Passage Notes - San Francisco to Hawaii
Total Distance: 2315 Nautical Miles
Time: 19 Days
I departed Seattle August 15, but enroute to Hawaii the lower forestay swage fitting failed and I had to turn around and sail back to San Francisco. The great folks at Svendsens Bay Marine installed a new forestay and a new Harkin roller furler. They also fabricated new lifeline stanchions to replace the cheap Vetus ones that were badly bent. By September 8th SV Discovery was ready to go again!
Part 2 of the trip was mostly uneventful. The typical confused seas out of the gate, a couple days of motoring through high pressure no wind zones riding out 2 gales (one with winds up to 52 knots), and a few squalls. The weather felt a bit cooler than expected and didn't really war up until about 34 degrees north latitude.
As we approached Hawaii, the USCG broadcast a warning to mariners regarding 2 FADS (fish attracting devices) that had broken free and in our direct path in the dark of night. I had read about these things in the Pilot, but never really expected to encounter one. Sure enough, about an hour after the warning we painted the FADS on radar and updated the CG with their current position as they headed into the Pacific.
TIPS & LESSONS LEARNED
Provision with fresh vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, etc)
Include a few dark chocolate bars as treats.
Fresh baked cookies are a big moral boost
Fresh baked bread another big hit
Read the Pilot for any new area well before you get there.
Take lots of photos and videos to share.
DAILY LOG ENTRIES
Sun 8/Sep 17:00 GMT -- S/V Discovery is back in Action! 37º 55.391 N 122º 22.352 W
I got my repaired head sail back from Quantum Sails in Richmond, CA yesterday and it fit perfectly on the new Harken roller furler. I also needed a new batten for my main sail. Installed my new lifeline stanchions and lifelines. S/V Discovery is looking like a proper sailboat again, and we will soon be underway.
Unfortunately, JP is unable to make this trip so I got 2 new crew members. Gerry Heinz from Vancouver, Canada and Ming Hua from San Francisco, CA. Gerry has lots of blue water experience, and Ming is a sailing instructor here in the Bay area. Both crew will show up later today. Only a few must-do tasks left to do before lifting the lines, but I am planning a Thursday morning departure after we have a hearty breakfast.
It has been rather pleasant here in the bay area since I’ve been here. But, this morning I woke up and it was downright cold. I have made some new wonderful friends, and made some great connections. But, I am ready to make way again and get some water below Discovery’s keel.
So…stay tuned…here we go again!
Fri 18/Oct 16:55 GMT - Bound for Hawaii (Part 2) 37º 00.296 N 123º 32.102 W Course: 218° true, 9.0 kts.
We left Svendsens Bay Marine yesterday morning at 11 and motored over to Berkeley Marina where we took on 126 gallons of diesel (40 in jerry cans strapped to the deck). We finally departed Berkeley Marina at 13:30 (that’s 1:30 pm). The wind was 10 to 15 knots inside the bay so once we cleared the channel we raised the sails. As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge the winds were gusting to 18, so we furled the headsail down from 135% to 100%. We made it under the bridge on an outgoing tide with wind almost head on which made the crossing a bit rough. But glad I reefed the headsail because it was blowing a good 20 knots from the northwest.
As the evening continued on…the wind continued to build. By 5 pm it was blowing 25 with gusts to 30, so we reefed the main sail. By 6 pm the wind was 28 to 30 knots, so we completely furled the head sail. The winds howled and the mixed seas tossed the boat about. To say it was unpleasant is an understatement. Nether of us had dinner last night. I took the first watch. By 10 pm I basically hove to so boat speed last night was about 2 knots…just enough to keep the bow into the wind and waves. Winds were 35 knots and strongest gust was 43 knots. Took 3 waves over the starboard beam that flooded the cockpit. Basically we were getting the snot beat out of us again, and of course more things went flying around the cabin. So much for a smooth start.
Gerry came on watch at 0200 and we stayed hove to until about 6 am when winds finally subsided to a nice 15-20 knots. We shook out the head sail and took the reef out of the main,. Now…12 hours later at 10:30 am winds are down to about 10 -12 knots, we are under full sail, Hepzebah (the Hydrovane) has been steering the boat since we went under the Golden Gate Bridge, and we are plodding along at about 5 knots. Sea swells are down to about 12 feet with a period of 17 seconds (nice)…so we keep this course for a bit. The sailing is slow but smooth, so it will give me a chance to clean up the cabins.
A plastic holder for 2 nets broke this morning sometimes, so I awoke to fresh veggies scattered about the salon floor. Of course, everything is wet or at least damp. I found 2 new leaks in the cabin; including a port leak that got everything in my hanging locker wet…including my cold weather gear. (Yes, I wore my follies, but I still froze my ass off last night.
But, now the seas are calmer, the wind is steady, the sun is out, and most importantly the boat is on course for Hawaii.
In the past 22 hours we only made about 100 nautical miles so far. But not bad considering the circumstances. Besides…we are not in a race. They say it’s not the destination, but the journey…I sure hope the rest of our 2000 nautical mile journey gets a hell of a lot better than the first 100 miles.
Sat 19/Oct 17:28 GMT - Making Way Day 3 35º 05.916 N 125º 16.175 W Course: 233° true, 5.8 kts.
Well, despite the rather unpleasant conditions at the start, yesterday was a beautiful sailing day. The winds started dying off to about 10 knots after 1 pm so we flew the kite (asymmetrical spinnaker). Around 5 pm we saw some dolphins off the port bow heading towards us, and for the next hour they played in the pressure wave off the bow. Seeing dolphins playing off your bow or swimming beside the boat NEVER get old. They are indeed amazing creatures.
At 6 pm the winds finally died below 7 knots so we dropped the kite and started motoring. The iron Genny (the less than affectionate name for the motor) propelled us for the next 6 hours until midnight when the winds picked up above 10 knots again. I unfurled the head sail and shut off the engine. It’s really hard to imagine the peaceful feeling of hearing the wind in the sails and the water rushing past the hull at night.
Speaking of night…I often tell my friends of my nights sailing in Okinawa away from land where you can literally see stars from horizon to horizon. Well, the past 2 nights have been clear and the stars so bright we don’t need additional light in the cockpit. Then when the moon rises to the east…it’s like someone turned on a flood light.
Today the winds are a pretty steady 15 knots. We are once again on pretty much a rhumb line course to the islands because there is a big high to the west of us (no wind) and a gale warning along the coast up to 80 miles out of Los Angeles. Hepzebah (the Hydrovane) has been steering us on a steady Southwesterly course since we left (except under motor when Tardis (the Garmin Autopilot) took over for 6 hours.
There is some surface chop and we are getting some salt in our eyebrows occasionally when we sit in the cockpit. But, what’s the sense of sailing if you don’t get a splash of saltwater from time to time?
Our sailing days are from 1:30 pm when we raised the sails in San Francisco. We measure daily miles travelled at that time. So, in the past 24 hours we sailed 150 nautical miles bring our total this trip to 263 nautical miles with only about 1850 nautical miles to go!
Gerry and I have a good routine aboard now. I take the first watch from 10 pm to 2 am, then Gerry is on watch from 2 am until 6 am. In actually it’s more like 8 to 2, and 2 to 8 but nobody’s complaining. During the day Gerry takes a nap after breakfast, and I take a nap in the late afternoon and wake up for the Pacific Maritime Net check in on the ham radio at 8 pm Pacific time.
Oh…no dead flying fish yet, but yesterday on the way back from the bow after dowsing the kite I found a small 6” squid laying on the deck. Unfortunately it was already a little dry, so we couldn’t use it for a calamari appetizer.
Watching dolphins play in the bows pressure wave never gets old.
Sun 20/Oct 15:54 GMT - This is Nothing Like What You See on YouTube 33º 30.366 N 126º 37.943 W Course: 246° true, 6.0 kts.
I’m sure some of you have seen the YouTube channels of people sailing across the ocean. Women in bikinis tanning on the foredeck or standing on the bow holding onto the forestay, tan bare chested men at the helm with wind blowing their dreadlocks and a rum and coke or mai tai in hand, sun shining, dolphins playing around the boat, everyone smiling and laughing…you know the laugh…the kind of fake laugh that suggests it sucks to be you. Well, sailing in the north Pacific Ocean is nothing like that at all so get those images out of your head!
