Monday, October 26, 2009

More pics from Kids Club

Lautoka Market

Ladies weaving palm baskets in the market. They fill them up with cassava root to sell.

Lautoka pics

Pictures from Navikai, working for the elderly Indian couple. The young girl with the baby is named Koma, she's trying to leave her abusive husband but has no where to go.
The train is the sugar cane train that goes through Lautoka.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Auburn haired mongooses are shy and quick. Imported many years ago to control Fiji's snake population, they rustle into foliage at the first sight of a human. They're cute but are known to steal chicks and eggs from the hen houses. When I see them, I think about brave Riki Tiki Tavi, the story of a mongoose in India.

Also the mynah birds. Their bright yellow beaks striping back to their yellow eyes are creatures from Riki Tiki Tavi, as well. They were an exotic creature when I read about them as a child. But they are ubiquitous in the Pacific Isles. In Fiji, there is a second type of mynah that is mostly black with three tiny feathers sticking up above its beak, like a mustache.

Yesterday, we went to the Indian squatter camp outside of Nadi (pronounced "Nandi"). It's been there for a few decades. Navakai is the place we went on the last tsunami scare. We were going to dig out the ditch behind the house of an ancient couple when we heard the warning. We left with promises to return. And we did. It was much better organized this time. We had more strong males, more shovels, supplies to patch the corrugated tin roof, and Rena was with us to translate. All Fijians over age 5 speak English but also speak either Hindi or a couple dialects of Fijian. Most are more comfortable in their non-English language.

When we showed up, the ancient Indian couple was not home. We were surprised because we'd called ahead. Nevertheless, we set to work. Brian, a boy from Kid's Club, and another lightweight young man went up on the precarious roof to look for leaks. The whole structure could have been pushed over with the strength of one or two men. The rest of the crew went out back to start digging. At first, a handful of neighbors gathered to discourage us from digging the ditch. Luckily, Brian had warned the team about this very possibility.

Because I had planned to be in the house with the couple, helping with inside projects, I didn't have anything to do. So I designated myself team photographer. After some pictures, a very curious and chatty neighbor called me over to sit next to her house to talk. Soon, it was myself and about 5 neighbors asking me questions about why we were there, what group we were with, where I was from, life on the sailboat, etc. The fact that the YWAM crew were volunteers providing the supplies with their own money made a big impact on one man.

A young woman called me over and put a chair next to the outdoor cooking fire. She proceeded to tell me her story. told me about living with her in-laws who hit her, her husband hits her, and she wants to leave but has two young girls and can't support them. He wants her to leave, also but let him keep the girls. It's not like at home where you can find ways to work if you have kids. The mothers are dependent on the men. She used to go to a Christian church but married a Hindu man and he won't let her go to church. There are so many needs. It makes me feel tiny. I guess that's good. God wouldn't want us trying to put our fingers in the God sized holes in people's lives. All I was able to do was pray with her, encourage her there were people to help, and put her in contact with Rena's church which is nearby.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Counselors going to Samoa

Seven or eight trained biblical counselors will be flying to Samoa and American Samoa within the next week to offer grief counseling to the Samoan villages that were worst hit in the tsunami. Losana, one of the gals hoping to go was telling me that some villagers are still living up in the jungley hills of Samoa in tents. They are still afraid of returning to the low lands where their village was.

If you would like to help pay for the airfare of any of the Personal Transformation Center counselors, write them:

If you want to check out more information about PTC, here's their website:

Marine Reach

Imagine seeing your grown children for the first time in many many years, or receiving glasses that made your previously blurry world, clear. Or, think about having severe tooth pain for months, unable to go to the dentist. What joy you would experience if a dentist arrived at your village by ship to relieve your pain for free. Marine Reach is a branch of YWAM that makes things like these happen. They use ships to reach remote islands, and 4 - wheel drive "mercy trucks" to reach remote inland villages with mobile medical and dental clinics. Marine Reach strives to meet people's medical, physical, and spiritual needs. While people wait all day to see the doctor, members of Marine reach listen to them, pray with them, and perform evangelistic or health-related skits. Dental chairs have been set up under mango trees, eye testing and glasses fittings under coconut trees. Members of teams have repaired outboard motors for local fishermen to be able to continue their livelihoods, other teams repair people's homes, unload medical supplies sent in containers from other countries, or build medical clinics, playgrounds, and install water tanks.

