinating, like being in a tropical terrarium.I half expected to see ancient totem poles, tiki shrines & sacrificial temples, along with ‘palangy’ (the ‘other white meat’) catching booby traps. After going around a couple of fallen trees which blocked the path I rode about as far as I could before the path became overgrown.By this time I had taken quite a number of off shoot trails & felt lucky I found my way back out to the main path. From here I made way out to the remote airport on the far corner of the island.It has a grass runway quite a few hundred yards long & about a hundred yards wide; it must be a full time job to keep the grass mowed.The sea crashes violently all along the very nearby rocky shores.There have not been any flights coming or going here because their landing beacon has been out of service for a number weeks now, which has been a hardship since their main supply boat sank just two months ago taking quite a number souls to the bottom with it; the island has not received any supplies for over two months now.I returned to the boat traveling along the backside of the island & manage to get in over 3 hours of riding on this small island.I then get on with scrubbing the boat’s hull from all of the green stuff growing on it & we spend hours getting ship shape for our early morning passage to Tongan Vavau group. 9-29-09We hoisted anchor at 7am & navigated the pass with no problems, fair skys & good sailing wind promised to make for a nice ride.Unlike the passage to Niuatoputapu from Apia Samoa where we had to keep the boat moving slow in order to arrive in daylight, which was annoying because the predicted light winds ended up being 20 to 30; the sail to the Vava’u group in Tonga could be made as fast as we could sail.Although the wind was right on the nose the seas were as calm as they get out here which made for fairly fast & smooth passage for most of the way, we only had to motor about an hour or so the whole way.During our night watches we often set an alarm timer just in case we dose off or to fully engulfed in a book.About once an hour we also scan the horizon out to about 48 miles to help keep an eye out for any boat traffic.Just before the sun was about to come up I was just about to turn on the radar when I noticed a fishing boat just a few hundred yards in our path…wow, one can never be too diligent.Another surprise came just as the sun was coming up as I was shaking off the haze of a late night watch, a huge volcano 14 miles out & a small motu with it’s reef about 5 miles off to our starboard side.At first it was a big surprise, like, wow, where did that come from… but then I came to my senses & realized it was right where I predicted them to be when I set my rube line course for this passage & we never drifted more than a 3rd of a mile of this course. 9-30-09Tsunami day The next big surprise on the passage came when we were about 20 miles away from the Vava’u group on Tonga, they have a long range VHF radio transmitter in which we heard that businesses & schools closed up & people were being rushed to higher ground; that could mean only one thing… a tsunami.We called in to request information & were told that vessels should not enter or leave the group as the effects of the tsunami was creating havoc in & around the anchorages there.We were lucky to be in the right place at this bad time as the tsunami wave rolled un notice under our keel, just were we would want to be when this monster was happening.We then made contact with a few of our fellow cruiser friends with immediate first hand accounts of their perilous experiences.Our kid boat friends on Love Song had been anchored near Nuku & Kapa islands when they felt a swift & fast moving tidal surge pulling all the water out from under their boat.Their boat along with other kid boats Imagine & Monkey feet were wiped around in a very frightening manner, coming close not hitting bottom; other boats nearby did indeed bottom out on the hard coral in a very precarious manner.As soon as they could they hoisted their anchors, some just dumped their anchors in a big hurry in order to get their boats out further from the shore for the onslaught of the series of huge waves that were coming in.The previous night the kids from these boat had a sleep over on the beach, their tents & sleeping bags were now sloshing out to sea; they were so terrified at that sight & felt lucky the kids were safe aboard that morning… a very sobering near fatal brush with death.Most of the other boats here in the Vava’u group faired quite well as the effects here were not very severe compared to other places we had just been to. Very hard hit was the island we had just left the day before.There were about 6 boats there & at 6:45am 4 were departing with one boat ‘Happy Spirit’ the last one to leave.The 2cd & 3rd boats to leave reported that they didn’t feel the earth quake over the rumble of hauling in their anchor; Happy Spirit was getting ready to haul up their anchor when they felt the earth quake but on a boat its effects were not so profound.The lead boat said that they felt the earth quake slightly as they were entering the pass to leave, just as they got thru the pass & into deeper water they notice the water in the pass was retreating out to sea very quickly; the other two boats engaged their motors to full RPM & raced out the pass just in time to escape being stuck high & dry on the coral bottom of the pass, they were now in the relative safety of deep water & kept going as the series of waves were approaching.Happy Spirit reports a rough time getting their anchor up as they saw a huge 20+ foot monster wave approaching.They had just got the anchor up & managed to face the wave as it ripped thru the anchorage.They felt like they were in the scene from the perfect storm where the doomed boat was powering over the massive waves.They said fear gripped them as the motored precariously up the wave, hoping that the wave would not crest & break over their boat which would very likely slam them over sides with devastating damage.They made it over that wave but soon turn in horror in sight of the retreating surge of water rushing back from the land which carried the debris of the countless houses, wreckage & mud from the village it had just inundated.Now their fear was that their motor would get clogged with massive amount of floating devastation & or their prop would get tangled up in the mess; they had no choice though but to keep their bow pointed at the retreating wave of destruction.With luck their motor kept working & the prop didn’t get tangled up.Now they motored with the anxiety of where to go, what to do along with still hoping their motor wouldn’t fail.With all the thick mud now in the waters locating the coral boundaries of the pass was not possible, some of the marking poles in the pass had been ripped away & there were still a few more huge waves coming so they had to just hold their ground near the anchorage until things settled down at which time I understand they were making peace with their gods. S/V Panacea & Tortugawas anchored in the relative safety of a deep enough anchorage however Happy Spirit said they looked like they were underway in terrible storm waves with their bows plowing deeply under each wave & doing a scary rocking horse motion.On land over 50 houses had been completely washed away & over 50 more had been nearly destroyed.The hospital had been completely washed over in the wave; some say it was completely leveled; although it was over 100 yards from the water front there wasn’t much elevation, in fact most of the island is on fairly low elevation except for the 450 foot tall volcano peaks in the middle.I realize that had I been riding my bike in the same place just two days later I would have been battered by a huge tsunami wave while riding along those low lying jungle trails. As you can see by the previous posts, we had become near & dear to many of the families on Niuatoputapu.We heard earlier that Sia & Neco’s family were fine, their place was near the anchorage but was bit higher than most houses so we assumed that their house was fine also but I just talked to Panacea today a over a week later, they just informed me that their houses were completely washed away except for the one