07/07/2011, Somewhere out in the Big Pond
What a last couple of days it has been! But not in the way you might think. This time instead of having too much wind and sea we had too LILTTLE wind! That's right. We found ourselves staring at our fuel gauge wondering how much we really had in the tank and just how far it would take us and, more importantly, when the weather might change.
We found ourselves on Tues. and Wed. with a consistent 7k - hardly enough to give a fully-burdened, liveaboard boat like Time Warp any traction through the water. I mean, let's face it - at 3k you just aren't gonna cross the Pacific Ocean in any record-setting time!! Plus I had committed to racing on J's boat (Bodacious) at Whidbey Island Race Week and the pressure of possibly missing that while camped out in the middle of a big pond was most annoying. The problem was further exacerbated when the ship's computer had the hiccups which effectively cut us off from getting weather forecasts or emails from Will advising us on where to go.
And so it was that Jim and I found ourselves discussing our options and strategies for best managing the dwindling petrochemical resource that might help us escape the high pressure that had camped on us. It was a fairly agonizing 48 hours, full of twenty minute bursts to the next wind puff before shutting the engine down.
Finally last night, in a fit of frustration, I furled the jib, pointed the boat towards the barn, and gave the engine half throttle in a vain attempt appease my growing anxiousness and to also conserve fuel. Well, God answers prayers. Because after motoring half the night we found ourselves motoring this morning into a 15k easterly! Now an easterly in this neck of the woods is about as common as bats out in the middle of the ocean. (More on that later.) We have been expecting a westerly or NWesterly all along.
So for now we are hanging onto a thin, easterly thread as we scamper towards Cape Flattery and the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca at 7k and only 800 nm away! How long this breeze will last is anyone's guess, but we'll take it.
As for the birds, at night our stern light has attracted these small, black birds that move like bats with their random, jerky flight patterns. Jim called them bat birds, to which I figure we must be sailing on a bat boat in the middle of a bat ocean! But let's not go any further with that one, shall we?!! They are pretty vocal little guys and other than getting close to the stern light, they stay pretty much away from the boat. That is, except for the one that got a little too close to the jib in the middle of a luff. The jib bitch-slapped the poor little bugger right down onto the deck. I found him on the deck back by the cockpit in the middle of the night a few nights ago. He was shaking the cobwebs out of his head and wasn't looking too perky. But I guess he must've gotten it all together cuz he was gone again an hour later.
Other marine life has been pretty much non-existent. No whales yet, unfortunately. But this morning a huge pod of small dolphins swam with us for awhile. This pod covered a good three acres of water, there were so many of them. Some of them would jump out of the water during the surface breathing. It was a fun albeit brief source of enjoyment.
07/01/2011, 37N; 153W
The traditional course from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest calls for a running of due north out of Hawaii till you get to a period of variable winds. Then motor or motorsail through/around the top of the high till you meet westerly trades and then carry the westerlies into the Straits of Juan de Fuca and into Seattle.
short term it would appear that we have turned the corner in the past 24 hours. As of Sat., July 2, we are sailing directly for Seattle (NE) in a NW breeze, and stronger westerlies are forecast. So Jim and I are feeling like the worst is over and we are almost home. Well, almost home. There is that little matter of 1,500 nm between us and 'home' that still needs to be dealt with!! But for now we are hopeful that it is, as they say, "all downhill from here, baby"!!
The weather is sunny during the day, and that lifts our spirits and gives us a chance to dry things out that need to be dried. Heck, yesterday it was so warm and sunny that Jim and I both got in showers (not together, OK?!!). But during the early evening the sky clouds over and we get pummeled with squalls. These squalls we are learning have less punch to them wind-wise, but still contain their fair share of rain. The next morning we start the whole process all over again. The one thing we are both having to adjust to is the temperature. It is c-c-c-c-cold up here!! At night I am wearing everything I own! Yuck!! I yearn for the 'good 'ole days' when a pair of shorts was all you needed to go sailing (and sometimes not even those!).
We haven't seen much in the way of wildlife. No dolphins or whales. We only just started fishing. There are a few birds around, but not too many. One small, black one hitched a ride with us last night. I think he got slapped silly by a luffing jib and fell to the deck and hung out on the leeward deck for an hour or so getting his bearings before taking off.
The one thing there is plenty of out here is trash. Most of what we see are plastic/rubber/fiberglass fishing balls that were once attached to large fishing nets and now drift free. These balls don't worry me, but wrapping a section of net in our prop is a constant danger and source of concern whenever we are motoring. We turned around yesterday and pulled one particularly spiffy-looking ball out of the water at Jim's request. It was clean on top and underneath was a whole ecosystem!! Mussels abounded. But what really intrigued me was the number of crabs amongst the mussels. Jim scraped them all off the buoy and back into the water to be some other fish's dinner. But to see the number of crabs and the size of the feet on the mussels was pretty cool.
