What follows represents my evaluation of the ship, the voyage and the South Pacific Islands. If you want to see four pictures of the ship, click here.

The Tausala Samoa arrived in the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 3rd, at about 7:00 AM. I board the ship around 8:00 PM that evening. Here cargo is being loaded aboard the following day.

After being shown to my cabin by the captain I learned that the cook had fallen earlier that day,breaking his right arm. I saw him about an hour later in the galley and he was all smiles as he was heading for home. A one arm cook is about as useful as I one arm paper hanger.

The captain was busy that evening making arrangements for a new cook as well as handling all of the other of the ships business. The new cook would meet the ship in San Francisco. If this were not bad enough, one of the AB's fell down the stairs and was taken to a local doctor. He was placed in a no work status for thirty days. In the meanwhile the captain doubled as the ships cook.

My first night aboard was sheer torture. My mattress was about as soft as a three quarter inch piece of plywood. The captain finally got tired of his rock hard mattress and had four new (and softer) mattresses delivered before we left Long Beach. One each for the two passenger cabins, one for the first officer and one for himself. I can't imagine how he put up with his for nearly nine months! Well, that was the good news. The bad news was my mattress was 15 cm too wide for the bed. He had assumed that all four mattress were the same size

I couldn't take another night on the existing mattress, so, necessity being the mother of invention, I went to the locker that stored the cushions for the deck chairs. Laying two of the cushions side by side, I found they fit the width of the bed, less about three inches. That was close enough for me. At least I would get a decent night's sleep.

The mattress, like the rest of the ship, was made in China. If the ship is as tough as the mattress I was on one hell of a ship. The mattress was really "Mickey Mouse", honest! That's the name on the mattress along with a lot of pictures of "Mickey". The Chinese had better get a grip on what is considered "comfortable", otherwise they aren't going to sell many mattress' to western countries, unless of course the peddle them as back-stops for shooting ranges.

At this point I should note that this ship only carries a maximum of three passengers. The owners cabin is advertised by agents as a double, however, it is very tiny with a boxed bed that is 15 cm smaller than a double bed. The cabin is small, but quite adequate for a single traveler. What agents advertise as the single cabin actually accommodates two people (see picture). There is a boxed bed on the bottom, with a pull down bunk on the top. This is not really satisfactory for an older couple as one has to climb to the second bunk by stepping on the bottom bunk. The top bunk has no railing so it would be quite easy to roll out of bed, especially in rough weather. On this voyage the captain vacated his cabin, giving it to an elderly couple. I'm sure he was not happy with this situation, since his office was part of his quarters. Of course my fellow travelers were quite happy with the situation.

I guess I better mention a little about our berth, located at the Matson Terminal in the Port of Long Beach, right next to their scrap metal yard. As I gazed out the starboard port hole, and a little aft, I had a tremendous view of the yard, complete with fifty foot high stacks of rusting scrap metal. Our ship was stern to stern with a Greek bulk vessel that was being loaded with thousands of tons of this stuff. Ever hear a couple of thousand pounds of scrap metal being dumped from a crane's bucket into the hold of a ship? Throw a garbage can of empty tin cans off the roof of a four story building on to the side walk and you'll get a general idea of the noise, all day long. Of course that is only if you are on deck. In the cabin the din is reduced to a sort of tinkling sound.

I learned that the system that converts sea water to fresh was still not operating as it should. It seems that it only converts about seven tons of water a day. Normal output should be about six times this amount. So, the ship took on additional water before leaving. I mention this not as a criticism, but only for the sake of completeness. "Stuff happens" on all ships, except if this were a cruise ship the passengers would never know about such things.

As we headed out to sea from the port of Long Beach I took this shot of a WWII Liberty Ship. In the background is San Pedro and one of those big white monsters known as a "cruise ship". (Sorry I had to use such disgusting language in this article).

The new cook arrived in San Francisco. As it turned out he was a lousy cook and I endured thirty days of his bland food. I had enough rice and boiled potatoes to last a life time. Adding insult to injury, the ship ran out of fresh vegetables on the return voyage. The beer supply was gone, however, the captain had a couple of bottles stashed for the benefit of the other two passengers. Had they run out of cigarettes I would have been really upset.

The ship had a serious, but not disabling problem, with her eight cylinder Sultzer engine (only cylinder heads pictured). There was a leak in the cooling system, apparently due to a cylinder sleve that had been improperly installed, or was defective. An attempt was to be made to correct this upon arrival back in Los Angeles.

