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Owl & Pussycat
The adventures of Jim and Isabel aboard S/V Sonsie of Victoria
Under the Sun!
Coral Bliss Taylor/..windy?
04/24/2013, 11°01.65'N 150°23.94'W

Well we are enjoying our days at sea.

Today we passed under the sun.

That is: had the mast not been healed over due to the sails it would not have cast a shadow. the sun was at our zenith.

This happened because our latitude matched the suns declination just at the same time of our LAN (local apparent noon). This was pretty neat.

Isabel will be posting our blog update with Coral's help soon.

Big moon shining over a big ocean and a small boat.

[posted by Coral]

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons User Tfr000 (no user page).

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04/25/2013 | Cousin John
Just viewed your blog after talking with your Mom last night. They both sound great and Uncle Don was cracking a few funny ones. Karen and I look forward to following your adventure. We woke up to 0' temp and snow. Yours looks way more exciting. Be safe John Karen
Port Tack
Coral Bliss Taylor/..windy?
04/22/2013, 14°37.45'N 153°07.54'W

We remain on a port tack, close reaching usually with staysail and 2nd-reefed main, tonight in lighter winds furled genoa & 2nd reefed main, but even so our brass cabin bell sometimes chimes out when we slam into a wave!!

Close reaching isn't a comfortable point of sail. We are basically living on a slant, consequently everything takes a lot of energy, bracing, balancing, not bonking into things. Imagine balancing on an exercise ball on a 20degrees slant in severe turbulence. My hips are bruised from being in the galley but i'm determined to keep us well fed! I'm on watch now, Jim's asleep. Nighttime watches are fun, easier out of the glare of the tropical sun, pretty moonlight on the sails & sea, and then lots of gorgeous stars in the heavens after the moon sets.

Seen a few terns wheeling over the waves, one small school of flying fish, no other boats at all.

We motored for 2hrs today, first time in 72hrs, to recharge our batteries and top up our water. He keeps everything shipshape, what a perfect set of skills he has! He wears many hats: mechanic, technician, navigator, radio man, etc. sonsie a very sea-worthy boat. Covered in salt crystals from all the spray.

We sign in everyday at 0400 utc on ham radio pacific net, roll call. I did the call this evening, first time, fun! If we don't call in three days running, they will call our contacts -- so we make sure we attend the roll call, so they know we are safe.

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Heading to Marquesas!
04/20/2013, 16°56.92'N 154°24.85'W

Brief sailing update:
We are heading 140 true from big island of hawaii to marquesas. Winds are favourable for this routing. We had an exciting time coming out from the protection of the lee - slammed for 24hrs.

A brief update on the status of the blog:
Coral Bliss Taylor (daughter) will be updating the blog while the brave sailors are adventuring at sea. Postings are from emails sent via the radio connection. I (Coral) will be cutting and pasting from those emails so that everyone can stay updated. If needed, I can be reached via the comments, below.

Courtesy of

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Captain James Cook
04/17/2013, Big Island

Aloha everyone,

April 14 we rented a car and had a marvellous day touring Big Island, visiting an off-the-map local beach under the 720' bridge supporting the road above. We ate local (taro burgers!) walked in the rainforest to a beautiful waterfall, and visited the volcano. Fascinating campfire glow at sundown - glad we weren't too close! Perfect conditions for a giant to toast his marshmallows.

The next day we couldn't return the car fast enough as the Honokohau Harbor marina were shooing us away ! We were tucked in the only haulout slip on the island, and a big power boat could barely wait to be lowered into the water ...on top of us! We had to scarper!

We spent the following two nights on the hook at a very special location - at Captain Cook Bay, aka Kealakekua Bay. The tall cliff around the bay is as unspoilt as the day the great circumnavigator sailed in. We took the dingy to visit the inaccessible monument, the very place he fell on February 14 1779. An abandoned place, with many old stone walls built by anonymous hands and the remains of a crumbled-down church under a tangle of fallen down branches. There was no interpretative signage (gosh we miss google & wikipedia!) Lots of lovely cardinals were singing, possibly in tribute to Captain Cook's memory as the authorities seem to care not a whit to do so themselves. A night heron was busy fishing, or perhaps he was simply posing because he never caught anything. We moored the dingy illegally to the only private mooring ball in the bay and snorkeled a long way to shore, admiring many beautiful fish amongst the corals on the way. No one is allowed to come to shore there in any watercraft; boarders and kayakers are not even allowed in that end of the bay. And the only land route is over a hot and dusty trail along miles of rough-hewn a'a (pokey)lava rocks.

In honour of Captain Cook's sea-faring achievements we flew our Union Jack from Sonsie's port flag halyard the entire time we were there.

