American Samoa. Since the first time I heard about it, I’ve wanted to go here. Despite its characterization as a welfare state, despite it’s notoriously nasty harbor and stinky tuna-cannery smells. I’ve probably wanted to come here because of those things, and because it seems to be a sort of red-headed stepchild that nobody ever talks about. The mystery was intriguing.
Well, here we are. And I like it. First impressions were that the people were amazingly warm and friendly. And they speak English! And McDonald’s, with a dock and so-so free Wifi, affectionately referred to as the Pago Pago Yacht Club. We can find most things we need with ease – a land of relative milk and honey. Yesterday I spent quality time in scuba gear, crawling through the muck and mire, tenderly picking through the shredded aluminum, jettisoned line, diapers and cigarette boxes at the bottom of the toxic bay, searching unsuccessfully for a lost mooring that Cadence can call home for the season. Good times. Now I’m learning to be jaded and guarded in associating with the locals because too many times they seem to end up wanting something. Many locals don’t seem to care about taking care of anything – the docks are a wreck, a boat that half-sunk two weeks ago (and was easy to re-float) was allowed to wallow underwater until yesterday, until the motors were good and ruined. And as I write this, Bob of Windwitch is zooming around the harbor in his dinghy, scooping up perfectly good dishes and pots that were left out and scooped up by swollen creeks and carried away. “If I keep this up, I’ll have a whole kitchen!” Though I’m calling it as I’ve seen it, I get the sense that this is an unfair characterization on the whole, and especially when getting away from the seedier harbor the people are something really special. In contrast to the clear waters and people of French Polynesia, it feels like bizarre blend of Polynesia, Central America, and the US. It feels a bit like home.
(Update, 10/13/2013: After posting this, in a stroke of quasi-irony, I returned to the dinghy to find somebody had pissed on it. Welcome to AmSam. But on an upnote, I’ve since met a number a very warm people around who give American Samoa a great face.)
Boz, Jessi and I have been doing lots of soul-searching and are agreed that the sailing life is too good to cash out of just yet. I’ll probably put the boat on the market and be willing to consider a reasonable offer. But for now, in American Samoa, if I can wrangle a mooring it will be much cheaper than the boatyard at Vuda point in Fiji (~$550/month for a dryberth that isn’t even cyclone-resistant is plain ridiculous). There are a handful of liveaboards in the bay, some of which have been here three or four years. Don and Judy of Windrider, Eric of Sidetrack, Kimball of Altaira and Dick of Barbarella have been exceedingly helpful and forthcoming with information while I get the lay of the land and try to piece together a plan for the boat. Ultimately, at $15/month plus whatever I pay a caretaker, keeping the boat in the South Pacific never looked better. Two catches, A: she’ll be in the water, and B: there are no moorings available.
So I’m going to make one. (Assuming the Harbormaster gives his okay tomorrow.) 6000lbs of concrete oughtta just about do it. More on that in posts to come.
A lot has happened since we left French Poly a month ago. Jessi’s awesome updates have not been done their justice with follow-ups and photos but suffice it to say that Mopelia and Suwarrow were spectacular. The best so far, even. Mopelia, especially. Simply put, the last couple of stops and passages have been exactly what we came all the way out here to do. Coming up in the next posts, a bit of catchup: stories of Hina’s Home Brew, Charlie the Sharktamer, and the Coconut Crab Band. In the meantime, our Norwegian friend Stig whom we call “Steegatron” (a hiking machine!) posted a video on his blog which he compiled with footage we took on a bushwhacking waterfall hike last week. It’s a little taste of what the jungle’s like around here. You can view his blog at http://langturmedsnorreviking.blogspot.com/ where he chronicles his journey from Norway and around Cape Horn. (Translate it with the google translate bar on the right side.) Here’s his video: