Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hilo to Maui - Time to move on

Connie and Scott had a wonderful hiatus up at Jean Marie and Eric's place near Honoka'a Town on the windward side of the big island.

We spent the time doing some day trip tours in the rental car and using internet to secure boat parts and crew for the trip back to the mainland. Before we got too spoiled we decided it was time to return to Traveler and see if she had drowned in all the rain of Hilo; 200 inches a year!

We motored out of Radio Bay on a Sunday afternoon following the green buoys. Halfway up the south Hilo shoreline I switched on the auto pilot. It acted erratic for a while then turned us into a sharp starboard turn. %#@#^ Not again! We plugged in the backup autopilot, a cheap wheel-mounted item, and it failed to respond. Back to Radio Bay, hangdog we went.

Monday morning I pulled the autopilot head out of the cockpit coaming and an ounce of pure, fresh, Hilo rainwater poured out. It appears that I neglected to caulk it when we remounted it back in Mexico. I called our buddy Chris at Alpha and he suggested using a hair dryer on the circuit board so that's what we did. A few hours later we had the unit dried out. We tested it and all appeared well. I did some troubleshooting on the backup pilot and could not get it to respond. We'll deal with it later. Connie offered to be the back-up auto pilot. By mid afternoon we were on our way again.

We choose to go the northern route around the big island as the winds were not predicted to top 20 knots in the channel and there was a small craft advisory for the entire south east cape. In the late afternoon we passed many waterfalls coming off the steep cliffs of the North Hilo and Hamakua's green coast. Our route took us offshore just shy of the three mile line outside of which there is significant barge traffic. It seemed that we were getting really close to shore at times but the GPS assured us we were almost 3 miles off. We had little or no wind through the night arriving at Upolu Point by 05:00 Tuesday morning.

Then we finally caught the trade wind blowing through Alenuihaha Channel. With the wind and waves pushing us from behind we sailed through the early morning with a double reefed main and a scrap of jib. The seas had built to about 8 foot by then.

Rounding Cape Hanamanioa on Maui the wind dropped to nothing and we found Makena Bay and our anchorage. The sand was patchy. We tried our best to find a spot. Finally the anchor caught after bouncing for 100 feet over the rock. Exhausted from a mostly sleepless night we fell into deep daytime sleep.

Later we had a nice dinner with wine and a movie at anchor, rewarding ourselves on completing the roughest crossing we'd probably see within the Hawaiian Islands. Wednesday we sailed across to the little crescent shaped island of Molokini. ( Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lanai, Molokai and Molokini used to be one land mass which separated after the last ice age.) There we did some snorkeling in the half crater. We called out to a tour boat skipper for direction and he volunteered one of his crew to dive down to get the leash on one of the submerged mooring balls for us. Connie just tossed him our line and he threaded it through. It's common here in Hawaii for the mooring balls to be underwater. You have to drive around the mooring field slowly and watch for them through the clear water. Once you've located one, somebody has to go over the side and free dive about 8 feet down to grab onto the line. Hold your breath, baby!

From Molokini we sailed east as the wind built from moderate to breezy to white caps all around. Here we were on the windward side of the island (the less windy side) and we were getting big seas and wind. Go figure. Figure we did as later we realized that Maui has two huge volcano summits with a wide lowland between the two. The strong trade winds were coming across that flat land and whipping up a fury. We fought our way up into Ma'alaea Bay, had a hell of a time furling the genoa, then we anchored off Sugar Beach in 15 knots of wind. With this kind of wind blowing Connie let out 150 foot of chain and we got a very positive bite with the anchor.

Today is Thursday the 30th and we remain at anchor, taking a well deserved rest day. The wind came up early and has been with us all day, peaking at 28.5 knots measured by me on deck just a few minutes ago. Because there is only about a mile of fetch the seas cannot build too much but even in that short of a period we are getting constant three foot slapping waves. Every once in a while one hits us just right and the wind whips the spray into the air and we get water down the hatches. We keep the towel handy and try to keep the accordion and laptop away from the salt spray. It's a little nerve wracking. We've got the GPS anchor alarm on so we'll know if the anchor lets go.

