Thursday, August 22, 2013

Enjoying Samoa!

We have been here two weeks all ready - it sure doesn't seem like it.  But, we have been busy exploring, meeting new people, shopping, and all kinds of fun stuff.  So, time just gets away from us.

Rainbow over Apia
Western Samoa was governed by Germany and then the British.  Now they are self governed.  So the architecture is very interesting and different than other south pacific islands we have visited.

Lots of traditions have been passed along plus, you can even get schnitzel at some of the restaurants!  Everyone speaks English - some with a British accent, which always surprises us.

Brunch - mimosas and everything
The Apia Marina is small.  This morning there were 13 cruising boats, but several will be leaving over the next couple of days.  It is a very social group of cruisers from all over - France, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA (of course).

Everyone coming and going different directions.  We have been to several potlucks, happy hours, Kava lessons, a dock pool party, and even a brunch - all very entertaining.  It is fun to meet everyone and hear all of their stories.

Dock pool party - cooling off!
The marina was damaged in the cyclone last December, so there is one whole dock that isn't very usable, plus several slips without cleats.  But, with some shuffling, all of the cruisers have found a good slip.

We have had a couple of real rainy days since we have been here, plus it is more humid than we are used to.  So, we do a lot of sweating!  But, it still cools off at night so we can get some sleep - good thing.

Doug in his new LavaLava - very handsome
There are lots of places to shop and eat and we have been checking them all out.

Our favorite happy hour - Island Bar and Grill - Wednesday through Friday 5pm to 7pm.  Cold 10 oz draft beers for $2 Tala (less than $1 US), plus free appetizers and air conditioning.  We will definitely go back. 
Doug and a jug of Vailima

Apia is also a great place to provision and taxis are cheap.  $5 Tala/$2.50 US will get you almost anywhere.  The buses are supposed to be great too (and really cute), but they always seem to be crowded.

Colorful buses
So we walk a lot and take taxis when we get tired or buy too much stuff (Coke Zero and Vailima beer usually).

We have been to two Fire Knife Dance shows (Siva Afi) at the Ooh La La ice cream parlor - right across the street for only $15 Tala.

The first time, was on my birthday and they sang Happy Birthday to me, plus dished me up a huge bowl of ice cream.  It was wonderful!
Happy Birthday to Me!

Enjoying the show
Plus, the Samoan Cultural Village puts on a great show every Thursday at 10:30 am, which includes a kava ceremony, singing, dancing, demonstrations, plus free lunch - they just ask for donations. 

Very entertaining, plus the demonstrations taught us about their culture and history.

Traditional headdress and Tapa cloth
We learned how to bake fish wrapped in banana leaves in an umu (buried), make and design tapa cloth from a mulberry tree, woodcarving, plus their very sacred tattooing process. 
The Welcome/Kava Ceremony (doesn't taste very good)

It takes a month for the men to finish their body tattoo's that start above the waist and goes to the knees.  It sounded excruciating and it is a disgrace to the family if the men don't go through with it.  Ouch!

Dancing with joy - so fun to watch
The womens tattoos are several small dots that go from the hip to the knee.  Still painful, but quick compared to the men.

We also visited the Museum of Samoa and took the guided tour (no charge, but donations accepted).  The museum was small, but a great way to learn about the history of Samoa.

Young Fire Dancers
We discovered that Samoa's annual festival, the Teuila Festival, starts September 1 and ends on the 7th.

So, we decided to stay in Apia a couple more weeks so that we can attend.  We hate to miss a festival!

Plus, we don't have much further to go.  Fiji is our final destination this year and it is only 4 - 5 days away.  We are getting close...

So, all is well on Moondance and crew are very happy to be here in Samoa.  Enjoy the rest of the pictures!

Town Center

The slow dance - very pretty

And so energetic - tired just watching them

Dancers and the Band - wonderful

More dancing

Fire Dancer - Hot Hot Hot

Dock potluck - great food!
Making Tapa cloth from the Mulberry tree

Pounding the Tapa cloth

Wrapping fish in banana leaves

Cooking our lunch in the Umu

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pictures of beautiful Suwarrow - finally!

I know, we have almost been in Western Samoa a week and I am just getting around to posting some pictures - must be island time.