And this afternoon we had a friendly visitor come a-callin'. I went out to the cockpit from the galley to peel some hard boiled eggs for a salad I was making to find fish on!! I hauled that baby in and we had ourselves a nice bluefin (ahi) tuna! You know, the kind they make sushi with and charge $25 or more for at those fancy restaurants? And this baby wasn't one of those measly 3 or 3 kilo mahi-mahi jobs. Oh no. We are talking around 15 kilo (30#) +/-. So Jim and I will be eating tuna for awhile....a long while. Ummm, would you like some tuna with your oatmeal?!!!
Jim and I continue to debate our return date. I insist on the 14th (at 1600, if you must know!). Right now, from 1,400 nm out, it looks to be sometime between the 13th and 15th. But a lot of water has to go under the hull between now and then, so who really knows? We will be restricted by Deception Pass. Since we can only go through there on a slack or flood tide, we will have to make our entrance into the pass sometime between 0930 and around 1200 if we want to have any chance of making it to Oak Harbor in daylight.
But that is all waaay far forward. For now we are settling into the business at hand....which is getting this boat and us safely and quickly into the protected waters of Puget Sound.
07/01/2011, 36N; 155W
Remember that ole 60's ditty? It was Sonny and Cher, I think, who popularized it for me. Anyway, the beat goes on for us. We continue to beat into the wind, as expected. We have been out of Honolulu 6 days now, beating into a northeasterly. (Actually, because our boat doesn't "beat" into the wind that efficiently, we have cracked the sheets off a bit and have been close, close reaching northwards.)
The modern, conventional strategy for the Hawaii-to-Seattle run is to head north till you run out of the trades, then cut across the top of the high in a NWerly direction until you reach the easterlies, and then ride the easterly trades into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Well, it would seem that we ran out of the NErly trades and into the high last night. At present we are motoring northwards under sunny, blue skies with the jib furled hoping to find those easterly trades sometime this weekend.
At that point it should be all downhill....theoretically. I suspect there may be a beam sea for the first day or three and that could be a bit uncomfortable if it materializes. Anything can change, and change quickly out here, but for the present it seems we have reached the second stage of our journey -- negotiating the high. Our spirits our lifted as we recognize and hope this transcendence to the second stage. It means we may not have to beat into the wind anymore, AND it (hopefully) means no more of those pesky squalls.
Puget Sound is still 1,600 nm away. But if we are lucky, I am hoping to go through Deception Pass sometime between 0800-1000 in the morning. The date? Dunno right now, but I will as we get closer. Right now I am picking Thurs., July 14. Jim has picked the 15th. But if we can hit the Pass on the morning flood like I hope, we can make Oak Harbor by the afternoon. And if anyone is in the area, you can come out onto the bridge and wave at us as we pass underneath!!!! I'll keep you posted as we get closer.
Both of us are anxious to get home to our families. I am anxious to get started with the next chapter of our lives. But all in good time. For now we have to attend to the boat and ourselves -- keeping our bodies rested and the boat together. On that latter count, I had hoped to escape having to climb the rig on this passage. It is a relatively short passage and for just once I wanted to cross an ocean without climbing. Not to be. Our LED masthead tricolor light went out last night so there I was this afternoon replacing it. Luckily, the sea is calm today so the rocking wasn't so bad.
That is all to report for now. We are looking forward to seeing everyone soon! God bless us!
06/28/2011, 29N; 157W
That is probably what the good Lord was saying when Time Warp emerged from the Ala Wai yacht harbor at Waikiki to be greeted to a 25k northeasterly. That 25k quickly grew to 35k as we cleared the lee of the island and Jim and I were immersed in what would become a wet ride to hell and back. Everything -- and I mean everything -- was wet with a salt layer. The bedding gets a bit of salt in it and feels like it is wet, even if it isn't. The salon turned into a garage sale as everything not secured down was thrown to the floor as we tacked back and forth to clear the island the first day. It wasn't for the feint of heart.
Once we cleared the island, we settled onto starboard tack for the long beat northwards. The general route these days is to head due north till you get out of the trades and into a dead zone. Then you motor through the dead zone (northwards) till you can hook into some easterlies and ride those easterlies northeastward to the great Pacific Northwest.
But those first 3 days were not fun. We were given brief reprieves in the morning to dry out, only to get drenched in the afternoon and evening with more squalls. Our appetite was gone and we took to instant food. Us, with a 3-year supply of food and we are eating instant! But the only thing you could do down below the first few days was get horizontal for some sleep. Up on deck I would try to lay out on a cockpit seat for more rest. Reading was not even in the equation. It was question of endurance.
But finally it seems we have made it out of that maelstrom. Today we have sunny skies and a nice 10k. It would appear that we are at the northern edge of the trades, preparing to entering the dead zone we must motor through. Our appetite has returned, and we even read a book some today!! Imagine that! Now it will be up to my 'router-at-large', Will, to steer us through the next 1,900 nm the quickest and most efficient way.