We are spending the day "relaxing", playing music (Connie), straightening up the boat (Connie), and researching our next land fall (Scott). Tomorrow we will move four hours west to the historic anchorage of Lahaina where we will take a yacht club mooring ball for about $18 per day while we wait out the big blow coming down from the northeast. We will leave early in the morning, hopefully with light winds.

This just in: I spoke to a local tour boat captain on channel 16 and he assured us that these winds were typical and would build, that our best bet was to up-anchor at dawn and scoot across, beam reaching to duck behind McGregor Point where the towering shoulder of the Puu Kukui volcano would block the wind. From there, the winds would be much lighter and we'd have gentlemen's sailing from there to Lahaina.

Thus far what we've seen of the cruising scene in Hawaii is that there isn't any, at least perhaps this time of the year. We've not seen another cruising sail or power boat since Radio Bay. That's not to say we have not seen boats. We've seen big tourist boats, fat catamarans full of snorkelers, big zodiacs full of wishful whale watchers, and best of all, the traditional outrigger canoes. These colorful canoes, some single, some double hulled, carry people of all shapes, sizes and age, grannies, teens, male, female old and young come out in the mornings and race around the bay, everyone plunging their paddles into the water with gusto, timing it in rhythm lead by vocal commands so as to go all together.

Our view across the whitecaps is thus:

White sand beach with hotels and in between small parks with colorful outrigger canoes pulled up on land. Green belt along the shoreline with car traffic and some homes and businesses. Up hill from the coast is a dry yellow belt of uninhabited land, no trees. Up higher in elevation, farm land and communities taking advantage of the cooler and wetter conditions. Higher still, a volcano rises up wreathed in cloud, dominating the skyline.

After drowning in rain in Hilo we're drowning in wind in Maui. It's all good, though. This is a truly magnificent place; a land of extremes.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Up in Kalopa on a short break from the sea

We are staying here in Kalopa for a few days to relax and get our crew scheduled for the crossing to Puget Sound in July.  We're hoping to pick up crew in Honolulu on about July 8.  So I'm cruising web sites such as, Ocean Crew, Latitude 38, etc...

The boat is in great shape. We are proud of her.  The new sails have such good shape, the new Beta engine is steady and reliable.  I think that Stan Huntingford designed the Passport 42 for this kind of sailing.

I'll be shopping for new jib sheets.  It's amazing how constant use can chafe a line over time.  This time I'll up the size to 1/2 inch.  The new sheeves are installed at the masthead.  I've got a new little buzzer for the AIS alarm and a new GPS antennae for the AIS also.  Other than that, we just need to provision some more and we are ready for the sea.

Next week we will round the big island to the SE and head over to Capt. Cook area.  Then work our way up the west coast to Honokohau to fill up on diesel then north to our jump off point at Nishimura Bay.  Cross to Maui, Molokai, then Oahu and the Ala Wai Harbor.  Depending on the timing and our crew's needs we'll leave for Puget Sound from there or continue over to Kauai to wait for our weather window.

I've found a new web site that uses the same model as WindyTY.  It's at  I programmed in our boat information and it calculates the best route determined by predicted winds.  As you sail, you send updated location reports and it recalculates your course as the wind and weather changes and then sends you back a text file you can import that shows you the updated course.  Right now the Pacific High is kinda strange, all spread out north of Hawaii.  So perhaps FastSeas can help us negotiate a way to sail around or through the high, wherever it is when we depart July 8th or so.

In the meantime, we are staying up here in Kalopa at Eric and Jean-Marie's beautiful house and are totally enjoying every minute of it.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Hilo Hawaii

Making landfall on the big island, Hawaii.
Hilo is an easy landfall.  Coming straight in from the crossing we made our way point just off the long breakwater, dropped sails, then motored south down the bay, following the buoys, red on right on return.  And I guess we were returning - returning to the U.S.

Since there was no cruise ship visible we didn't worry about getting permission to enter Radio Bay.  Also it was after hours for the port captain.  On our arrival there were six boats Tahitian moored to the concrete sea wall.  I'm informed by Bos'n Tobiason that a Tahitian moor is when you drop a bow anchor and then tie lines to the wall, leaving space between the wall and the stern with plenty of room between boats.  A Mediterranean moor is when your stern touches the sea wall (with fenders, of course) and you are right up to the boat next door.