April 17 we made our last anchorage in Hawaii in Honomalino Bay. Dark sand beach, black fingers of lava down to the shore, palms swaying, just a few houses dotted around the bay. One other sailboat, a derelict, bobbed nearby, "Lucky Dreamer". Clunkityclunk went our anchor alarmingly as we were about to retire for the night. Jim sprinted up top with flashlight to check things out, catching sight as he did of a ghostly figure on the deck of Lucky Dreamer. When hailed the figure immediately ducked belowdecks, out of sight. Meanwhile the anchor crunching noise required Jim's attention. Although we had taken special care to anchor in sand it was clunking on a patch of coral . In the morning we snorkeled over to check it out - thankfully the coral wasn't damaged, and our anchor and chain safe on the sand.

After attaching crotchstraps to our life vests we weighed anchor late the next afternoon, on April 18. How thrilling to be finally setting out on the first major passage of our lives, on a port tack under double-reefed main and staysail, heading 155 degrees true into dusk. As darkness descended we sailed out of the lee of land smack into the Pacific Ocean, which was bent out of shape from having to veer around the high island after having a clear run of it for the last 2,000 nm! Thrilling became daunting in short order, what with four metre waves and 25 knots of wind blowing off our port bow! The first 12 hours were wild - Sonsie a bucking bronco in frothing sharp waves with foreshortened troughs over the shelf below. The force of the spray alone activated the strobe light on our life ring to start blinking as if someone had fallen overboard. Down below, the brass cabin bell chimed out with each slam into a wave!

As we sailed further, out over deeper water, things improved. We have had steady 20 knot easterlies and 2-4 metre waves since we left, and as we are heading 140 degrees true from Hawaii to the Marquesas (French Polynesia) we remain on a port tack, close reaching usually with staysail and 2nd-reefed main.

Close reaching isn't exactly a comfortable point of sail. We are basically living on a slant, splash-bang-swoosh-thwumping our way through the water. Consequently doing anything takes a lot of energy: bracing, balancing, timing movements so as to not bonk into things. Imagine balancing on an exercise ball on a 20 degrees slant in moderate to severe turbulence! My hips are bruised from being in the galley but I'm determined to keep us well fed! Jim is primary navigator, mechanic, and sail whisperer. The nav station is at the bottom of the companionway steps. That first night out, a wave splashed below, trying to wet our electronics. We've kept the curtain drawn alongside the nav station ever since. When Jim sits there, plotting our course, behind this curtain, he reminds me of the Wizard of Oz in his magic box!

Yesterday, April 23, he calculated something quite astronomically magical: that we passed directly under the sun. That is: had the mast not been heeled over due to the sails it would not have cast a shadow. The sun was at our zenith because our latitude matched the sun's declination at the exact same time as our LAN (local apparent noon).

In the day, it is glorious and the sea is a brilliant dazzling blue. Night brings its own delights though, as then we are out of the hot glare of the soon-to-be equatorial sun. The moon has been waxing and glowing down magnificently, making Sonsie look like a faerie boat with silken sails. Last night, full of face, in command of the sky, lighting up the endless, glittering waves - a big moon shining over a big ocean and a small boat. It will soon begin ebbing, and then we will be able to study the zillions of stars. Out here away from light pollution, it's apparent why overhead is termed, "the heavens"! And then at daybreak, all colour seems to seep from the sea into the sky, as the sun approaches the horizon.

We are surrounded by horizon, many days from any shore, almost 1000 nm from our starting point, Ko'Olina Marina. It's where I've always wanted to be, out on the wide open ocean. It's fabulous! We are on a journey, discovering how BIG the world really is. We've seen some swoopy terns and zippy flying fish, but not a single other vessel. Sonsie is proving to be a very sea-worthy boat, riding especially well now that we have dragged the folded up raft and other weighty objects out of the bow and placed them centrally, on the cabin floor. Outside, she is completely sparkled in salt crystals from all the spray.

We tune in everyday at 0300 zulu on our ham radio to the Pacific Seafarers Net, for the roll call, so they know we are safe. With the ham radio we regularly access all the necessary weather charts and data. And we have limited email capability over the radio too. We are thankful for that, because we love and miss our families and always enjoy hearing from them.

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Making our way through the Hawaii Islands
04/15/2013, NW of Big Island

Hello everyone, thank you for your nice comments. We love hearing from you!

Snagging a few moments of wifi so here are a few updates.

We've had a week of sailing and adventuring in the Hawaiian Islands. Sonsie has performed to expectations, expertly sluicing and bobbing through some exciting sea conditions. She is a perfect offshore boat, inspiring total for her crew... well with a bit more experience we hope to be up to her standards!