The TAUSALA SOMA is a small ship (148.58 meters in length and 23.10 meters in the beam, carrying a maximum of 1100 20' containers) and can carry only three passengers; one in the owners cabin and two in a double cabin. Since the double cabin, advertised as being available to passengers, was occupied by two crew members. the captain, Paul Wyckmans, moved out of his cabin and gave it to the other two passengers, an elderly couple from Michigan. He in turn moved into a much smaller cabin displacing another crew member who I guess had to double up with another crew member. I had the owner's cabin which was appropriate for "freighterman" (actually it was the only single cabin, though at least one agent books this as a double cabin).

My cabin was small compared to other ships I have been on, however, it was quite adequate for my needs. In addition to the bed there was a sofa, small table, dresser, desk and large closet. There was additional storage space under the bed. Of course the cabin had a TV and VCR, plus a pretty good supply of video tapes were available.

The cold water to the sink was turned off for the entire voyage due to a leak at the cold water shut off replacement was available on board. Ever brush your teeth with hot water? The bath room was a bit small, but one only spends a little time in the bathroom.

The ship, inside and out, was immaculate as evidenced by this shot of the poop deck and bow. As with most ships spending long periods at sea, there was plenty of time for painting. Here is a shot, taken at sea, of a crew member, painting the underside of the flying bridge about 60 feet (20 meters) above the sea and a picture of the starboard side of the ship while underway. There was a bit of a swell at the time this picture was taken as evidenced by the spray at the bow. With the exception of a little rust on the anchor chain, no other evidence of rust was to be found. Decks were swabbed daily. The layout of the super structure was such that there was ample room for sun bathing. From a passenger's standpoint, the external deck area of the super structure was excellent (as well as clean).

The crew was a mixed bag from the ethnic standpoint. The captain lives in Belgium, though born in the Netherlands, the chief engineer was German, the first officer and electrician were from the Ukraine and the crew was Filipino. The quality of English spoken ranged from excellent (captain) to poor, a Ukrainian. This was pretty typical of just about any freighter crew.

The TAUSALA SAMOA called at Oakland, CA., Papette, French Polynesia, Apia, independent Samoa and Pago Pago, in that order. Port time was only about 12 hours in Apia, about 18 in Papette and 2 1/2 days in Pago Pago. The cargo on the south bound voyage was a little of this and that, along with empty containers. Northbound the the cargo was 11,300 tons of Star Kist Tuna (and some empty containers), all of which was loaded in Pago Pago, where the tuna fleet has its home base.

Papette is a tourist trap and very expensive. If you are in the market to buy some black pearls, this is the place to go. There is nothing much at all in Apia or Pago Pago. They are all tropical islands (13 to 17 degrees south of the equator and very mountainous). While it is winter now in the islands (May) the weather was unbelievably hot and humid, though nights were balmy. I would not want to be there during their summer! Most stores, bars, etc., had the air conditions turned off. I just couldn't handle sight seeing in a bus or taxi without air conditioning. Being from costal West Los Angeles I just wasn't used to the climate. Two hours outside and I had had it, so I didn't do any touring around the Islands. Night came early in the islands; by six PM it was dark. If you are wondering where these islands are located in the South Pacific, here is their latitude and longitude:

Apia: 13 49' 635" S 171 45' 691" W

Pago Pago: 14 16' 589" S 170 41' 242" W

Papette: 17 32' 255" S 149 34' 577" W.

Here is a map which shows the location of Pago Pago.

The distances involved (in nautical miles) are as follows:
Los Angeles to San Francisco 383 miles
San Francisco to Papette 3,682 miles
Papette to Apia 1,310 miles
Apia to Pago Pago 85 miles
Pago Pago to Los Angeles 4,220 miles
Total: 9,680 miles

There is not much "weather" in the area transited during this voyage. By this I mean the sea was quite calm; a little roll south bound and very slight pitching north bound. There were a couple of cloudy days north and south bound, mostly off the California coast. .It rained almost all the time during the last day in Pago Pago.

Here is a picture of a typical Pacific sunset, taken about 1,000 miles S.W. of Los Angeles.

On our return voyage the captain decided to add a little color to the pool by painting a mural.

I am glad I had the chance to take this trip, however, I have absolutely no desire to visit any other South Pacific Islands any time soon. The TAUSALA SAMOA deserves an A+++ for cleanness and a D- for food. The quality of cooking was not the fault of the captain, owner or charter. When you order a crew member from a crewing company (which happened to be in Cyprus) you take what they send you. The ship rates an A for the number and quality of video tapes and a C for the number of books, though I added to the ship's collection by ten books.

June 9, 2000

R. F. Ahern (aka Freighterman)