We had plenty of space to circle around in the little bay and drop our anchor in 15 feet of water.  90 foot out gives us just over a 4 to 1 scope and there was little or no wind.

"Listen to this." I said as I turned off the engine.  Silence, sweet silence. And green foliage everywhere.  I got out the champagne and we toasted and took pictures;  high fives all around.  Since there were no more watches to be kept we drank our wine and had dinner in the cockpit.   Slept like stones.

I called customs in the morning and he said to come right over.  We took the dinghy off the bow and I paddled it over to the little canoe club here in the bay.  Then I walked out to the main road, took a right and walked another quarter of a mile to the intersection with the main gate where I found the customs building.  The man there was very friendly and completed my paperwork after checking our passports and doing background checks.  Do you have anything to declare?  Nothing.  Any fresh fruit or vegetables?  Nope. Any Pets? No sir. Welcome to Hawaii.

Next I walked through the gate, showing my customs paperwork to the guard so she'd let me enter the busy port loading dock.  There at the port captain's office I was greeted by the second most friendly person in Hilo who took care of my paperwork and charged me about $25 for a mooring permit and about $10 per day for tying up, just a little over $100 for a week of stay.  It was a long walk towards town to get a money order to pay; no cash, checks or credit cards accepted. That was a drag.  But I got it all done and was back at the boat in two hours.

We up anchor and circle around a few times then deftly back towards the sea wall, Connie dropping the bow anchor as I reverse, Scott Tobiason tying the stern lines to the wall from the dinghy and we are all set.  A Tahitian moor, done right!

When Connie and Scott finally got to go to land they kissed the concrete pier where they landed and then bee-lined it for hot showers! Later when we walked into town we were all having trouble walking and Connie slipped while crossing the road and chafed her knee and hand.  All traffic stopped for her.  Then somebody tooted their little horn and she almost jumped out of her pants. What a strange world, and how different it is here on land from what we were accustomed to on our 20 day passage.

We've got a rental car now and will spend a week touring the island.  This morning we ordered new sheeves for the mast head.  I winched Scott T. up the mast and he found that one sheave was missing and another had cracked in half and jammed.  That's why the jib halyard chafed through - it was running over a sharp metal lip.

Moored Tahitian Style - This shot is taken by Scott Tobiason from the masthead of Traveler.

It rained cats and dogs and mongoose last night and just now started raining again, as it does every day I presume.  So old Traveler is getting good and rinsed after all that pesky salt water we encountered on the passage.

I'm happy that we made this passage so far across the big Pacific ocean. When we mention it to folks here they think we are crazy and maybe we are.  But everyone congratulates us on our achievement and wants to hear the story. Now I know there are lots of cruisers who will say that the Hawaii run is very straightforward, and it is.  But being at sea for 20 something days out of land sight and taking watches around the clock is not a walk in the park.  It's exhausting, it's strange.  You cannot stop. You cannot give up. Because once you get out into the trade winds there is no turning back. You have committed.

Once we visit all the places we want to see in Hawaii will we then sail back across the ocean to Puget Sound?   Right now we are looking at our options.  Do you (or anyone you know) want to help us deliver the boat from Hawaii to Seattle in July of this year?  Let me know.

Meanwhile, we've got work to do, things to see, people to visit, and land (sweet land) to walk.

By the way, I've added pictures to some of the passage blog posts.  Couldn't do that when I was sending my daily reports via the single side band radio.

Scott, Connie, and Scott (who just hopped on Alaska Air headed home)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Pacific Crossing - Arrival Day 20

Three reefs in the main as we approach our landfall in Hilo Hawaii
 June 8. How strange it is to sight land. Pushing hard, with the engine helping the sails, we maintained our 5.5 knots through the sloppy seas to arrive off the breakwater at Hilo Hawaii at 6:30 PM. Anchor down, champagne bottle opened at 7:30 PM making our transit time 20 days and 12 hours, Cabo San Lucas to Hilo Hawaii.

We plopped the anchor down in the middle of tiny Radio Bay, had a wonderful dinner of fresh Dorado. The drinking light was lit and a few bottles later we all crashed heavily into bed, sleeping like the dead until morning.

