Here we are -- small boat, big ocean, 3 tired people, making the best of some very bumpy seas! Day after day after day, or so it seemed, for 20 days (oh, and 20 nights).
We left Cabo San Lucas on May 25th and arrived at Lahaina Harbor early on the morning of June 14th. It has now been a week since we walked on land and we are finally ready to look back at the passage with a little more perspective and perhaps conjure more descriptive adjectives than "Ughghg!"
In fact some of the photos we took provide indisputable evidence of some beautiful outlooks and even some smiling faces. But then again, we only brought the camera out when we could manage to let go of our white-knuckled handholds without falling down.
All in all, it was a fast passage of a very long distance with some moments, hours, and even days of beauty. Never truly scary, just dang uncomfortable and relentless. Already, hindsight is blessing us with selective memory.
For those die-hard fans among our readers, I am going to just go ahead and paste in the daily log that I kept underway. Within are the daily life details, more than you'd want, but also some of the thoughts and moods as they evolved with the miles. It's not quite "real time" but may give you the flavor of being there with us.
As I post this, we have said "Good-bye" to Marcus and "Welcome Aboard" to Louise. Lanham's sister is joining us for the last leg -- we used to think she was sane! We are enjoying a last few days in Lahaina, appreciating the generosity of friends Christine and Dan for offering their home for laundry, prep cooking, and relaxation. We did a dive with Marcus and Louise is off on a dive boat for the morning. We plan to head northeast through the islands on Monday, the 24th. Perhaps push off from Hanalei Bay, on Kuai on Friday, the 28th. If there was another creative way to get Solar Wind home to Elliott Bay we would probably be pursuing it, but we think we have one more long passage in us and it will be sweet to be home. The next post will probably be from Sequim Bay on the Olympic Peninsula, where we hope to meet family and friends around the 24th of July. We expect nothing and are prepared for anything! Thanks for following along and all your good wishes and support!
Running Commentary The Mexico to Hawaii Journey
We are remembering what it was like on the ride from Seattle to San Francisco and relearning to walk with knees bent, hand on grab-rails, ready to brace against anything firm with your back, knees, shoulders and head. And remembering how to live where nothing stays where you set it. Must be similar to learning to perform everyday functions in space without gravity. We are better prepared with our systems this time and have eliminated some of the crashes and strange chafing noises. This is NOT the easy sail advertised, YET. We know why everyone wishes you “following seas” We are looking forward to them.
We stuck to our 8 – 12, 12 – 4, 4 – 8 watch schedule. Single reef and small jib for the night.
|Marcus cooked our first dinner off-shore -- pan fried steak and potatoes.|
Note the decorative peppers and the (momentarily) clean, calm galley
DAY 2 Sunday, May 26 – From Sat 8am to Sun 8am we had a 120 nm day. Not bad. Today we are still in big swells and (our least favorite) CONFUSED SEAS! Wind has stayed consistent at 10 – 25 kts, but mix-master seas with 8 – 10 ft swells are enough to make you loose your cookies. Which poor Marcus did and has been fighting all day. He thinks what finally caused him to succumb to Mal de Mer was the smell of gutting fish! The guys caught a 4-5 pound yellow fin tuna and had a larger something on line. After 20 minutes the line broke at the swivel and took one of the new promising lures. BOO!
Marcus stopped eating and worked on keeping water down, trying to sleep it off. Ugh.
Lanham and Melinda kept the watches going. We now have the staysail up and the main double reefed – conservative. I had to wake Lanham twice in the night. Once to help me furl some jib, and again when we had a big freighter about 2.5 miles off and I wanted to be sure we were not on a collision course. We were able to get a more westerly heading, but had to slow the boat down to do that through the night. The full moon is beautiful and really helps visibility. It was partially cloud-obscured as were most of the stars. We are wearing full foulies at night – the cockpit gets wet from dew and some spray. It’s comfortable to be bundled, and then a pain to come inside where you are immediately overheated. I’m trying to stay hydrated but regret it every time I have to take off all the layers to pee. We seared some of the tuna in hot sesame oil with ginger and had it with garlic pasta. Marcus thought about trying some noodles but stuck with water for the night.