concrete bunk like structure that just a storage place.It’s almost un imaginable to get a grip on how terrifying that wave must have been to plow that far in & up to their property.Neco had taken his boat out to the volcano about 5 miles off shore the night before where the family has another ‘plantation’.The incredible force of the tsunami destroyed his boat & nearly destroyed the outboard motor; Panacea says that he was able to fix the motor somewhat & he’ll build another boat but will have to go pick apples in New Zealand for a season to make the money to do so.Looks like they will have a lot of things to buy to rebuild their houses but one of the immediate problems is the total lack of building materials, in fact there really wasn’t any building materials there when we were there, nothing even close to ahardware store. Piea & Leki’s family beach house located a few miles away from the anchorage was completely washed out, the concrete bunker like structure was still standing but all of their house hold belongings were washed away or ruined in the destructive forces.Their traditional Tonga kitchen including the umu cooking pit we just ate from was completely washed away. The hospital where Piea works at near her house was completely washed out. The European gal Laura’s gorgeous tropical resort dwellings where we had the umu feast just a few days prior were completely washed away & the man who watched over the place lost his life.A van carrying a large family of about 9 perished when the wave overtook the van & tumbled it up into the island & back out to sea. The islanders get some of their water from catching rain from their roof drains but with so many houses damage or gone that will be a hardship.The main tiny villages get a ‘dependable’ source of water from underground springs but I heard that these were compromised by in the in flux of the tsunami waves.There are (or were) two ‘grocery stores’ on the island, however a small 7/11 in the states would be like a super Costco in comparison; in good times they hardly had any sustainable food stuffs.To make things worse the island was way over due for their ‘every other month’ supply boat delivery due to the fact that the supply ship had sunk off of southern Tonga two months prior & the location beacon at the ‘airport’ was not working so there were no air supply deliveries; so the island was already going without a lot basic food stuff like flour to make bread, meats, eggs… Most well to do islanders wear rubber ‘flip flop’ sandals, the rest go barefoot.These floaty flip flops were an easy target for the tsunamis out going waves; a big call was for flip flops.Here in Vava’u amongst the cruisers & land dwellers a big call for donations begun immediately & several cruisers loaded up donations & set sail for Niuatoputapu.A day or so later an airplane charter company donated a free flight or two with donations.As those back in the states were getting the news of the massive aid efforts, President Obama declared a state of emergency & sent tons of supplies to American Samoa, NZ & other countries send supply ships & plans out the Samoas & smaller effected islands. In Apia Samoa the marina where we had stayed faired pretty.Just a few boats touched bottom when the tide ebbed out but came back floating fine afterwards.As soon as the first wave washed up officials told all the cruisers aboard their boats they must go to the fancy Aggie Grey hotel for free brunch or be arrested :-OSo of course they walked over for brunch a great view of the tsunami from the 3rd floor the Aggie Grey.The rest of the large island didn’t fair as well, there were quite a large number of fatalities; over 100 I’m told (I havn’t confirmed this number at this point). Pago PagoAmerican Samoa didn’t fair well at all.The massive tsunami energy must have funneled into the natural harbor & amplified its energy as it funneled in.We had been getting scary reports of cruisers loosing their boats & their lives.We had heard of a sailboat that was seen riding a huge wave several blocks in thru town taking out power lines with it’s mast as it careened along.We viewed the pictures from www.nzherald.co.nz & were shocked to see s/v Tulak washed way in shore with it’s mast missing; Steve is a fellow cruiser whom we have met quite a few times since Moorea & saw his numerous times while in Pago, news is that he rode the wave all the way in & didn’t get hurt. The following is copied from the first hand accounts from the good ship Learnativity.http://learnativity.typepad.com/ Doing the Tsunami Tango in American Samoa: Part I Whew!Now THAT was a full day!As most of you will know by now I am in Pago PagoHarbor in American Samoa and yesterday (Tues Sept. 29, 2009) we took a direct hit from the tsunami effect caused by the undersea volcanic eruption that took place about 130nm south of here.Reports seem to estimate it at 8.0-8.3 on the Richter scale so that counts as quite significant I think; certainly was on the Wayne scale! ** Paste my lat/long 14 16.514S 170 41.554W into Google Earth to see for yourself.This is obviously be the "before" photo and we'll have to wait for the next satellite pass to see the "after" I’m writing this a day later (Wed afternoon) now that I have a bit more time as things have calmed down a bit, both in terms of water action and more recently all the work in dealing with the aftermath.Many of you have been able to follow this via various means thanks to the efforts of my main man ashore and overall phenomenal resource; John Alonso in Florida.Shortly after escaping from the docks where Learnativity was tied up, I was able to get a few satellite phone connections and both talk to John as well as text him while I did my best to deal with the constant draining and then refilling of the harbor and dodge the endless onslaught of other ships, mostly empty, derelict hulls, containers, docks, oil drums and every other sort of debris you can imagine.John was then able to relay these to all of you via Twitter and Emails and I can’t thank him enough for helping to get the word out and let everyone know what was going on here.Now that I’ve got a bit more time let me start at the beginning and take you through the day of September 29th, 2009 on the good ship Learnativity. I am up as usual about 6:30 and getting ready to go for my morning shower up on the deck when I became aware of a low frequency thrumming that I could both hear and feel.This continued and my first thought was that there was a large freighter or other ship nearby and I was simply feeling the effects of its large propellers churning the water.Stepping up into the cockpit to look around there was nothing in sight and it was otherwise the start of another day in paradise with the verdant hills surround Pago Pago Harbor rising up steeply all around me and piercing the few clouds in an otherwise brilliant blue sky.The calm harbor waters stretched out as Learnativity tugged gently on her dock lines securing us to the large concrete wharf where we have been docked in about 15’ of water since arriving on Friday afternoon and joined about six other sailboats and cruisers from Australia, USA and Canada. But what IS that vibration??It is about 06:50 as I step off the boat onto the concrete dock to see if it was perhaps just on Learnativity or the water?No, it continued and was intensifying if anything.Having experienced several other quakes including Mount St. Helens and the big quake in San Francisco and LA in the 90’s I began to suspect this as the source however it was too gentle and going on too long for my understanding of what an earthquake feels like.And I can HEAR it as much as feel it.Over a minute has gone by now and as I look ashore in search of other points of reference sure enough I can see that the lamp posts and telephone poles are waving back and forth like they were blades of grass in a gentle breeze.Hmmm, I’ve only seen poles move like that once before and that was as I looked outside my office window in Sausalito during the 1989 Loma Preita earthquake.OK, it may be different but I’ve solved the riddle and we got ourselves an earthquake. A few of my fellow cruisers (people who live aboard their boats while cruising the world) have been awakened and are crawling sleepily out of their beds and