The boat is not moving! And yet, we stagger around, still needing hand holds.

We did it!
Average speed 5.2 knots for the journey

Scott, Connie, and Scott

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pacific Crossing Day 19

At longitude 152 we grind our way through the rough, hoping to sight Mauna Loa on the big island tomorrow morning. Hawaii is at longitude 155 so we ain't got far to go.

We began this trip with a few rough days and are ending the trip the same way.

Last night we had a good dinner, thanks to Connie cooking that bird. But through the night the seas remained high as they continue today. Constant rocking back and forth with the swell coming in on the beam. Predicted wave height of 1.5 meters is actually about 3 meters with the rogue one even higher. As she lurches to starboard the mast drags the sails windward. Coming back upright then to port the sails CRACK, the sheets snap tight, and the turning block snaps upright with a loud knock.

In the galley, no matter how tight we pack the pans, plates, and spices, a cavalcade of crashing follows each lurch. Moving about, we stumble from handhold to handhold, feet spaced a yard apart. It's nicer in the cockpit. There, the sounds are muffled somewhat by the wind and the hissing seas. But you still have to hang on or you'll get thrown from your perch.

No sleep for me all night. Connie, neither. We take solace in the fact that we'll be in harbor in about 28 hours.

Our conundrum is:
At 170 miles out and 3:00 PM,
At 6 knots our landfall is at 4:30 PM. Good
At 5.5 knots our landfall is at 7:00 PM Acceptable
At 5 knots our landfall is at 10:00 PM Not good

So we must keep our speed up to make landfall before nightfall. This means that we might have to run the engine if the wind drops.

We are presently traveling at 5.8 knots under sail, full genoa and three reefs in the main with a beam sea and wind off the stern quarter expected to pull further aft as the afternoon progresses.

Connie has a bottle of champagne stashed some place. Now where did she stash it?

Scott, Connie, and Scott

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Pacific Crossing Day 18

Having a boisterous ride today. The north wind evidently has a lot of fetch because it has kicked up 6 foot seas coming in on our beam. Amongst this turmoil, Connie is salvaging what's left of our fresh food (potatos, squash, peppers, apples) and making a big stew. I don't know how she does it with the action of the leaping floorboards.

Our spirits are up knowing that we'll be in Hilo in three days, maybe two. Send us your good thoughts as we approach landfall.

Not much else happening so I'll sign off.

Scott, Connie, and Scott

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pacific Crossing Day 16

We are probably six days out of Hilo now. That means that I have 16 more three hour shifts to serve. We had the option to move from 3 hour shifts to 4 hour or more but chose not to do so, the reason being that if you have not slept well before your shift, a 3 hour shift is easier to get through than a longer one, and too many times because of wind and wave action we come onto shift not well rested. Did that make sense?

But anyhow, we've got the rhythm down and have settled into somewhat of a groove. There is a lot of tiptoeing around from 21:00 until noon so that whoever is trying to catch up on sleep can do so. But afternoons, we're all up and cooking, talking, reading, and trimming sails.

While standing in the head brushing my teeth I realize that my core muscles are much stronger as I'm just flexing my legs to stay upright, not holding on with one hand like I do in rougher seas. We have all lost weight. Now the challenge will be to continue with the core exercises and weight loss once we hit the land of milk and honey and pineapples.

Our solar generating has taken a hit as we head west under the big geniker sail. After 14:00 or so the sail blocks the solar panels. As it is warming a little bit each day, the refrigerator is running more often and the autopilot is constantly drawing power. And so, at 03:00 this morning I didn't begrudge dropping the sail and turning on the diesel. The ride gets smoother and the boat pushes through the waves instead of being bounced around by the waves. The alternator pushes some amps into the batteries. The drone of the engine, while in the past would keep me from sleeping, now helps me sleep because it is a constant sound, unlike the strange clanking and thumping the sails make on the lines when the wind is light and the sea is bouncy.

Looking ahead at the grib files we see a soft spot approaching where the wind could become too light to keep steerage on Traveler. By watching our diesel consumption, we know that we can afford to motor through the doldrums if we run into it. Sure, we'd like to sail the whole way from Cabo to Hilo but after spending some hours clanking around in light winds, its nice to have options. Next passage we'll be fully loaded with 120 gallons of diesel in the tanks and another 10 in jugs on deck.

