Passage Hawaii to British Columbia
24 August 2017 | Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
"On our very best day, against Mother Nature, we play to a draw. And never must we forget or think of how genius we think we are, as the forces of Nature are so much more powerful and unpredictable than we can prepare for. It's a humbling experience to face Neptune in her fury." -- A Wise Old Captain, not a Bold Captain.
Our first few hours out and we hauled in our first Mahi that went right onto the kitchen table that evening. I was doubtful we'd get it back to the boat as we were sailing along at 9kts and we'd lost one fish earlier on by just going to fast. But we carefully hauled in this 90cm long beautiful green-blue Mahi without slowing. This was the beginning to catching many Mahi on the first half of this trip - including a hook in Dave's arm! Later we noticed that the Mahi stopped biting north of 34 degrees - suppose the water was getting too cold for them. But then stepped in the Tuna.
I chatted (sms) daily with Rose and was most curious of her first impressions of Canada - afterall it will become her new home . She stayed with her cousin's family in Toronto for the duration of my passage to Victoria and at one time asked if we can move there and not Victoria! I'd say we're off to a good start! I had a great crew this time, with lots of camaraderie and support from Dave and Paul, two Canadian lads from Vancouver. When they arrived we completed a vessel familiarization in Hilo, packed three large carts at Safeway with food and took a drive out to see some local Hilo sights. A few cruisers from neighboring yachts dropped by for sundowners the day before we departed.
As described in an earlier blog, our planned route was to take us initially 1250nm on a course of 350 degrees from Hawaii to allow keeping west of the North Pacific High (where little to no wind exists). And then a course of 60 degrees toward the top of Vancouver Island before taking a 105 degree course for 285nm towards Juan de Fuca straits into Victoria. It's not a direct rhumb line route. However, the winds and seas always influence any passage and consequently we would revise our plan accordingly to keep us comfortably sailing and reduce motoring. The Pacific is a vast ocean of temperament demanding patience and planning. Let's see how well we did:
June to September are claimed to be the better months for traversing this north bound course and I've been studying weather maps daily for 6 weeks to understand these weather patterns. For the most part, the NorPacHigh is visible in the forecasts but it's not stationary (unlike the South Atlantic High) and by the time we departed it wasn't at all well defined as constant influencing easterly HP and LP systems came and went. I predicted we'll see the doldrums early and have a difficult last ⅓ of this passage.
Days 1 to 3 of this 2900nm passage was excellent sailing with 12-22kt westerly winds on the beam to our 350 degree course giving us average SOG's of 9kts. We had a few squally nights with a one very rapid onslaughts of 32kts in just a few minutes, dumped a load of water and, as quickly, disappeared. However, as we do, at nightfall we reduced the canvas to the 1st or 2nd reef. In our first 24hrs we covered 188nm (noon to noon).
Paul and Dave conceived a few passage challenges. Like the 'Noonsite Beard Photo' - taking a daily facial photo of the three of us at 12 noon. But the real challenge was a pushup for each Nm covered - the first day was 188nm and now, a few weeks along, Im beginning to see some bulging pecs! And the 'Foots-en-spa's' - dangling our feet in the ocean off the sugarscoop - refreshing and softens up the calluses.
Days 4 to 7 were of a mixed bag of just enough wind to keep the sails up to minimum wind and motoring/sailing as the NorPacHigh seemed to be diced up all over the region with sections right above us. There are positives to no wind: sea-life spotting, swimming, no-spill coffee's, easy deck walking, sound sleeps, etc. We stopped Emerald for a fun 2 hour swim in the deep blue including dropping the complete anchor chain for straightening and turning the dinghy over for a good bottom scrub. We were also delighted by the company of Albert, a large (Black Footed) Albatross, who amused us by swimming along with us and later following us for days. Sadly, a few days later, Albert dived on our fish hook and took it into his beak. We removed it successfully noting Paul's earlier wisdom to remove the barbs from the hooks.
Somewhere during these lack-of-breeze-NorPacHigh days, we reviewed the forecasts and changed course to a revised intermediate waypoint while maintaining the one at same latitude off north Vancouver Island. This allowed us to do more motor-sailing as opposed to motoring only. We are careful not to cut too much into the rhumb line direction as the penalty of that would be severe (Oregon!). Looking out past the initial 3-4 days of 10 day weather forecast will trick you into a false sense of security as it almost always changes. Actually, reviews of longer term, 10 day forecasts, is primarily for monitoring and tracking of any regional HP/LP systems.
Days 8 thru 11 the winds returned - somewhat. 12-18kts initially from the east and later NE which pushed us further east (VMG!) but quite aware that this could be a penalty later on as we try to make the WPT off N. Vancouver Island. So we kept pinching some north in where we could! But then a HP system entered our domain and kept us motor-sailing.
Day 12 thru 15. Wildlife! Schools of Northern Rightwhale Dolphins jumped and played at Emerald's bows while we precariously hung ourselves over the crossbar trying to hold our GoPro's in the rushing water. Fishing has improved with a Tuna/Albacore catches which we partly ate right there on the spot! We almost ran over a large Sperm whale, just missed him by a few meters. We managed to pinch north as planned and finally got out of the persistent Highs and into some fine easterly winds putting Emerald on a broad and downwind sail (wing on wing sailing). Each morning we'd have a weather meeting, discussing the forecast models and reconfirming our route. We are now running out of fresh veg and fruits and now dipping into the frozen ones. Apart from breakfast, we all sit down together for meals, a chat and have a laugh.
