Saturday, August 30, 2008

I had a lovely birthday the other day. In the morning we got up and went to the town center and watched the flag raising ceremony. The police band and colour guard marches from the police headquarters about 400 meters to where they raise the flag. The band was pretty good and all the policemen wear the traditional lavalava, as it is called here. We had breakfast and then headed off to find the Samoan Museum. We enjoyed browsing through the historical artifacts and reading about the history of Samoa. The Germans took control of the island in the late 1800’s. It was captured by a New Zealand regiment in 1914, one of the first places to be occupied by the Allies. There wasn’t much history about what happened after that but I think that the Germans, the British and the Americans administrated the island until independence in 1960. There were lots of great photographs, one of a huge German ship that had gone aground and there some artifacts that had been taken from it.
I decided I needed more sustenance, so we headed to Aggie Grey’s hotel, a spot that provided R and R for many British soldiers during the war. We indulged in huge fruit smoothies, Barry’s banana being far superior to my papaya. On the way back to the boat I collected the outfit that I had sewn up for me, the material costing next to nothing in American Samoa. Having a tailor made Samoan style outfit just made my day and it was in my favourite colour. We ended off a memorable birthday by having a steak dinner aboard. Last year at this time we were driving back to Yellowknife from James and Kendra’s wedding in Innisfail.

Friday, August 29, 2008

We had a lovely day touring the island. The weather co-operated and Barry decided since we had a passenger I would have to behave behind the wheel and he basically told me to go and rent the car so that he could enjoy the drive from the passenger seat for a change. Most of the road was very windy so I had a blast in the little five speed we rented, doing my James Bond imitation going around the curves. I also spent the day conversing with our Chilean buddy who spoke French. A couple of times I had to stop trying to figure out what he was saying and concentrate on my driving. He was great to have along because having lived in New Caledonia he knew what most of the trees were and could tell us about them. Some of the nuances I’m sure were lost but we got the basic idea. I got through the day without scaring myself silly so needless to say I slowed down around the hairpin curves!!!
ANYWAY, we spent the morning on the north coast which had marvelous scenery. Then we crossed over the mountain ridge and drove along the southwest coast. There were lovely white sand beaches, we stopped for lunch at a resort and sat gazing out at the surf and some offshore islands with the ocean breezes in our faces. You can’t get too much better than that. After some fairly shoddy navigating, leading to another Lange shortcut, we got back on track and found a black sand beach where I went for a swim. The reef was about a kilometer offshore at this point so it was very calm and quiet. We headed back across the island going up and over again. Once we arrived back in Apia we headed down to an end of town we hadn’t visited yet and stopped at the yacht club. There was a whole bunch of people hanging out on the seawall at that end of town and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. We were just checking the place out when we heard the beat of the drums and some very shrill whistling. It was the Samoan rowers; here they do not have the outrigger canoes, they row very long skinny boats and there are about 50 people rowing. It is quite the spectacle, each boat has there own drummer in the bow and at the stern there is a fellow on the tiller who encourages the rowers with loud whistle blasts. It was a great way to end an interesting day.
This is a fale, it the Polynesian answer to the heat. There are reed curtains that you can put down to keep out the rain or the sun. Samoans sleep on the floor on a mattress in these structures all over the islands.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We have been luxuriating at the Apia Marina in Samoa. The access to unlimited power and water is almost intoxicating. The other day we left the boat to explore and found our way to the local flea market. There were some good bargains and I procured a lovely new hat. It is definitely not a boat hat as it has no ties, so it will only be worn when I go ashore. Barry purchased a snazzy black lavalava, most Samoan men wear this form of attire. A lavalava can be just a sarong tied around your waist; they come in a multitude of patterns and colours. The Samoan men also wear a formal version which has pockets and ties so can be adjusted around your waist. They wear such wonderfully patterned and coloured shirts that we thought that a plain black one would be the best choice and then Barry can wear whatever kind of shirt he wants with it. Barry says they are very comfortable and he is happy to wear it. I must get a good picture of him in it.
We spent the afternoon at the Robert Louise Stevenson Museum. The woman who gave the tour was the great granddaughter of one of housekeepers during RLS’s time. She had some interesting insights into his life and how the Samoan people viewed his presence here. The house is located quite a distance up the mountain and it has extensive grounds and gardens. There used to be a wonderful view of the harbour but the vegetation has obscured it now. He is buried on top of the mountain beside his home and the story is told that his casket was passed from hand to hand along a human line so that he could reach his desired resting place. We had a copy of Treasure Island onboard and I read it on the voyage from Tokelau.
The other night we went to a buffet dinner that was followed by a fire dancing exhibition. The food was terrific and the dancing was really enjoyable. The troupe performed dances from a variety of Polynesian Islands and the fire dancers had some experts as well as some teenage boys that were learning the craft, they were doing a great job of mastering the technique. Barry and I were decked out in our best Polynesian outfits and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the company of the other cruisers we were with, a couple from Holland and another couple from South Africa. The discussion of rugby and cricket as well as the Dutch soccer hopes were decidedly different from our normal fare.
Tomorrow we plan to rent a car and tour the south and east part of the island. Another cruiser, Marcos, who only speaks French and Spanish, is going to join us. We have been communicating in French with him on a fairly successful basis. Barry mixes his French and his Spanish in mid sentence, but Marcos seems to understand him quite well. His is a Chilean who bought a boat in California and is headedfor his present home in New Caledonia, it should make for a fun day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Our visit to the town of Atafu