After a rather nice day of sailing things went south yesterday evening…literally. The weather, the sea state, the boat, the morale, and the appetite all went south. A strong northerly that we thought was localized along the coast caught up with us. By mid day we reefed the genoa and the main sail. By 7 pm the seas were nasty lumpy and the winds were 25 knots with gusts to 37 knots. So, as you can see on our track we pointed the boat southward to try to go with the wind waves, but the swells rolled us all night long. For dinner we tried to cook up some Mac & Cheese with veggies, but the veggies got tossed across the cabin in one violent roll. We recovered most of them…this morning I found the last tomato slice on the nav station beside the printer. So, dinner consisted of a few bites of Mac & Cheese and I topped it off with a few crackers with peanut butter smeared on them.
This morning the winds subsided to about 15 to 17 knots with some gusts to 22 knots. We unfurled the genoa to about 100% and pointed the boat back to a southwest - westerly course. The sea state is still mixed and we are getting banged around a bit. Looking out the window of the dog house the primary swells from the northwest are about 15 - 20 feet. They look like mountains as they approach the boat. But, the period between the swells is about 15 seconds, so in actuality the swells aren’t bad at all. It’s the damn little 3 - 5 foot wind waves that seemingly come from all directions that roll and toss the boat about. There is a reason they are called choppy seas. As I stood in the galley this morning making coffee and oatmeal with my legs spread at a 45 degree angle so as not to loose my balance I realized I should turn around so the muscles in my downwind leg don’t get larger than the upwind leg. Then I look out to port again and see one of those monster size container ships the OOCL Genoa off in the distance. I thought…”man that must be a rather smooth but boring ride”. But, they are probably on their bridge looking at us and thinking…”those poor bastards in that sail boat.”
(If by now you can’t imagine what lumpy mixed seas look like, or what it feels like to be in these conditions try this little simulation. Get a large pan of water and bring it to a rapid boil. Then take a regular Lego block and throw it into the pot of boiling water. Now imagine shrinking yourself small enough to ride on that block. Got it? Yep…that’s pretty much what it looks like and feels like except here the water is cold and salty.)
OK…yes this is a bit of exaggeration. Storms at sea are much worse. But, with storms there is a bit of excitement and a bit of fear. In these conditions it’s just boring and tiring. But, it makes for a good story.
Anyway…that’s enough about my drama. The sun is starting to break through the clouds, we are heading in the right direction again, the decks are immaculately clean, and hopefully by tomorrow we should have reasonably calm seas, steady 15 knot winds, and dolphins playing off our bow. Neither Gerry or I could grow dreadlocks if we tried, and although I haven’t known Gerry all that long, I’m pretty sure he’s not the kind of chap that has a bikini stuffed away in his gear.
Final note…last night we sailed into international waters, technically we are on the high seas. Over the past 24 hours we managed to put 137 nautical miles below the keel, and 403 nautical miles between us and the coast. So, if we can keep this up we should be in Oahu by November 5 or 6…but there’s still about 1900 miles to go to Oahu.
The sun sets in the west...so we're still heading in the right direction.
Mon 21/Oct 15:54 GMT - A Finely Tuned Machine 32º 34.712 N 129º 34.372 W Course: 249° true, 6.8 kts.
It’s been 5 days since we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s been 5 days that we have been on a starboard tack. Everything that could possibly fly from the starboard (right) side of the cabin to the port (left) side of the cabin has either been secured back in place or is laying on the port side. I suspect we’ll have hell to pay when we change to a port tack…which should be on Wednesday.
There is a heavy marine layer this morning. Everything feels damp and cold. The temperature is in the low 60’s. We are both looking forward to warmer temps. Around mid-day the clouds break, the sun shines down upon us, and everything is good. Yesterday, we shook the reef out of the main sail, left the Genoa furled at 100% and our average speed throughout the day was 6.9 knots. Hopefully we will get a repeat of yesterday…at least with the wind. A good rain would help wash some of the salt off the boat.
The winds have been reasonably consistent between 13 and 25 knots, and in the past 24 hours we made a whopping 165 nautical miles. WOW!!! That 568 total nautical miles so far we are averaging 142 miles per day. I am truly amazed at how well SV Discovery is doing underway in the open ocean. Gerry and I now have a contest to see which of us is closer to the daily mileage accrued. At first the closest to the daily distance would win a quarter. But, we couldn’t decide if it was an American or Canadian quarter, so we settled on bragging rights for the day.
We’ve been on a (mostly) beam reach until this morning when the winds changed to the northeast and put us on a broad reach which is nice because now we have our mostly following seas. Neptune still reminds us to respect and pay him homage, as every once in a while he throws a wave at us broadside with a loud bang on the starboard hull followed by a dowsing of salt water over the entire boat.
We’ve become accustomed to the boat heeling 15 degrees to port with the occasional +20 degree roll every minute or so. We have also settled into our watch routines, and meal prep/cooking routines. Last night Gerry cooked up a nice black pepper rubbed roast with roasted veggies. YUM! It’s not all hard tack, saltines, canned Spam, and powdered eggs. YUCK! (Except for the powdered egg mix from Costco which is not half bad. But, enough Cholula hot sauce makes just about everything taste pretty good.) Food consumption goes way down after a few days, so we have plenty of left-overs in the refrigerator.
All systems onboard are running well. Gerry and I take turns at watch which mostly consists of watching the wind instruments, looking for other ships via AIS and/or radar every hour, tweaking Hepzebah when needed, and watching the waves go by. When off watch we catch up on sleep, read, clean, cook. I run the water maker each day, and also check in on the Pacific Maritime Net on the ham radio. Oh…and if you want to know how water from the water maker tastes…well, it tastes like fresh water without all those damn mind control chemicals the government puts into the water.
Tue 22/Oct 16:54 GMT - Not So Fair Winds, But Mostly Following Seas 31º 33.865 N 132º 13.075 W Course: 253° true, 6.4 kts.
First, I must correct my post from yesterday. It was only 4 days since we departed San Francisco. Today would be the 5th day under sail. But, on a sailboat 24 hours is a rough guesstimate. I’m sure everyone’s heard of “island time” where just about anything within a 3 hour window is “on time.” But, then there is ‘sailboat time’ where anything within a 72 hour window is considered on time.
Aboard the boat…there is only light time and dark time…and even that doesn’t matter much. Days at sea consist of reading, downloading weather reports, running the watermaker, radio check in at 0300 Zulu, posting a blog, sleeping, cooking, eating, reefing and shaking the reefs out of sails, adjusting the sail trim or Hepzebah, or both. Tomorrow will be the same, as will the next day, and the day after that. Now it is exciting to see a ship on the horizon…even if only an AIS target on the chart plotter. I click on the target to get the name of the vessel, type of ship, course, speed, and destination. Sometimes, might actually get a glimpse of the ship over the tops of the waves.
We’ve been running before the wind for a few days now which has us on a rhumb line course for the islands. The good news is the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. The winds have been 20 knots with gusts to up to 30 knots, and the boat has been steadily moving at about 6+ knots. The not so good news is that the sea state is still pretty lumpy. About every 5 minutes or so we get a wave set that rolls the boat (sometimes more so than others), but for the most part we are now used to the motion. We’ve learned the best spots to wedge ourselves against to protect from more bruises caused by the motion of the ocean. As we move about the cabin and cockpit our movements would probably appear to be somewhere between the gracefulness of a ballet dancer and that of a toddler first learning to walk.
We are making good time overall. In the past 24 hours we sailed 144 nautical miles, Only 1417 nautical miles to go to the northwest corner of the island of Hawai’i. But I seriously doubt we can keep this rhumb line course for the entire journey. We plan to sail between their islands of Hawai’i and Maui through the Alenuihaha Channel to get to the lee side of the islands, then another 200 nautical miles or so to Oahu.
Yesterday afternoon the winds were increasing and the main sail was blanketing the genoa so I decided to bring down the whisker pole to furl the genoa. While on deck I noticed that my brand new furling line had chaffed through to the core at the furling drum. Fortunately, we were able to furl the sail completely. But now I had to go forward to the bow and figure out a solution. My spare furling line was 3/8” and the largest line the new Harken roller furling would accommodate is 10mm due the the space between the drum and the housing. The new furling line set me back $200 because I decided to go with that dyneema cored stuff. Forget it…I am sticking to plain old Sta-set or XLS braid from now on. So, I cut the 10mm line about a foot from the drum, and tied on the 3/8” line, put a few wraps around the drum and ran the new line back to the cockpit. We haven’t tested it yet, but if it doesn’t work out my new spinnaker sheets are 10mm and we can use one of those. I also put a block on the pulpit to run the line through so it doesn’t chafe again (hopefully). So, that was our 2 hours of excitement yesterday. Nothing like being on your knees with a windlass rammed in your crotch on the bow of a sailboat while it pitches and rolls in 10 foot seas trying to work on the roller furling. No roller coaster on earth could replicate that ride. And yes…the water is still cold. After all that excitement we decided it was a good night for some fresh baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies.
