Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Every Wednesday afternoon a group of us get together to go paddling. It's a wonderful way to unwind after a day's work. The temperature is usually nice and mild and being on Apia harbour offers a truly beautiful vantage point of the city as the sun sets. I love it.

With my leg still healing, I've had to stay out of the boat these last few weeks. It's tough, but sitting on the sea wall watching my friends make their way across the harbour is still a fantastic way to pass the time. This afternoon was no exception.

Of course, ours is never the only boat on the harbour. A fautasi crew has been practising several times a week over the last month or so, no doubt in preparation for next month's Independence Day celebrations. Getting forty or so people onto the fautasi takes a bit of time and effort but once they're all set to go it's well worth it.

The sight and sound of a fautasi on the water is remarkable. Once they get going they move at a rapid pace. They have people at each end of the boat supervising the stroke count and generally urging the rowers to keep going. To help them in their task, a crew member knocks out a regular, up-tempo rhythm on a drum. I'm very much looking forward to next month's Independence Day fautasi race when we can expect to see numerous fautasis on the water.

Compared to the fautasi and its crew, we don't look quite as impressive (but it does take a lot quicker to get going). The canoes we use hold six people. The lead position is known as the "stroke". Whoever sits there is responsible for setting the pace. They're also responsible for notifying the rest of the crew as to when they should switch the paddle from one side of the boat to the other. We tend to switch sides once every twelve or so strokes. That way you don't feel like your arm is going to fall off. The person at the end of the canoe is the "steer" and, well, I'm sure you can figure out what they do.

As I sat on the sea wall this afternoon and watched my friends make their way around the harbour - up along the wharf (shown here) to down near Aggie Grey's Hotel - I realised that this will be one of the things about Samoa I miss the most. I love being on or near the water and Apia harbour is no exception. The view back towards the island is beautiful and, as I mentioned before, watching the sun set from a canoe is truly wonderful.

I'm hoping my leg will have healed enough next week to allow me to get back into the boat (I'm quite confident it will). With less than five months left in Samoa I'm starting to feel a sense of urgency; I should make every effort to turn up for paddling every week. I don't want to miss what remaining chances I have to see a sunset like this:

Wouldn't you agree?

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