The fun is actually starting to return!!
06/25/2011, Poor Boyz Yacht Club, Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Honolulu
It has been a busy 3 days here in Paradise. We are looking up at a bevy of high-rise hotels each of which must be renting out rooms at $300/night. And we are here on our boat, in prime real estate, loving paradise.
Hawaii is pretty easy living. That is because everyone has such a laid back attitude. No one is into hassling anyone. It is all cool, mon!!
Yesterday we spend on repairs. We had Art Nelson Sailmakers pick up the main for some rush repairs (with the associated "rush" repair costs! Ouch!). Meanwhile I climbed the rig one more time to get the spinnaker block reinstalled and also I redid the jack lines so now when we shake out a reef we can drop the jack lines rather than watch the battens of the main get caught up in them. Not sure if you catch what I am talking about, but it will be a BIG improvement when we want to shake a reef out.
Today we played tourist and went to Pearl Harbor. It was pretty sobering and a pretty somber visit. It made me proud to be an American, though. And quite frankly, I know I need more of that and I think more Americans need to feel prouder about their/our great country. We toured the 'Mighty Mo', the battleship, Missouri. Wow! For 1940s construction, that baby was awesome and deadly.
We then toured the Arizone memorial. The Arizona was a battleship that blew up and sank on the spot with over 1,100 crewman aboard -- most of whom were dead or doomed before they even knew what was going on. It was quite a moving experience. I prayed -- not only for those men and their families, but for all the current servicemen AND the leaders of our country. I just hope we make good decisions going forward so we can avoid another calamity such as WWII.
But the day wasn't over! Arriving back at the boat at 1830 gave me just enough time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Ala Wai Harbor (cough....cough!) to careen the hulls. We are tied up next to David, a singlehander on a 23-foot Contessa. David notice the terrarium growing under my hull and brought it to my attention. In the Caribbean it was barnacles. Here in the Pacific it seems the growth of choice is coral! I had all kinds of it growing on the bottom. So hopefully we can gain another quarter knot or more on this next passage. That is something about the Pacific Northwest -- the water is too cold for anything to want to grow on the hull! Brrrrr!!
We leave tomorrow a.m. The standard route is to sail north on a close, close reach (i.e. a beat) for 3-7 days, then turn right and head east. We'll see what the good Lord serves up this time. The passage should take 18-23 days under 'normal' conditions. Gotta get to Oak Harbor by July 16 in time for Whidbey Island Race Week. We'll see.
06/22/2011, Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii
We spent yesterday afternoon picking up some aloha gear -- board shorts and t-shirts before descending on Captain Jacks for a couple of rum drinks and a lite fare to get us in the proper frame of mind for the 77 nm passage to Honolulu.
We departed Lahaina Marina around 1830 -- just a half hour before sunset.
And good we did! That was my/our first time seeing the Lahaina side of Maui during the day and it gave our resident photographer (Jim) opportunity to click some neat shots of the island from the water.
From there it was on to the famed Molokai Channel. For those of us 'in the know' on the west coast sailing scene, the Molokai Channel is like the Holy Grail. That is because the most famed race of them all -- the TransPac -- finishes just past the channel and there are sooooo many cool sailing photos of maxi sleds like Merlin, Pyewachet, and others flying down the channel under chute on their way to a "Barn Door" victory for first place elapsed time.
So it was with a bit of emotion that I entered the channel last night. The wind gusted up a bit to around 20k + while we were beam reaching across the channel/ Jim was a bit nervous because of the 'tippy' thing and I have to admit there were a few times I was looking to depower the rig. But overall it was an incredible sail as we caught up and passed another sailboat. A tug boat had to shine his bright spot light on the load he was towing before we did a hurried gybe to avoid him and then have to heat up a bit to duck the stern of the other sailboat! I mean, geez. They/we got the whole dang ocean and it all ends up in one spot!!
The rest of the night was uneventful and Jim and I both arrived at Ala Wai fully refreshed after 3 hours of sleep each! (Not!) The entrance to Ala Wai was tricky as only 20' off the channel the surfers were stacked up like cord wood hooking into a left break. I gunned the motor to make sure we didn't get broadsided by a breaking wave and we were fortunate enough to make it past the break and into the bar.
Today we traveled to the only West Marine store in the islands to pick up some much-needed repair parts. We are staying at the fuel dock tied up next to Davied on a 23' Contessa. David sailed his 23' boat from Pt. Townsend to HI!! It has no motor and no icebox. What a trip!!!
But the fuel dock is fully equipped with what we need (fuel, laundry, etc.) and we hope to be able to head back to Seattle on Sat. But first on our priority list is rest and we won't leave here till we are ready. And given the paradise-like conditions, well, that could be awhile!! :-)