Oh…and now I know what I want for Christmas. No…it’s not a new furling line. What I really want for Christmas is about 10 rolls of that non-slip matting used to line shelves. I use it for placemats on the dinette table, on every kitchen countertop, and in the bottom of the galley sink. If I had more I’d put it on the nav station table, hell…if I had more I’d probably put it on every single shelf and horizontal surface on the boat…maybe even some of the bulkheads.
As a final note…so far we have had no suicidal flying fish on deck. However, we have discarded 5 squid from the deck.
Oh, and just in case you didn’t know…squid don’t fly. They are being washed onto the deck from the breaking waves around us. Personally, I like to eat squid, so I’m going to have to keep a sharper eye out and get them just as they board the boat.
Wed 23/Oct 16:54 GMT - So...This Is What Gale Force Winds Feel Like 30º 50.693 N 134º 57.576 W Course: 255° true, 5.5 kts.
Every sailor’s tale has a bit of embellishment (except mine). Otherwise, those who listen to, or read the story would be bored out of their skull. The truth is that 95% of the time sailing the open ocean is just plain boring. Download weather, trim sails, adjust the wind vane, read, eat, clean, sleep. Repeat.
All that came to an abrupt end yesterday afternoon. The winds started building and around 4 pm we put the second reef in the main sail. I’ve never put the second reef in…it’s little more than a storm sail. But, that is exactly what we needed. By 8 pm the winds were a sustained 35 knots with the strongest gust at 44 knots. Everything I wrote previously about lumpy seas…well, I’ll admit there was some embellishment on my part. But the Lego block in a pot of boiling water is a good analogy for conditions last night. The prevailing seas were behind us, but the waves broke around us in every direction. I looked aft over the stern rail and instead of horizon I just saw a wall of water…literally. Most times Discovery would rise and the wave would roll past and break around the boat. Sometimes we weren’t so fortunate and the wave would come crashing into the cockpit. Then there are the really big swells coming from the northeast that would roll the boat violently. Occasionally they would also crest and crash into the hull or the dog house with a thunderous bang. Like someone had just hit the boat with a wrecking ball.
This morning the winds have finally subsided to about 20 knots, but the seas are still turbulent. Gerry nor I got much sleep if any last night. He is now in his bunk and I am strapped in at the nav station. Occasionally, I’ll lay my head down on the desk but now my chest is sore from the crushing gravitational force when the boat rolls that pushes my chest into the edge of the table. Neither of us ate dinner, or breakfast. And I just downloaded the weather report and although the winds have eased, our best course is the one we are on…at least for the next day. The skies are gray and it is pretty damn miserable.
It’s interesting…as the waves crashed over the stern, as the sea slammed into the side of the boat, and as the winds howled around us…I didn’t have a sense of fear or panic. The primary task at hand was steering the boat to make sure the main sail did not get back winded as we fish-tailed down the face of the larger waves. The various “what if” scenarios ran through my mind as if to prepare myself for the myriad of things that could possibly go wrong. At what point do I throw out the drogue? What if my preventer fails? How would I go forward to lower the main sail if it tore? Fortunately, nothing drastic happened, and although it is still uncomfortable…we came through mostly unscathed. Or I should say we are making our way through it mostly unscathed.
Wed 23/Oct 20:53 GMT - It Feels Like It's Getting Colder...Are We On The Right Course? 30º 41.563 N 135º 20.444 W Course: 250° true, 5.6 kts
Despite being at the mercy of the seas last night we logged another 149 nautical miles. Pretty good considering the greatest motion was bobbing up and down and rolling port and starboard.
Hepzibah is trying her hardest to steer for us now so we can get some rest, but the winds are blowing from 15 knots with gusts up to 31 knots. Too much variation for Hepzibah to handle. We balance the boat at 15 knots and she does well + or - 5 knots…but when we get those 25 to 30 knot gusts it’s beyond her capability at that point so we must intervene correct course and rebalance the boat for her. Perhaps I am over-driving her a bit and should shorten sail.
We had to double check the compasses and chart plotters. The weather feels like it’s getting colder and the skies are gray. Seems like we are headed into the type of weather we were supposed to be leaving behind.
Thu 24/Oct 15:57 GMT - Why Do Things Feel So Strange? Oh...We Tacked 30º 06.506 N 137º 05.209 W Course: 195° true, 6.7 kts.
After being on a starboard tack for a week, this morning the wind speed is down to 15 knots and the direction has us going further northwest than I wanted. So, we jibed the boat to put her on a port tack to head south-southwest for a day or two as long as the winds hold up. We also unfurled the Genoa and the furling line works so far…no kinks, no jams. But, the real test will be when we have to furl the sail.
Now that we are on a port tack everything that was settled on the port side of the cabin is now laying on the floor on the starboard side of the cabin. I should throw all this stuff up in the forward cabin and either find a secure place for it in port, or toss it. Underway, the forward cabin is like the storage locker or home closet that you throw ‘stuff’ into. You know…the stuff that you don’t use, but you don’t want to get rid of for some odd reason. On a boat in the ocean you need a lot of stuff…especially the stuff you don’t have. Before departing California I thought about buying a couple more small blocks for leading lines. But, at about $50 a pop for the smaller blocks…I thought…”nah, everything is rigged the way I want. I don’t need any more blocks.” Now, I seriously wish I had purchased about 10 of them…or at least 2 more.
On a cruising boat you need to carry spares. There are no stores out here, so sailors must be completely self-sufficient. Especially the important stuff. Water pumps, filters of every sort, lines (ropes), blocks, fuel injectors, lubricants, the list goes on. As for tools you need 2 of everything, and 4 of the tools you use most frequently. You will lose one overboard, and you will lose one in the bilge never to be seen again. But, 99% of the time it’s the stuff you need when things go sideways that you don’t have or can’t find so you learn to improvise quickly. The things you don’t need you have on hand, but the moment you get rid of it you will certainly need it. That’s “Boat Rule #42.
For example, in my box of “stuff” I have a spare knob for the throttle or gear control. It’s a small plastic ball (black or red) that screws onto the end of the lever. They discolor in the sun, but I’ve never broken one. But, I know the moment I throw this out…the damn knob on the throttle or gear control will crumble in my hand. Then it will take 2 weeks of scouring the internet to find a replacement and it will cost 20 times the value of the damn thing. It’s small…I think I’ll hold on to it for another decade or so.
The winds are down quite a bit from what we’ve been dealing with the past few days. And the sea state is down as well, and we are now going with the predominant swells so the ride is a bit smoother. It almost feels rather comfortable. We’re heading a bit more southward than I would like, but it is what it is. Aeolus decides which way he wants the winds to blow…we just try to harness them the best we can and pray that he is kind to us. South is good…it might bring warmer temperatures and sunshine. The outside temp is OK. I don’t have a thermometer onboard so we judge temperature by the clothes we need. The first few days we needed to wear polar fleece…outside temp is cold. The past few days we needed a jacket or sweatshirt…outside temp is cool. This morning is tee-shirt…so it’s OK. Sometimes I think about getting a thermometer, but I really don’t need to know if the temperature is 72 or 82. It’s not like I can control it…I just need accept what it is and decide what I’m going to wear that day. Anyway, the temp is in the OK range, but we are still under 100% cloud cover. I’m sure there is blue sky above us somewhere. If the sun comes out and warms things up a bit we will be in the “nice” temperature range.
Gerry just turned in for his morning nap after his 0200 am to 0600 am watch. I downloaded weather, and we forged a plan of action for the next 12 hours. The boat is mostly gliding along (a few bumps here and there), so it’s time to make some breakfast. Not too hungry, so maybe just some oatmeal with some chopped nuts.
Thu 24/Oct 19:53 GMT - Another 24 Hours at Sea - It's Like Groundhog Day 29º 42.182 N 137º 11.640 W Course: 200° true, 5.2 kts.
Well, it has been another 24 sailing hours. Our daily mileage restarts every day at 1330 pm. That is the time we raised the sails 7 days ago. Today we added 133 nautical miles to our passage. I won today, Gerry guessed 132, and I nailed it. Score BJ - 2, Gerry - 1. It’s a thrilling competition. We stand anxiously in front of the chart plotter at 1330 in great anticipation of the exact moment to look at our trip odometer. Like 2 young boys about to open a present they know will be the BB gun they’ve been longing for. Then we reset the trip odometer and go back to more mundane things like throwing out rotten veggies, and cleaning the head, and running the water maker. Oh the joys of sailing life!
