Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bula Bula!

Bula! Bula! (hello or welcome in Fijian). We arrived in Lautoka today after a 24 hour sail from Savusavu on the north island of Fiji. Most of the sailing was through passes of calm water with coral reefs all around but we tried to time the trip so that most of the passes were done in daylight. I have been pretty surprised at what Fiji is like. I guess I thought it was a tropical island paradise like bora bora. If you had told me it was lots of mountains, Indian food, hot springs, pine forest and sugar mills I'm not sure I would have believed you. It certainly has a little bit of everything. I know that I could spend a month here and not get bored or see it all.

Lautoka, also known as the sugar city for its big sugar exportation industry is the 2nd largest city in Fiji and has a much different feel than Savusavu. It is much more "city like" with literally hundreds of busy shops mostly run by Indians who are decedents of the migrant labor brought here to work the sugar plantations. There is a bus station and a train, a mall, large produce and handicraft market and a large shipping port. Similar in many ways to Papeete, Tahiti.

We anchored around noon and cleared into customs and spent the day on the town. We found a place to get some cheap food, and saw the produce market. I bought a small bag of ground Waka which we will use to try and make Kava later. Kava is the ceremonial drink of the western pacific islands. It has a mild grassy flavor and gives a feeling of relaxation to the drinker. It is very similar to tea and also very traditional and ceremonial. Later on we split up. Will and I went off on our own and Adam and Amanda went exploring elsewhere. We have done this so far it works well since we walk slower and tend to stop and smell the roses a lot usually without a plan just breathing it all in and going with the flow. This method of exploring a new place has worked very well.

We stopped at a barber shop because Will wanted to get a hair/beard cut. Almost every Indian shop here advertises as a barber and a tailor for that matter so it wasn't hard to find. I was even asked if I would like a haircut while walking down the street. Will got a very nice haircut for 3 fijian dollars but I opted to stay a spectator. Afterwards, we wandered into some random shops and looked at everything from second hand cloths to DVD's to handicrafts. We enjoy just walking around and reading the random advertizing signs like, "Meat Bird for sale, Inquire inside", or "Cloths for sale, 5 dollars each." Many eateries offer "takeway" food and almost every single shop has fried food that has been sitting under a hot lamp which is usually cheap and delicious. Of course, a day in town wouldn't be complete without also finding some ice cream.

Later we met back up with Adam and Amanda and headed back to the boat to get a good nights sleep after a long day of exploring in Lautoka. Fiji has been nothing like (yet so much more than) I expected and I know that I would love to come back here again one day.


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Sunday, June 20, 2010

American Samoa

My first impression of American Samoa was in the wee hours of the morning. When we came into the harbor the first thing I noticed was the cloudy harbor waters and then the stench of the tuna canneries. Then I noticed bags, cups, and bottles floating in the water. All I could think was, “gross, this place is awful!” This impression did not improve after we finally got the boat tied up and the bright lights of the McDonalds lit up the sky. It wasn’t until the next morning walking around the town of Fagatogo that my first impressions were proved wrong. The shock of a real American McDonalds after so long in French Polynesia wore off within the first bite of my double quarter pounder with cheese. Walking around town and checking out the local hangouts and restaurants I found myself immersed in one of the friendliest cultures I have been in.

American Samoa seems to have a little bit of the best of everything all rolled into one. Sure I miss the delicious baguette bread of French Polynesia but it has been great to be back among English speakers after what feels like so long. Will and I successfully located the cheapest ice cream cones yet here at just 50 cents for a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Stores here are cheap and have everything (and sometimes more) that you would expect to find in an American hardware of grocery store especially snack foods. I was surprised after one trip to a small store when Will walked out with a bag of “Cuttlefish Chips” and yes, they taste just like cuttlefish…I think. Busses here run everywhere just like in Panama for a dollar a ride and they even blast loud music. The internet here is still not free but it is a fraction of the cost of French Polynesia and is unlimited which makes emailing and web browsing much less stressful. The post office here is USPS and postage to the mainland is as cheap as if I was right back in North Carolina. American Samoa is also wonderfully lacking in tourists which gives it a small town feel which I have really enjoyed.