joining me on the concrete wharf.The mood is typically easy and friendly as we say quietly say good morning, compare notes and discuss just what’s going on.The thrumming continues through most of this and I’d estimate at least 3 minutes in total.We agree it must have been an earthquake and Gary, an Australian from Freemantle on his 52’ Irwin “Biscayne Bay” with wife Lisa, son Jake and Canadian crewmember Chris, joins us and tells that he has just checked it out online and found reports filed under “latest earthquake” of an underwater eruption about 20 minutes ago 130nm south of us We continued to casually chat and discuss how unique the characteristics were.None of us had ever experienced an undersea eruption or other such disturbances on our boats and we just left it at that as we dispersed back to our boats for breakfast and one person casually joked that we should just watch for any big wave we see.No such wave ever materialized, it was much worse. Just as I was bout to step back onto my boat it started to drop.Huh?Before I could even comprehend what was happening it then started to rapidly lean sideways as the dock lines strain and screech, tightening more and more as they take on the full weight of my very heavy steel home.My instincts scream GET ON THE BOAT!I jump aboard and grab onto the rigging as she continues to lean more and more and more.THUD! Holy #^%& we are hard over on our side and ……. WHAT the …..?the bottom of the bay is staring back at me as I dangle by one hand from the rigging. My mind is cycling through every possible explanation, trying to come to terms with all the inputs and amongst the cacophony of sights and sounds as boats smash around me, deck lines snap, rigging strains.These sounds are overlaid and an ominous and enormous rushing and sucking sound as the water all around my boat suddenly drains away! But a new noise, like fingernails across a blackboard divert my attention to the near vertical deck and I see poor Ruby (my 2 year old cockapoo and sailing companion) trying in vain to dig her claws into the steel deck, her legs thrashing like a cartoon animation character as she gathers speed going the other way and her tail end is headed for all the fish I now see and hear flopping around on the bottom of the bay as they search of their missing watery home. Ruby’s a gonner if she leaves the boat so I let go of the rigging, do my best imitation of a full 180 mid air flip and lunge after her with one outstretched hand and desperately reach out with the other in the hopes of grabbing some other hand hold.Just as Ruby is launched off the deck I get a right handful of the scruff of her neck and harness as my left hand wraps itself around the lifeline cable.No time to think, just act.Ruby in hand I scramble up to the opposite (Port) high side of the deck.All hell is breaking loose around me both on my boat and all the others and I’m not going to be able to do much with one hand.I look up above me and spot Jake, Gary’s son (14) standing on the edge of the wharf looking down at me and I yell “Jake!Catch!” and throw Ruby up to his thankfully open arms.He makes a great catch, Ruby is in good hands and I’ve got both of mine back. Interesting how we all react differently.Back aboard Biscayne Bay, Gary and family have been below making breakfast, when they notice the concrete dock rushing up past their porthole windows as if they were in an elevator shaft.Their boat is in much deeper water around the corner from where I Learnativity is docked, so they are going straight down, lines straining, fiberglass crunching and that ever present surreal sucking sound all around.Gary’s reaction, understandably is to GET OUT! and so they all dash up into the cockpit and scramble up the vertical wall of concrete and rubber tires as Gary pushes and shoves each of them up onto the top of the concrete wharf. The sucking sound stops. There is a moment of seeming silence that you’d think would be comforting but you’d be wrong.It’s ominous.And then a new set of sounds begin.The volume with a ferocious velocity.Faster than it has left, all that water is now coming back!All the problems reverse.Learnativity rights itself and is now rocketing skyward.I grab my always-on-my-belt knife and dash down the port side from bow to stern slashing all the dock lines.Scramble back into the cockpit, start the engine, simultaneously shove both control levers ahead, putting the transmission into forward gear and the throttle lever on full.All six cylinders pick up speed as the revs cling, the turbine whines, the prop bites hard into the swirling water below and Learnativity starts to pull away from the ………………………… wharf.What wharf?It’s GONE! The water rushing back into the bay doesn’t stop at it’s previous level, it continues to go up and up and up the sides of the wharf.It floods over the top and keeps going.The speed and force of of the current created by millions of gallons of water flooding into the harbor is unbelievable water and is doing its best to push Learnativity backwards into the dock and marina as I put my faith into the power of diesel fuel and take a minute to look back and see if I’m going forward or backwards. It is hard to describe what I see.Closest to me, Gary, Lisa, Jake (clutching Ruby) and Chris are running as fast and best they can through the rushing water for a stone walled garden area in the middle of the concrete wharf that happens to have a small but tall light post embedded into it.I watch helplessly as they climb up onto the base of the light pole, wrap their arms around each other and hang on as the water rushes past them, continuing to rise; up, up, up. I glance along where I know the edge of the dock to have been and watch as one other boat with a great young crew of five from California have jumped aboard even quicker than I and are motoring quickly away. No wait, on the other matching lamp post down the dock I spot one of their female crewmembers who got caught ashore now clinging to this lamp pole.Other sailboats, including Biscayne Bay have now ripped free of their tethers and I watch as they turn with the continuously rising current and crash into each other, taking the other boats in their path like falling dominos.On the left is the “after” picture of this infamous light pole with (from left to right) Chris, Jake, Lisa, Ruby and Gary posing with much different expressions on their faces.Imagine them and the water level half way up this pole! As my eyes continue to travel further down the dock, I watch in horror as one cruiser is on the dock trying to untie his lines and is swept off his feet by the torrent of water.His wife is aboard and manages to control the boat as it comes free but I can’t see any sign of her husband in all the flotsam and jetsam churning in the water. Worse than just the water though, almost everything imaginable has been picked up by this flood of water, torn lose from anything silly enough to try to hold them down and is now looking to smash into anything and everything in its erratic path.I glance back to the lamp post where the Biscayne Bay crew are now climbing higher and higher up the lamp post, Gary has Ruby wrapped around his neck so he can use both his arms to hold on to his family and try to keep from being ripped off the post by the force of the water or hit by one of the boats or containers rushing toward and past them.My brain is cycling through the question of “What can I do to help them?” but it is quite literally out of my hands and I have to turn away and bring my attention back aboard and foreword.Fortunately diesel power overcomes even these humbling forces of nature and Learnativity and I escape to the safety of the middle of the bay.Or is it? ========== to be continued ========== That will need to do for the first installment, I’ll do the rest for you tomorrow.I’m just back from a lovely diner aboard Biscayne Bay which while badly knocked up and damaged is inhabitable and afloat.And as my Aussie friends would say, “I’m knackered”, too tired to do much more cogent writing tonight.Hope you enjoy the details and 'I’ll have the rest of the story, more photos and video tomorrow. Night for now. Wayne Doing the Tsunami Tango in American Samoa: Part II No time to think, just act.With the chaos of other ships, some