Odyssey Log

Pacific Impressions: Next Stage of The Blue Planet Odyssey

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Last summer when I took my daughter Nera up to the Arctic to sail with her grandfather Jimmy, I promised my son Dan that I would take him to the Pacific the following year.

Somewhere hot,’ he said, not being very keen on cold weather sailing.

As the Blue Planet Odyssey’s Southern Route was due to pass through some of the most interesting, and remote, parts of the Pacific, in July and August 2015, I thought this would time perfectly with Dan’s summer holidays.

Traditional sailing canoe in Apia harbour

For me, it would be a more personal pilgrimage, as I last visited these places some thirty-odd years ago as a child with my family when we spent three years sailing the Pacific from 1978-1980. I wrote about those adventures in my memoir ‘Child of the Sea’. At that time few people had heard of Tuvalu, while now everyone knows the name of that island nation which is so much at risk from climate change.

Thirty seven years on, I make it back up the hill to Robert Louis Stevenson’s hilltop tomb

The best laid plans don’t always come to pass, however, as any sailor will know. I was due to sail into the Pacific with Jimmy on board Aventura, but the timing ended up not being right, and Aventura headed north instead, to the US west coast and an eventual second attempt at the Northwest Passage.

I was sorely disappointed to give up the Pacific dream, until Jimmy came up with one of his usual brainwaves, and next thing I was to ship as crew on board the doughty Drina, with veteran Australian sailor Michael Thurston, fresh from his own successful NWP transit and overwinter in Dutch Harbour.

And so it came to pass that Dan and I began the long haul westwards from the UK via Auckland to Apia, Samoa, and a rendezvous with Michael in Apia Marina. The familiar green hull of Drina was easy to spot – I’d last seen her and Michael almost one year earlier, far far north as we left Graham’s Harbour on Dundas Island, having decided to turn back.

Dan is eager to start his first Pacific ocean voyage onboard Drina

Fresh from a temperate English summer, and a cool New Zealand wintry stopover, the warm and humid air hit us getting off the plane at the same time as the sweet sounds of a live band regaling tourists and homecomers at the baggage recovery area.

Sweat trickled down our faces. ‘Hot enough for you yet?’ I asked Dan. He just grinned.

Here are his first impressions…

My mother (Doina) and I arrived in Samoa on the 12th July by plane from New Zealand after a long flight from Singapore (we arrived at Singapore from Paris after staying a night in a hotel there).

On arrival in Samoa we were hit by a huge blast of hot air. The sea was sparkling in the background behind the plane and it was beautiful – Until you realise that you have a jumper on and are starting to die from the underestimated heat.

After going through the small airport we took a taxi to the harbour where Michael Thurston was awaiting with his boat Drina. We had our evening dinner out across the street from the harbour and due to jet lag fell quickly asleep on board. Doina more so as I strangely wasn’t affected that much.

On the second day we woke up very early and didn’t do much in the morning except from go to the foreign office of Tokelau asking for permission if we could visit there. Then in the afternoon Doina and I went snorkeling in the beautiful reefs. I also husked a coconut with my bare hands that I later ate although it took half an hour to husk. But I was impressed that I was strong enough.

Michael introduces Dan to the refreshing soursop, known as Sasalapa in Samoan


Colourful fresh produce in Apia market

The third day was great because we climbed up to the tomb of R.L Stevenson. However it rained the whole way because all the clouds condensed at the mountains. We were absolutely soaked through and the view was blocked by clouds at the top to our displeasure. The way down was extremely slippery and at one point a rope had to be used to cling onto when climbing back down a steep slope. Afterwards we visited the museum at the bottom and took a taxi back to the boat.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s house in Vailima where he lived until his death in 1894

Yet back at an internet café when Doina checked her emails we received one which said that our request on visiting Tokelau was denied by the village elders because of insufficient info on our health – which the man that we came to didn’t ask for when we sent the request in the first place.

Now we are spending one more day here in Samoa where we might go for another snorkeling expedition in the afternoon.

We leave tomorrow straight to Tuvalu!

Samoan drafts game in the marketplace


Consulting the South Pacific chart

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