|Marcus stuffed in the quarter berth|
I was laughing (and swearing and ok, maybe tantruming, too) about what is involved in cooking on the boat – it’s an athletic activity. Food is stored in 4 different main compartments on the boat. Within each compartment are bins, and bins behind the bins. I had made lists for each compartment and each bin, but they were outdated after the last minute shopping and we try to update as we use things, but that’s proving to be unreliable. Reaching what you want could involve any number of yoga poses or strength building moves that you might do at a gym for health and fitness. On your knees, on your tiptoes, on your belly, on your head. Getting everything out, but not leaving it out because it will fall down, spilling something, then cleaning up the spill and spilling it again. If you are lucky the spill will just be on the counter or sink, not inside the refrigerator or cabinet. As you hold the bowl (set on your non-skid pad) at a 40 degree angle, get out the milk (emptying the left frig top of veggies so the tray can slide to reach the milk on the right side) and pour it into a measuring cup (switching to holding the bowl with your elbow) over the sink to catch spillage, put the milk away (veggies are still out but have rolled away – get them later), crack two eggs over the bowl, set aside the shells to go overboard later and stir with the spatula after you retrieve it (and wash it) from behind the gimbaled stove where it just slid, and the person on watch would like a glass of water and the non-skid pad that was holding everything just skid. Advice: Plan on one-course meals (one pan, even better) and keep your sense of humor. If spilled milk is our biggest problem – Hooray!
|M & L navigating, sailmailing and talking on the radio|
Tonight we were able to make good communication with the “Motley Cruisers’ Net”. This is what we call our informal non-ham net of folks who rallied in La Paz and enjoyed cruising together and staying in touch while in the sea these last few months. Everyone (who’s awake and not out to dinner) tries the same frequency on the Single Side Band radio at 9 am and 7 pm. We had not made contact with any of the group for a few days and all were anxious to hear that we were well and to offer their sound opinions on weather and routing. There is lots of experience within the group and it is so nice to have familiar voices and other eyes looking at our position on a chart and coordinating it with the same weather files we are looking at.. They confirmed the idea of taking a more southerly heading now, gaining more of a reach rather than beating, even though Hawaii is WNW. All believe that we will make faster progress to the west and will hit NW trade winds in about 2 days, (longitude 125 or 130) making it more comfortable, easier on the boat and overall faster to make this small adjustment off the rumb line. We tried this over night and were pleased to be making easier and faster miles. Our third day’s total mileage was a whopping 144 nm!
DAY 4 – Tuesday, May 28 – The days are marching along and adding up. Marcus is recovered today. Lanham took a long watch last night and I took a long sleep – what a nice new outlook. I slept (or stayed in the bunk) from 10 pm to 6 am. Lanham woke me with a cup of coffee ready and it was nice to watch the day open. Overcast this morning, and broken clouds most of the day. Some sea birds, dolphins playing on the bow. The ocean is a place of swimming birds and flying fish. The sea birds that we have seen are swooping low and into the water, fishing at great speed. Last night, just as the sun was setting and our fishing lines were pulled in, Lanham and I watched in amazement as 4 and 5 foot tunas were jumping completely out of the water across the stretch of ocean that we could see off the port side of the boat. Dolphins were dipping up and down among them. We don’t know if the dolphins were hunting the tuna or if both were going after some smaller flying fish. Quite amazing to watch the action.
|Some of our rare visitors|
Since the fish (big ones we guess) have taken several of our new and handsome lures, Lanham and Marcus have taken to making their own. Lanham was trolling his creation, built of a small spent flare tube (he shot it off on his watch with no attention from crew or would-be rescuers – we have been carrying expired ones along with our new fresh dated rescue flares) Duct tape, a shiny granola bar wrapper, and a wire leader with hook completed his rig.
|One of our bigger keepers -- we kept 3 and eventually released about 15 Dorado|
He actually got a bite – we think from the coloring, maybe a juvenile Dorado, but too small to keep. Kids will eat anything! Marcus fashioned a lure from his toothbrush, and it too caught him a dorado.
|The homemade granola bar lure|
|The yet to be patented "toothbrush lure"|
We are now racing along at 7 to 8 knots, only taking occasional slams with the bow and are heading up a little closer to our 270 deg. “magic line” to Hawaii. Time to go do lunch dishes, think about dinner plans, and take a nap. I’m on again from 6 -10.
Dinner turned out to be a big bowl of guacamole with chips (the last of our avocados) and the last of the tuna with rice, soy sauce and wasabi. It was a fix your own plate when you’re ready to eat meal. A lovely watch, and another humanizing nighttime of sleep!
