20 July 1997 – Part I

(Part of my Gone Fishing story)

Sunday, 20 July 1997

Day 2 at Sea

1330 hours SAMOAN TIME (Pacific Time minus four hours)

Location: Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean north of Samoa


I was sitting in the office of Patrick Cox, Technical Representative for Robinson Helicopter Company, on the morning of Wednesday, 11 July 1997, when he received a call from Brian Douglas, Chief Pilot for Caribbean Fishing Co., American Samoa. Seems that Brian needed a mechanic in a hurry, for his newly acquired Robinson R22 Mariner II, since his current one didn’t know a R22 from the Space Shuttle.

After making a few inquiring phone calls looking for a suitable mechanic, and having no luck doing so, Pat came upon the brilliant idea that maybe I should go. “Hmmm,” I thought- Well, I had always wanted to give it a shot, but it would seem that I already had a fairly decent job at the aforementioned Robinson Helicopter Company. “No problem,” said Pat as he went off to get permission from the company president for a leave of absence for me.

By 2:00pm that same day, Pat came trotting over to me with all the appropriate paperwork to be signed. “Hmmm,” I again thought, “This is getting serious.” One hour later all the T’s were crossed and all the ducks were in a row for my great adventure.

The following Monday morning I was loading my little butt and five pieces of luggage onto Hawaiian Airlines flight 001 to Honolulu. I was actually looking forward to the five hour flight, as I had been madly running around the last four days getting all of my affairs in order so that I could be gone for a good while.I had never been stressed out for such a long period of time as I was getting prepared. I constantly had the feeling that one gets when you are about to go on a first date- apprehension and uncertainty. I was about to go off to some foreign country and do something that a sane person would definitely have second thoughts about. It was a relief to step on the airplane since it was too late to worry about what I forgot to do; I would be able to finally relax.

My girlfriend, Joli, took me to the airport and she was the last sight I saw as I entered the jet way. The speed that all this was happening took a toll on her as well. After all she was not going to see me for an undetermined amount of time, which would be hard for anyone, knowing the kind of guy that I am.

The five-hour flight was a long one, and I had another leg of equal length to look forward to before arriving in Samoa. After successfully choking down the pasta and shrimp meal and suffering through the movie Selena, I arrived in Honolulu for what was scheduled to be a five-hour layover. As it turned out I would need most of the time to navigate through the poorly laid out airport.

The first thing that hit me when I stepped off the plane in Honolulu was the heat and humidity- welcome to paradise.

The airport is laid out with two terminal areas, the Main Terminal and the Inter-Island Terminal. The Main Terminal is further broken down into two sections, something like gate 1-26 and 26-38.

I arrived at gate thirty-something and hopped on the shuttle bus to what turned out to be the Inter-Island Terminal. This shuttle is called the “Wikki-Wikki,” which means something along the line of “quick.” They should have named it “confusion.” If you want to go to the Main Terminal you get on one bus, and to go to the Inter-Island Terminal you ride another. Of course there are no signs to tell me this, so amid the sea of tourists I ended up going to the Inter-Island Terminal (makes sense really, since I was going to another island- just not one in Hawaii).

After riding the Wikki-Wikki for what seemed like twelve trips, and going through several different agricultural check stations, I finally deposited my carry-ons into a locker and hopped a city bus to Waikiki. The plan was to check out the famous beach and then grab something to eat before continuing on with my journey.

A ticket agent recommended against me catching a bus to the beach since I might get caught in traffic and miss my flight (oh, what a shame that would have been). Being the rebellious sort (at least when I am in strange airports) I decided against the advice and hopped aboard one of Honolulu’s finest buses.

Using bus maps I had stolen from a blind old man, I figured out that I would have approximately thirty minutes at the beach before having to head back.

During the hour-and-a-half bus ride, traveling about nine miles, I came to the startling realization that Honolulu looks a lot like Los Angeles- all traffic jams look the same to me. I can’t believe how long it took to travel such a short distance, but I guess stopping every block really doesn’t help much.

The beach was a big disappointment! The strip of sand they passed off as a beach was occupied by ordinarily shaped Americans- no real babes in sight. The hotels came almost to the water. I think that I found where all of America comes to on vacation. Not my idea of a dream vacation spot. After spending a few disappointing minutes on the sand, I headed back to the bus stop for another long, slow ride.

Arriving back at the airport in pretty much one piece, I grabbed a delicious meal of pepperoni pizza, still slightly warm, and then headed off to gather up my goods. One more last trip on the Wikki-Wikki and I was at the gate that would take me to American Samoa.

Sitting in the waiting area I felt that I was already in a foreign country, surrounded by Samoans waiting to go home. Feeling like a small man, I shrunk into my seat hoping that one of the big Samoans wouldn’t find me too attractive.

Onto the airplane I went, with dignity still intact, I slept the majority of the way to Samoa.

Enough for now, I must go do more work. I hope that the helicopter refueling system has miraculously stopped leaking avgas all over the flight deck.

Next Entry – 20 July 1997 Part II