This is the fruit they call pandanas, you break off one of the green pieces and then you slice off a part of the fruit and you chew it. When you are finished you spit out the pulp. It was very tasty. When I gave Nana Hala an orange she ate it that way, sucked the juice out of it and spit out the pulp!

This is Nana Hala, she is 73, her English wasn't great but I spent quite a bit of time with her. She is making a hat, I tried to get her to show me how to make a fan but was woefully inadequate at the task. The fronds of the tree that she used also really irritated my fingers, but she had some magic oil that she put on the angry red spots and they felt much better; our language skills weren't good enough for me to figure out what it was. I cut my hand on some coral the next day and she pointed to my bandage and indicated she wanted to see it. I showed it to her and out came the magic oil and it was amazing, the cuts and abrasions healed up remarkably quickly after that. Barry, and the boys out to feed the pigs after noon on Sunday, this was the only activity allowed. Notice Barry still has on his Sunday going to church shirt and long pants. Below is the fantastic pig pen wall and the interior divisions for each family and their pigs.

The huge church, newly finished last year as well as the front yard of the house we hung out at. Notice the coral "lawn", coral is the ground cover all over the village. It comes in a variety of grits, the walkways and roads had very fine coral which this yard has a slightly coarser grade. There were areas were I could not walk in bare feet in comfort as it was so rough. The soil on the island comes from decayed coconuts and their branches. They dug a hole for a septic tank one day and I was very surprised to see about 6 feet of soil that had accumulated before the coral base showed.

I just thought this little guy was so cute. He is so serious, I showed him the picture I had taken on the camera and he only frowned even more! He wanted to see it again and again though, and he and his little buddies followed us back to where the dinghy was.

Cat's-Paw IV crew on the voyage from Pago Pago, American Samoa to Atafu, Tokelau. On the left is Adam Thompson from Arkansas, currently working on his masters in archaeology in New Zealand. On the right is Timali Pele from Pago Pago in this second year of studies in the archaeology program at the community college in American Samoa. Timali spoke the Samoan dialect and was able to understand and talk to the Tokelaun people.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Atafu, Tokelau. We were the first boat to land here in 2 years.

This is looking out the pass that was blasted through the reef so that the village would easily be able to unload passengers and cargo from the vessels that transport them back and forth to Samoa. The breaks in the concrete barriers allows the tide to rush in and sometimes it was a challenge to get the dinghy through the current in the pass.

The guys from catamaran moving in.