DAY 5 – Wednesday, May 29 – The sailing is getting more comfortable. We are less heeled and the rhythm of the bounce is more consistent. I can feel my abs working to keep me upright as I sit here at the salon table with the computer strapped down. Standing in the cockpit, you are in a constant balance pose, working your calf and thigh muscles. Marcus described the difficulty that we all experience trying to pull our pants back up after using the head. He said he thought at one point he was going to have to lay down on the floor to do it! The sensation of motion and the sound of rushing water is unceasing! We have enjoyed some hours of music through the cockpit speakers. I guess it’s been a little too bumpy for guitar practice.
Today was a grey and misty day – very NW feeling. We motored from 3 am to 7 am, in order to make water and top up the batteries. It turned out to be a good time to add a little to the fluky speed, and we now have a tank of warm water that will last a day or two. It is better for the watermaker to run with the high voltage provided by the alternator, so running the motor for a few hours every 3 days or so will probably be our habit.
|Hanging it out -- is that a storm cloud in the distance?|
Today turned out to be our first laundry day at sea. Lanham tried all morning to fall asleep. (He had woken to a wet pipe berth this morning. Not sure where the water is leaking in. Probably the hatch or air vent) He is drying, airing and duct taping the suspected area. No real luck with sleeping, so he kept his spirits and energy up by taking a shower and doing laundry, once the sun finally hit the cockpit about 2pm. We all helped hang the clothes to dry, with a line suspended from the forestay to the back stay on the sunny side of the boat. Just as we got everything up (no small feat, clipping in to the jack lines with harnesses just to go up and set the clothespins) we watched as a big black cloud headed our way. “That’s rain! …we need to get the clothes in and reef the main.” We did, and 5 minutes later we watched the black squall pass well to the north of us and the sun poke through. We congratulated ourselves on the great teamwork and practice run, got the laundry back up, and took it down still damp before the next squall with rain an hour later. Dry enough for now – we’ll put it out again tomorrow.
DAY 6 – Thursday, May 30 – Melinda's Birthday Day!
|Dining al Fresco -- in the middle of the Pacific for my 56th birthday|
And a glorious one, thanks to my captain and crew! I took the 2 am to 6 am watch, picking up from Marcus so Lanham got the 8 hour night sleep. At 2 am, Marcus was struggling with a crazy fluky wind and the flappin wackies. Together we tried tacking, thought about motoring and just then the wind returned and we got back on a 270 degree reach and I had an easy watch with forgiving swells and a good heading. I don’t know what others do on watch, or what I will do down the road on day 17. Lanham has remarked that he likes the privacy of the boat bubble inside the total darkness. Marcus says he feels like he’s having a meeting with himself and often thinks thoughts he wants to write down.
|Marcus drives from his "favorite spot"|
This morning, the radar was continually clear, Sully was doing the steering, the boat was sailing herself, and I felt like when I made minor adjustments I “knew what I was doing.” A good feeling that left me time for singing (only the wind can hear you), practicing my Spanish (counting by multiples), and doing yoga stretches and a leg workout. Great way to start a new year!
The boys gave me a card saying I had the “day off.” I read a John Grisham novel in my bunk, received my many sailmail birthday cards and wrote a few emails. They did their best to catch fresh dinner, but had no luck and instead cooked a delicious meal of chorizo, pasta, veggies and Birthday Cake! We opened a special bottle of red. Very impressive work in the galley. The last treat of the day is movie night – we only have a couple choices onboard, but they all come with buttered popcorn. We are hoping for a calm night.
|Lanham cooking Melinda's birthday dinner --|
notice the heeling birthday cake?
It was a typically racing through the 20-knot winds night, and we ended up watching part of Harry Potter. Marcus thought the surround-sound, smell of popcorn and whirling visuals of the moving was giving him a headache and headed to his berth. Lanham saw some of the movie from the cockpit while maintaining watch, and I enjoyed the movie and popcorn immensely! I took the 10 – 2 watch after having had the whole day off and passed off to Marcus for the 2 – 6. Lanham began to catch up by having the dark 8 hours of 10 – 6 for sleeping.
DAY 7 – Friday, May 31st – Well, the low point of today was my dumping of a dozen raw eggs behind the galley stove. They broke and quickly oozed through the floor seams into the lower cupboard and two different bilge compartments. The good news was that I had just tested each one for freshness and none were rotting! I bought six 18-count cartons of eggs for the trip, so the other good news is that we are not yet short on eggs. I was preparing to cook a noon breakfast of chorizo burritos. The eggs were washed and tested (by making sure they sink in a glass of water). The bowl of eggs looked stable and we bounced along… until WHAM!... the boat lurched and the eggs flew, all landing in a very inaccessible recess behind the gimbled stove. I swore and stomped and moaned. Lanham came to the rescue and cleaned the obvious shells and goop, then went after the less visible, but equally likely to smell bilges with warm water and a vinegar rinse. Vinegar is a valuable cleaning agent on the boat. We carry at least a gallon, for cleaning bilges and heads. Always learning… can’t be too casual with eggs in a bowl.