The really great excitement today was climbing the mast. Somehow a batten had worked its way free and was sticking through the luff off the sail like a 4 foot arrow. So, in climbing gear and up the mast I went to remove the batten before it tore the sail. A hole is bad enough, but where it punctured the sail it shouldn’t cause more damage, and so repair can wait until we are in Hawai’i. By the way…when I was up there I took a look around. We are officially in the middle of nowhere.
Winds have died down quite a bit…almost too much. If feels as if we are limping along. But our hull speed is still about 5.5 knots…so we’ll go with it for now. I thought about flying the kite (spinnaker), every time that thought pops into my head the winds pick up to 20 knots. Then, I think…no, 20 is too high for the kite, and magically the wind dies down again to about 10 - 12 knots.
Now the really good news. The weather report. The sun is out. The solar panels are recharging the batteries. The wind generator did it’s best, but we were down to about 70% state of charge. Much lower than I like. It feels warm in the cockpit and my body is also enjoying the vitamin D recharge from the sun.
And closing note…we had our first flying fish casualty onboard today. The little sucker must have committed his kamikaze maneuver last night. But flying fish means the water temp is warming up. Yahoo!!!
Fri 25/Oct 17:52 GMT - It’s All Fun And Games Until... 28º 08.930 N 138º 09.227 W Course: 259° true, 6.6 kts.
Well, about 6 am PST this morning the winds had died to less than 10 knots and the sails were flapping back and forth with a loud crack with each roll of the boat. Who the hell can sleep with all that racket? So, got out of my bed, got my life jacket and harness on, turned on the foredeck light so we could see to lower the whisker pole and bring down the sails. That was almost too easy. Nothing broke, nothing jammed, every thing worked like it was supposed too. We start the engine…she’s purring like a cat with bronchitis, point the boat towards Hawai’i and away we go! We’ll wait for later when the sun rises to organize things on deck, replace some fittings that came loose, and do some cleaning chores above and below deck. But for now, we both go below to drink some coffee and relax a bit.
About 9 am PST there is a loud bang followed by the sound of engine straining and a wicked vibration throughout the boat. I was reading in bed, and Gerry was reading in his bunk. I think we both got to the nav station at the same time to shut down the engine. What the hell just happened? Check the fuel filter, check the oil level and coolant level and transmission fluid level. All good. Start the engine again to see if the water impeller is working and cooling water is flowing out the exhaust. Check! But as we look down we saw the Hydrovane rudder trailing in the water behind us attached by it’s safety rope, The pin had worked itself loose and the rudder fell off only to be held on by the safety line. Thank God! Could that have been the bang we heard? But, I doubted the Hydrovane rudder dragging aimlessly in the water would cause the vibration we felt. There was only one way to find out.
I restarted the engine, put her in gear, pushed the throttle lever forward and… the boat is barely moving and the vibration is back. Immediately the gear lever goes too neutral and the engine shut down. I say to Gerry…”there only one thing it can be…the prop.” I run to the forward cabin and start throwing all the “stuff” I stored up there into the salon area. Finally it’s clear enough for me to lift the mattress, lift the board covering the forward most storage compartment on the boat, and dig in my scuba gear bag for my mask and snorkel. I have to check the prop. This may not be good…not good at all.
The sea state was only about 3 - 5 feet rolling swells. Not bad, but the boat was still moving forward. We throw a 100 foot safety line off the stern, turn the boat broadside to the waves to slow down her forward progress, and lower the stern ladder. Over the stern rail I go and down the ladder into the water. The water feels pretty good actually. I lower myself completely into the blue abyss and while maintaining a tight grip on the ladder I submerge and look forward. DAMN!
Smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, my tiny little boat just ran over a piece of netting. Not fishing net…it’s some kind of heavy green mesh net. But, it’s small…maybe 2 feet wide and 5 or 6 feet long, OK…this really sucks. I ask Gerry to get me a knife, and with knife in hand I dive down to the prop. The net is twisted around the prop and as I start unwinding I run out of air and have to resurface. Grab the ladder…hold on…catch my breath. Finally after 4 more attempts I was able to wrestle the net from the prop. One more dive to make sure the prop is feathering correctly.
Now only one more task…while I’m still soaked in salt water we have to reattach the Hydrovane rudder. The reason it came off in the first place was my negligence to pin the rudder to stop it from vibrating while motoring. It runs free while sailing, but needs to be pinned when motoring. At 6 am I was thinking about bringing the whisker pole down on a rolling deck, and not thinking about pinning Hepzebah’s rudder. I’ll tell you what…it’s something I’ll never forget or neglect to do again. OK that jobs done.
Now the moment of truth. We start the engine again, put her in gear, and…IT WORKS! We put the boat back onto her courses, engage Tardis the autopilot, then sit down in the cockpit to rest a minute and laugh about this stupid little net in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and joke about the odds of this happening. I told Gerry now would be a good time for a swim in the middle of the Pacific, but he declined. Things like this you have to find some humor, laugh a little, and move on.
After a few minutes I strip in the cockpit…there’s nobody around except Gerry, and run forward to the head (bathroom) and jump into the sit down shower and start washing the salt off my body. The hot water feels great as does rinsing the salt from my mouth. The sun is up now, the seas are rolling smoothly, there is not a hint of wind, the sun is shining brightly from the east, and we are motoring along at about 7 knots.
Oh…by the way…JP used to say if you don’t have pictures it didn’t happen. We got the pictures and the net will become a fixture in my boat somewhere after a good cleaning. It’s really a nice piece of netting!
Oh…also…I am very happy to report that around midnight last night we passed our half way point. We are now officially closer to Hawai’i than we are to the mainland. There is no turning back now!
Sat 26/Oct 02:53 GMT - Puttering Along at 6.5 Knots 27º 55.685 N 139º 12.883 W Course: 253° true, 6.6 kts.
After a rather…um…interesting morning we have been steadily making way for Hawai’i at about 6.5 knots. It was a gorgeous day out here on the Pacific Ocean, the only thing missing is wind. But, the temperature is nice…very nice! Now the sun has set, Gerry is in his bunk reading before he sleeps, and I start my watch with a hot cup of Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee and 4 squares of dark chocolate.
After lunch we decided to rig the fishing poles and troll a couple jigs behind us trailing 2 rubber things which I guess are supposed to resemble squid. Within an hour we had our first hit…a dorado…great! it was a monster! But he got up to the boat and just before Gerry could gaff it, it leaped out of the water, the line went limp, and away it swam. Oh well, it was too big anyway, A few hours later we got another hit. Another dorado! A bit smaller. But this one broke the leader. Damn…now I lost my lure and we don’t have fresh fish for the dinner table. By the way…,Dorado seem to like the white rubbery squid looking things.
The other rod also had a 45 pound test leader on it like the one that broke. (Note…buy 100 pound test leaders.) So, I reeled in the lure, removed the leader and tied a new jig onto the second pole directly to the monofilament line. This lure was an odd contraption. Just a hollowed out cedar plug with a hunk of lead on the nose and a big ass hook sticking out the other end. No paint, no eyes, no color, no fancy streamers…just a piece of wood with a hook in it. The guy at the sporting goods store told me he doesn’t understand it…but he catches a lot of fish with it offshore. What the hell…I’ll give it a try.
Gerry was below preparing dinner; Greek salad tonight. Then, suddenly the zinging sound that we have a fish on again. It was the pole with the wooden jig. But, this fish didn’t come to the surface like the other dorado did…it went deep. TUNA! I reeled while Gerry readied the gaff. Soon we saw color and confirmed it was indeed a tuna. Gently…let it wear itself out a bit…keep tension on the line…YES! Gerry perfectly hooked the gaff. Now to bring it aboard on the side deck and dispatch it. The quickest way to dispatch a fish is either with a blow to the head…sometimes 2 or 3…or rip out it’s gills. I prefer the gill ripping method, but will say it’s not a technique for the timid or squeamish. But, it’s quick, you don’t risk putting a hole in your deck with a hammer or knee-capping your mate. The down side is…it’s bloody. I’m not talking a little blood…I mean it looks like what you might expect Lizzy Borden’s house to have looked like after her little temper tantrum. With tuna you have hang them by the tail a bit to bleed them out anyway to prevent the blood from spoiling the flesh. It's really amazing how much blood there is in those damn fish. OK…enough with the gore.