As you can see, we had a amazing time in Suwarrow and met some wonderful cruisers that we will see again and again. Always good to meet new friends.

Ranger Harry and Charlie did a great job of making us all feel welcome, plus showing us Suwarrow. We will never forget them!

In case you are going to Suwarrow, here are a couple of tips:

1) Use floats on your anchor chain. The anchorage has lots of coral heads that your chain will wrap around. We anchored several times before finally putting on the floats. Much better.

2) If you are going fishing or spearfishing in the pass, be sure to bring your fish in really fast. If not, the sharks will take them.

That's it - enjoy the pictures!
Enjoying 7 Island
Brand new baby Frigate
Carol snorkeling
Coconut crab - scary things
Josh and Dennis and the big coconut crabs
Tasty dinner
Doug enjoying the swing
Elaine (s/v Mazu) and her kayak stroll
The gang enjoying Suwarrow
Sooty Terns and Frigates on Gull Island - so noisy
Hermit crab race
Ranger Charlie teaching the girls to dance
Potluck, of course!
Rafted up to Evergreen - Manihiki
Ranger Charlie catching the coconut crabs
Ranger Harry cooking dinner
Ranger Harry entertaining the cruisers
Sam (s/v My Muse) sailing the lagoon
Leaving some of Steve behind - he would have loved Suwarrow
Suwarrow lagoon
Suwarrow Yacht Club
Totem's flag - so nice to see!
Photo op!
Nice to be on land!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Bar Fight

Well, we weren't even in Samoa a day before we found some trouble - not intentionally of course!

It was early in the day and we were relaxing in the RSA bar drinking our jug/pitcher of Vailima. One nice gentlemen stopped by our table and brought us 2 bags of chips "Welcome to Samoa" he said and left. Very nice
of him, plus the chips were tasty.

The next gentlemen (Fisherman) pulled up a chair and started visiting with us. There was a little bit of a communication gap, plus he was a little drunk, but we did our best. Then it got a little weird. He started saying that he loved me and other strange stuff, plus didn't like me wandering off talking to other people. Doug and the waitress asked him to leave, but he didn't.

Another gentlemen (FedEx Man) pulled up a chair and after a bit, we figured out that he was trying to warn us about Fisherman. Plus, we chatted about family and adventures. He was very nice.

So, we decided to move up to the bar next to FedEx Man and finish our beer. Well, Fisherman decided to come to the bar too, but stayed at the other end, so we were ok.

We were getting ready to leave when we stopped by a table with several handsome young men. It turns out that they are dancers that perform local dances at the Aggie Grey's Hotel - that's a show everyone says we have to see. Well, while we were chatting with the young men, things got wild behind us at the bar. It appears that Fisherman threw his beer at FedEx Man. By the time we turn around, Fisherman is on the ground and FedEx Man is standing over him ready to hit him with a chair - it all happened so fast.

The Aggie Grey dancers, instantly positioned themselves between us and the fight - we really appreciated them protecting us!

Next, Security Guard comes rushing in and breaks things up. We decide that it is time to go and Security Guard and the rest of our friends hustle us out of the bar and put us in a cab and back to the marina we go - safe and sound back on Moondance.

Just goes to show you that there are wonderful people everywhere watching out for us, plus a few crazies that will try to avoid in the future!

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Safe and sound in Apia, Western Samoa!

We made it - yeah!

It was only a 4 day crossing, but it wore us out. That downwind sailing is sure not a smooth way to travel and it is noisy! Moondance was rocking back and forth with the motion, plus then those crazy waves would hit. Not big, but they were really close together. So every bottle, can, pot, pan, etc., were rattling around in the lockers wanting out. I have never heard so much racket! Between the motion and the noise, it was very difficult to sleep. The best spot was sprawled out on the settee/couch (which folds out to almost a double bed) surrounded by pillows to keep us from rolling around. I could sit in the cockpit and watch Doug sleep and knew he was close by if I needed him - I liked that part!

So, now we are tied up to the marina, which is a nice treat, plus surrounded by a very friendly group of cruisers sharing tips about Apia. Always helpful! The marina was hit by the cyclone last year and damaged some of the docks and cleats, which haven't been fixed yet. Something about the insurance...