|Getting fit through fishing?|
And the high point in the day came as I was fixing split pea soup for dinner. One of the fishing lines (we’d had 5 hooks out all day) went ZINGGG! Marcus reeled in his first ever Dorado! A beautiful fish – yellow as if approaches the boat, white as it is pulled aboard, and then turning brilliant blue with yellow, silver, white and dark blue speckles as it is filleted. Makes you wonder why it has such a metamorphosis as it dies, and what changes do we go through upon our death. A few minutes later, Lanham brought aboard another Dorado, slightly smaller. We have for mahi fillets in the frig for cooking tomorrow.
We are still roaring along, watching the longitude numbers grow. It is now a big and important ritual to calculate our daily mileage, average speed, overall distance, and distance to go. I am marking a chart with our daily course. We have ranged between 120 and 153 miles for 8 am to 8 am days. Rarely slowing below 5 kts per hr, often rolling along at 7. We are reducing sail at night, to keep the speed closer to 5, just in case we get a sudden rough patch, high wind or squall. Reducing speed also makes it a little less bumpy for those trying to sleep.
|The evening light show|
DAY 8 – Saturday, June 1st -- Wow, June 1st, out for a full week. Marcus got the longer stretch of night sleep last night. The night watches were uneventful. The moon is waning and there is quite a cloud cover, so only occasional star studded bits of sky.
The vastness of the ocean and the absence of anyone or anything continue to amaze and impress us all. No other ships, no blips on the radar. We are now over 1,000 miles from the coast of Mexico and about 1,700 miles from the Hawaiian Islands. Nothing else as far as we can see or imagine except water and sky. The never ceasing roll of the energy of the ocean is mind-boggling. The enormity of the ocean and of the undertaking to cross it has set in. Or, as Lanham says, we are all now acutely aware that this trip is long… a bit too long … and that’s part of it. We are more than a third of the way there, and we now imagine that we will make it. Not that we know what lies ahead, but more of the same will be part of it.
Lanham also expressed his appreciation of the distinct difference between day and night. Since our direction, speed, angle of heel, and scenery do not change, the passing of day to night and back again constitutes a real and crucial pattern, sense of time, and variety. Also, day is our social time – we often hang out in the cockpit together, not really sure who is officially “on watch.” At night, it becomes a very solitary endeavor to be on watch and a time of privacy and introspection – not to mention, a heightened sense of responsibility. You are the one to make sure all is going well, no menace is lurking, and your shipmates can rest with assurance.
Early this morning we ran the motor and motored sailed from 2 to 7 am. Water (warm water!) was made, the batteries were topped up, and we kept our 7-knot pace in some lighter wind. Lanham went to bed at 4, Melinda and Marcus had turns taking warm water transom showers at 8 and when Lanham was up we ate soup for breakfast and caught another good-sized Dorado about noon. Relations with time are interesting. We are often looking at our watches – when am I on? How long can I sleep? Is it time for a meal? But then again, our time has no relation to time elsewhere on Earth – but has real connection with nature’s clock. Yesterday, we noticed that the sun was not setting until after our clocks said 9 o’clock, and daylight was breaking later and later. We decided to set our watches back an hour, to Pacific Time, matching the longitude that we had recently crossed into. By the time we reach Hawaii, we will be in a time zone three hours earlier and will probably need to follow suit with the sun. Switching our watches makes it trickier to remember to tune into the net and try to contact our sailing buddies. We now need to turn on the SSB at 8 am and 6 pm. Most of the cruisers’ net times are listed by UTC (Universal Time) also known as Zulu or Greenwich Mean Time. Right now that is 6 hours earlier than our clocks. All of the weather reports we receive are given with UTC and need to be translated to our clock. I guess that 6-hour differential will increase if we reset our clocks closer to Hawaii.