The thing that draws Brian and me to this organization is its hands-on, practical approach to loving people. From 2002 to 2008, 30,121 people were treated in the islands of Fiji. This includes dentistry, ophthalmology surgeries, optometry (people given glasses), health education for entire villages, Bibles distributed, etc. Many other Pacific Islands as well as places in Asia, South America, and the Mediterranean received similar help. All services are provided for free.

We have been welcomed by the Marine Reach base here in Lautoka. It is a multi-ethnic group: Indians, Fijians, New Zealanders, a Korean and a Filipina make up the staff. This base will be hosting at least 12 short term (two weeks) land-based outreaches in 2010 with different medical focuses. One 5-month Discipleship Training School (this is the same school I attended in South Africa in 1999) is also planned. If you are a nurse, a dentist, a doctor, eye doctor, have other practical skills, or are just willing to help out, feel free to contact Marine Reach. They will put your skills to good use! If you are interested in attending either of their two Discipleship Training Schools next year, or becoming staff, contact them.

When I asked Richard, our main Marine Reach liaison here, what their needs/prayer requests were, he gave me the following list:
1. Doctors, nurses, surgeons and dentists are needed for short but preferably longer term basis. It's volunteer, and you pay for all of your expenses.
2. Financial support for the staff: Rakesh and Rachel, Richard and Thelma, Rena, Barry and Beryl, Ben and Kaba, and Lusi. They do not have paying jobs but they work hard leading groups, taking care of needy kids, starting a church, training volunteers, etc.
3. Ben and Kaba have four children of their own and are housing Kaba's sister and her six kids. They will be receiving 3 more small orphaned children in December. They need a larger house! We saw their shack and it is about as roomy as Nomad is.
4. The Marine Reach base in Fiji is looking to buy a property that would be set up to train 40- 50 students at a time, as well as be the headquarters for organizing the many outreaches. One million Fijian dollars would do the trick.
5. They have donated their current ship, M/V Pacific Link to the Marine Reach in Australia and are looking for a larger ship that could house two separate surgeries at a time (Pacific Link could only do one at a time).

Web Site:

Email: info-fj@marinereach.

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Friday, October 16, 2009


Yesterday, we visited Ben and Kaba at their village, Naviyonga. They had asked us to come to "tell stories and get to know each other". When we arrived, Ben was cutting a piece of wood to add to the newly built cooking shed outside their house. Kaba and her two sisters were sitting on the pandanu mat inside the house, kneading dough and placing it in washed out tuna cans. Kaba shooed us outside and Ben placed a plastic tarp on the ground under a mango tree for us to sit on together. Kaba came back out with changed clothes, apologizing profusely. Soon a little girl came out carrying a tray with glasses and a pitcher of Tang (or some equivalent). We spent most of the next 4 hours on that tarp sitting and talking. Ana, Kaba's sister brought us the homemade buns that had been baked in the tuna tins with fried eggs tucked inside. Those buns were about the best homemade bread I've ever had. That was our lunch. We talked about the children in the village, looked over the photocopies from 'Where there is no Doctor' I'd brought them. They devoured the information. pointing out things to each other in Fijian. The 2$ scabies medicine I'd brought for their nieces that live in their house was much appreciated. I showed them in the copies where it talked about the treatment. I had also copied a couple pages from the book that talked about malnutrition in kids and beneficial LOCAL foods to combat it. They were surprised that cassava leaves were high in protein. Kaba said she'd heard of people eating the leaves but hadn't eaten them herself. Cassava root is the mainstay of their diet. It's starchy and filling and easy to plant but the village kids need protein. Hurray for a local plant that provides free nutrition.

After our visit to their "farm" it was back to the tarp to have lemon tea made from the leaves from a bush 10 meters away. While we drank the water from the green coconut Ben cut for us, Ana brought a plate of fried cassava out for us and we pulled out the graham crackers we'd brought to share. We told them stories of life at sea. When it was time to go, Ben walked us through the village, over a narrow cement bridge NOT built by the Army Corp of Engineers into the next village where we waited for a taxi to take us back to Lautoka.