Our passage to Maui was fairly slow paced as winds were light, especially in the lee of Lanai. We took turns at the helm except for a few hours when we hove to, to both catch a little kip (sleep). Getting used to the watch system takes a while. Thank goodness our CapeHorn self-steering gear never needs a nap, or feeding. She's an honourable extra crew member!!

One night we anchored at Molokini for some decent rest and a bit of snorkeling. Another night saw us at the SW end of Maui at La Perouse Bay, with its pretty layers of black and cream-coloured lava rocks. Interestingly, my good pal Lisa & I cycled to this same bay a few years back on a layover. Looking out at that bay then, hot and dusty from our bike ride, I could never have imagined that just two years hence I'd be anchored there on a marvellous boat with a happy husband! Around the same period in my life, I attended a BlueWater Cruising Association talk in Vancouver on Perouse's eighteenth century explorations. Reputedly he was the first non-Polynesian to reach Maui. I wonder if it was as windy (sustained 20knots, gusting higher) when he was anchored there?! We were happy to have robust all-chain rode, to keep us secure. Good ground tackle equals peace of mind!!

The following day saw us up early to cross the world famous Alenuihaha Channel down to Big Island. Lots of sunshine and sparkle and boisterous seas, including fabulously exciting 15' waves and a stiff 25kts of Pacific breeze off our port bow. With a double-reefed main and staysail we shot across the Channel close reaching, with seawater gurgling over the starboard rail, sloshing along the gunnels and out the scuppers! Preparing food on such a slant is next to impossible, so snacks, cheese and crackers, apples and cookies are choice meal items. Thirty six nautical miles later we reached our next anchorage tucked inside the NW corner of Hawaii. Approaching it, smack into a strong offshore wind, we had second thoughts, but the wind later abated and we were glad we prevailed as Nishimura Bay is a charm. Sandy bottom, crystal clear water, a gentle swell, all in all an idyllic tropical cove with frothy Waves dashing against a steep black lava shore. A lava rock wall rising out of the sea formed part of the remains of an abandoned narrow-guage railway track which served an out-of-sight but equally disused sugar plantation.

Much more impressive was the navigational Polynesian "stonehenge" ruins (heiau) standing atop the hill above the cove. The upright rocks looked like the "deranged erratics" found on Canada's Barrenlands. They stood like quirky characters in a circle, silently and faithfully honouring their long-dead astronomer-architects' understanding of the stars and time, and knowledge of the Pacific Ocean and and its Milky Way of islands. Haunting in its testimony to long-lost, and likely hard-won wisdom, the ruins face the rest of Hawaii, and are now protected by the state - though not from the wind.

For 48 hours we rested, swam and caught up on a few things in this delightful spot. And we had our first dingy excursion to land! It was a bit dicey at point of contact as the water swelled up and down against the former sugar plantation's half-crumbling dock less than half a mile away, at Mahukona. A few of the local residents ran to help us lift the dingy with its brand new outboard, up onto the wharf. These types of encounters are fun and affirm our belief in the fundamental good natured helpfulness of people. Plus they provide an opportunity to chat and learn important info (such as where the best ice cream is to be found!). We then hiked along the old right-of-way and picnic'd atop old wall looking down on our Sonsie. Friendly Jim extracted the lock combination from a local back at the dock so we were able to use the small hoist to lower the dingy safely back into the swell.

Back on board, we celebrated our first successful shore excursion with a little tea party, using unbreakable cups and saucers donated for the cause by Ko'Olina's Longboards restaurant, and Jim's sturdy stainless steel pot. This little pot is filled with history! Jim salvaged it from a drifting ice station North of Greenland (Fram Project) where it had been used for maple syrup, by stuffing it into the nose cone of his Twin Otter.

Motor-sailing down the coast some miles the following day, we pulled in to the busy little tug & barge harbor at Kawaihae. We discretely anchored in among the few local sailboats. Hawaii has a lot of coastline and quite a few fishing boats, but is not set up to welcome cruising sailboats. In some places there is not a lot of aloha shown to cruisers on the part of harbor authorities, but locals are always great, though.

One after another, three powerful tugs silently sloughed off their lines and towed their heavily laden barges out the harbor arms. It was a surprisingly peaceful place afterwards. A delightful wooden hulled Maine schooner was anchored alongside. We lowered the dingy and rowed over to (yet another decaying) dock, pulled it up, and walked straight into the container port work yard. High fences, industrial and dusty. Hmmm. Fortunately there were some well-oiled and greased workers nearby operating some machinery, and they pointed to the way out: alongside a heavy-duty security gate. By wheels, nothing could get enter this small, self-important, heavily fenced complex. Ironically, however, piddly pedestrians could squeeze through the bushes, hop over the ditch, and make their way in and out with comparative ease!

