What a drag...
Sunday 13th October 2013
It has certainly been an interesting stay here in American Samoa so far.
Entering the main harbour at Pago Pago. Heading towards the yacht anchorage at the head of the bay.
On the plus side – the people are warm, friendly and welcoming and go out of their way to be helpful. The various officials we met whilst checking in went cheerfully about their work and all was completed with the minimum of fuss. In the supermarket it was insisted upon that we go to the head of the queue, and walking back to the dinghy dock with only a couple of bags of shopping we were given a lift by the very lady we went ahead of in the shop as it was ‘too hot to walk with heavy shopping’.
We took the bus to Tafuna, about an hour away, to see if we could get a part for the outboard engine. The driver misunderstood where we wanted to go, and we ended up being dropped at a gas showroom. We realised we were in the wrong place as the bus disappeared from sight, but the lady in the showroom was so kind and helpful. First she phoned the place we should have gone to, to find out what time they close. In 20 minutes came the answer. So she phoned for a taxi (“only 5 minutes away at the airport and don’t let him charge you more than about $3 – if he does, ask to see his price list”) and when it came she explained to him in Samoan exactly where we needed to go. We made it with time to spare. Unfortunately they didn’t have the part we needed, but we got to see some of the island and to travel in their buses, which are basically flat-bed trucks onto which they have built, in wood, the rest of the bus. Photos will follow.
On the down side – the anchorage has very poor holding and the bottom is foul – something that we discovered first hand on our first night at anchor. We moved from the customs dock early on Wednesday morning as the supply ship we were tied to was leaving. We dropped the anchor in a suitable spot, let out 60 metres of chain in 15 metres depth and set it well.
Around lunchtime the blow that we had been expecting started, with winds gusting to 40 knots, and by early evening boats were beginning to drag their anchors. We stayed put at first, but by mid-evening it became apparent that we were slowly dragging too. There was a bit of room behind us, and as it was now very dark we were reluctant to re-anchor in the strong winds, so we monitored our progress backwards. Just as we were beginning to get uncomfortably close to another boat, the dragging stopped. We stayed in the same place until the wind began to drop, around 2 a.m., and both boats were swinging in tandem. At this point we discontinued anchor watch, set the anchor alarm to minimum and got some sleep.
In the morning we were still in the same spot, but decided we needed to re-anchor to give us and the neighbouring boat more space in case of a repeat performance. All was fine until the anchor had just broken out, when the chain came up with what looked like a bedsheet wrapped around it. We couldn’t lift the anchor any more until the sheet was cleared, so Rod got in his dinghy and started to cut it off. Then our engine cut out. It turned out that the bedsheet was in fact an old sail, the other end of which had wrapped itself around our propeller. So now we had no anchor down, and no engine, and we were drifting backwards in 20 knots of wind.
There was no choice but to drop the anchor again, and fortunately the sailcloth must have torn because at that point one end was attached to the chain and the other end to our prop. We let out 60 metres of chain, and with no engine, had to allow the wind to set the anchor. Fortunately it held, and by this time help had arrived in the form of other cruisers in their dinghies. It took two of them, taking turns and using Rod’s hookah, two hours to cut the sail from the prop. Our thanks are due to Mike from Slow Rider and Dane from Cadence II who gave their help because that’s what cruisers do.
Part of the sail retrieved from the prop... and more...
and more. Dane warms up with a coffee after cutting the sail off the prop.
Boz, Dane’s brother, coffee drinker and supervisor. Thanks guys.
That was Wednesday. Since then we have had 15-20 knots of wind every day and have not, as yet, left the boat unattended, just in case. Steve took a bus ride yesterday in search of parts with Rod. They came back with a case of beers and various tool-type goodies from Ace Hardware, but no parts. Tomorrow I may venture ashore to do some laundry.
So, the jury is out on Pago Pago. If they put in some mooring buoys so that boats could be secure, it would be a lovely place to spend time. The island itself is beautiful and the people friendly and welcoming. The harbour is not.