manned, most not, surrounding me and with the water swirling in every direction it was impossible to tell if I was moving forward or back.I pushed Learnativity as hard as I could with full throttle to overcome the unbelievable opposing force of millions of gallons of water now rushing back in to refill Pago PagoHarbor and doing its best to suck Learnativity backwards into the concrete dock we were fleeing.Looking back to try to gauge direction and progress I couldn’t believe what I could not see.There was no dock to be seen!Just boats and water everywhere.Was I that disoriented?Had we drifted that far?Searching for the dock, I finally got my bearings from the buildings on shore and confirmed that I was just where I thought I was, about 100 feet away from the dock that wasn’t there.What I can see is a pencil thin vertical line that is the light post which now has Gary, Lisa, Jake, Chris literally hanging on for dear life and Ruby wrapped around Gary’s neck.I glance further west and see Emily, the stranded young lady from the California yacht Banyan clinging to the other light post.Then I watch as Kirk, Catherine and Stewart on their sailboat Galivanter motor across the TOP of the dock and get out behind me! When I think about tsunamis I envision this giant wall of water, a monster wave.There was no wave here.The bay simply emptied like someone had pulled the stopper out of a really big bathtub and then equally as fast put it back in and filled it all up from a giant valve below. ** For some great graphics and explanations of how tsunamis work see this “Tsunami Infographics” site which John kindly passed on. My brain is struggling to process these visual inputs and try to make sense of it all as I realize the whole dock is under water!That safe, solid, secure concrete wharf which used to sit about 8 feet above the water is now about five feet under water and rising.Boats which were previously tied up to the inside edge of the dock between the shore and the dock have broken free and are careening about in the swirling current, posting great threats to Gary et al on the pole.I look west down to the end of the bay and see that it is filling up with a collection of every floating vessel known to man; pleasure boats both motor and sail of every size, 100’ steel purse seiner fishing boats, trawlers, cargo ships and rowboats.Most seem to be unmanned and are randomly dancing together, running into each other and all headed West.Biscayne Bay amongst them. Learnativity and I escape the clutches of the incoming current and suddenly speed forward.Hmmm, where did all that ferocious current go?The water becomes eerily calm and smooth.Again, you’d think this would be a good thing and again you’d be wrong. The cycle is now reversing.All that water piled up at the end of the bay, having run up onshore and floated everything there from full buildings to cars, now wants to go back out.This is the first sign of any wave I saw through the whole ordeal as the water rushes back from its momentary travels ashore and has now formed a low wide wave that is headed east back towards me.I’ve now made it out into the middle of the harbor where the water is deepest and I have the most room to run and avoid all the oncoming ships and Looking.I turn Learnativity to face this new rush of water, throttle at the ready to ride out the next surge of current. Glancing ashore through all this I watch the concrete dock magically reappear as if it is rising up out of the water in some perverse magic trick.Then my brain realizes that the dock isn’t moving up, the water is moving down as gazillions of water molecules all rush to join their buddies down at the West end of the bay.I watch in humbled awe as the water again drains away leaving the dock fully out of the water pilings and all. On the left here is one of the few photos I was able to snap in the midst of all this you can see the concrete dock with the tires on the side and the water at the level it would normally be at.I was only able to take time for a photo because it is in that lull between surges in and out so this water level is between its high and low.Oh, and you might also notice the sailboat that has been deposited up on top of the wharf!Minutes earlier it had been tied up alongside the dock.Think about it and you will have a better sense of the height of the water as it flooded in such that the boat could float up and over the top of the dock and then be dropped on top as the water receeded. I would estimate the sea level dropped over 15’ in less than 30 seconds.Then someone hits the rewind button on the video I’m watching and as fast as it dropped the water level starts moving up and my friends on the light poles rush back to it and brace for another dunking.As it turned out, the worst one yet. Due I suspect to the additional forces gained by the water all collecting its energy up on the western shore, the speed of the water now rushing out of the bay is the highest yet.To make matters worse this was no longer “just” water, it was a giant tossed salad of debris from ships to cars to docks to scrap and crap.All headed back for us with increasing velocity.And again I am rendered helpless to watch with the disgust of not being able to do anything and the embarrassment of being so relatively safe and dry aboard strong steel Learnativity.Lisa, Gary, Jake and Chris grip each other and that slender pole, their bodies now trailing off almost horizontal as the slimy soup rises and rushes past them making every effort to rip their hands from the pole and sweep them away like insignificant insects.They would later recount that this second surge out was the worst of them all and they were within seconds of loosing their grip and the torrent of water began to slack and they returned to vertical as the cycle repeats; current subsides, water goes slack and starts to drop again.The photo on the right is of this infamous life saving light pole in the middle of the dock and was taken just after I’ve come back in and tied Learnativity up just across from it.Four people and a dog are alive today because this pole was there, and a similar one right beside me where the Emily from receded was able to hang on and survive. As the water dropped away and drained off the dock, I can see Lisa and Jake, with Ruby in tow, make a mad dash across the now dry concrete, hit the shore running and kept on going, climbing up the hillside to watch safely from higher ground.I spot Gary and Chris down on the dock and I speed over close enough that we can yell back and forth.I’m desperate to help them get onto Biscayne Bay and be able to keep it out of any further harm.I try to make a pass alongside the wharf so they can jump aboard Learnativity, but now there isn’t enough water beside the dock to float my boat!I head back out to the middle of the bay and watch and wait for another cycle and then try another pass at the dock to pick them up, but the currents are simply changing too rapidly, there is too much debris to avoid and too dangerous for them to jump.We all watch over the next 15 minutes as Biscayne Bay pilots itself westward down the bay being hit and hitting back other boats along the way.With one of the next big surges she is lifted up onto the mud banks and leans over onto her side to rest high and dry, covered in oil and fuels and badly beaten up. Another cruiser, Mike from Eureka California was having better luck and an amazing experience as his 27’ sailboat motored down the main street at the far west end of the harbor, circled around the intersection and went back out into the harbor!As the surge he was riding went out it dropped him and his boat onto the ground and then just as nicely picked him right back up again on the next cycle and he was able to get it back into the harbor.He quickly headed out to the far eastern end of the harbor for some clear water and space to inspect below but all signs show that he only suffered some serious gouging of the keel and hull.Amazing! While all this is going on, Joan on Mainly the boat out of SouthMerritIsland in Florida is letting us know on the VHF that she has still not seen her husband Dan, the one I saw being swept of the docks in the first surge.One of the big disappointments of this whole experience is the complete