The intrepid archaeologists starting their day!
Gail, from Fifth Season, is raring to go

Cold and wet after Day 1

Hot and tired after Day 2

Camp, in another life it is a picnic spot for the families of Atafu.

Having a well earned rest before heading back, we have changed out of our jungle boots into our getting into the boat shoes. Our pilangi, or kabluna, or whiteman's feet can't take walking on the coral like the islanders.
We are safe in Apia in Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa. We landed in Samoa on Monday, Barry's birthday, at an anchorage on a different island 40 miles to the west of here., we had been sailing hard on the wind for 2 and 1/2 days experiencing lightning storms and squalls as we passed through the dreaded ITCZ (inter tropical convergance zone)We stopped there because we were hard on the wind and realized we would have to spend another night at sea if we wanted to land in Apia, so we sneaked into the country and anchored. We did not go ashore and left at 0300 the next morning to beat straight upwind to Apia. The beat was worth it although we did run into a few problems on the way. (NON SAILORS CAN SKIP THIS PART AS IS VERY TECHNICAL) We were tacking into the wind and weather with a third reef in the main and the genoa up when I noticed the genoa halyard had let loose and the sail was coming down. We quickly furled it up and then put up the staysail and shook the reef out of the main. We would not have made any headway with the small main and small headsail up. We managed to get that all up and Barry suggested that we motor sail anyway as we still had a long way to go and since we were smashing into the waves the boat was not getting anywhere very fast. Now we really know the meaning of the term "gentlemen do not sail to weather"!! So we were making headway and then the dratted engine decided to through a fit and it QUIT, #%*#!%&. Barry spent an hour changing Racor filters, draining and bleeding fuel lines, checking electrical connections, swearing and generally getting thrown while inhaling diesel fumes. Then the faithful beast decided it had punished us enough and started again. CRAP I wish we knew why it stops on occaision, fortunatley we weren't in dire straights when this happened this time and the engine roared away as we powered for another 4 hours, hitting Apia harbour and hour before sunset.


We are at a marina, bliss. We have 11o power, unlimited hot and cold running water. We have neighbors whom we know and like and a whole island to explore. We may never leave!! We are catching up on the Olympics, way to go Simon Whitfield!! Hopefully we can watch the 800 meter final, we found a spot that has TV today and may just sit there all day tomorrow.

I will post pics from Tokelau tomorrow. Hope all is well with all of you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Here are some pictures from the Pacific Festival of the Arts in American Samoa. We did not see all these images but they will give you a flavour of what we did experience. We are so glad that we made the decision to go to American Samoa and catch the end of the festival.

These dancers are from Tahiti, look at the drop dead gorgeous background, as well as the girl of course. This troupe looked like they were having so much fun!!

We saw these guys perform, (below) they are from Papa New Guinea and the fellow that introduced them was making jokes about the flavour of audience, they used to be cannibals!! Their dancing was fantastic, they would threaten each other with spears and clubs and then fall on the ground and lie there until the music changed, then they would get up and attack each other again, marvelous!