Days 16 to 19. 47N. Burrr. We've certainly left the tropics! The new attire is foulies, socks, long-johns, layers of clothing and blankets. The nights are dropping to 12-14C, mornings occasionally fog filled, days where only a peak of sunshine splinters thru. The watermaker seems to be making less water too! Made cakes - any excuse to put the oven on! Why didn't I take that heater option!? Burrrrr. Whale spotting: pair of large Fin Whale. Catches: a few 6-7kg Tuna (Albacore); pods of Dall's Porpoise's. We've now changed course for a more direct easterly route to mid-Vancouver island. This is downwind sailing in 12-18kts wind, with an occasional wing-on-wing arrangement, 2-3m swells and quite comfy.
On the approach to Juan de Fuca straits there was plenty of shipping traffic voyaging in both directions from the straits. Lots of eerie dense fog. Our AIS and radar easily highlighted any ship's movements. On one occasion a large cargo ship coming up behind us, 4nm away, would have passed us by as little as 0.2nm (370m) so I called them up and asked if they would pass us to starboard by at least 1.5nm - for which they obliged. I sent off a final email to Canada Customs with our ETA into Victoria.
We passed Cape Flattery and entered JdF straits on the morning of 22 August which coincided with a flooding tide giving us a nice boost in addition to having the wind behind us. Then the wind picked up to 25+lts behind us and the straits became a Race Track! Gusts to 36kts and 16kts speed (SOG; record)! What was suppose to be a 6hr passage now became 3hrs! The hilly shores of Vancouver Island emerged. We stayed on the south side of the TSS and later crossed to the northern Canadian side (13:06hrs 22 August into Canada). A few Humpback Whales were seen along with more porpoises. All smiles were seen onboard!
After entering the breakwater we tied up at the Canada Customs Dock and used their telephone booth to call the officers that came onboard about 20minutes later. After clearance protocol we then moved into the Inner Harbor and tied up at Causeway Docs - one of the most scenic city spots we've ever put Emerald. To celebrate our safe and successful passage we cracked a bottle of champagne and later headed up a pub up the road. WoW...Victoria....Im really impressed!
Overall this was an excellent passage with super support from Paul and Dave ... and our trusty autopilot.
Things that didn't work so well on this passage. The sealife is demanding of a cruising yacht! Thanks Guys!
End of the second week and the mainsail's stitching broke all along a seam just below the 1st reef. There must have been some existing stitching already broken so when the sail was raised and filled with wind the loading caused the stitching to part and run along the complete horizontal length of the sail (fortunately its below the 1st reef so we can still use the main to the 1st reef). How did this happen: a few theories. 1. there are 25k miles on the sail in the tropics and UV has ultimately weakened the thread (triple stitched). 2. chafe from the jack-lines against the thread causing it to abraise/wear (A year ago, I installed plastic jack-line covers over some, but not all, these lines...mmmm). 3. combination of the above. To repair it properly will require the services of a sail loft.
One day the port engine wouldn't start. We concluded it was an electrical/communication issue and after scratching our heads and consulting the electrical schematic discovered that the 10A fuse was blown. At 10 cents, this is one of our cheapest fixes!
Our Watt&Sea hydrogenerator's U-bracket mount failed while moving along at 8kts. As there is some paint removed from the front end of the prop housing I suspect that it had hit an object. There is a shear pin installed and this broke too. But having said that, a submerged object should of also hit the keel or rudder or sail drive before hitting the hydrogen - but no signs of any contact there. Mmmmm. A worthy note is that W&S were quick to respond to emails, also seeking a temporary solution and offering to ship the replacement parts to my next port (FOC).
Departure: Hilo, Hawaii 10:00hrs 3 August
Arrival: Victoria; 19:15hrs 22 August
Total Days: 19 days 9hrs
Total Miles: 2559nm
Average Daily Run: 134nm
Best 24hr Run: 188nm
Max speed: 16.5kts
Average speed: 5.4kts
We're in Canada!! Save aTree, Eat a Beaver!
The diversity of cruisers we continue to meet is staggering. Over the last three years, Rose and I have been amazed at not only the support and commaderie among the cruiser network but also the amazing array of interesting characters, adventurer's, backgrounds and boats that we've had the pleasure to share anchorages with. Here's just one example, while in Reeds Bay, Hawaii the last few weeks, we met quite a young lady that rebuilt her own boat and had just solo sailed from San Francisco; a French Canadian couple who've just completed the North West Passage; another young couple from Australia on their maiden voyage, who well underestimated their provisions and yet are already making money with their entertaining video's; a wonderful retired couple in their new catamaran slowly and carefully venturing out for their first adventures. At nearly every bay, atoll, island, etc we've met such a melange of people. It's been very rewarding and they've all certainly enriched our lives.
I've not seen as much plastic and garbage in the ocean as Ive seen here in the North Pacific. Each time I look over the side we'll see some object floating by. It's a garbage patch out here! My son wrote to me with an update on the plastic 'gyre' out in this region - an island of plastic rubbish, debris and micro-plastics circling around in an area the size of France. Mind boggling isn't it?! We Humans just love to destroy! Our children are going to think we're such dip-shits when they are old enough to start running things and realize what a mess we left for them...what we have destroyed or killed or made extinct or fucked up in the last 100 years has been more damaging to our planet Earth than the last million.