lack of response or rescue resources from ashore.I assumed, very incorrectly, with this being US soil there would be plenty such resources; again I was wrong.I learned later that the USCG is land based only and it was over three hours later that they were able to respond with any presence on the water.Nor was their any help from the port authority, no Navy presence, and we were left to our own devices to help each other and coordinate as best we could.There were now about six or more other sailboats motoring around in circles with me in the middle of the bay as we turned back and forth to point into the next surge and tried to dodge the continuing barrage of unmanned ships, hulls and garbage.Joan was doing a great job of single handing her boat and I and others started widening our circles to come closer to shore and cover more area in search of Dan or others who were in the water. This cycle of the tsunami “tide” coming in and out continued for several hours and was like a pendulum, continuously decreasing in height and velocity. When I was first got out in the middle of the bay my instinct for some reason was to get the word out to both friends and family that I was safe and to let the rest of the world know what was going on.I imagined that there would be lots of news reports about the eruption but very little information on just what was happening locally and I also desperately wanted to know if more was coming and what to expect.Fortunately I carry a satellite phone and while expensive it certainly more than paid for itself in this situation.I couldn’t take my eyes and hands off the tasks of piloting Learnativity and searching for people, but I was able to hit my sat phone speed dial and call John in Florida.Thankfully the time worked out, it was mid day in Florida and John picked up!I gavehim a quick synopsis of the situation and asked him to send out a note to the Email list of “Learnativity Followers” (people I send my daily updates to while sailing), post a note to my blog and log on as me on Twitter to relay the text messages I would try to send out as regularly as I could.John has been my lifeline in so many ways, so many times, and once again came through with flying colors as he acted as my ship to satellite to shore relay station.With his help and the wonders of modern communication technology I was able to let my friends and family know I was alive and get to the world at large with some first hand news about the situation here.It seemed to work amazingly fast and I received inquiries from several individuals within the first 20 minutes, wanting to know about their friends and family and very soon thereafter started receiving calls and text messages from news centers around the world.The Twitter feed was particularly interesting and seemed to be the one which spread virally the fastest.It also allowed John and I to get a series of time stamped updates out which people could then review and see the progression of events here. (see http://twitter.com/#search?q=wwwayne for the feed of these Tweets) Meanwhile, back in the all too real and present situation I was still circling the center of the bay with others, trying to see if I could find a Wi-Fi signal to get on the internet to get updates, avoiding the ever present danger of other ships and debris and be on the lookout for Dan and the growing list of other people who were now missing.I wasn’t able to get on the net but was able to get updates from John and was well informed about the second eruption which fortunately didn’t produce any further surge or tsunami that we detected here in Pago Pago.Whew!Maybe this part is over? ============ end of Part II ============ to be continued ============ Doing the Tsunami Tango in American Samoa: Part III I’m not quite sure of the timing, but about 11am, four hours after the mayhem started on this fateful Tuesday, Sept. 29th, I decided that the surges were down enough and not coming back so I headed for the dock and tied Learnativity to the outside and jumped ashore to help others who were following my lead in.I was anxious to find Gary and Chris who I’d not seen in the past hour while I was circling out in the bay and also to see what assistance I could provide to others who were looking for lost crewmembers as well as the whole situation ashore. On American Samoa, as with most other islands the only real road is the one which circles the coastal circumference so it is all very close to sea level.Normal sea level that is.When the tsunami hit, the water rose up to a level about 5’ above the roadway and several hundred feet inland.It cleaned out everything in its path, picking up vehicles and dropping them inside buildings and culverts. If the buildings were concrete and well built, the water neatly emptied all their contents, if not it simply washed away the entire building.Cars were strewn everywhere as if some giant hand picked up the island and gave it a good shake.As you walked up to the road there were manta rays, eels and tuna still flopping about on the dry pavement desperately searching for their watery homes.Several hardware stores along the road had been emptied and tools were strewn everywhere.Much of the edge of the water was lined with chain link fencing which had acted like a sieve and was now a colorful mosaic chockablock full of a plastic, paper, wood and weeds. By the time I got up to the road though, people were already pitching in to help others in need and soon people started to clean up the mess that was everywhere.Traffic was at a standstill of course with vehicles all over the road, wrapped around trees, sticking out of doorways and windows and parked in culverts.Many had simply been washed into the bay.There were injured people everywhere and soon the sirens began and continued on through the night and the next few days as more were found amongst the wreckage and on the sides.Miraculously to me no fires had broken out which was a good thing as there was fuel and oil everywhere.The gas station immediately behind the dock had all four of its pumps knocked clean off their foundations as cars had floated by and the water rose up over them.Now they spewed raw gasoline and diesel out of their amputated pipes.While out in the bay the smell of diesel, gas and oil was overwhelming as most of the large fishing and commercial ships that were swept away had ruptured their tanks and the water was slick with petroleum. I wanted so much to head for the West end of the bay to find Gary and Biscayne Bay and help them find Biscayne Bay, as well as see if Ruby had survived.But I dare not leave Learnativity alone and there was so much to do on the docks trying to help those whose boats were still there and those who were missing crew members.Gary actually showed up aboard Joan’s boat Mainly to help her dock it and there was still no sign or word of Dan.And so the afternoon progressed as we all pitched in and drifted from one job to the next; cleaning, consoling, assessing and trying to comprehend what had just happened.With son Jake on board Biscayne Bay to keep watch as looting had already begun on ships and ashore, Chris and Gary went back and forth between Learnativity and Biscayne Bay in the dingy, moving all their belongings and food aboard Learnativity as I invited them to live with me for the next while. As we shuttled all their belongings from one boat to the other we decided to try to get Biscayne Bay back into the water and if she was not taking on water to try to bring her back to the dock.Gary and Chris went back to the boat and with the help of some others and the next big surge, miraculously got her upright and off the mud bank and bottom into deeper water.She was taking on some water, but it was minimal and the bilge pumps would be able to keep up with it.The engine would start but something was wrapped around the prop or shaft or both and they were locked up solid.There was limited steering but with a 25HP outboard on his dingy, Gary was able to push and shove her all the way up the bay and around the end of the concrete dock.With Chris at the wheel and Gary using the dingy as a mini tug boat, Jake threw me the bow line as she raced toward the dock and I was able to wrap the line around one of the large steel bollards and with a final crunch