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We are on a mooring in Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa. Pago Pago is pronounced "Pongo Pongo" because Samoans pronounce "g" as "ng." (I have even heard them say "Pow Pow." Don’t ask!) Lush green hills rise up all around us. The harbor makes a dogleg to the left that leads into a protected cove, virtually blocking the high seas associated with storms, even though we still get the winds. This is a "hurricane hole," a safe place for yachts to "hole" up during the hurricanes that can, but don’t always, form during this time of year—November through March. Therefore we will spend the season in Samoa.
During this time Bob and I have made lists of things to do. Bob wants to work on the boat, replace the boom that broke and had to be splinted the first night out of Beaufort, North Carolina, last year. It is holding up very well, but looks ungainly. The right sized wood is available at a lumber yard a stone’s throw from the boat, but Bob also needs a place to work. We miss the convenience of working on the boat in Panama or in North Carolina. Some things we have to buy here. We also have to order some parts for the boat and return some equipment through the mail for repairs. This is a great place for that because it s the U.S. Postal System, so it’s cheaper and no customs.
I have lots of things I want to do, too: explore Samoa, make clothes and new slipcovers out of the lovely fabrics on sale here, finish some of my cross-stitch pieces, figure out how or if I want to try to get one or more of my short stories published, and I’m looking for a teaching job in the local school system. Although there is a critical need for teachers, especially reading teachers, in the school system, there is also a hiring freeze. Oh, well!
We just received our "Seattle" mail which is why I am just now getting around to writing letters. Between now and the end of March write directly to us, the fastest way, takes about five days from the states. Use this address:
Always write Air Mail on the letter/package to be sure it arrives quickly. Boat mail takes a month or more.
Pago Pago? The people are friendly—and they speak English! I even tracked down and talked to the grandparents of one of the kids I taught in Panama a few years ago. The father, was a GI from Samoa and the mother was from Hawaii. When I told them I was going to sail the Pacific, they said we should visit Samoa but I didn’t think it was on our list. As soon as I arrived, I tried to find any relatives and ended up talking to the grandmother. She said she’d tell her son that Mrs. Webb was in Samoa and says "Hi!" to Melissa.
The people are very modest, compared to French Polynesia. probably a different religious group evangelized them. Contrary to the weather, the women wear long skirts and high necked blouses with sleeves. They make their own clothes, without patterns, using the colorful island prints. The men wear sports shirts and Bermuda shorts or lavalavas—wraparound "skirts" that go down below the knee. The average guy wears a lavalava that seems to be two yards of an island print wrapped and tucked at the waist. The businessman wears a plain-colored tailored lavalava, complete with slash pockets.
The harbor water is filthy with trash and silt, etc. It is also noisy with a diesel electric power plant across from the anchorage that runs day and night. There are about 20 yachts moored or anchored here and lots of fishing boats and freighters come in and out. There are fish canneries across the harbor and when the wind is right you lose your appetite for fish. Outrigger canoes slice through the water in the afternoon as crews of six practice for weekly competition. It rains a bit every day and sometimes we get a dowsing, but those are only the drawbacks to Pago Pago.
I finally got to do the wash at a real laundromat, the first time I used one since leaving Panama in April. The rest of the time I have been washing on deck in a bucket and hanging the wash on lines strung fore and aft.
Back to the yachts: We met some of them in our travels and are meeting the rest little by little. There is a "harbor net" started by one of the yachts that goes on the air (VHF) at 8 a.m. every day. They discuss the weather (always a concern for small boats), cruisers call in to ask about things, there’s a "buy and sell" time, and sometimes affairs are planned. The "fleet." had a pot-luck on the beach with a nice turn-out. We bar-b-qued our own meats, dipped into each other’s dish-to-share and enjoyed ourselves, until a sudden storm sent us fleeing to the nearby yacht club (small like the one in Panama), where we continued visiting until the storm passed. Another pot-luck is planned for Thanksgiving with everyone splitting the cost of the turkeys.
The prices are reasonable here in American Samoa. Anything is reasonable after French Polynesia, where we frequently spent over $100 (US) on food, mostly in cans, and Bob could carry it out of the store in one trip, unaided! Here our first shock was an ice cream cone—with two huge scoops—that cost 60 cents! In French Polynesia we bought ice cream sandwiches that cost almost $6 apiece! We went to the best hotel the other day and had lunch in their coffee shop. I had a reuben, fries and coke; Bob had a hamburger, fries and coffee and our bill was $6.89. In French Polynesia, just the hamburger alone was $5, sodas were at least $2. We’d go out for a simple lunch and spend over $20. We didn’t eat out much there. We’re making up for it here. Our first big splurge after the ice cream was at Paisano’s Pizza, the best we’ve had since leaving the states. The last splurge was a buffet dinner and Polynesian show at the same hotel that cost each of us $15.95. In Moorea the same thing goes for $45 (US) each!
The other thing we like is ice! No kidding! For a boat without refrigeration, where we have to watch that there are no left overs and can’t keep fresh foods for long without ice, that’s a real problem. Ice was either unavailable or too far way to transport or too expensive in French Polynesia. Since everything was expensive anyway, we ate on the boat all the time, Once in a while Bob would go ashore and rush back with an ice cold liter of Pepsi and we’d guzzle it down so quickly our heads would spin from the unaccustomed chill and tingle of carbonation! You’d think we were winos or something the way we acted! Here we can dinghy ashore, a trip of a few yards, cross the street and go to the grocery with as much ice as we can handle. We have our cooler packed with ice, sodas, meats, cheeses. milk and vegetables. Heaven! Doesn’t take much to make yachties happy!
Speaking of yachties, we are poor cousins to a lot of them. Most of the boats are equipped with refrigerators, some with freezers as well many have microwaves, some have TVs and VCRs, others have lots of electronic gear like radar, ham radios and weather fax, a few have water makers. Whenever possible we like to go on those yachts to see how the other half live. One we met in Tahaa had stained glass ports, a palm tree in the cabin and free standing fireplace—all on a 38 toot boat! But whenever someone decides to get the "grand tour" of the Hunky-Dory, we always get the oohs and aahs when they come below and see how roomy we are. One lady said it was like a summer cabin in Maine
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