Friday, August 15, 2008

It does not seem as if I can upload pictures from here. I will do it when we get to a different spot. We are plannning to leave tomorrow to go either to Samoa or Wallis Island, which is a French protectorate. It will depend on the wind angle where we end up.
We have been having a wonderful time here in Atafu. The last 2 days Barry and I helped out the archaeologists. They are searching all the small islands inside the reef to see if there are sites worth further exploration. This involves everyone, 8 people or so, lining up in a line and walking through the jungle. We have to maintain the same distance from one another and walk in a straight line so that every inch of the island is looked at. This is much more difficult that it sounds because of the vegetation that gets in the way. You have to crawl under trees and go through thick brush, it is hot and there are bugs, spiders, hermit crabs, etc. Everyone has to communicate with one another so that we stay in line. The leader was having a hard time getting us to communicate with one another, when one end of the line stops to look at something they have to yell to the next guy in line to stop and then the message has to get passed down the line. If you have quiet people on the line it doesn't work very well. Once we finish crossing the island we just rotate around the end person and head back into the jungle to do another transect. I think the plan is just to look at all the islands this year and next year to come back and explore what they have found. One of the team is an expert on fish, he has gone fishing with the villagers and yesterday he was busy classifying fish bones with some students. Another team member studies vegetation, so he has been taking samples of what is growing on the atoll and studying it. Yesterday he was making presses with some students so he could dry out some vegetation.
The first day we found a gravesite, yesterday we found a house foundation and another gravesite. I think we could have missed stuff as well because sometimes the piles of rotting coconuts and coconut fronds on the ground are so big that there could be anything under them.
Today I went to the school and made a presentation about Canada. I talked to kids about 9 and 10 years old. It was received very well, I showed them pictures of the snow and ice and they thought that making a snowman and sliding looked like a lot of fun. They danced for me, it was wonderful and I ended off by singing Oh Canada for them. It gave me goosebumps to sing our national anthem in a place so far away.
We have been hosted by a local family, so I spend time visiting with the grandmother of the family. We have had several meals with them. The food is very traditional, raw fish soaked in coconut milk with cucumbers, fried fish, breadfruit, and of course pork from those pigs. We had a lovely coconut gravy served on rice the other day as well as a chicken stew that was wonderful. I taught their little girl who is 4 how to sing Insy Weensy Spider and the actions to I'm a little teapot, so we are getting along famously. She speaks a little English, but not much. Everyone speaks Tokelauan here but most speak English as well, they have lovely New Zealand accents. We attended a remeberance service the other day and the singing was just marvelous, there is no instruments, just their voices and the harmonies are marvelous. At the end of the service one of the elders asked us when we were going to leave, when we replied, he told Barry that he should leave his wife here and he could choose 3 other women from the village widows to take with him. It was hilarious and everyone laughed and laughed.
I am not sure I am ready to leave but Barry thinks that if we stay he should go and help out every day and I am not sure his body will stand up to much more. He has been taking a lot of Ibuprofen as well as his regular pain medication. I could not convince him to stay in town with me today so that he would only do 1/2 day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We landed safely in Atafu, an atoll in the Tokelau Island group; Tokelau is a New Zealand protectorate. The inhabitants of Tokelau are quite traditional; there are 500 souls on the atoll, they are ruled by a group of conservative male elders. They are very religious and on Sunday you are not allowed to do any work except feed the pigs. No one is allowed to walk around the town outside of your own home, except to go to church. After we went ashore to attend church this morning we went to observe the feeding of the pigs.
The pigpen is a marvel!! There is a wall that is 1 meter 20 cm tall and 40 cm wide, the wall is made out of crushed coral and cement. The pigpen enclosure is about 150 square meters, not sure what that would be in acres, do you have an idea Mom??? ANYWAY. Each family has an enclosure within this area that houses their pigs, these areas are fenced with wood and tin roofing. The story of the pig pen was explained to us today. There are the group of older men that rule the village and the younger able bodied men who do the work in the village decided to build the pig pen; to show how strong they were. To demonstrate their prowess they built the most splendid pigpen that you could ever imagine.