Hanging head-first from the side of the boat is the first fish caught this voyage. A 30 inch tuna. After about 30 minutes of cleaning our own little “murder scene” the next step is to cut it up. A little for sashimi to go along with our Greek salad, and 4 nice tuna steaks for meals this week. With a little soy sauce and wasabi the sashimi is deep red and delicious. Excellent compliment to our salad.
Now the not so good news…the weather predictions are not encouraging with regards to wind. Even the consistent trade winds from the east seem to have vanished. So, it looks like we might be motoring for at least 2 days. Tonight we will pray to Aeolus, throw a silver coin to Neptune and hope that the morning weather report tells a different story.
In all honesty…other than the drone of the engine…the reasonably flat sea and not having to worry about sail trim and reefing sails is a nice respite. I notice Gerry in his bunk not even using the lee cloth tonight. But, Discovery is a sailboat damn it…she needs to sail!
Sat 26/Oct 16:53 GMT - And the Sound of the Engine Drones On, and on, and on... 27º 29.561 N 140º 55.537 W Course: 245° true, 6.6 kts.
We are still motoring through the dull drums, and the weather charts don’t show much encouragement unless we were to go 50 to 80 miles to the northwest, then jibe again towards Hawaii. That maneuver would add more than 1 day to the overall journey and the winds there are only predicted to be 15 knots. So, we’ll continue on our current course and hope the weather models are wrong, We download GRIB files 2 times a day in hopes of seeing wind building to our east…this morning’s charts show a lot of blue (no wind), maybe this evening.
Yesterday we only made 129 miles. Mostly due to sailing in very light winds most of Thursday night and early Friday morning. Keeping track of the days is sometimes a little confusing, and only done for this “log” and for it’s readers. The time of day, the day of the week, the month…hell even the year seem completely irrelevant out here.
There are a few time constants…at 0300 Zulu I check in on the Pacific Seafarer’s Net to give a position and current weather report to Jane (NH7TZ) on the ham radio. If you have a ham radio, or shortwave radio you might be able to hear the report on 14.300 Mz. The other constant is that at 0200 PST Gerry wakes up to relieve me from watch so I can sleep.
The night watches while motoring mostly consist of looking at the chart plotter for any ships within 50 miles each hour, then settling down at the nav station or salon to read. Another hour passes, and another look at the chart plotter, and maybe a look outside. We are far from civilization and there are no other vessels. Maybe another sailing boat without AIS? Perhaps…but it is unlikely. We don’t even monitor VHF anymore…that was turned off days ago. There is no sense in running a radio if there is no possibility of communication. Perhaps if an AIS target appears on the chart plotter we’ll turn on the VHF radio again in case someone on that vessel wants to talk with us…but until we get within 100 miles or so of Hawaii, or start seeing AIS targets on the chart plotter the VHF gets a rest. Same with the radar. Radar is important at night near coastal because there it is likely to encounter boats that don’t have AIS. But, when you are 900+ miles from nowhere it doesn’t help to look at a blank radar screen or listen to silence coming from the VHF radio.
Well, yesterday was a day of rest. Today is a good day to do some maintenance and much needed chores. Now that I’ve had my morning coffee and watch as the rays of the sun try to fight their way through the cloud cover we’ll start our day with doing some laundry, then some cleaning.
Sun 27/Oct 02:53 GMT - Another Day Of Motoring in the Dull Drums 27º 06.796 N 142º 04.501 W Course: 255° true, 6.9 kts.
Today was a completely uneventful day! Well, except for having to lift the engine compartment lid (with the engine running) to access the main water tank valve. The main water tank is full, but the flow from the tank to the water pump was restricted. The only thing I could think of was something blocking at the 90 degree elbow where it exists the tank. So…close the gate valve, take the hose clamp off, remove the hose, open the gate valve. That’s it…there is barely a trickle coming out of the tank. Close gate value, get plumbing wrench and remove gate valve. Water starts gushing out of the tank. Quickly screw the gate valve back on. Where’s the cork from the wine we opened 2 nights ago? OK…now we have a bung to stop the flow of water. Remove the gate valve again, and jam in cork. Inside the gate vale are 2 pieces of calcium about the size of M&Ms. The larger one maybe the size of the peanut M&Ms. No wonder I could not get any water from the main tank. OK problem solved and everything is back together.
Since leaving San Francisco we have been drawing off the secondary 70 gallon water tank in the bow of the boat. The water maker refills this tank daily. The main 125 gallon water tank is opposite the 125 gallon fuel tank. When motoring I want to draw from the main tank to ensure the balance of the boat is reasonably maintained as I use fuel. It would be highly embarrassing to pull into port with the boat listing to port because the water tank (on the port side) is full of water, and the fuel tank (on the starboard side) is near empty
Today it felt like the winds might pick up. In fact, for.a very brief time the winds actually got above 10 knots. But that was just long enough to raised the main sail after which the winds died down to barely a puff. The seas are pretty calm…there are always swells and the boat constantly rolls…just not as dramatic as previously.
Today we altered course to head for the northeast corner of Oahu rather than go to the east of the big island. Weather predictions are showing that the lee side of Hawaii is completely windless for the next week or so. Which means we would have likely been motoring into Oahu. Now we are heading for Makapu’u Point to pass through Kaiwi Channel, turn left at Diamond Head, sail past Honolulu, and into Ko Olina Marina. Reason for the change…the trade winds are unusually light now. If you’re looking on a map it looks like a big change. In fact this saves us about 100 nautical miles (1 day). But, from 950 miles away the course change was only 2 degrees to starboard.
That’s enough for now…fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are calling my name!
Sun 27/Oct 22:53 GMT - Finally Sailing Again... 26º 43.086 N 143º 12.378 W Course: 277° true, 3.7 kts.
If you’ve been watching our track you probably think to your self that BJ and Gerry probably got hammered drunk last night which is why the boat’s track is moving so erratically. Well, you would be wrong. Last night as I came on watch I was getting something out of the quarter berth locker and heard a grinding noise. Grinding noises are never good on a sail boat unless it is a winch grinding and that makes a distinct sound. So, I went into my cabin which is opposite the quarter berth and listened near the hull. Sure enough…something was making a grinding sound. Then it dawned on me…right below the quarter berth and my cabin is the propeller strut. I immediately ran to the navigation station and reduced power. The sound subsided, but…this is a problem.
Inside the propeller strut is a cutlass bearing that keeps the propeller shaft straight as it turns. It seems that the run in with the net a few days ago that made the entire boat vibrate also did some damage to the cutlass bearing. The bearing is wearing out. We cannot risk running the engine until we get closer to a boatyard that can haul us out.
So, last night we bobbed all night carried by the 3 knot breeze and ocean currents…which fortunately were mostly in our favor. But, with each roll of the boat the thunderous “thaaawack” of the main sail flogging from side to side did not provide much comfort and so I barely slept a wink.
Now we are sailing. Despite the winds only being about 7 knots…and that’s being generous…we put up the kite (asymmetrical spinnaker, cruising chute, etc) brought down the main that was just beating itself to death, and we are zig-zagging our way to Oahu at a leisurely 4 knots. (Translation…it will take a couple day longer than we anticipated.)
Also, our first port of call will be Honolulu and not Ko Olina Marina at Barber’s Point. But is it close and Honolulu is on the way to the marina. Honolulu has the only place in the islands the we haul out for a few days and have someone change the cutlass bearing.
At the moment we are jibing back and forth 850 nautical miles from Oahu. But, in between us and the island is a huge area of no wind. So, we are heading west a few days, then hopefully southwest to Oahu as indicated on Predict Wind’s weather routing software. They calculate at 6 knots boat speed we’ll be there in 8 days. Now the boat is barely making 4 knots.
And so, the saga continues. Each day is a test. Each day I learn something new. Each day there is a new obstacle to overcome. Each day I remain optimistic. And every day I am humbled by the immensity of the ocean that surrounds me and feel fortunate to have this experience in my life.
Mon 28/Oct 05:53 GMT - Sailing at Night Under a Spinnaker 26º 49.427 N 143º 46.844 W Course: 290° true, 4.9 kts.
OK…this is something I swore I’d never do again. In August, JP and I flew the spinnaker at night. On the second night it got wrapped clockwise around the genoa at the top, and anti-clockwise towards the bottom. I went up to look and just came back and said “screw it…we’ll deal with it in the morning.” Fortunately, in the morning it had unscrewed itself and I was able to pull the sock down and dowse the sail without so much as a scratch on me or the sail. But, I swore I’d never sail with a spinnaker at night again. I lied.