The hardest part of the whole day was sitting around visiting in the middle of the day. It's just not part of my culture to "visit" until evening. Even so, we felt humbled by their generosity. We carried a large plastic bag of cassava and some green beans they'd picked from their garden for us, as well as 4 more of the delicious buns we'd eaten at lunch.

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Sugar City trail of scents

Many mornings we walk from the wharf to the PTC. The scents of the town change as we go. With the sugar refinery on the edge of the city, the air is often filled with the smell of mild molasses. Other smells contribute to the story of the sugar industry and the life of Lautoka, the self-proclaimed "Sugar City". Smoke fills the air from September to November as the workers burn the cane fields before harvesting. The fires remove the extra leaves and allow them to chop faster, machetes unimpeded. Even though Nomad is half a mile from shore, the ash from the fields and from the sugar plant covers the decks and cockpit when we come back in the late afternoons.

Every day we dinghy across the main channel, pass the wharf with the containers, large cranes and container ships, and tie up the dinghy at a cement wall. When we leave the port security gates, we walk past the "hot bread and milkshop" (they don't sell milk. I asked.). The smell of bread and hot grease trickle out the door and mingle with the smell of pine sawdust from the mountain of wood chips at the lumber yard behind the hot bread shop. This side road goes to a roundabout where we turn left into the city and pass the sugar mill with trucks and drivers waiting across the street to deliver their loads of sugar cane. The diesel fumes and molasses mingle together all the way up the street and past the carts of cane loaded and waiting on the narrow gage rails for the sugar engine to bring them to the plant. We turn right at the post office and head up the street, passing under the fragrant frangipani tree which covers the ground with white blossoms. For about a mile we walk up an inclined main road and diesel fumes spew out of the open windowed buses and mix with the scent of cut grass. Many parks and large trees line this walk. Every day, men with weed eaters persistently cut the grass one section at a time. We have yet to see a lawn mower. At the top of the hill we turn left into the Simla neighborhood which contains more parks. Here, the cut grass smells are sometimes mixed with the odor of curry wafting out of the houses. Then we cut across a park and arrive at the gates of PTC's driveway.

In the town, the smells are curry, hot bread, grime, diesel, and that peculiar odor of its multiple grocery stores: dry goods, meat, and produce mixed together into the air conditioning.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kid's Club pictures

time flying

The last week has been full! We sailed to Musket Cove, a cruiser's mecca on a nearby island. We relaxed, met up with another sailor we'd met before, met a new couple that are former YWAMers, took a hike, barbecued at the large outdoor pit on a tiny island, and Brian kiteboarded. Since we're both introverts, it was good to get away from the many people-oriented activities we've been doing. We sailed back to Lautoka on Monday in intermittent rain. We caught about 25 gallons of rain for our water tanks.
Tuesday, Brian finished working on the cupboards at PTC, we had lunch at Marine Reach and we learned more about what they're doing. Wednesday we had our dental hygiene talk at Naviyoga village (same place as the women's group). Hmmmmm. How do describe that. We brought 50 toothbrushes and there about 80 kids. There were about 80 kids. All hyper, not all understanding English. We had a lot of shushing sessions. Even Doctor Rabbit, the toothy bunny puppet wasn't distracting enough to hold attention. But we pushed through. Proper brushing, flossing and nutrition were our topics. When I asked for 'one more thing that helps your teeth stay healthy' a chorus of "gum" was heard. GUM? Where did they hear that? When the presentation came to an end, it was time to hand out toothbrushes. We decided to give 2 brushes per family. So they were told to sit in sibling groups. We were to give two per seated group. This only worked for the first 10 groups. When the other kids saw groups getting stuff that they weren't getting, the groups dissolved into thick clumps standing around myself and Brian. Toothbrushes gone, I decided to take pictures instead. It seemed to make them happy. All in all, not a totally rewarding experience. We learned things we wouldn't do in the future, though and realized first hand the frustration of not being able to solve all the world's problems with THINGS.
My favorite part of the evening was when a little girl was brought to us. The aunt showed us the girl's wrists covered with pimply sores and scratched bumps. They itche her all the time. I didn't know what to say at the time but I went home and read my book, "Where there is no Doctor" which has a skin condition diagnostic section. Scabies. I bought the ointment to treat it yesterday and we brought it out to Ben and Keba (pronounced kambah) with instructions. It is a relief to have the information to help people take care of themselves.

