L O G B O O K - by John Philp


MON 31st JULY - Pago Pago Harbour is long and L-shaped, you sail into it with the tradewinds at your back and make a turn to port into the inner, sheltered end. A naturally protected bay with high steep mountains framing it all round, it’s beautiful - if you can ignore the cannery, the wharfs, the diesel power plant, and other industry along the shoreline. The smell of fish never ceases, day and night. When I went ashore to get some cash even the ATM smelled strongly of fish. Did they scent it with ‘Eau de Tuna’ or something? Weird.

There’s no mistaking that we’ve arrived in the United States of America - I catch a snippet from their FM radio - “This is 93KHJ. All the the hits, none of the crap!”.

Over the next few days we spend our time shopping for supplies and taking care of housekeeping chores like laundry and having the fridge looked at by a mechanic. American Samoa receives very few tourists - perhaps a good reason to visit, though the scenery falls far behind destinations like French Polynesia, and, if you made it this far you would probably discover (as we did) that the trappings of American consumerism just don’t make an agreeable fit with the Polynesian culture. While whole tribes in Africa are dying from starvation, the American Samoans are dying from over-indulgences!

We also bump into some of the Fijian contingent who live and work here. One of them - Richie, an electrician at the cannery says that nothing has changed in this town in the fifteen years he’s been here. Time certainly seems to have passed this place by.

There are however, some unique attractions here that make an impression - catching the colourful open air wooden buses was one of them - loud music booming from the bass speakers over the rear seats, large Samoans crowded into the tiny spaces, stickers plastered all over the interior. The American flag was very popular - on one bus I counted four large specimens stapled onto the ceiling.

Sadly, the loud racket from the power station plays an annoying symphony over the water and into our portholes, unceasing, twenty four hours a day, amplifying our urge to be traveling again real soon.

THUR 3rd AUG - The trades are blowing steady today so Tony decides that we should leave for Vava’u. Easier said than done though as the American Samoan customs and immigration and port officials are so lethargic and uncooperative that it develops into a painful process. He is relieved when we are finally at sea by 1030 hours. A light south easterly greets us outside the harbour making for pleasant sailing.

FRI 4th / SAT 5th - We have changed to Tongan time and in so doing lose a day today. We catch a large mahimahi on the rod. It takes ages to reel it in and we feel fortunate that it isn’t taken by a shark. This will last us for a long while and as the freezer is not working well, we suspend fishing for the moment.

By the afternoon the wind is improving. The crew listen expectantly to the short wave Radio Australia broadcast of the Bledisloe Cup match, biting our nails and sweating it into the last few tension filled minutes of the game as if we were down there on the ground with the players.

SUN 6th - The light breeze from the north east finally ebbs away and Tony motors to ensure we make an entrance into Vava’u by nightfall. In the afternoon the wind switches around to the SE and picks up to 12-15 knots, sufficient for Tau to beat towards Vava’u on port tack at seven knots. We arrive under her lee by 1730 hours, motoring the remaining distance through a fjord like maze of largely limestone upthrust islands of all sizes, with the odd sandy beach and cave weathered into the limestone cliffs. Once we lay the anchor off the main town of Neiafu in the deep clear anchorage, and the motor is switched off a wonderful euphoric calm comes over the yacht - after Pago’s abysmal hubbub this is tranquility personified. It’s unlike any other South Seas port - the limestone bluffs on the waterfront, the concentration of yachts and game fishing boats, and the clean, modern white houses give it a different feel and make it seem more like a yachting haven in the Caribbean.

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