Here we are coasting along in about 7 knots of wind under spinnaker alone. It’s midnight (PST), and I am using the steaming light to cast its glow onto the spinnaker so I can keep an eye on it. The sky is filled with clouds which means it’s pitch black around me. The sea state is calm and we gently glide over the swells coming from the northeast. I hear the sea rush past the hull and swirl around Hepzibah's rudder. The whirl of the SilentWind wind generator above my head speeds up as the winds increase to 10 knots before subsiding again to around 7 knots. I like sitting in the cockpit. I can’t see a damn thing other than the dimly lit spinnaker and chart plotter…but my sense of hearing seems enhanced and I appreciate the story each unique sound is telling me. Even the occasional thwack of the spinnaker cloth snapping back after a lull in the wind lets me know she is fine and full of wind. Everything is good!
Our current heading is West North West. In the morning we will head southwesterly. In the ocean you don’t steer to a specific heading, you steer to a point on the compass rose. For some people that is a hard concept to grasp…they want a specific number. Even Tardis wants a specific number to hold her course. But it is not absolute; it’s merely close enough. When a wave pushes your bow 20 degrees to port and then 15 degrees starboard it is impossible to sail a steady course of 285 degrees even if you are a hydraulic autopilot. Sorry, but the ocean rules. So, our course is between West and Northwest on the compass rose for now.
Ahhh…the compass rose. There is a big one embedded into the pavement at Elliott Bay Marina. Now, in the memories of my mind and against this pitch black sky I can picture my daughter Elizabeth as a young child running between the points of that compass rose as I stood by and called them out in random order. She would run as fast as she could to the next point and stand tall, smiling proudly. I was as proud of her then as I am now for I know that her compass that will always point her in the right direction throughout her life.
My compass, on the other hand, has a bent needle that sometimes gets stuck, and requires someone to give it a few good hard whacks on the side of the case to get it back pointing in the right direction again (correcting for the deviation of the bent needle of course).
Now my watch is half over and soon I will be settling into my bed as Gerry wakes up for his watch. The spinnaker is still flying before the boat in all it’s colorful glory. In the morning we jibe to a port tack, and head southwesterly towards the islands. Out here when you are miles from your destination and traveling at 5 knots, plus or minus 20 degrees is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. As we get closer to our goal specific headings become more important.
(I must be tired…I’m getting way too nostalgic and philosophical. I suspect when we are tired (or drunk) that we begin to think we are way smarter than we really are.)
Oh…I almost forgot again…on Saturday we covered 158 miles. 24 hours later on Sunday’s log we only made 116 nautical miles for a total of 1391 miles. Each one brings us closer to our destination which is now 818 nautical miles away as the crow flies. But there are no crows out here, so our course and miles travelled are more “like the albatross flies” (which is not a straight line), but we can say we are roughly 8 days away from landfall.
Mon 28/Oct 21:52 GMT - Flailing Our Way Through The Dull Drums 26º 37.679 N 144º 53.542 W Course: 227° true, 3.3 kts.
The wind speed is barely 5 to 7 knots. Sometimes as low as 3 knots. The sky is mostly cloudy but the sun is trying to peak through the cracks between the high clouds. The windex at the top of the mast rotates 360 degrees as the boat rolls gently with the 5 foot swells and the mast head swings 10 feet to port, then 10 feet to starboard, and the stern rides up with the oncoming wave, then sinks into the trough of the wave as it passes. Tardis the autopilot is grinding away to keep a steady course, although I am not sure if it is wind or waves that are pushing us ahead at 3 - 4 knots. Then there is the spinnaker in all her rainbow glory. Flailing in the wind like a helpless rag doll. She fills with wind, then as the swell rolls the boat, she collapses and falls limp. And this cycle goes on and on and on and on.
We look out across the water for any sign of wind. We look to the sky. A few rain showers past astern of us this morning. A fresh water rain shower would be nice. Salt cakes everything. We then download the latest GRIB files in hopes the sage oracles from PredictWind would have encouraging news for us. But alas…here we bob among the waves in the Pacific Ocean, and now we are being harassed by a bird that has been circling for 15 minutes and screeching at us as if we did something wrong.
We only made 109 nautical miles last night, and we are still more than 750 nautical miles from our destination. Today may be our slowest as the winds aren’t supposed to pick up again until tomorrow. Well, you know what they say…”it not the destination…it’s the voyage.” That’s bullshit.
Tue 29/Oct 16:04 GMT - Good Morning Pacific Ocean 25º 50.408 N 146º 41.824 W Course: 249° true, 6.3 kts.
Yesterday after suffering under a flailing spinnaker all day we suddenly got hit by a squall. The winds went from 5- 7 knots to 25 knots in a few seconds. Then the rain…a little at first and then it dumped on us. The spinnaker filled with air and propelled the boat forward with such velocity we almost broached. I ran forward to the bow to pull the sock down over the kite, but it was almost impossible fortunately the shackles attached to the clew gave way and I went all the way forward to release the shackle at the tack of the sail. Now the spinnaker was flying out at a 90 degree angle to the mast. But, at least there was much less resistance in lowing the sock over the sail. Then Gerry came forward to help lower the halyard so I could gather the spinnaker encased in it’s sock stowed on the deck behind the dinghy. Then we made our way back to the cockpit, pulled out the Genoa a bit to at least have some bit of steerage. We were completely soaked, but it was refreshing in a way to wash some of the salt off the boat and us.
Then, almost as suddenly as it appeared it was gone. The water was as flat as glass, and there was no wind…and I mean none…not even a whisper. So, I suggested that maybe we can run the engine and motor along at low RPMs on the engine. So, I fired up the engine, put her in gear, and slowly increase the RPMs. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s strange. A cutlass bearing cannot fix itself. Perhaps I was imagining the grinding noise. You know how certain noises become amplified on a boat like the spaghetti noodles in the plastic bin sloshing back and forth. Anyway…we have been motoring along since about 6 pm last night back on a rhumb line course to Oahu.
This morning I woke up to watch a most beautiful sunrise. The sunrise on the ocean is perhaps as magnificent as the sunsets are. The soft orange glow below the horizon illuminates the outline of each cloud. The bellies of the puffy cumulus clouds turn from gray to magenta. As the sun rises even further it paints the sky with a myriad of pastel colors. Then suddenly, the sun is high above the horizon and you can begin to feel it’s warmth. Spectacular show!
I also noticed on the chart plotter that the ocean-going tug named “Pacific Freedom” has crept up behind us last night. She is going only slightly fast then we are, but she is on a parallel course heading for Honolulu. Currently she is about 8 nautical miles behind us off our aft starboard quarter, but we haven’t made visual contact yet. It’s not unusual not to see her unless we both happen to be on the crest of a swell at the same time. But, it will be exciting…we haven’t seen another ship for days. Off the aft port quarter another squall is building. The clouds are dark and you can see the wall of water falling from the clouds. Maybe it will pass behind us, but another fresh water rinse would be a good thing for SV Discovery. I’ll ride this one out in the comfort of the cabin if she decides to come our way.
Winds are supposed to pick up around 1400 PST, so we should only have about another 3 hours of motoring. Then if the winds pick up as forecast for the next couple of days we should be able to sail the rest of the way to Oahu.
Tue 29/Oct 22:03 GMT- Merrily We Motor Along, Motor Along, Motor Along... 25º 36.272 N 147º 19.520 W Course: 241° true, 6.0 kts.
C’mon…sing it with me.
After the morning squall passed we started getting some really nice winds…20 knots. They felt great. But, no sooner did we get the sails raised the winds died. And I mean died completely again leaving the main and and genoa sails to start flapping angrily at us until we took them down and started the iron jib (engine) again.
So, today was a super exciting day. Not only did the ocean tug Pacific Freedom pass within 2 miles of us, we could actually see her! Then, looking skyward I noticed the contrails of 2 aircraft. And guess what…guess…guess. Yes, that’s right…they were all headed in the same direction as us…so we are pretty sure we are on the right course. And yesterday we got 142 nautical miles closer for a total of 1633 nautical miles logged thus far. By tomorrow we will be back within US territorial waters. I’m sure that means something.