Zing! went the reel. "Fish On!" It's an enormous Blue Marlin (400 pounds or more estimate)and she's running across our wake, flashing out of the water and shaking her big bill vigorously. She tacks round and crosses our wake again, skipping in and out of the water. What a beautiful animal! Then she roars off to the east, stripping line off the reel until Scott Tobiason pulls out the knife and cuts her loose. Landing such a large fish would take hours and then what would we do with it? We are hoping the hook rapidly rusts and the lure will drop to the ocean floor taking with it 100 yards of line.
These mangos made the trip from Cabo just fine.

Not a single vessel in sight or on AIS for at least a week. I take that back - we have seen some space junk at night. To the south we can see the Southern Cross, my first sighting, and each night we see Jupiter and Mars, escorting us to the land of hula and ukulele.

Scott, Connie, and Scott

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pacific Crossing Day 14

Most days at the 06:00 AM shift change the eastern sky glows in the pre-dawn. If you are the one going off watch you want to duck down below and try to get to sleep before Mr. Sun shows his face. This morning when Connie came up to relieve me, the east horizon was still dark as sin. Are the clocks wrong? It's time to take a look at the the time zone chart!

We are at about 141 degrees west. That's 19 degrees west of Seattle. Almost a thousand miles. So lets see:
Pacific time (Seattle) is from longitude 105 to 120... sort of
Alaska time is 120 to 135 longitude
Pitcairn time is 135 to 150 longitude ( This is where we are now )
Hawaii time is 150 - 165 longitude

Oops, what happened to Alaska time. Did we miss it? I guess so.

So today we'll just change our clocks back two hours. Whoever has the shift when we do so gets another two hours added on to their shift. My job is to ensure that it's not my shift when this occurs. Let some other poor sucker have their shift extended two hours.
Note the spray in the sun

Connie wakes up this morning suddenly hot and fussy. "I gotta get outta here." She bolts upright, throws on some clothes, and leaves the master cabin. I get up and see Scott Tobiason in the cockpit, in the full sun, working on his tan which is already extreme. Even his feet are tan, even on the bottom!

Connie flops down on the floor amidships where it is the coolest. Then she says, "I smell something burning, maybe rubber?" Now it's fire alarm time and I have to shake off the sleep and pay attention. We open up cabinets, look into the engine compartment and the prop shaft compartment, until finally Connie determines that the smell is coming from forward. She pries open the floorboard to check the forward bilge. "It smells like it's coming from here." Scott Tobiason, who has no sense of smell, rushes past me to poke his head into the forward bilge. I stand by, useless. Pump - OK, Switch - OK. It's just some black water smell that the heat has brought because it is really hot this morning.

I check the head sink, which shares a thru hull exit with the forward bilge pump and who do I see crawling out of the drain but Herman the crab! We have a tiny mascot. I hope he likes it in Hawaii.

Full of excess energy Connie decides to wash some clothes. Meanwhile nobody has had breakfast yet. What a disorganized mess of a crew we are.

There is hardly any wind. What wind there is comes from the South. None of the weather grib files we have downloaded show any southerly component. And so, we motor on.

Pausing to check the engine the crew decides to swim with the sharks. We let Traveler ghost along til she slows down then Scott T. and Connie B. jump overboard into the endless depths of the center of the great Pacific Ocean. I'm tempted to start up the engine and drive away. They come back aboard, dripping, with big grins. "It's so blue!" The hull is pretty clean. Propeller looks good. No sharks visible.
Jumping into the deep blue Pacific ocean.  Halfway between Cabo and Hilo.  Just how deep is it?

And we are off again, running 1500 RPM and making 5.0 knots, hoping to find some wind in our future.

20 hours later we finally find wind and are now bowling along at 6 knots under sail. Having motored quite a bit recently and by recording hours run and gallons used we know that Traveler uses only 1/2 gallon of diesel per hour at 1500 RPM and about 5 knots. For a 43 horsepower Kubota engine pushing a 27,000 pound boat that's not bad.

Scott, Connie, and Scott

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