September 2017

Sunday 3rd

Apia, Samoa

We have been here for almost a week now, berthed in the rather bijoux marina.  Last Thursday night we caught the ferry to Pago Pago, American Samoa.  Our mission?  To collect the various packages of spares and other stuff we’d ordered a few weeks ago.  American Samoa has a US Post Office and postal rates are as if it was another American State.  The ferry left at 2330 on 31st August and took eight hours to get to Pago Pago.  It was a fairly horrid eight hours in quite big seas and lots of people being seasick.

You can see Emma Louise to the right of shot and the ferry is the blue ship at left.  This is the whole of the marina!

On arrival in Pago Pago we had to clear both customs and immigration.  After that it was off to MacDonalds for breakfast.  We were surprised and delighted to run into Malcolm Firth who we had last seen in the San Blas Islands about 18 months ago!  A long catch up session followed.

Pago Pago Harbour

At the post office we were amazed to find that every one of the items we’d ordered was waiting for us. There were spares for the autopilot and water maker, a new masthead wind sensor, a new chart plotter, an action camera (like a GoPro but half the price) and most importantly, a new cover for Sheryl’s iPad.

The return trip left at 1600 and the crossing was much better with the wind behind us.  Luckily for us the customs officer who’d cleared us in was on duty and allowed us “yacht in transit” clearance for all our booty.

Friday 8th


Having worked on repairs for the last three days we had a day off today and did a little sight seeing.  Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last few years of his relatively short life in Samoa. He was buried here, age 44, after suffering what was probably a severe stroke.  His tomb is halfway up a hill behind the main town of Apia.

The walk up the hill is very warm and sweaty at this time of the year but well worth it.  You can see why he asked to be buried up there, something the Samoans found really strange as they are all buried close to their homes.  You see memorials in front of virtually every home, particularly in the rural villages.

The next photo is for no other reason than I like it, we saw these fungi growing out of a decaying log as we walked up the hill…

They are very small, each one about the size of a large pea.

Whilst here RLS built a large family home which has been restored and is now a museum.  Unfortunately most of the current contents are not original although they are representative of what might have been in the house in the 1800s.

Sunday 10th

Apia Samoa

I spent most of last week working on repairs and installations.  Those of a nervous and non-technical disposition can look away now.  For most of the year the water maker has been producing saltier and saltier water.  I tried cleaning the reverse osmosis (RO) membrane with both alkali and acid solutions but the acid did for it completely and all we got was salt water.  The unit in question is a Katadyn Powersurvivor 80 and uses two, proprietary membranes at over $400 US each.  However, I couldn’t dismantle the pressure vessel that the membranes are in so was faced with buying a new one of those as well.  Total cost well over $1000 US.  After much research I found a solution.  Most RO membranes are made in industry standard sizes.  The problem with our water maker is that it is a very low flow rate, about 10 litres an hour, and finding a small enough RO membrane was difficult.  I eventually selected a Hydranautics SWC 2514 that is rated about 30% higher.  What that means in practical terms is that the product water, the permeate, will have a higher salt content than it would with a higher flow rate through it.  One of the US distributors ran a model and predicted we would have water at about 320 parts per million (ppm) of total dissolved salts (TDS).  The US Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) guidelines allow for up to 500ppm for drinking water.

Whilst at it I also fitted a 5 micron pre-filter to the system, something we hadn’t had before but generally recommended by most authorities.  You can imagine my disappointment when I unwrapped the new RO membrane to find the company I’d bought it from had sent the wrong one!  They’d shipped a Dow Chemicals one, the same size but rated at almost twice the capacity of the water maker pump.  After consulting with the supplier I installed the Dow one and it is producing water at about 540ppm, over the FDA limit but you still can’t taste the salt and it is much better than the 900ppm we’d had towards the end of the old one.  When we get to Fiji the supplier will be shipping me the right membrane so we should have a water maker that produces at around 320ppm.  Total cost?  Less than $500 and a new membrane is about $150.

Also repaired (I think as it hasn’t been sea trialled yet) was the auto pilot.  I’d stripped the hydraulics down when we were in Niue and found some foreign matter in one of the control valves.  However, some of the O rings then needed replacing.  The spares were delivered, from the UK, in less than two weeks and were waiting for us in Pago Pago.  A couple of hours work and much bleeding of air from the system and it is now working again.

The broken forestay was dealt with by re-using the old one I’d kept from Panama City in June 2016.  It was a bit short so some anchor chain and a couple of shackles have made up the difference.  We’ll get a new one in Fiji.  Whilst up the mast I also fitted the new wind sensor.  Unfortunately there is no data on the instruments despite the right voltages being received by our Nexus data centre. After many emails backwards and forwards with Garmin’s excellent UK support staff we think the server is broken and they are going to ship a new one to Fiji for free!!!

The new chart plotter was bought because the screen on the old Garmin is now barely readable.  Again, after much research, I selected a 7″ Raymarine Axiom for $650.  In the future we can add a radar and AIS to it.  So far I’m not that impressed as some of the promised functionality is not yet available.  e.g. the ability to be able to download and display GRIB (weather) data.  Raymarine say that should be in a software release “later this year”.  Also you need a PC or Mac to be able to download charts and the necessary software won’t run on my Mac because its too old.

Maybe the best improvement to EL is a new cabin fan on my side of the saloon!  Why I didn’t fit one years ago I have no idea and it makes life so much more comfortable in these rather hot and humid climes.

Sunday 17th

Apia, Samoa

If you are wondering why all my posts are on a Sunday whilst we here the answer is simple – the pubs are closed!  Not that they actually have pubs here but being the Christian nation that they are Samoans strictly observe Sunday as a day of worship and rest.  As a result nothing is open and that includes most of the bars and restaurants.  A pity because the place overlooking the marina, The Edge, is very nice and serves jugs of cold Vailama (the local lager) at a very reasonable price.

Last Monday we caught the ferry to Samoa’s other large island, Savai’i.  Its only an hour from the west end of ‘Upolu and costs 12 Tala per head, each way, about £4.  We rented a car for 48 hours and stayed in a delightful beach fale (think beach hut with no sides) on the south coast for two nights.

The cost was a mere 75 Tala per head (£25) and that included breakfast and dinner!

On Wednesday we drove around the entire island and took in some of the sights.

This Catholic church was ruined by Cyclones Ofa and Val in 1990 and 1991.  It sits at the western end of Savai’i on the Falealupo peninsula.  Unfortunately its modern replacement, across the road, is nothing like as photogenic.

To my mind the most impressive sight are the natural blowholes at Alofaaga, on the south coast.

Please ignore the date stamp, I’m still learning how to use the new camera!

Another impressive sight, although not natural this time are the local buses…

Thursday 29th

apia, samoa

We are planning to leave for Fiji tomorrow afternoon.  Hopefully we’ll be there no later than Wednesday and I’ll be back on line a day or two later.

Its now October and we are in Fiji.