Tonight we are feasting on some of our fresh mahi mahi. I have started ceviche, Marcus is making mango salsa, and Lanham will pan fry some fillets. I am wondering how we will come out on our devouring of the meats in the freezer. We are not allowed to take them into Hawaii (nor eggs or produce), so we may be feeding the fish before this trip is over, as they have fed us!
|Mahi dinner, our only meal inside, right before my food hit the floor|
DAY 9 – Sunday, June 2nd -- Last night’s dinner tasted good, but it was a bit of a fiasco with food sliding all over the galley – and then difficulty trying to all sit at the table and eat. I jumped up at one point to catch something about the slide in the galley. The boat took another giant lurch and when I looked back at the table Lanham was holding onto my plate, but all of my dinner had slid to the floor! Rice, fish and veggies all over the floor! Cry? Swear? Laugh? I was tempted to just eat off the floor, but was able to recover the food and finished at the table. You don’t linger over food underway, and it’s best to have your beverage before or after the food course.
The fresh mango salsa was a real treat and was Marcus’s creation. The day before leaving San Jose del Cabo, we noticed mango trees along the marina drive, loaded with mostly green, but quickly ripening, mangos. Several cows were wandering underneath, eating their fill of those on the ground, and in the evening a local father and his 8-year-old son were our gathering the ripest ones from the top branches with a long pole and hook. Marcus was determined to bring a bundle and climbed into the treetops, tossing down large green mangos. We introduced ourselves to Manuel and his kid, Alfonso, and they gladly helped us get more with their pole. We headed back to the boat with two bulging hatfuls of mangos and Manuel and Alfonso came aboard to see the boat and talk fishing over a cerveza and jugo. The mangos rode in the lazarette for the first week of the trip. About half had to go overboard and the other half were peeled and pared by Lanham and Marcus in the cockpit – added to onion, hot red peppers, vinegar – yum!
It was an uneventful sailing day and night – uneventful is good.
|Lanham processing the bucket of mangos brought from Cabo|
DAY 10 – Monday, June 3rd – Today was more of the same sailing – rough confused seas, uggh, are getting old, and tiresome! Sometimes it dawns on me that we are still moving, moving fast, moving constantly and there is no propulsion machine causing the sensation – just water rushing past, and us moving constantly forward (with lots of up and down and back and forth thrown in). When steering at night it is easy to loose your sense of direction and feel like a spinning top. With no horizon and in the blackness no real sense of right or left, I stare at the compass and try to keep us at 270 degrees, due west and start to feel that we are turning in a circle – always spinning to port with the wind.
|Day and night, our heading varies little|
Maybe it is worth mentioning, though anyone who’s done this passage probably won’t be surprised, that we have been on the same tack for the full 10 days. That is, we are heading WEST, the wind is coming from the NORTH (sometimes nnw, or nne), the wind blows over the starboard side, the sails are let out to port, and we are heeling, rolling, heeling, rolling, heeling, bumping, heeling rolling to the left. It simplifies things a bit – you know to set stuff (including yourself when you sleep) on the low side of the boat --- and mostly it stays the low side… day after day after day. We wonder if we will walk with one leg longer than the other or our heads cocked 10 degrees if we ever get off the boat.
Today’s lowpoint for Lanham and me came about 3 hours after eating ceviche for lunch. Suddenly got feverish, chilled, nauseated and had the runs – oh ugh! We think that’s what it was – fish was fresh, but maybe not the cucumber (Bad Cook – no more on the cusp veggies!!) Marcus was spared the worst – he’s paid his dues and he’s still not eating with a full appetite, so he went easy on the ceviche! L and I were able to sleep it off, but it took about 24 hours to feel settled, and longer than that to feel hungry again.
DAY 11 – Tuesday, June 4th – Early this morning, when I went off watch at 4, Lanham figured out the staysail was hindering the jib as the wind was starting to come more from the east, behind us. He woke me to help him bring down the staysail. My job was easy, to let out the sheets when he asked. Unfortunately I tried to do it in the dark and was not clear headed. In the process, I let out the main sheet, holding him up on the deck working longer in the wild bumps and putting us in a potentially dangerous situation where we could get too much wind in the main and bring down the mast! Dang… I got too complacent. I need to make sure I am awake, know exactly what I’m doing, and not make dumb mistakes. All was OK and I went back to bed once he got things recovered.