To back up a bit, we had a marvelous passage from Pago Pago to here, it took us 3 days and we had wonderful conditions. The first day the winds were light, the seas were small and we flew our cruising spinnaker for most of the day, perfect conditions for our 2 passengers. The next 2 days the winds were a bit more boisterous and we sailed with a triple reefed main and the genoa plus the staysail. Wendy, our wind vane did her stuff when she had a chance but our crew was very keen to steer so we let them go at it. We had to slow down in order to arrive after first light and as it was we ended up heaving to for ½ hour until there was enough light to spot the island. I have been dying to say that we had to “stand off” so now I can truly say that!! Three days was an ideal time to have crew aboard. We got to know each other and here their stories and learn about some of the archeology of the South Pacific Islands, but we didn’t’ have time to learn about their bad habits and get tired of them.
Barry was actually the one who suggested to the organizer of the trip that cruisers may be able to take his group here. I asked him today if he had any doubts about coming and he said that once I had got it into my head that this was a great idea there wasn’t much chance that we weren’t going to go and besides he came up with the idea. I am really glad that the delivery portion of this trip has worked out grandly.
We have met 2 different sets of elders. One invited us to her home. She offered us fresh coconuts milk at first and then a delicious pumpkin bread. We talked about who we were and why we had come and she explained how she made a basket that she had woven. They introduced us to banderous (not sure of the spelling) a fruit that grows in trees that looks like tiny pineapples growing in a huge ball. You chew the fruit and then once you have extracted all the juice you spit out the pulp, very tasty. It was a lovely visit.
The other elder we met is the mother of the family where the 2 fellows we brought to the island are staying. The whole family is very welcoming and we have eaten 2 meals there. The mother makes hats out of fronds from a palm tree. The designs are very intricate and after the weaving is done she attached flowers made from the same material to the hats, all the way around the part where the top of the hat meets the brim. At church one of the elders that rule the island offered us a fan and when we tried to return it after the service he insisted that we keep it. Jennifer you would be very interested in the technique of the weaving for the fan, rather like the basket weaving you were doing in the NWT.
Late this afternoon the second group of archaeologists arrived aboard a catamaran. We were attached to a mooring that has been set for the 90 foot vessel that supplies the island. We had decided that the catamaran would raft up to us, bad mistake. Once we had tied up we realized that their freeboard was much taller than ours and our stanchions were in danger of being damaged. Then the spring line holding our rear to their center bent our cleat. Once that happened we quickly let all the lines go and put our heads together to come up with another plan. Meantime one of the fellows in the village was on the radio trying to communicate with us to tell us that the occupants of the second boat could come ashore but they were not allowed to bring any luggage, because that would be considered work! (very confusing having him blather at us while we tried to get ourselves settled). We decided that it would be best if the cat would tie up to the mooring ball and we would tie up to the stern of the cat. After about an hour of maneuvering; we had to bring in our flopper stopper and get underway, they had to moor and then devise a system to tie us up safely; we are hooked up behind the cat. There is quite a swell and we are rolling a lot more than we were when we were on the mooring ball. This may limit the time we will be able to spend here. We are hoping to be able to participate in the archaeological dig but I guess we will have to see, the lodgings are not very comfortable at the moment.
We looked at the map, we had planned to go to Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa after we left here but if we have to sail too close to the wind to get there we may head to Wallis Island. Wallis Island is a French protectorate and it is between Samoa and Fiji. We need to get to Tonga to make a good heading to New Zealand (I think) so the further west we go the more difficult it will be for us to head to Tonga, so we will see. I guess I had better figure out if a passage from Fiji to Tonga is a possibility at this time of year. Lots of possibilities out there; I was noticing all the elderly ladies sitting in church with their grandchildren today and I was missing all my children and grandchildren very much.
I am having trouble loading pictures, so I will try again later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ann and Barry are currently on Atafu in the Tokelau island