Oh…and the other day I implied that the destination is important and the journey not. Of course the journey is important…you must make the journey to reach your next destination. If you fail to make the journey you will never get anywhere. If the journey is not challenging then the destination is just another stop over…nothing more. But, if you strive to complete your journey, and you can overcome the trials along the way, and laugh at the difficulties, and appreciate the little things that help you along your path, then you are also able to view the destination as a reward and find the value in everything it has to offer.
(I’m sure that’s a run on sentence…but…whatever.)
Wed 30/Oct 20:03 GMT - The Wind Has Finally Found Us 24º 32.697 N 149º 44.023 W Course: 247° true, 5.7 kts.
Last evening before it got dark we raised the main sail. PredictWind correctly predicted we would begin encountering 15 knots of wind around 10 pm PST and it was correct. The wind finally found us. By 4 am this morning the winds have been blowing steadily at 20 knots with and occasional gust to 30 knots, and we are on a very broad reach with the wind at 150 degrees off the nose on our starboard quarter.
Unfortunately, the sea state is mixed. It’s an angry sea this morning. The wind waves are breaking in various directions, and about every 2 minutes there is a huge set from the northeast the rolls the boat over on her port side. Hepzebah is steering the boat nicely, other than the big rolls that correspond with a 30 knot gust. The rolls push the bow southward and the gusts want the boat to turn into the wind…2 aligning forces that through off the natural balance and Hepzebah cannot deal with alone. But, once back on course she is steering us towards our destination.
The last 24 hours we logged 159 nautical miles. That’s 1790 nautical miles covered so far, and only about 500 left to go to Barbers Point, Oahu. We also have about 14 more nautical miles before we are back in US territorial waters.
Today is Gerry’s birthday. We will celebrate with a roast with fresh vegetables for dinner, then bake some cookies (I didn’t know it was his birthday or I would have gotten a cake mix). We’ll also toast with some fine scotch, and light the “man candle” (yes, it’s a real thing) and have him blow it out. There will be no singing. I sing so off tune it causes other people’s ears to bleed.
Thu 31/Oct 22:04 GMT - CAUTION: Danger Ahead - Another Gale 23º 33.911 N 152º 14.678 W Course: 244° true, 7.1 kts.
Well, unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to bake cookies for Gerry’s birthday…maybe tonight. Just as I started cooking the evening meal we got hit with a squall. It wasn’t too bad. Lots of rain, winds about 20 gusting to 25 knots. But, we had to secure all the hatches, and a roast in the oven it got pretty darn warm inside here. The squall passed, things were pretty calm outside, so we sat down for dinner.
During dinner the winds started picking up again. But, that was expected. According to our weather reports the winds should be around 20 knots for the next few days and we were looking forward to some good sailing. But, do you remember what I said about “models?” (“All models are wrong; some are useful.” - George Box) Within minutes the sea state was confused with waves coming from each possible direction. The winds started building. First 25 knots, then gusts to 30. Then 30 knots with gusts to 40. Then sustained 35 knot winds with the strongest seen gust at 52 knots. Yes…we were in a full blown gale. The main had the second reef, and we were running with the wind already. The wind screamed in anger and the seas lashed out slapping the hull with a thunderous explosion. Waves cresting over the cabin as if some giant has just poured a 500 gallon bucket of sea water over us. The only thing we could do was to batten down the hatches and hold on. I sat below monitoring the instruments and thinking to myself, “at what point to I throw the drogue off the back to slow us down?” But, I kept the thought to myself since we were not yet surfing down waves uncontrollably.
We had thrown the dinner dishes in the sink and they clanked as we got bounced and pounded from every imaginable direction. Everything that was not screwed down flew across the cabin. The net with veggies (which was screwed down) broke loose and the remaining veggies scattered across the salon floor. I through a towel over the dishes in the sink to try to muffle the clatter and told Gerry to go to sleep. I also retreated into my cabin and braced myself against the hull. We took our normal watches, but there was really nothing to see or do. We just had to wait.
It’s truly hard to describe the noise, the screaming winds, the water rushing, flowing, pounding everywhere around you. And in complete darkness there really is not much you can do in a squall but hope that it doesn’t worsen. Because of the unpredictable movements of the boat, it even becomes somewhat dangerous to move about the cabin even with the generous amount of handholds I installed. So, you just hunker down and listen to mother nature’s tantrum…and you do not dare sleep.
This morning the seas were still unpleasant. Great walls of water approached ominously, while the smaller waves (3 - 5 feet) lashed out and spit their salty spray at us and occasionally pounding their watery fists on the side of the hull. But, the gale winds had subsided. Despite being a bit battered and bruised, Gerry and I, and Discovery prepared for a new day.
The morning was pleasant despite the confused seas and we continued to sail along under reefed main sail in 20 - 25 knot winds. Gliding over the crests of watery mountains then gently falling into the trough as the waves flowed around us. Then another squall, and now we are sailing along with the first reef in the main sail, and the genoa out about 110% at a nice pace of 7 knots in 20 knots of wind…exactly what PredictWind had promised…yesterday!
Skies are mostly gray. The rain squalls come and go all day. We can see them on the horizon. A light gray drapery suspended from the clouds down to the horizon. The sea state is still confused and a bit angry. Then I remembered…yesterday we reentered US territorial waters. Welcome back to America.
Fri 1/Nov 20:04 GMT - We Hear Hawaii Calling 22º 43.295 N 154º 25.302 W Course: 264° true, 5.0 kts.
After a day of sailing under gray skies and getting hammered by the occasional squall last night the winds finally died completely as predicted, and we started motoring again at 7 pm (Hawaii time we think) Let’s just say 7 pm on the ship’s clock…we’re really not sure what time it is anymore…it’s “light time” or “dark time.” The ship’s clock has one time, our iPads and iPhones are still on Pacific Time (standard we think…daylight savings sucks), I primarily use UTC time for radio check ins, and Gerry’s watch is set to something else…Gerry’s time.
The fuel gauge is on ‘E’ but I know there is at least 30 more gallons in the tank. We put in 10 gallons from our fuel reserve last night, so we have 30 gallons fuel reserve left on deck. We calculated backwards of distance and time. We think we can motor the rest of the way, but we would arrive just before midnight on Saturday, and most importantly we are mostly guessing how much fuel is remaining in the tank. The prudent thing to do would be to remove the access panel and guesstimate with a dipstick, but that is just too damn logical…besides…guessing seems more enjoyable and gives us something to talk about.
Anyway…arriving at midnight would suck because there wouldn’t be any girls in grass skirts to greet us and put lei’s around our necks and shower us with hugs and cold beer. (That would be a nice welcome, but it will likely be angry stout women in mumu’s throwing poi at the boat and telling us howlies to go home.) So, now we are sailing close hauled into 7 knots of wind to slow down our progress so we can arrive around noonish on Sunday to arrive under the watchful eye’s of all those sunburned tourists. So, now we have a plan…we’re calling this one plan ‘Q’ and it better work because we are running out of letters in the English alphabet.
Last night a big sea bird circled the boat a few times…hovered above the spreader for a bit, flew off, then came around again and landed on the bow’s pulpit. Now, don’t ask me what kind of bird I can barely tell the difference between a Robin and a Cardinal, but I know it was a bird. Anyway…I don’t know how this bird stayed on because it looked as if it were to go inverted at any moment, or be shaken off by the rolling waves. Even when our genoa started flogging we thought he would leave…but no…he was still there. When we started motoring we furled the genny, and lowered the main sail. I went forward to the mast…and it stayed. I probably could have gone right up to it and it wouldn’t have flinched. This morning we I woke up…it was still there. Then after my morning coffee I turned to look and it was gone. Just like that. But…it left us a reminder of it’s presence. Yes, the bow pulpit and foredeck are now covered in bird shit.
Just as I sat down to write this we heard static on the VHF radio. I figured within 200 miles or so of land we probably want to start monitoring VHF again…it is required by law to continually monitor VHF 16 while at sea. But when your 500 miles from nowhere, and the effective range of VHF is 25 miles or so (unless you get an atmospheric reflection)…the law seems kind of silly. Anyway, a few minutes later we heard US Coast Guard Honolulu put out a call to inform some chowderhead he/she had an open microphone on channel 16. We hear you calling Hawaii!
Last night we made 143 miles. We have approximately 215 more miles to go to our destination. We are planning a Sunday arrival as long as plan Q is in effect. Stand by…
Sat 2/Nov 21:03 GMT - I Spy With My Naked Eye - Land Ho! 21º 50.651 N 156º 03.762 W Course: 239° true, 5.8 kts.