I had a lazy day, mostly sleeping, lying around inside – still feeling the effects of the bad food. I gave myself permission not to do much… some days are like that. The funny thing is that there is not a big difference in appearance or effect between the energetic days and the low energy days on this trip. Only a difference in internal motivation and intention. I did get the energy to go through the fridge – throwing out anything questionable and disinfecting surfaces. I cooked a big pot of ground beef pasta sauce and we had a late lunch with leftovers in the night. It tasted good – real food.
|Typical of our grey days -- but fun to get a downwind|
While I lazed around, the boys got into the autopilot area to do an inspection and lube that has been on Lanham’s mind as part of a halfway maintenance. Marcus earned his stripes again as he wiggled into the uncomfortably tiny space and did the tightening and greasing. It was a good call – things were loose! We then got the spinnaker up and we had a nice, smooth downwind run from about 3 to 7. The sun came out and we got some white puffy clouds – first light sky in days. Lanham went to sleep and it was up to me to get the spinnaker down. I woke Marcus from a sound sleep to help. I thought it would be easy on the foredeck, but the wind was still up and it was harder to get the sock down than I expected. Just a reminder of the forces we are dealing with – much bigger than I am used to. Marcus gave a hand and we got things put away and set for night. I woke Lanham and we reefed some more before I went to bed at 10. The 10-6 rest shift is mine again – lucky me. A 139 mile day.
DAY 12 -- Wednesday, June 5 – We are still counting the miles gone and miles to go – with more interest than ever. Does that mean we are anxious to arrive – yes. We have done 158 miles in our longest day, and over 120 everyday. We are counting on maybe 8 more days, if we hit about 130 a day and that would put us into Lahaina on Friday morning, the 14th. Don’t want to arrive on a weekend… so we may slow down as we get closer.
A grey day again. Lanham stayed up past his shift and ran the motor in light air for a couple hours – hot water! I went on watch at 8, and L got up at 10 and cooked the last of the dorado fillets – on the griddle – they tasted wonderful. Marcus has little appetite – thinks it may be more seasickness, so will keep on with the scopolamine patches. We are all a little low on motivation and we are reminding ourselves that whatever we are feeling is O.K. Part of coping.
I used the solar shower, L played some guitar, I made polenta and read a bit. So went the afternoon … and on we sailed… rolling in mixed seas more than we would like, but making good time!
The wind is now on our tail (official trade winds, we think?) Today we traveled west from the 136th longitude to the 138th line. The challenge is to maintain as close to a 270 west heading as possible, but to keep the NNE wind in the sails we need to head a little higher than due west. Thus, over the last few days our track has been taking on a northerly direction off the rumb line to Hawaii. I am learning a lot, with coaching, about balancing the wind, with the swell direction, with our desired heading. Being on watch, when sailing, as opposed to motoring, means watching the radar (set to scan every 20 minutes), visually scanning the horizon, AND either hand steering or adjusting Sully every minute or two, as the wind on the masthead swings a little high or low. Keeps you busy and awake. This was a 145 mile day, keeping our average up!
DAY 13 –Thursday, June 6 – I woke early this morning to a different bend. We had jybed! For the first time in 11 days we were on a port tack, heeling to the other side. Lanham and Marcus did the maneuver about 2 in the morning, wanting to keep us from heading any further north off the direct line to Hawaii. They said is took an hour to jybe – a little out of practice. There were no serious crashes in the boat, so we must be pretty well stowed away on a daily basis. Good sign!
Lanham and I set the spinnaker and ran it alone for the morning hours. By noon the wind died down and we ran the motor for the rest of the day and evening – full water tanks, warm showers, and topped up batteries. This motor sailing took us back to the rumb line for Hawaii and we again got on the preferred starboard tack. Lanham rebuilt the spare water pump at his workbench this morning.
|A mid-ocean break!|
At 3 this afternoon, we slowed the boat and Marcus and Lanham took a swim! I stayed with the boat. They raved about the blueness of the water and because of the visibility and the lack of a bottom to reference they described it as swimming in outer space. I will try it before the end of the trip! I cooked beef fajitas and they tasted good to everyone! A relatively slow 130 mi day, with winds not more that 7 – 12. Fighting for every southwesterly mile.
DAY 14 – Friday, June 7 –
A day for following seas and more of the same – big swells swinging us all around. Working hard to stay on course, jybing several times to get back closer to course, and trying lots of different sail/rigging combinations! Lanham was low on sleep today, but stayed up and he and Marcus got some good things going to make the most of the wind. Spinnaker up (not an easy set – quite the challenge) and main out on a pole for wing and wing. Marcus is like a monkey on deck – quick, agile, and perceptive. I’m sure Lanham appreciates the teamwork and not always having to give precise instructions.