group and having a wonderful time.

Here is a map showing where they are

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's Jen here (the middle daughter). I heard from Ann via sat phone today. They have arrived safely at their destination of Tokelau, as mentioned in their previous blog post. I didn't quiz her on it, but apparently they are staying at the island atol of Atafu, which looks to be one of the islands that makes up Tokelau (this was extrapolated from the position Ann gave of 88 32S, 172 31W and the result on Google Earth!). Ann said that when they arrived, depositing their cargo of 2 archeology students, they were invited ashore and sat in grass huts, drinking coconut juice with the village elders. Ann and Barry have been allowed to stay around Atafu for a week and help out with the dig. Apparently there is a catamaran transporting other archeologists arriving at that time, and it sounds like only so many visitors are allowed on the island at a time, which is why Ann and Barry have to leave in a week. I could be mistaken about the how's and why's, and I'm sure Ann will elaborate when next she has access to the internet, but the take home message is that the Cat's Paw IV crew will be participating in an archeological dig! Sounds like an amazing experience.

Here are a some maps to put the location in perspective (click on maps to enlarge).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

We have a terrific opportunity. We have been asked to sail a couple of archaeologists to Tokelau. We met this fellow at a cruisers get together yesterday and he is an archaeologist who is arranging for a dig on the Tokelau Islands. Unfortunately his transportation to the islands fell through and he had people from all over the Pacific arriving in American Samoa expecting to spend 2 weeks in the New Zealand protectorate of Tokelau to do some preliminary archaeological work. He had a brain wave, he was amongst a group of cruisers so he asked if anyone was interested in transporting a group to these remote atolls. Barry and I thought this would be an opportunity of a lifetime. There will be a total of 3 boats going taking 8 people in total. There are 4 research archaeologists involved and 4 students from the local college, who will be doing the dig. We have agreed to take 2 of the students. It will be about a 4 day, 3 night voyage and when we get there, they will go ashore and start their work. They have transportation back to Samoa so once we get them there our obligation will be finished. We are planning on leaving on Wed. as there is a good weather window. It will be fantastic to get off the beaten path and go to visit some atolls that very few people get a chance to. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pago Pago Harbour, American Samoa
We have been having a wonderful time in American Samoa. We arrived when the Pacific Festival of the Arts was still on. We put the anchor down and tidied up the boat and went ashore to take part in the festival. With the lack of sleep and the number of tasks to be accomplished as soon as we got ashore including checking in with the port captain, customs and immigration as well as hooking us up to the Internet I forgot to take the camera with me so I have no pictures of the our first day at the festival. The second day I have no excuses and just plain forgot the camera. I been meaning to get some pictures off of one of the other cruisers but have not gotten around to that yet!!! SORRY.
The Pacific Arts Festival takes place only once every 4 years and it includes all the South Pacific Islands such as Tahiti, Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Easter Island, Christmas Island, Pitcairn Island, Guam, Papa New Guinea, New Zealand, Niue, etc. etc. We got a glimpse of all the unique cultures from these islands as we watched them singing, dancing and playing their music. The costumes were amazing as were There was also stalls which had grass roofs with tables set up under them where they were demonstrating their crafts and how they were made. I actually sat in the Tongan spot and pounded out bark from a tree that they were using to make tapa cloth. It was quite the experience to sit there pounding away on the bark while talking to the women who were making the cloth. There was a photographic exhibit as well as movies from the different countries. We did not have a chance to watch any of the movies as we were too interested in the live performances.
On Saturday I went on a 4 hour hike with a group of cruisers. There is a National Park that runs along the ridge that surrounds the Pago Pago harbour. It has a terrific hiking trail, we took a bus up to the top of the pass where the trail started and set out. It was an overcast day so perfect for hiking, not too hot!! For the first 2 hours we just gradually climbed along the ridge, some of the terrain was pretty steep but not too bad. Most of the time the forest obscured the view of the ocean on either side. Once we got to the top there was a lovely look out and we stopped to rest and take pictures. Then we started going down. There were many more steep parts on this part and the park had provided ladders with ropes so that it proved pretty easy to hike down you just had to watch your steps as you backed down the ladders.

This is the ridge we hiked, we took a bus up the road on the far edge of the picture where the houses go up the valley.

Barry had hitchhiked around the island to the village where the trail ended and 4 and 1/2 hours after we left there he was sitting in the shade at the end of the trail, patiently reading his book. The ocean was right there so we took off our shoes and waded in, the reef came up almost to the edge of the beach so we weren't able to swim. Arek, our buddy from Poland climbed up a tree and got down 3 coconuts, so after we hacked them open each couple was able to sip the cool, refreshing coconut juice. We discovered since it was Saturday there were no buses running so we ended up knocking on a fellow's door that one of the cruisers had met and we asked him to give us a lift back, we all chipped in for gas money and everyone was happy. This is an experience I will always remember. This home shows off a typical part of a Polynesian home. The ancestors buried in the yard of the home. This is quite an elaborate mausoleum but we have seem a lot of them throughout the Pacific Islands we have visited.