MAUI!!! Yes…indeed it is not a mirage! On the horizon off the port beam rising above the line of clouds are the distinct mountains of Maui. I feel like a little kid giddy with excitement and anticipation knowing that the gift in wrapping paper yet unseen is exactly the thing I’ve been begging for. The trip has been filled with ups and downs. Things that went well, and some things that went wrong. Gerry, I, and Discovery have a few bruises and scrapes, but nothing serious. But, also there is a kind of melancholy knowing this will be our last night in the ocean for a while.
Yesterday was the most perfect sailing day we’ve had on our adventure. Despite enduring a gale for 12 hours, battered by mixed lumpy seas, motoring through the dull drums, and cold gray skies that went on forever…yesterday…that one fine day of sailing made it all worthwhile. The wind was on our nose the whole time, we were close hauled on a perfect course, the sun was bright and warm, puffy cumulus clouds dotted the sky, and Discovery smoothly sailed over the rolling 1 - 2 feet swells. Discovery is a fine vessel. She’s not a fancy boat, she’s really not all that pretty, but, she is 13 tons of fun! She has proved she is a tough old gal (despite have a few leaks) and loves sailing in the ocean. Remove the bridle of the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains and put her in the open pasture of the Pacific Ocean and she loves to run and do what she was meant to do. SAIL!
But, of course we are not there yet. And after a perfect day of sailing, last night we were again tormented by a few squalls that roar out of nowhere. Of course they reared their ugliness about an hour after I went off watch and just fell asleep. I don’t sleep very soundly at sea, the slightest change in motion, or sound of water or wind and I jump out of bed. Gerry has things well in hand, but occasionally we need to work together to reef the main or some other odd task. In the past 24 hours we made 124 nautical miles. We still have approximately 120 miles to go to the marina. We’ve again slowed down to make sure we are just off Makapu’u Point at about 6 am. Then we hope to sail through Kaiwi Channel, past Koko Head, then past Diamond Head, past Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, then another 20 nautical miles or so to the channel entrance at Barber’s Point to Ko Olina Marina.
Just before my watch ended last night, an AIS target appeared on the chart plotter. It was the VAK 2, a large fishing vessel of some sort. I went on deck and saw the glow of his flood lights off in the distance. VAK 2 was 10 miles out, but we appeared to be on a direct collision course. In fact, the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) was less then 1/2 of a mile. That seems pretty far. But, at night on the open ocean…trust me…it is closer than you want to be especially since we were still sailing and at the mercy of the wind. If the winds shift…we shift along with them. So, I called on the VHF, “VAK 2, VAK 2, VAK 2. The sailing vessel Discovery. Do you copy? Over.” Silence. I call 2 more times, and a sleepy Russian sounding voice comes back, “Who is this?” The conversation remaining goes something like this…
DISCOVERY: “Captain, this is the sailing vessel Discovery and we are currently 8 nautical miles off your port bow. My AIS is indicating we are on a collision course. Will you please alter your course.” VAK 2: “Yes, we are going to Maui to pick up our lines.” DISCOVERY: “Captain, do you have nets in the water?” VAK 2: “No” DISCOVERY: “SIr, I say again we are a sailing vessel underway and request you alter course.” VAK 2: “I don’t see you. Where are you.” DISCOVERY: “Sir, we are approximately 7 nautical miles just off your port bow.” VAK 2: “OK, I see you now. When we are close I will alter course.”
WTF? I’m thinking to myself…I don’t want you to be “close” before you alter course…I want you to turn NOW! But, VAK 2 was only moving at 2.5 knots, and we were sailing briskly along at 5.5 knots. It’s hard to judge distance visually on the water…impossible at night. So, with chart plotter zoomed in, radar on, and keeping a close watch on deck I can see the lights of VAK 2 getting closer. I want to get on the radio and say, “Captain, turn your damn boat.” But, I patiently waited it out. (My mother and the military taught me about patience.) Soon, the captain of VAK 2 calls on the radio and says, “We are going to stop engines until you pass.” I guess he finally realized we were going to collide if neither of us took evasive action. I replied, “Thank you Captain, I really appreciate it, and I wish you a good day sir.” We slowly make way past VAK 2. She is within 1/2 mile and I can clearly see the outline of the ship with all her lights blazing. Too close for comfort.
While sailing we are mostly focused on the wind instruments on the chart plotter. We only look at the chart window once each hour to scan for boats within 20 nautical miles. My VHF radio also has a built in AIS receiver and can detect AIS targets 10 miles out.
After breakfast, Gerry settles down for a nap after his watch. I come over to the nav station, switch the chart plotter screen to chart mode…and who to I see off our port stern…it’s our old pal’s VAK 2. I look and Gerry is reading, so I tell him VAK 2 is back. Gerry says, “I thought they were going to Maui?” I told Gerry, when I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan we would always see these Russian “fishing vessels” slowly making way by the island. We chatted a bit and convinced ourselves they are either really bad pirates, or it’s a Russian spy boat.
Mon 4/Nov 06:03 GMT - SV Discovery Has Landed 21º 19.699 N 158º 07.180 W Course: 180° true, 0.0 kts.
Ok…I know that I am about 2 days behind in posts.
First, we arrived at Ko Olina Marina around 1 pm today after 19 days and 2315 nautical miles across the biggest body of water on the planet, and being The farthest from land any person can get on the planet.
We are tired…no we are exhausted. So, I’ll just say we arrived safely, there was no major damage to the boat, and Gerry and I have all our appendages still attached.
I promise to tell the rest of the story when I awake from my coma.
Tue 5/Nov 04:03 GMT - Now...The Rest of The Story (Avoiding FADS at Night) 21º 19.701 N 158º 07.178 W
The day and a half prior to our arrival was rather uneventful. The winds completely died on us and we were motoring all day at about 5 knots. We could not increase our speed or we would arrive too early at Ko Olina, so it felt like we were creeping along. Maui then Molokai to our port as we motored towards Kiwai Channel. I think the anticipation of landfall weighed heavily on our minds, but we really didn’t talk much about that.
To break up the monotony I decided to trail the white squid lure off the back of the boat. Gerry was texting his daughter and I was up on the ‘sun deck’ collecting vitamin D when I heard the chatter of the reel. A strike…fish on…Gerry sat calmly next to the rod completely oblivious to what was happening. I think having cell reception for the first time in 17 days is kind of engrossing. I jumped into the cockpit, grabbed the rod, set the hook, and the fight was on. We knew straight away it was a mahi mahi. I didn’t want to lose this one…so I slowly brought the line in and just let the fish wear itself out battling against the pull of the boat underway. As soon as it was beside the boat Gerry gaffed it, and pulled it onto the side deck. I went to work performing the “gill removal surgery,” then cut the filets, and chucked the rest of the carcass back into the ocean.
Later that evening the USCG Honolulu sent a “securitae” warning on the VHF of 2 objects (possibly fish attracting devices or FADs) that were spotted off Makapu’u Point and posed a danger to mariners. I copied the coordinates and looked on the chart. Damn…wouldn’t you know these things were directly in our path on our current course. It was already dark out, but both Gerry and I went topside to see if we could see anything. Even small lights are relatively easy to see at night…if they had working lights. After a few moments I went back below and fired up the radar. There were no targets on the radar other than a squall to our port, and a cruise ship heading to Maui 5 nm to our starboard.
We thought we had dodged that bullet when about an hour later the radar started painting 2 hard targets about 6 miles out at the 1 o’clock position off our starboard bow. Once again we ran topside to see if we could see any flashing lights…but there was nothing. We continued to track them, and as they floated past I called the USCG on channel 22 and gave them the updated coordinates as they passed about 4 nautical miles to the north of us. I read about these FADs in the US Coast Pilot Volume 7 and it warned that occasionally these would break free and present a hazard to vessels, but at the time I really didn’t give it much thought. Now, there are 2 more FADs floating somewhere in the Pacific…thanks to the Hawaiian government that allows these stupid things.
We were both awake to watch the dawn on Sunday. We were both excited at seeing Makapu’u Point, then Koko Head. There were several squalls that passed over the island as we started cruising along the lee shore presenting us with a series of rainbows of the island. It was indeed a beautiful site until one of the squalls hit us to remind us that we weren’t there yet! We wanted to sail past Diamond Head, but there was very little wind, so with our main sail up we motor-sailed past Diamond Head, past Waikiki, and finally into Ko Olina.
There were no girls in grass skirts or bikini tops there to greet us. But, my friend Ken who was tracking my trip from his office in Honolulu was there to greet us in a grass skirt and bikini top…not quite what I had in mind…but it was funny as hell.