We thought we were going to be able to check in with Customs yesterday (Friday), but that didn't work out. Apia is on the other side of the dateline, while American Samoa in on the US side, so it was Saturday here and Customs was closed - who knew! Also, Sunday and Monday here are holidays - Father's Day in Samoa - apparently a very big deal.

Since we are still quarantined, we aren't supposed to leave our boat until we check in on Tuesday - not good news. But, we were able to talk to the security guard and gave him our sob story about being out of food (beer and diet coke too) and he felt sorry for us and let us go wandering around town. Yeah.

We are on the island of Upolu, which is a green and lush - like the Hawaiian islands. According to the books, Samoa has been called the birthplace of Polynesia. They think the original Polynesians left Samoa to settle in Hawaii, Cook Islands, and New Zealand - that's a lot of water to cover in a canoe!

Apia is a big city with taxis, cute little buses, ATM's, and lots of shopping. We spent yesterday checking out the place and getting some provisions. We taxi'd to the fresh fruit and vegetable market downtown, which was really busy, plus a store called Farmer Johns (too funny). The locals were very nice and helpful, plus curious about us. We also found a bar (which wasn't easy), the RSA. They had the local beer (Vailima) on draft. A jug/pitcher for $12 Tala (less than $6 US), which even had a spot for ice to keep it cold. Pretty tasty stuff. And then things got a little too exciting - be sure to read my next post about The Bar Fight!

So, a little more shopping and then dinner - cheeseburger with cucumbers (instead of pickles) for Doug and fish and chips for me at the Gourmet Seafood Grill. We thoroughly enjoyed it. There are several restaurants and bars close by the marina, so we had to check out happy hour at The Edge. One more nice cold beer, ahhhh, and then back to boat for some R&R'ing.

As tired as we were, we still made it to 9pm. Pretty good for a couple of old duffers. We slept hard for awhile and then the rains poured - right inside all of our hatches that we never even thought about closing - all hands on deck! Oh well, gave ol' Moondance a good fresh water rinse.

Today, still raining, but seems to be lightening up. Everything is closed on Sunday, plus will be closed tomorrow too for the holiday. So, we are having a very nice boat day and doing as little as possible - yeah!

So far, except for hard liquor, everything seems to be very affordable here in Western Samoa. We like that!

Sightings along our passage:

Lots of falling stars
1 satellite flew over (we don't see many of those down here) - Ching Bing Bao!
1 big green glowing orb on the horizon that we could see for miles - no idea what is was. Doug tried to call them, but no answer. Aliens?
Not much out there!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Day 3 - Suwarrow ,Cook Islands to Apia, Western Samoa

LATITUDE: 13-42.66S; LONGITUDE: 169-39.54W
Miles traveled in 24 hours: 112
Miles to Apia: 120 (will arrive Friday - yeah)

Land Ho!

It was nice waking up to see big islands on the horizon this morning. These are the Manua Islands, which are part of American Samoa - we won't be stopping there. Next, we will sail by American Samoa - we won't be stopping there either. We should arrive at our destination tomorrow morning around 10am. That is one of the challenges of these passages - going fast enough to get there on time, but not arriving in the dark. Doug does an excellent job of managing this for us.

Since the seas were so lumpy, we had to take down our main sail yesterday and just sail with a poled out jib. So, it slowed us down some, but definitely made it a more comfortable ride, plus less stress on the boat, and that was what we were looking for. Crew needed some rest. Which we got - sprawled out on the settee/couch!

Today, it looks like a nice easy sail with lighter winds and lumpy seas (of course). But we are almost there.

Envious - Evergreen is already in Pago Pago, American Samoa, eating cheeseburgers and french fries! But, glad that they are safe and hope they enjoy a piece of the good ol' USA. It is supposed to be a great place to provision.

Next time you hear from us, we will be at a marina relaxing. Looking forward to it!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 2 - Suwarrow ,Cook Islands to Apia, Western Samoa

LATITUDE: 13-36.81S; LONGITUDE: 167-32.03W
Miles traveled in 24 hours: 145
Miles to Apia: 244 (over half way there - should arrive Friday)

Tired of those foulies!