A short walk later and we were in a great restaurant in town! By the time we had eaten and danced to the local band, it was dark. Pitch black on the road which, being Friday night, was busy enough. So Jim borrowed an orange cone, placed his flashlight within it, and we walked along hand-in-hand with a glowing bright safety cone to be visible to all vehicles hurtling through the humid island night!

We weighed anchor early and set sail as soon as we were out of the harbor. Light winds increased by noon ensuring we had a lively sail southbound. All the while, Channel 16 regularly sounded out an alarm to announce the current weather warning about thunderstorms and gale-force winds further north, by Kauai. We have to touch the radio talk button to silence the alarm or else it becomes increasingly strident. Honokohau Harbor was our next stop. We had a great deal of well-founded trepidation as we entered as they have a curious and baffling system of stern-tying to mooring balls. Great if you are in a zippy little motorboat or spin-on-its-fin-keel day sailor, but nightmarish in our Sonsie! Her brilliant, sprightly performance on the open seas is offset by her dismal performance in harbours. Her heavy hull makes her become a sluggish, minimally responsive 20,000lb melon prone to being blown sideways at the slightest provocation of breeze smack into other boats. Of course, we entered at the windiest moment, and sweated accordingly. I quickly hung bumpers and tied lines every quadrant of the boat while Jim motored as slowly as he could without losing steerage. He spied an open dock against which we could moor, rather than stern tie to a ball. As we approached I hopped off and tied the springline but the bow blew off before you could say Honokohau. Naturally, the one section of stern not protected by a bumper banged into the dock. I grabbed the sternline and with every ounce of strength pushed Sonsie away from the dock, and cleated the line. Jim sprang forward to grab the bowline, somehow got on the dock and was pulling with all his might to bring 20,000lbs under control. Meanwhile the radio started its insistent and increasingly strident alarm, and neither of us could get to it, so it kept shouting and blaring louder and louder, to helpfully draw everyone's attention to our mooring foibles!!

It took almost two hours to sort out whether we could stay in the marina, as the office was closed. In the end, the office manager, mercifully brimming with aloha for Canadians, made a special trip down to check the mooring lists and make the calls to secure us a spot for two nights in the haulout slip immediately adjacent to our original tie-up. It's a pretty funky spot, blasted out of the surrounding rock, enclosed by three cosy walls with a friendly turtle lazily swimming around us! More luck, we made good friends with another cruising couple whose full keel sailboat was on the hard nearby. They reassured us that what we had gone through was completely normal! "Deja vu" they said, as our entry had reminded them of their own!

So there we have it, a full week of adventures aboard Sonsie. Yes, it is delightful and we are pinching ourselves, can this dream life be true? But we are also licking some wounds and nursing some bruises! Overall, though, we are grateful and feel truly blessed. Thank you for reading our little account, and please feel free to comment!

Attaching a photo from our sail across the Alenuihaha Channel

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04/15/2013 | Dan Kalinowski (and Sandra)
I thought about you both when the winds were light at Keehi Lagoon and assumd you were doing the cork dance out there. I'm back in Atlanta now at our lake home. Spring has just sprung.

What a week's adventure and it is only the first of many. We'll be following you!

04/15/2013 | Steve & Debbie Graves
Looks like you are having a great adventure already. Wishing you fair winds and calm seas for the rest of your trip. We will be following your adventures. Glad to see you are enjoying it.

05/09/2013 | Audrey & Miguel Castillo
Hello! We met you on the Big Island when you first stepped on land after beginning your trip. Our three kids and myself walked around the shore to see your boat in the bay. We crossed paths again as you were searching for the historic navigation site... I hope you found it! I am now back at work in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA and just came across your card... I hope your travels continue safely and we will keep checking your blog! Keep enjoying life and living it to the fullest! God Speed!
Bon voyage!
blue ocean

Just to reassure everyone we have a good chart at hand!

Courtesy of our good friend in the UK who decorated his wall map in our honour...

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04/07/2013 | sm
Stay Safe
04/09/2013 | Kandyce Hiebert
Isabel and Jim, My sister Kellie McAffer gave me your blog, My husband and I are in the process of buying our boat and we will be following you in the next few years. "The thought of being on the open ocean, sailing around the world has been felt in my bones, shimmering in my mind's eye, for as long as I can remember." gives me tingles. Good Luck on you long crossing.
07/14/2014 | Don Rideout
Jim's mom phoned me to-day to let me know you are back blogging. Looking forward to hear about your next adventure. Don

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Who: Jim Merritt & Isabel Bliss
Port: White Rock BC
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