Greetings from the Uto ni Yalo as it is anchored safely in the Apia Marina. The Pacific Voyagers were afforded an official kava ceremony of welcome at Apia's large centrally located fale. Apia is a hive of activity as people are gathered for their 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations. The arrival of the vakas is one of the many highlights that will make this a special event. Friday begins with a march through town where the Voyagers will play a prominent role. On Friday night there's a UB40 concert followed by fireworks over the harbour. Thursday sees the Uto crew preparing our drua for the trip to Levuka.
This is our 100th article. We have reached the vaunted century since January 23! It hasn't been a race and we certainly aren’t finished as yet. In fact it's surprising we've been able to generate that many! Maybe it's time to apologise for any you've found repetitive, too boring or opinionated. Well perhaps there's no apology for those that dealt with marine conservation as all of us on the Uto ni Yalo believe in an ocean that is pollution and exploitation free. A place where our grandchildren can enjoy the wonders of a coral reef, the majesty of a sperm whale and the outstanding tastes of the ocean from clam to octopus and from tuna to lobster. With each of us doing our share this can be a reality in our time!
By having the privilege of writing 100 articles does that make me a centurion? a centenarian? or simply a fool that doesn't know when to quit talking!?! When one is surrounded by passionate people with stories to share, the articles are much easier to compose. Even with the "rash?" promise to write only that which accentuates the positive, eliminates the negatives and ignores anything in between, there's been numerous topics that hopefully gave you a better picture of what we are all about.
As we approach June and Fiji we become enthused in anticipation of what is in store for us in Levuka, Leleuvia and Suva. Most of us will have been away for 20 weeks with others a bit more or less. What we have in common is that we never lost sight of our heritage and where we came from. We look forward to time with friends and family before sailing on to Vanuatu, Solomons, New Caledonia and hopefully Rotuma before finally bringing our Uto ni Yalo home for what we hope is only a brief rest. There are so many unfinished chapters to our story as it relates to our ocean mother, our drua, our "Uto ni Yalo" - heart of the spirit. Her future journeys, adventures and achievements are only limited by human imagination. What might appear to be something extra-terrestrial to some is merely a "why not?" to others.
Today saw us attend Samoa's 50th Anniversary of their Independence Celebration. The Pacific Voyagers arrived before 0730 and patiently waited and waited and waited for their turn to pridefully parade past the invited dignitaries. At 1230 we got our chance and stamped our popularity with our Pacific Voyager's Haka performance in front of the VIPs in the audience. The after parade function was held at the Apia Yacht Club. We shared a bin full of chilled "bu" followed by Samoan palusami, chicken, pork, prawns, crabs and dalo. We left feeling full and motivated to keep going on.
The long walk back to the Apia Marina was sufficiently punctuated with sightseeing and shop viewing! We arrived at the Uto in time for a brief rest before an outdoor hosing and a shave. There are three warships at the wharf representing New Zealand, Australia and the U.S.A. There is also a vessel from NOAA here monitoring conditions in the ocean. A major project they are undertaking is to plot the position of the very important phytoplankton, that marine microscopic green plant containing chlorophyll from a satellite! This will allow them to assess growth rates//blooms//environmental changes in temperature.
1800 hours saw us absorbed by the colourful and dynamic fireworks display put on to celebrate independence. It lasted for nearly one half hour and thrilled the large crowd that had gathered along the harbour shore. We had a bird's eye view from the Uto. A fitting way to end a day of pride for Samoa.
We hosted two crew men from the USS Chaffee who is visiting Samoa as part of the celebrations. They were enthusiastic participants in the "famous" Uto kava session directed by Joe Browne and ably assisted by none other than Tukana! Our American counterparts were genuinely interested in the differences between sailing on their type of vessel and ours. They enjoyed the two hours spent with us and there's good reason to believe that they may introduce kava sessions on board the Chaffee! We in Fiji already know and understand that there is something unique about sharing kava with friends and acquaintances. Something that engenders good will and caring.
As this is being written Skipper is hosting well over 30 people representing other vakas, Fijians schooling and working here and the crew from his former dive boat, The Naia. Fijian tunes resonate from the two guitars and one ukulele that are being played. Songs flow as easily as the yaqona! Our special guest, The Anglican Archbishop of Polynesia, the honorable and erudite Winston Halapua has joined us for the sail to Fiji [Levuka>Leleuvia>Suva]. We've had the opportunity to share ideas already and look forward to learning much from him.
Our Samoan experience will come to an end tomorrow, culminating in an inter-faith church service prior to our 1200 hours departure. There have been more things to do and see than there has been time in each day. Some took a day trip around the island of Upolu. Others toured Apia, purchased souvenirs or simply ate a Samoan size meal! In 4-5 days time we'll be sighting Ovalau and sailing home to a sailors' welcome. Until then Viti kei Rotuma
Tabu soro - our journey of life has been mirrored in our last 5 months sailing on the Uto ni Yalo.