We spent 4 1/2 hours at their village with them, going over the "Where there is no Doctor" book, telling stories, asking questions, eating cassava and delicious homemade buns. We saw their cassava farm, with bananas and sweet potatoes and pineapples planted in between the cassava patches. A truly cross-cultural experience.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Its back looked as if God had pulled out the Sunday School arts and crafts box to decorate it. About ¾ of an inch long, in the shape of coat of arms, if he hadn't been slowly walking across a child's notebook I would have thought he was a toy. But no, the red sequin and careful glitter green X across the beetle's white back were real. Along the sides were stripes of bright blue and though I don't remember where it was placed, I remember a small patch of cheerful yellow.

Brian had just gotten back from the boat after the tsunami scare and I was getting ready to hug him when the creature caught my eye. A walking whimsy of God on a day when thousands of people had prayed for safety and been spared. We'd heard the radio announcement in a squatter settlement of Indians. A tiny ancient couple needed a drainage ditch enlarged and we 5 grownups and two kids arrived, greeted them with shovels in our hands, and walked behind the corrugated tin shack to survey the ditch. That's where we heard the announcer, "….the 8.0 earthquake that hit Vanuatu this morning has produced a tsunami….predicted to arrive at the Western Coast of Fiji at 11:40 this morning. All people in low-lying areas are urged to move to higher ground." I looked at my watch. It was 11:00. We had a hasty meeting, went to the car to listen to the radio for confirmation, told the Indian couple we'd be back another day and headed back to Lautoka. Brian wanted to get back to the boat and Lena and Mere were worried about their children. During the 25 minute ride back to the city across low lands, they urged Brian to go faster and to turn up the radio. Traffic was increasing and we passed many uniformed school children walking along the roads, released from school. At the turn off for us to go up to the base, Brian turned the driving over to Dave, hopped out and hailed the bus that was behind us. It was 5 minutes until the tsunami was predicted to hit but we hadn't seen the tide sucking out so Brian believed he could make it to Nomad in time. We kissed each other hastily, and as I looked into his eyes, I thought of Joan and Danny. They didn't even have a chance to say good bye to each other. Somehow, I knew everything would be Ok but I still didn't like seeing Brian heading toward the water.

The moment Brian hopped onto the bus, the radio announcer spoke, " inform you that the level of the tsunami warning has been raised from 'moderate' to 'high'." There was nothing I could do except pray. We headed up to the base and passed the park out front. The shade patches under the park's giant mango trees were packed with school children. Teachers had walked their classes up the hills to this park for safety. Streets were jammed with cars along the edges, waiting. At PTC, I could see the ocean was at an extremely low tide with mud flats extending from the islands. But I couldn't see the waters off of the main port where we were anchored. I felt relief anyway because I knew there was nothing severe happening. Within an hour the radio and the internet declared the tsunami warning cancelled. Streets started clearing; children dissipated. I checked my email and was happy to see Brian had just sent me an email that all was well at the boat. He would come up in time to help at the 3:00 Kid's Club.

Kid's Club had it's share of little jeweled creatures, as well. After I told the Bible story and the memory verse, it was time to bust out the arts and craft box. Brian was given face paints and brushes, I had a box of beads and stretchy shiny string. We were surrounded in moments by 5 - 8-year-olds. Jima had another box of beads and string for the older kids. For an hour, Brian painted crosses, flowers, bumble bees, stars and a few spider webs onto cheeks. I helped make bracelets and necklaces.

It was a full day in which we felt vulnerable and yet received many treasures of memories and joy.

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Personal Transformation Center

For those of you wondering about this place where we are volunteering, I'd like to describe it. It is a part of a world wide mission organization called, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). When it was started 50 years ago by an American couple, it was geared for young people, hence the "youth" in the name. Today, people of all ages participate. YWAM is made of "bases" all over the world. Each of these bases is unique and, though they all are non-denominational and agree with some fundamental beliefs, they have different vision statements. The Personal Transformation Center (PTC) here in Lautoka has two focuses: 1. offering courses and practice in biblical counseling and providing that counseling to their community. Yesterday I accompanied Lo to Tilak high school where she counsels students two days per week. We met with a Muslim girl who was abused by her boyfriend. Lo was trained at PTC in a 5 month course, and now offers her services free of charge. 2. Another focus at PTC is supporting the birth of a new base in China. They send groups to this base every year and are training them how to build their own counseling center.

