Date: Tuesday 15th June
Time: 1600 hours Samoa Time (GMT – 11 hours)
Position: Apia, Harbour
Bula Viti, Rotuma kei Vuravura
We stayed at sea all night Friday night drifting with our sea anchor down to slow our drift to around 1 knot. We dropped the sea anchor in a perfect position directly upwind of Sinalei and luckily the current was flowing in the same direction as the wind, East South East.
At 4am everyone was on deck preparing for our arrival. We bought the bow and stern anchors, chain and mooring lines on deck ready for beaching the canoe. We also inflated the Inflatable Tender (dinghy) ready so that I could go ahead in the morning and check the Sinalei Pass for coral heads.
I have been through the Sinalei Pass many times but it has been a few years and the visibility was poor due to low cloud and rainsqualls constantly passing down the coast.
We started motoring towards the Pass just after 5am falling in behind Hine Moana with Te Matau a Maui trailing us.
At around 6.30am we dropped the Inflatable in the water and I sped forward to check the Pass. The swell was at least 2.5 metres and breaking heavily on the Starboard side of the Pass, with a strong rip (current) flowing through the Pass. But there was little wind and it looked safe to enter.
Hine Moana was already speeding through the Pass when I radioed Johnathan to bring the Uto ni Yalo in.
The Pass is only a short 500 metres from the beach so we were soon alongside Hine Moana dropping sails and hoisting our awning as it was raining constantly now.
Customs came aboard and cleared us very quickly without too much fuss. As soon as all three canoes were cleared, the President of the Samoa Voyaging Society, Joe Annandale invited us ashore for a prayer on the beach before we moved up to a Fale behind the beach where eight Matai’s from the local village awaited us.
A Kava ceremony took place for the heads of all the Voyaging Societies. Present were representatives from Tonga, Vanuatu, Aotearoa, Samoa and Fiji.
I was fascinated at the huge difference in the way the Samoan Kava Ceremony was performed. It was almost a casual affair with the Matai’s seeming to have their own little ‘party’ in one half of the Fale while the rest of us waited for our turn to drink from the ceremonial tanoa mixed a Samoan female.
When the Ceremony was over we were treated to breakfast on the beach in front of the three canoes. The rain came down in buckets, which put an end to the breakfast and hastened us to get our gear off the canoe so we could drive to our accommodation in Apia, 45 minutes drive across the Cross Island Road from Sinalei.
Harold our friend from Auckland has flown over with his wife, Emily to help us with logistics while we are in Apia. Harold had our accommodation organised at the Anglican Church Hall at Leifiifi just down from the Apia Hospital.
The boys quickly settled in when we arrived and I took the girls to the Annandale residence where they would be staying.
Harold and Ratu Manoa went to visit our host, Father Richard Schwalger to say hello and organise for the crew to sing a hymn at the Church Service in the morning.
The formal Welcome Ceremony was to take place at Sinalei 11am on Sunday so we decided to have an early night, especially after such a long day and church in the morning.
But first we needed a sleeping pill so a tanoa was mixed and the boys practiced a few hymns while enjoying a ‘wind down’ mix.
At the 9am church service we met Ian Black who worked for YP Reddy in Fiji in the tourism industry for many years. Ian and his wife Lyvia have been in Samoa for nearly 20 years running Sails Restaurant on the Apia waterfront.
The crew sang the opening Hymn and it sounded fantastic. Through out I felt so proud of the eighteen crew members and realised what amazing ambassadors they have been for Fiji.
Father Richard presented a riveting sermon themed “The Kingdom of God & His Forgiveness”. We excused ourselves from the morning tea after church and rushed off to Sinalei for the Welcome Ceremony.
A beautiful day greeted us on the other side of the island at Sinalei. The rain from the day before was nowhere to be seen. A whole beast was being roasted on a open fire on the beach.
Palm trees, a golden sand beach and three canoes as a backdrop, the setting for the Welcome Ceremony couldn’t be better.
Joe Annandale got proceeding started with a short speech and introduction of the Samoa Tourism Dance group. The group performed several well rehearsed items for those gathered before an inspiring speech by the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese.
His Highness delivered a powerful speech praising the efforts of the voyagers and their efforts to claim back environmental ownership of the Pacific Ocean.
Listening to His Highness speak bought back memories of Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara and his ability to deliver such wonderful speeches.
Each of the Societies were called forward to receive a gift of a model of a traditional sailing canoe and to say a few words. Johnathan and I both spoke.
I spoke about all the incredible reception we had received in each country we had visited. I paid tribute to our ancestors and their courage, strength and intelligence in voyaging across the Pacific to inhabit islands stretched over such a huge ocean.
I thanked all our sponsors in Samoa and those that had assisted us. I also presented a specially carved Tanoa to His Highness before calling up the boys to perform the “Vutala na Ua” bole.
Once the formalities were over, lunch was served and the afternoon was spent relaxing with the crews of the three canoes, support boats and invited guests of the Samoan Voyaging Society.
Ben Vai and his band performed some amazing music all afternoon. He announced that he was half ‘biskete’ from Rotuma and he sang several Fijian numbers that had our crew up on their feet dancing in the sand
More on our Samoa visit tomorrow.
Colin/Uto ni Yalo
Report by Satellite Phone courtesy of DIGICEL