against the dock she was back home.It was hard to believe that only 8 hours earlier this crunched and battered dear boat had been quietly tied up next to Learnativity in pristine condition. The search continued for our missing comrade cruiser Dan and with no sign of him by mid afternoon Joan went to the hospital and sadly arrived just as they were bringing Dan’s body to the morgue.His body had washed up at the west end of the bay.So difficult to comprehend all this.How is it possible that at 7am you are sipping your first morning coffee together as a happy retired couple in the cockpit of your sailboat docked in paradise on the cruise you’ve dreamed of and worked for your whole life, and then minutes later be washed off the dock never to be seen again?We all did out best to be with Joan as she worked her way through such questions and did what we could to be supportive and consoling.Her boat would not start now for some reason and we were all anxious to ensure that our boats were ready to go at a moments notice should another tsunami strike and so several of us went aboard to set it right.There was no shortage of skilled mechanics and electricians and we all provided tools and labor and Jack stayed aboard to find it was a bad solenoid and soon had it replaced so at least Mainly was back in working order.Hearts and minds would require different tools, techniques and time before they would be so mended. Learnativity, Ruby and I came through it all pretty much unscathed.Just the stainless tubing bow pulpit had been ripped apart and so I set about removing it and seeing what could be done to repair it.It was beyond repair and so I salvaged the running lights and then set about using some low stretch line I had to create a makeshift set of lifelines to enclose the bow. Fortunately none of this is structural or will prevent me from continuing to sail to New Zealand where there will be lots of facilities to build a new one.And I was planning on building a whole new dual anchor setup and sprit on the bow which would require a new pulpit anyway.I just didn’t plan on removing the old one quite so soon.Mother Nature apparently had a different schedule and I didn’t get the memo. Gary and family were back onboard Biscayne Bay assessing the damage for the rest of the afternoon and it didn’t look good.The more you looked the more structural damage and failed systems you found.It was floating and they decided they could sleep aboard that night but I had them over for diner and cooked up a big feed of salad (expertly assembled by Chris) and my tummy filling spicy spaghetti and meatballs.None of us had eaten all day and now with a chance to relax just a bit, the hunger and exhaustion set in.We spent most of the evening quietly reflecting upon the day, dissecting it and discussing this extraordinary and harrowing experience.I think it was very therapeutic for each of us as our minds started to deal with the reality of what all had taken place on this eventful day and what we would need to do in the aftermath of the days ahead.Sleep was both restful and fitful for most of us that night. Writing this now, two days later, we have continued in this pattern of cleanup, helping each other, repair and restoration of both ships, shore and souls.It will be a long process for all of these.The local people have continued to astound me with their genuine kindness and generosity.In spite of great loss of life all over the island we have had a steady stream of people binging us cases of bottled drinking water, boxed lunches and cooked diners. In the span of two days I’ve witnessed the full spectrum of both human and mother nature and I’ve learned so many life lessons.It is no where near a complete list, but to finish up this posting I’ll share a few of the lessons I’ve learned through this experience. Some Lessons I Learned from the Tsunami in Pago Pago: •It may sound trite but it is SO true that you never know when the last time will be for most things.Living in the moment, maximizing every opportunity, are attitude and behavior to live by rather than cute phrases and platitudes. •When it is all said and done, people, friendship and relationships are all that really matter. •The best place to be when trouble or disaster strikes is ON your boat and out in open water.Get there and stay there at almost any cost. •I’ve renewed my conviction and love for steel boats. •In times of great stress and disaster, human nature is on full spectrum display and is the same in all places and cultures. •Put your faith and optimism in people.There is much more good in the world than evil, many more good people than bad. •A big powerful working engine in a sailboat is a safety device.Make sure it is always at the ready. •Mother Nature is a majestic and powerful force on a scale that is truly humbling.It is likely a good thing to be reminded from time to time just how small and puny we are. •Technology, especially communication technology is vastly under rated and under appreciated for how profound a difference it can make. •Sat phones are essential safety devices for world cruisers. •If are ever in the vicinity of a large underwater seismic eruption either get on a boat and head for open water or head inland as high and as quickly as you can. I hope that by sharing some of these experiences I’ve been able in some small way to help others learn lessons of their own.I’m off to bed now for a few hours to let my head sort through more of this experience and get some rest before another busy day of dealing with the aftermath of this extraordinary life and learning experience. Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog aboard the good ship Learnativity docked in Pago PagoHarbor 14 16.514S170 41.554W
10-11-09It’s now been almost two weeks since the big tsunami, we hear the islanders in Niuatoputapu are getting lots of help & are starting to get back on track, I’m sure it will take a long time to get their houses back in order; the weather has been sunny & calm so they aren’t getting hammered with rain while they are making do in make shift housing.Every few days though we get reports of earth quakes in the 5.0 to 8.0 range within a few hundred miles of our location, a few of these had generated a tsunami warning which keeps us on our toes.Also were just heard of a cruiser boat in Fiji that blew up; wow, lot’s of excitement out here in the sailing adventure world :-O Bobbie & I have been playing our music at the Mermaid restaurant home of the Vava’u Yacht Club & the Aquarium Café here on the waterfront.We are delighted at how well received we are here, we are making quite a name for ourselves here.One of the places has offered to pay us along with the free drinks & dinner so they could book us regularly for the next few weeks that we will be here before our big jump down to New Zealand.Another restaurant wants to pay us as well so we’ve got some options.We are already making plans to come back up here after New Zealand, we could easily earn our cost of living for a month or two while we make our way to Fiji, where we hope to earn some music money.We will then make our way over to Australia where we’ve made contact with a music promoter that speaks of us earning over triple what we are making here & offers for to play every night if we want to.So we plan on going there to take a look & see how it might feel to live & work there.We are also looking into the same possibilities in New Zealand, however the immigration details are mind boggling at ether place.I’ve spent over a dozen hours researching & downloading there maze of documents for requirements, proof of health, clear police record, proof of work experience, proof of college, proof of proof…:-OSo at this point we’ll just go down & take a look.I guess the immigration hassles there would be better than living with the super typhoons of Guam, the other place we had been considering.In Guam we could easily make a good living with our music as it’s like a mini Hawaii with plenty of high end resorts & restaurants, plus it’s a haven for wedding scene where Bobbie would be able to play at, plus it’s practically a US state so immigration to there would be like just moving to another state but…them there super typhoons :-O ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
