Friday, August 24, 2012


500 miles west-northwest of Suwarrow Atoll lies Western Samoa (now simply
known as Samoa).  It is an independent nation, originally colonized by
Germany and later governed by New Zealand.  It consists of two islands,
Upolu and Savai’i and is neighbored to the east by American Samoa, a US
territory.  A number of cruising yachts visit the town of Pago Pago in
American Samoa each year in order to make repairs or have parts shipped
cheaply from the US.  In the past, its harbor had a poor reputation due to
its industrial nature and ever-present, foul odor from 4 tuna canneries.
Because of American Samoa’s reputation, we neglected to include a visit to
the islands of Samoa in this season’s original itinery.   Fortunately for
us, our plans changed due to feedback from other cruisers and we found
ourselves headed toward another tropical paradise that will remain one of
our favorite places.

After a 3 1/2 day, downwind sail where we experienced a broad range of
wind speeds, we arrived off Samoa’s main port and city of Apia.  After
being cleared-in by the port controller, we proceed to a relatively new,
American-style marina, complete with floating docks, fresh water and
electrical power hook-ups (220V 50HZ).  As we motored slowly to an empty
slip, we were greeted by cruising friends Trevor and Joanne from the
British yacht “Malarkey” and John and Helen from the New Zealand yacht
“Awaroa”.  We had gotten to know them while in Bora Bora and Suwarrow and
we were anxious to share more adventures with them.  Since they had
arrived a few days earlier, they already knew their way around and had
arranged for a rental van that we’d all share for 2 days of island site-

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity with visits to the island’s
many scenic locations and points of interest.  A first stop was at the
former home of author Robert Louis Stevenson who lived in a beautiful
mansion called Villa Vailima on the island for 4 years before his death.
A tour of the mansion proved fascinating as it gave a good look at both
the author’s life and that of colonial Samoa.

During our 2 days driving around the island, we marveled at the incredible
beauty and the simplicity in which most people lived.  Due to the pleasant
year-round climate, many homes consist of just wood or concrete floors
with roofs supported by poles.  In place of walls are tarps or curtains
that are typically left rolled up allowing the cooling breezes to flow
through.  A unique feature on nearly all homes is the presence of above-
ground crypts, some simple, some ornate, in the front yards.  It seems
that property in Samoa is rarely sold and simply passed along to family
members from generation to generation.  It is considered appropriate that
the land also be a resting place for those departed.  Another impressive
aspect of the Samoan society was the presence of an amazing number of
churches of various faiths that ranged from modest to grand in scale.  It
was sure a testimony as to the significance religion plays in the people’s

Aside from the sight-seeing, our island driving tour included swims in a
beautiful grotto accessed by a 100 foot, nearly-vertical ladder and
sliding down slippery, moss-covered rocks in a cascade that dropped into
several rain forest pools.

Evenings in Apia were spent sampling a few of the local eateries, watching
traditional dance presentations and socializing with other cruisers.
Another high-point of the visit was watching the morning flag raising
ceremony that beings at the city’s police station.  Uniformed officers
wearing traditional, black “lava lava” skirts and sandals would parade to
the main government building accompanied by a German-style, oompah band.
After the flag raising, they would proceed back to their station, through
temporarily blocked streets, all marching with precision to the beat of
the music.

After just 5 days in Apia, we set sail in the company of “Malarkey” and
“Awaroa” to Samoa’s island of Savai’i, third largest in the Pacific.  Our
schedule allowed just 3 days there anchored in lovely Matautu Bay on the
island’s north shore but we could easily have spent weeks absorbing the
slow pace and simplicity of the island lifestyle.  Alas, with many more
miles to sail and places to visit this season, coupled with the need to
take advantage of a favorable weather window, we reluctantly raised our
anchors and moved on.

Part of the fun of the cruising life style is to change plans on a whim
and go where your spirit takes you.  We feel so fortunate for having had
the opportunity to visit Samoa, see its beauty and interact with its
incredibly friendly people.  As we sailed away and watched its islands
sink below the horizon, we couldn’t help but feel richer for the


  1. Very fun! I was in Pago Pago in 1974 for a month, stayed with the island cheif's wife in her fale. Even got a drivers license! Interesting place. I know you're in West. Samoa, but still similar. Where to next? We're getting our boat ready for next year...Ben. 423. Feliz viento.

  2. Another wonderful post. Thanks. It's certainly fun to be reading your blogs, while sitting here in the warmth of our comfy home in the coast range near Corvallis, Or. I get excited, but yet a little anxious, after reading yours, and others, experiences with weather. Of course I know a lot about it, but it's so EASY to be on land. We'll be back, and I'm happy a friend will visit us in Tahiti/Moorea for 2 wks. before we move on. Miss you two.