I cooked a pasta with salmon lunch, wrote some sailmail, and napped… and when Lanham finally headed to bed about 4:30, we all decided it was a good day to set the clocks back two hours to get more in-line with the sun and with Hawaiian time. Suddenly we had a 26 hour day, two more hours of daylight watch time! How strange the human invention of time – or at least our preoccupation with time? It certainly becomes less connected to anything arbitrary (such as sleeping, eating, getting somewhere) and much more connected to nature out here. Lanham slept, Marcus sailed, I cooked – quinoa with chicken and roasted cabbage for dinner. We watched a more colorful and dramatic sunset than most. To the north the sky was dark grey-purple with stormy rainy clouds. To the south the puffy white clouds were pink and orange with setting sun reflection. Ahead and behind us, west and east were the transition skies. Clouds of many colors and forms. The sky took about an hour to darken – at a respectable 8 pm on our clocks rather than the 10 it has been growing to.
The 8 to 12 watch felt long and tiring… feeling like the 2 am it was. I drank caffeinated tea, trying to avoid being up later with coffee. We all enjoyed the mid-night treat of warm from the oven peanutbutter cookies, a package mix made better with the addition of real salted peanuts! Lanham relieved me a little early, we said goodnight and I was out fast and slept hard in my forepeak nest. Didn’t wake until 7, when the morning sunlight was coming through the forward hatch and I looked up to see full billowing sails. Will I miss that view? Probably, but not the lurching motion that comes with it. We clocked in at a 140 nm day at 5 am, our new 24-hour mark.
DAY 15 – Saturday, June 8 – Today, has been glorious weather. Fast wind (perfect 15 -20) from 5 am to 2 pm and in a NNE enough direction that we can keep a heading of less than 270 and not get the wind knocked out by the swells, too much. It’s still bumpy as ever, and noisy as the boat creaks and the rigging clanks and the wind thwaps the sails. Arggh… this is LONG… We are all feeling it, yet keeping focused on the positive and keeping busy is key.
Marcus seems determined to catch a fish, soon. He wants a yellow fin or yellow tail tuna to be precise – hankering for sushi. I think if he caught a dorado he might throw it back and I wouldn’t talk him out of it. The mahi did not set real well with any of us – we don’t know why. It just tasted heavy and strong, not like mahi we’ve had before. These were small, young? fish, maybe they all taste more wild out this far??
Lanham got up about 10, for showering and laundry. Good day to dry it in the sun and breeze. We’ve had a fast morning, making 30 miles directly on course in the first 4 hours. Now we are lurching and lunging along again. So much for the possibility of a record day. Leftovers for lunch. I’m thinking about pizza for dinner.
We have under 700 miles to go according to the Garmin GPS. We are continuing to try to reach friends on the cruisers’ net but without luck. Propagation for sending sailmail has been very poor, slow transmission times, too. But we have had luck getting weather faxes. Good to know that system is working. Looks like more of the same weather wise, and some mild conditions once we hit Hawaii. We’ll have to see what the reality is.
Our pizza for dinner was a hit! We’ll make it again…and it was THE MOST gorgeous sunset on the passage so far. The whole sky was reflecting different effects with the colors playing off the clouds. We’ve seen many sunsets during this year, but it’s the first ever with an uninterrupted seascape – 360 degree horizon for the sun to play on. We had the stereo on and enjoyed a glass of wine on the foredeck before dinner, Snickers bars for dessert.
|A moment of sun, tranquility and the vastness of watersky|
Even though we had a super fast first half of the day, we slowed down at night. At 156 nm we didn’t quite beat our distance record of 158, but a big day nonetheless!
DAY 16 – Sunday, June 9 – Another uneventful day… and into the night. Always good. We are definitely in the rhythm of our watches now. I spend my off time mostly cooking, which I am enjoying again. The seas are a bit less bumpy, with a following swell. We had a squid on the deck this morning. The fishing lines were out all day, AND we caught 5! medium sized dorado – all of which we released and they happily swam on. After our 3 dorado, we are not in the mood to cook more. Marcus is set on making tuna sushi – sure hope he can – I’d love to see his techniques!
We are continuing to try to make radio contact with our cruising buddies, but with no luck. I sent out a group email yesterday, so we got several responses of encouragement and congrats on our progress. Also, last night I butted in on a Ham radio net (got scolded, but not chastised) in order to connect with folks on a boat named Sarah Jean. They are friends of friends and are en route to Hawaii from New Zealand. (wow, try 4,000+ instead of our 2,700 miles). From there they will sail to Vancouver, so we hope to be able to be in touch with them on our next leg. We exchanged sailmail addresses and have already had a response from them. We also emailed Christine, our friend on Maui today to let her know we are likely to arrive ahead of the June 19th the date we had given her as a possible arrival. It is really getting close now. Our GPS says 500 miles and about 96 hours. That means we need to start counting the days and possible slowing down in order to arrive at Lahaina in the daylight.