10-11-09 pmWe motored over to Kapa island & anchored in a cozy anchorage which is located near MarinersCave & SwallowsCave.After snorkeling about an hour along the cliffs of the anchorage we met up with our kid boat friends Whisper.We all boarded our boat & motored over to Mariner’s Cave a remarkable cave under high rocky bluffs of Kapa island.The depth just 50 feet out from the cliff drops to over 250 feet so anchoring is out of the question, one just idles the boat in front of the entrance while the brave cave crew snorkels into the cave.We were glad that the Whispierians had been there before other wise we may not have found it.Even though they had been there 2ce before it was tricky to spot as there is no cave entrance visible from above the water.After locating the natural signs of the cave, vertical leaching stains & a single palm tree above, then a quick dive below, Scott confirms the cave’s entrance.While the rest of the cave crew were getting ready Scott caught a huge meal sized coral trout with his spear gun.Setting the fish & gun in the dingy, we all made our way to the cave’s entrance.The cave’s entrance is about 8 to 10 feet below the surface & runs about 12 feet in.There was gentle swell running so we had to time our entrance to go in with the swell, other wise one would just be swimming against the swell & not going forward; the swell helps you swim right in.The water here is amazingly clear, in front of the entrance we could see coral formations & colorful fish & even a 2cd entrance below the main entrance.This entrance was at least 35 feet deep & snaked around a bit before reaching the cave; this 2cd cave entrance was very intriguing as I wanted to give it a try, although I could dive that far down I would most likely have trouble making it all the way thru.So we all met in front of the cave then one by one we dove down about 10 feet, swam in about 12 feet & popped up into the cave & took a breath.The cave was about 35 feet across & about 30 feet high in a basically circular shape, there are stalactites formations hanging from the cave’s ceiling.In the afternoon the sunlight shines in thru the cave entrance below illuminating the cave in a magically enchanting way.The colors of our yellow or blue swim fins & white swim shirt (rash guard) glowed in a brilliant glow as if being illuminated by a black light.The air in the cave is totally enclosed so when a swell rushed in the pressure raises just as if one was diving 10 to 20 feet under water; the urge to clear one’s ears quickly becomes evident.The most amazing thing then occurs as the swell rushes in, your ears feel the pressure increase & the high pressure squeezes the moisture right out of the air & a dense fog immediately forms inside the cave.This fog last about 5 to 8 seconds then as the swell retreats the fog quickly dissipates.Robin was a bit nervous about going into the cave after hearing Mary talk about how eerie it was when she went & her boys weren’t going in again.He was willing to snorkel out around the front of the cave & while we all met there & made the plan for Scott to go first, I’d follow his fins in, Bobbie would follow my fins, Robin then decided to follow his mom’s fins in after she dove down.It was quite amazing surfacing up & into the large air pocket of the cave.Robin then swam back out to snorkel around with his friend Tim & then soon swam back into the cave; he’s a natural fish.After we got our fill of the cave we swam back out & put on Bobbie’s weight belt & went back in to see how far down I could dive.The colors seen from inside the cave looking out the two cave entrances were amazing. The cobalt blue of the very deep water & the ultra clear water with the coral formations & tropical fish swimming around the entrances were stunning.After hanging around in the cave alone for about 10 minuets I decided to back out to get my spear gun to go after some of the meal sized fish in front of the cave.I began to swim toward the exit, took a deep breath & dove down but then I suddenly saw a 6’ foot white tip shark swimming up to the entrance, so I stopped about a 3rd of the way into the tunnel.Whoa, a shark,the white tip sharks are one step more aggressive than the black tip ones (& one step below the greys).As I pondered this I decided to swim back into the cave while keeping a weary eye on sharky; it was a bit disturbing think I might be sharing the cave with a big shark with no where to go.After a few minuets sharky moved on so I swam out & headed back to the boat to get my spear gun.On the way Scott & his son Tim were heading back to the cave area with his spear gun, I warned him about Sharky & we all continued on; we both have spear fished with dozens of sharks around so one shark shouldn’t such a big deal :-O By the time I got my spear gun & was returning to the cave entrance Scott was swimming back with another meal sized fish, this one was a prehistoric looking trigger fish, the ‘Trigger-O-saurass’.Perhaps this activity was getting sharky’s attention because soon after sharky came along just before I gotto the cave’s entrance.Once I got there he was gone, but just as I dove in for a shot I see sharky coming along to see what I was up to; I decided to abort & swam back to my idling boat.
10-12-09We enjoyed a cool visit to Swallow’s cave.Bobbie Jo & Mary, those extreme sport-O-haulics, kayaked out while ‘da boys’ took the mechanized man made metal motor mobile 9.8 hp dingy.At this intriguing sea cave we motored the dink right in.The entrance quite dramatic, facing the west, it brings in the afternoon sun light & illuminates the coral formations deep in the crystal clear water in such an enlightening way, they say it rivals Italy’s famous Blue Grottos.The cave expands to a large area over 30 feet high & over 40 feet around, with the afternoon sun making the water glow in enchanting ways, the multi colored stalactites are a thing of total awe. Overhead there are the mud apartment-like nests of the birds that often fill the cave with their staccato calls.Although the cave is called Swallow’s cave, according to ornithologists, the birds happen to be starlings.The cave has a long history of graffiti starting back in 1800’s with the whalers, it continued on until about 10 to 15 years ago.
At the back of the cave there is a rocky path which leads to a dry cave, a great kiln like room with a circular opening at the top through which you can see blue sky & tress.At the turn of the century, Tongan VIP’s were entertained here.Entire feasts were let down through the opening by pulley-like arrangements making a gargantuan Tongan version of the dumb waiter.At the end of this cave room is another path leading even deeper into the earth.At this point it is totally dark so a good flashlight is necessary.Instead of the starling birds, the walls & ceiling are filled with sleeping bats all hanging upside down.As we walked along the spongy guano covered cave floor bats began to awake & flutter all around us, sending out their chirping sonar locationing sounds, quite the erry experience.
Below is another true story of how close we ‘sail to the edge’.Although this may be the earliest time of the ‘window’ for sailing down to New Zealand, it is still the bitter NZ winter along with it’s very harsh winter storms.Hind site is 20/20 & knowing this it is still really way to early to do this voyage but French Polynesia is still under provisioned & over priced for a lot of boat work, so we should give Sylvain the benefit of the doubt as for his decision to take off so soon & from so far away.
Sylvain Caron, 48 and his fox terrier, were sailing single handed from Tahiti to New Zealand to do repairs on his 40-foot ketch "Inherit the Wind." On Saturday night (3 October) the sea started to become quite rough ahead of a storm and there was too much water for the bilge pump to handle.
Grabbing a few items, and Eddie, he tied himself and the dog on to an open dingy leaving the yacht to sink. On Sunday morning he tried to make a distress call on the radio but the equipment was too wet as the dinghy took in water. He then activated his EPIRB. A Cook Islands patrol vessel (Te Kukupa) from Rarotonga picked up Caron and his dog around 1.48pm on Monday 5 October approx. 450 kilometres north-east of Rarotonga.