American Samoa isn’t without its own bad luck though. Minimum wage is on the rise to match that of the U.S soon and unemployment is becoming a bigger and bigger problem as the tuna canning factories that used to employ hundreds are leaving Pago Pago. Tutuila was also hit by a major Tsunami in late September of 2009 and the damage is still very evident in some boarded up buildings and even some boats that are still high and dry. Waterfront businesses in Pago Pago harbor were hit hard and some have yet to recover.

My favorite thing about American Samoan culture is the great emphasis on family and community. This trickles down into everyday interaction between Samoans as well. Everyone I have met has been respectful, ready and willing to help, and friendly on the street often stopping to talk to us. Samoa is definitely on my return-to list and I will do my best to take a little bit of Samoan culture with me. I think we could all take a lesson in family values from the Samoans.


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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 14th, Day 10

We have arrived! We just tied up in Pago Pago, American Samoa. There is industry everywhere, it smells weird, and we can see a McDonalds from the boat. Yup were in America alright. I'm sure it will look better when the sun comes up. 

Stay tuned for updates and pictures as we explore this strange new land. 

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 13th, Day 9

Little to report, light wind this morning with some really rolly swells. We started the motor around noon and have been motoring ever since in hopes of speeding up our arrival. We are surrounded by small rain showers that we can see off in the distance but we've managed to sail around them so far.

Well I probably sealed our fate with that sentence. We just sailed into the rain. Hatches closed and now it's getting hot down below decks. Such is the life of a sailboat in the pacific I suppose.

Were almost there! All is well.


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June 12th, Day 8

This morning we sailed through a drenching rain shower accompanied by another wind shift. I guess the rain likes me since I was again on watch just minding my own business watching the sunrise and here comes this rain shower to get me all wet. I turned the tables though and got a great freshwater shower from it. When Will came to relive me of the watch, naturally the rain subsided and there was a rainbow. Why do I get all the luck?

For dinner, a cold chili with beans and crackers with cheese and spinach dip! We are motoring now due to the light wind that has settled over us in the late afternoon but hope to be under sail only soon. With just 250 miles to go, were all ready to feel dry land again.


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Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 11th, Day 7

Today was another hot one but with good steady wind. We now have about 450Nm to go. In the late afternoon, some scattered clouds started building around us and we could see numerous rain showers. By about 10pm the rain hit in a big downpour that lasted about 20 minutes accompanied by a wind shift to the Notheast. During the downpour I was able to fill all my water bottles and made some gatorade. The downpour ended and so did my shift. We have had to start the motor however to give the batteries some juice. They have not been benefiting from the wind generator at all in the light conditions and the solar panels are shaded for half the day and are not able to keep up with our power usage.

We checked in with the "Pac Sea" radio net this evening. Loud and Clear!


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Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10th, Day 6

Today was a hot one. Staying cool under the shade of the bimini cover was a must. We had a little wind shift in the morning but it straightened back out after lunch and we have made good steady progress directly on course all afternoon at around 5.5 knots. Skies have been clear, sun had been hot, wind has been windy from the SE around 5-8 knots.

This evening we listened in on and joined the Pacific Seafarers Radio Net. This net covers the entire Pacific ocean and meets daily at 3:30 UTC. With the help of about a dozen relay stations from Minnesota to New Zealand to Australia, these ham radio enthusiasts (some with large and powerful antennas) volunteer their time to listen in for any emergencies out on the pacific ocean from any vessel and take position reports from cruising vessels and make sure they arrive safely in their destination. We will be checking in with them every evening until we reach American Samoa.

In other news, our supply of baguette bread was exhausted today and just in time too as the final piece was starting to look a little green. We are starting to get very creative with out meals and are looking forward to some restocking in American Samoa.


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