After 2 days and nights of rain, we were glad to see the sunshine this morning and dry out our foulies - they were getting stinky! Last night wasn't too bad though - light rains and good wind. Just so dark - no stars or moon to light the way. Just ol' Moondance sailing by.

Crew is doing fine - just a little tired. The seas (as usual) are a little lumpy, so we have been trying to find a comfortable place to sleep. Sometimes that isn't easy.

Tired crew usually means an interesting assortment of food coming out of the galley. We have the traditional Hawaiian Mac-n-Cheese with Spam of course, or Tomato soup filled with left over risotto, or this mornings breakfast burritos made with Thrive powdered eggs and spinach and bacon. So, it isn't gourmet, but we aren't starving. Sure wish we had Diet Coke on board though - a nice treat for those late night watches.

Doug has is first meal in Apia all ready planned - a big cheeseburger. That does sound pretty good - especially if it comes with an ice cold beer.

Hope everyone is well and enjoying your summer!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Day 1 - Suwarrow ,Cook Islands to Apia, Western Samoa

LATITUDE: 13-24.05S; LONGITUDE: 165-07.18W
Miles traveled in 24 hours: 119 (below average)
Miles to Apia: 386 (should arrive Friday)

You never know what to expect...

From everything we had heard and read, we were going to have a wonderful 4 days of easy sailing to Apia. We like that kind of weather report!

The winds started off light and the seas were flat when we left Suwarrow yesterday morning - like sailing in the Sea of Cortez.

Then the winds changed a bit, so we had to put up the whisker pole and go wing-on-wing. Winds kept changing, so we had to take it all down, put it all back up, take it back down. Picture lots of flogging and lots of noisy sails (and not much sleep).

Finally at 3:30 this morning, big black clouds moved in and the wind died. So, we fired up the engine. This storm system lasted for 8 hours and had lots of rain, but no winds and no lightening. I told Doug to stay in bed - no reason for both of us to be soaked and he needed some rest!

Now, the storm system has passed (we hope) and we finally got the 15 - 20 knots of wind that was in the forecast and are moving along. Hope they hold until we get to Apia. We need to conserve our fuel for motoring into the harbor. Looking forward to the marina luxuries and accommodations plus shopping - how fun. Hope Friday hurries up and gets here!

Happy 60th Birthday, Roger. Hope you and the family are having a wonderful celebration. Wish we were all together toasting Mai Tai's!

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

It is that time again...

Yup, it is time to pack up Moondance and leave Suwarrow tomorrow morning for Apia, Western Samoa (Sam o a). We have been here over a week all ready and we have had a wonderful time. Suwarrow is a very special place. Plus, we have met some wonderful cruisers from all over the world - France, Holland, Luxemburg and the good ol' USA. There were about 20 boats here this morning, now there is less.

You know how we are always saying it is a small world - even out here in the middle of the ocean? We proved it again! One of the boats that pulled in this week was Mazu with Mel and Elaine aboard. They were our boat neighbors in La Cruz, Mexico, back in 2011. They invited us over for Happy Hour and we had a great time catching up and swapping stories. They have a beautiful 46' Outbound - with a washing machine - luxuries!

With so many boats in the lagoon, Rangers Harry and Charlie decided to throw a BBQ/potluck on shore. Lots of great food, plus live entertainment. Harry played his guitar and sang and Charlie danced and entertained. Plus, demonstrated the Haka - the Maori war dance. It was pretty impressive.

Moondance is pretty much out of all the good stuff, but we have been able to barter/exchange for the important stuff - like beer and diet coke. Cruisers are great about sharing.

Evergreen left this morning for American Samoa. Hopefully, we will meet up with them again in Western Samoa. If not, Fiji for sure. We are going to miss traveling with them.

Our trip to Apia will be 4 overnighters - we should be there on Friday morning. We will be staying at a marina surrounded by bars and restaurants and grocery stores - civilization. It will be a treat!

It looks like the winds and waves are pretty light now, but supposed to start building tomorrow and we are hoping for a nice easy passage. Of course, we are always hoping for perfect conditions. We shall see.

CONGRATULATIONS to Kara and Aaron on their wedding. So very happy for them and wishing them many wonderful years together. Can't wait to see the pictures!

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