Other bases have different focuses. Some offer schools of journalism, others teach dance, others offer courses in primary health care for remote areas. All of the courses offered at all of the bases all over the world are part of a world-wide University of the Nations whose motto is, "to know God and make him known." They believe that all disciplines can be used to communicate and demonstrate the gospel in all nations.

PTC is an active place. There are about 15 full time unpaid staff members, some with kids and some single. They coordinate the applications and preparations for the schools; they run the schools. In between the schools they maintain ministries. Lo's ministry has been doing high school counseling at 3 different high schools. Jima organizes kids clubs in the afternoons and in the mornings visits the parents of the kids that attend. Kafi runs the community preschool. Vini manages the base and does counseling. Meme co-organizes the single mother's group with Kamba from another base. Sisa is the base leader and coordinates with community leaders and other pastors. Others visit the hospitals weekly to sit with and pray for patients. The whole base turns out on Monday mornings to rake and clean the large park in their neighborhood. The list goes on. These people are actively compassionate about Fiji and their city. They receive no money for what they do and trust God to provide their needs. He seems to be doing a good job. They have food, clothing, and an ample building.

We have left the remainder of the school supplies our friends sent with us for PTC to use at their preschool, in their kids clubs, or to use as Christmas presents for the large kids' Christmas party in December. But there are more needs. I've decided to list them so that if you wish to help or pray, you know how.
1. Full time staff members, especially an office worker to manage finances.
2. an updated, more user-friendly website.
3. The monthly costs to run the base (rent, utilities, office needs, food, etc) is 4000 Fijian dollars per month
4. They're hoping for 200-300 community kids to attend the Christmas party on December 10. For decorations, food, gifts, etc. they have a budget of 2500 Fijian dollars.
5. School here in Fiji is not free. The staff members who have children pay for their fees. Sisa has one son enrolled in a Christian school which charges 1200 per quarter. Even the public schools charge various amounts.
6. Bibles in English or Buan (the national Fijian dialect).

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Danny's final passage

This is the message we received from Joan today, the 8th of October.

My dear friends,
Danny will be taking his final passage from the village of Pago Pago, American Samoa on Thursday Oct. 8th. Wade, Cole, and I will be leaving the harbour at 9:00 am (5:00 pm EST) with our newly found cousins, Evelyn and her husband, High Chief Lilio, Xavier, son of Wyatt Boyles and his wife Melake and also a pastor from the Congregational Church in Fagasa who will be leading the ceremony. Once we are 3 miles offshore, Danny will be returned to the sea that was his passion with those who love him watching in his wake.
Join us at 5:00 p.m. EST in a toast to celebrate Dan's life. Share your fondest memories of Danny and love the one you're with. Laugh and smile and remember that life is not measured by how may breaths we take but by the moments that take our breaths away. (thanks Nancy) Once we come back into the harbour we will be gathering on the Malaloa dock with all of our
American Samoan friends and fellow cruisers.
The people of Samoa and Fagasa Village have opened up their hearts to us. I will be eternally grateful to my cousin Evelyn, her husband Lilio, and nephew Xavier who have welcomed us into their village that was heavily damaged in the tsunami. They have planned a farewell my Danny would have loved.
Please remember the village of Fagasa and the Samoan Red Cross. Donations in memory of Dan can be sent to: High Chief Lilio, P.O. Box 3423, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799 or to Samoan Red Cross, General Delivery, Pago Pago, American Samoa, 96799.
We love you all and have been nourished by your many e-mails. Joan, Wade, and Cole Olszewski

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Single Women's Club

Yesterday I entered the town hall of a Naviyago village surrounded by sugar cane fields.  Some women from the YWAM base where we are volunteering run a weekly single mother's group.  If this type of thing were to happen in California, it wouldn't look like yesterday.  There were women with two or three teeth in their mouths, 75-year-olds and 30 year olds sitting on a pandanu leaf woven mat with a few infants at breast and toddlers walking around.  In fact, single mothers is a term that includes widows with dependant children of any age, grandmothers raising grandchildren, and women whose husbands are often away working, as well as those whose husbands have left or died.