We have reports of others having a rough time to New Zealand.Our musical drumming partner on Follow You Follow Me emailed us yesterday
(10-31-09) informing us that they lost their rudder, luckily they were only 45 miles away from Opua New Zealand.He called the boat yard where they had scheduled a haul out & was fortunate that the owner himself of Ashby’s boat yard was able to borrow a 55 foot trawler & tow him back slowly all through the night.A nerve wracking experience with a rudderless boat, as it tends to yawl back & forth violently, chafing thru the tow lines & loosing their drag device that was rigged to keep the boat steady.
A couple of other boats lost part of their rigging stays, these are the cables that hold up the mast.If the mast comes down it often takes out a big chunk of boat with it, often causing a sinking feeling.
Well, it’s not all doom & gloom, in fact we’ve been having a great time here Vava’u Tonga.We have a number of places that want us to play our music, we’ve settled into to places that feel real good with lots of coconuts in trade along with great meals & bottomless drinks JThings are looking so good here we have decided to come back after our season in New Zealand & have some more fun here since we can have some fun playing our music & cover our cost of living.I’ve sold my windsurfing gear to an establishment here & he’d like me to come back to run his windsurfing operation along with boat tours, sight seeing, scuba, snorkeling… He’s got a nice center console skiff & a 70 knot jet boat.I could see myself getting paid to use my old windsurfing gear & take people out for fun. The windsurfing operation could be just a pipe dream but with just the music gigs alone we could cover our cost of living; still it would be a hoot to be jet boating around Tonga getting paid to take people out for a good time:-)
We have been getting ready for the big passage south, lots of time to get over amp’d up about it :-OWe will be paying for Bob McDavitt’s expert weather forecasts & navigation planning.No one can predict the weather with 100% certainty but I’m sure he can do it much better than the average cruiser/mortal & give us some piece of mind on our timing & navigational routing to avoid the nasty weather.It seems that only those that took off ‘traditionally too early’ have run into any harsh conditions (see above story), even those that left just a bit early, around the first week or two of Oct have not meet any real tough conditions.Some just lingered at Minerva Reef for a few days until the conditions improved, but Minerva Reef sounds like a great place to spend quite a number of days. It is not a island, it’s just a reef that I hear is only exposed at low tides; there’s no trees or any thing but a coral reef ‘almost an atoll’ about 3 miles across.It’s about 300 miles south of southern Tonga & about 700 miles north of New Zealand, so there is nothing around you but the open ocean way way farther than the eye can see ;-)The water is said to be very clear with great fishing & a number lobsters; of course there are quite a large number of sharks too so those fishies & lobsters are well protected :-O
On Friday Oct 30th we played our last music gig at the Mermaid Yacht Club here in Vava’u for the season.It was quite the night with cruisers & locals dressed in scary costumes, even a number of boats were outfitted with goolish trimmings that sailed around the harbor during the season’s last yacht club race.Bobbie & I play our music from about to after , then after that a DJ plays the disco until the weee hours of the morning.Friday nights are the big party night & the places go on to after 2am but Saturday nights, the police are in charge of shutting down the parties by 11pm, other wise the good folks will have a hard time getting up for church in the morning :-O
For the last year we have been noticing that Bobbie’s harp has been developing a bow on the sound board, the thin piece of wood where the strings come down & into; the wood is thin there to help in the lively resonate sound.After so much heat & constant high humidity the effects have been taking their toll causing the sound board to arch up with strain of the strings pulling upward.At this point the sound board is showing a huge crack over a foot long, it looks like it could implode or explode at any moment.We had figured that we would attempt the repair ourselves, as we did a great job on the last fix but this repair involves a very critical area important to the sound of the harp.We met Shawn, the owner of Loreto’s BBQ here in town.He is a master wood worker, he has made a few world class guitars & done some very impressive repair work as well.He was very enthused about expanding his repair talent with the harp, he has a very nice piece of choice sound board wood called masters grade anglemen’s spruce, his price seems quite fair & he says he should be able to complete the work in just a few days.We have plans to be departing here in a few days but we are willing to push back our departure to get the harp repaired.
So at this point we intend to depart sometime between Nov 5 to Nov 10th as long as we the word from Bob McDavitt the weather guru.He will be unavailable between Nov 10 to Nov 13th, so we intend to use his weather routing to get to Minerva Reef then wait there until he gives us an update when he returns. This should get us to Opua New Zealand by the end of Nov.
1-1-09It is another quite Sunday…thank God :-)We can use a day of rest after all the parting that goes on in this town :-O& tomorrow is another big party, this one is the cruiser’s farewell for the season party at the Aquarium Cafe, where we played our last gig for this season on Wednesday.I understand this town slows down quite a bit in the off season.They are trying to boost tourism during their summer months (Nov thru May).Typically the ‘south pacific’ has it’s typhoon season during this time period so most cruisers sail to New Zealand to avoid a deadly encounter with a typhoon but lately more & more cruisers are finding that the sail to & from New Zealand to just about as hazardous as being near a typhoon.I’m sure that more boats & crew get beat up & damaged more sailing to & from New Zealand than the boats that grab a sturdy hurricane mooring here in Vava’u Tonga.It’s a great hurricane hole here with a number of anchorages inside ancient volcano cauldrons totally sheltered from the oceans swells & as far as the fly in tourist goes, the warmer south pacific summer months seem like a great time to enjoy the waters here all year round.
I have just uploaded a new batch of pictures, a lengthy process with slow wifi connections here.I am trying to enter notes with the pictures to identify the what the picture is about but the internet is intermittent & the web site editor is not behaving well; I’ll get them labeled up at some point later.
Please note while viewing these pictures, especially the ones from Niuatoputapu that every picture here was taken in places that were totally devastated by the tsunami just a few days later.Until I can label these pictures you will see the one’s by the beach with the local families, at their houses, at the small resort with grand view of the volcano in the background where Robin is standing by the large ship’s anchor… The picture of Leki working his Tongan umu kitchen, Piea & Leki’s family house near the beach… All of this is gone now, some concrete structures may somewhat still be standing but nothing was left after the 30+ foot tall waves washed out everything that was inside.The gorgeous small resort there was completely washed away & the wave also took the life of the caretaker that lived there.You can see a small boat pier & imagin at 30+ foot wave smashing it’s way thru. The picture of Bobbie standing near a single horse in front of a building, the building is completely gone.I’m told that within 15 minuets of the earth quake the first & most devastating tsunami wave came, not enough time to get to safety even if they had the most expensive early warning devices that some places have.