As far as I could tell there was no agenda.  Sara, one of the YWAM leaders asked myself and two other new women to the group  to share something with the ladies.  I introduced myself, Rena introduced herself and then Leda introduced herself and preached a mini-sermon.  Then it was over, or at least that's what they said.  But really it meant that it was time for us to eat the cakey rolls spread with margarine, and the fresh roti rolled with coconut cream, and drink the tea and juice the ladies had made us.  I was confused.  What was the purpose of this meeting? 

Kamba, the YWAMer who lives in this village answered my question later.  These women work all day long in the homes caring for their disabled grown children or their grandchildren or their children.  To leave and sit together and meet "strangers" is large moment in the drudgery of their every day lives.  To sit and visit and have people to encourage their faith in God is a gift. 

While sitting and munching, I remembered the gallon-sized ziploc bags in the back of the minivan outside.  Two years ago our Bible study had packed these homeless care bags to give away to street people in Santa Cruz.  Soon after, we left on our boat journey bringing 10 of the bags with us.  Never used, I decided to bring them along to the women's group in case they could be of use.  I noticed there were ten ladies present.  Ding Ding, the bell went off in my head.  I asked Kamba what she thought and went to get the bags.  As I passed them out they were polite and excited and started to poke around inside. Each one held a bottle of water, a dish cloth, a granola bar, a bar of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, small daily devotional booklet, and bandaids.  They wanted to know if the water was from the U.S.A.  When I said yes, some of them wouldn't drink it.  They wanted it as a souvenir from America. 

YWAM has been working with this village for some time.  They have brough health workers to talk to the women about reproductive cycles, HIV.  Also, they have had classes in flower arranging, baking (saves money not to buy store bought bread), and other topics. 

It was a joy to be with them and humbling to eat the treats they shared out of their almost nothing. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009


just wasting time in the internet cafe that's located in the chinese restaurant.  this morning I helped the people from the base rake the mango pits, leaves, grass clippings, and tamarind pods up from the football field sized park in front of their base.  hot but satisfying work.  Brian spent the morning organizing construction tools and assessing what supplies are already available at the base so he can begin building the cabinet doors they need on some hallway shelves.  We ate lunch with them and then off to the the Marine Reach headquarters to meet with Richard.  Marine Reach is the branch of YWAM that focuses on medical and dental and mental health issues.  They not only use ships and boats to bring care to remote places, but use mobile truck clinics to bring care to villagers inland.  I'm excited about what they're doing and how we could be a part of it.  Richard has long wanted to use cruisers to transport workers out to remote locations where their large ship can't reach.  He is a Kiwi with a lot of knowledge of sailing and his enthusiasm for what he's doing and how we could be involved was quite encouraging.  I'll be posting some more detailed descriptions of what they do.

Friday, October 2, 2009

more about Pago Pago, Samoa

This is Danny and Joan at the top of a hill we climbed together in Bora Bora. Our last time together.

Below are three articles about the incident. (this is the best written one, with the most details) We actually are friends with Wayne on the boat Learnativity. Glad he is ok and able to help out with Joan.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


Last night, we received news from our friend Joan on the sailboat Mainly.

We had quickly become friends with their family, Dan, Joan, and Cole (their grown son), in the Marqueses. Dan and Joan treated us as if we were their kids. We have been doing hikes, snorkeling, and socializing with them since. On our passage from Bora Bora to Samoa we were within few miles of each other for the passage and in contact twice a day. We were both headed for Apia. W. Samoa. On the last night out their main halyard chafed through, as it was a roudy passage. They were forced to pull in early to Pago Pago, American Samoa. We continued on. They were preparing to depart for Fiji in a few days after repair were finished. Pago Pago bore the main force of the tsunami created by the 8.3 earthquake on Sunday. Unfortunately, what we gather from the email is that Danny went down to the boat, or was still on it when the water started to go out. He was loosing the lines on the dock. Then the water came back in. She said he didn't have chance...

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