As we start to count the days, I’m trying to figure out how to use most of the meat in the freezer (also a factor in deciding not to bring more mahi on board) since we cannot take it into Hawaii. We will come out about right on the produce, except for maybe some extra limes and potatoes. We may have to toss a dozen eggs or so, but the meat will be the challenge. I’ll make a quiche and a potato carrot dish. Today’s meals were oatmeal, eggs with ham and polenta for lunch and beef fajitas for dinner. Nobodies going hungry!
DAY 17 – Monday, June 10 – Today was a pretty one. We are running downwind all the time now and the seas are BIG. The 8 – 10 foot swell that follows behind the transom accelerates us down into the next trough. We cannot keep perpendicular to the swell and we are trying to quarter them for comfort, but the swell is so big that when we come down off the top of one the swinging of the mast pushes the wind out of the sails. We have to choose between a hard, noisy, cracking flacking headsail if we are steering too low and the potential danger of getting sideways to the swell causing the boat to roll if we steer too high. So, like life, it’s just a balancing act. I am beginning to understand how dynamic active sailing is in a new way. I thought we could find a good point of sail and stay with it. After all we’re not racing. But being on watch out here is more about watching the wind, waves (sea state), adjusting the sails and/or heading to make the best decisions – for course, comfort, and safety.
I got up from a rolling restless sleep, but felt awake after coffee. I had a pleasant 8 to noon watch. Marcus had his backpacker guitar out and when Lanham got up a little later they got to work on some songwriting. It was fun to listen to their jam session and they are coming up with some good lyrics about their friend, Eddie. I was even able to read a little on watch as we rolled along on course – stopping at the bottom of every two pages to scan the horizon and sails is a good timekeeper for me. When just sitting and thinking, it is easy to not notice the time slipping by. Hand steering is the other thing that helps keep my mind on the sailing. Hanging on to the wheel can be very relaxing and definitely helps with the woozies.
|From my perch at the wheel I can listen to the dueling guitars -- still wooshing along at 7 knots!|
We have seen a bit more sea life. We think the large brown birds with white underbellies and huge wingspans are albatross. There are also some smaller white gulls that dive down to scoop fish off the surface. I am curious about how isolated these birds seem. They are often alone. What makes them come to this spot on the ocean? Are they curious about the boat? Do they return to the same spots on shore? How many miles do they cover in a day? Are they still flying at night like we are?
The best animals we’ve seen though are the aerobatic flying fish! They remind me of a Dr. Seuss creation as you look out across the water and see whole schools of the little guys leaving the sparkling surface of the water, airborne for 3 feet to 30 feet, sometimes crash landing into the face of a wave or sticking the landing acrobatically in the surf. They look silver grey and turquoise with iridescent wings like a dragonfly. Most are small – 2 to 3 inches, but some look like small birds at 4 to 5 inches. We have only seen one small one land on the boat – a tiny one at under an inch, looking like a very special tropical aquarium fish – a beautiful specimen.
|One of my calmer cooking projects -- |
cheesy potatoes - comfort food
At noon yesterday I served us all some leftovers of pasta and beef and then started an afternoon of cooking -- baked cheesy potatoes with ham and apple bread pudding. Wanted to get a couple things in the oven and they tasted good for dinner, midnight watch snacks, and breakfast. We ran the motor for a few hours to make more southerly heading (don’t want to come in way off the mark for Maui and have to navigate close to land). Also got some warm water for showers in the evening. No more contact with friends on the radio, but nice to get emails. We continue to fish and continue to catch medium sized dorados that we throw back. We have released about 15 dorado, and it seems ironic that we are disappointed each time we catch one. Twice more we have lost lures and line to something bigger – much bigger – we imagine the 30 pound tuna that got away.
The wind is coming up, we are expecting more as we near Hawaii, and the sky looks squally. We got the staysail rigged on deck, ready to use again. We had a double reefed main and small jib out all night and did experience several light rain showers. The wind stayed above 20 knots and gusted to 40, even 50, in the morning. Another 145 nm day, and this evening we have about 350 nm to go. If someone asked how we were feeling I think the unanimous answer would be “tired of it.” At this point, I would not sign up to do it again – oh, wait, I already have. I guess it is easier going into the second leg knowing what to expect and being confident in the boat and our abilities. Though I will miss not having someone of Marcus’s strengths and talents. He is a knowledgeable sailor and always ready to jump up on deck to rig something in the dark windy blackness. That will need to be me on the next leg of the trip!
DAY 18 – Tuesday, June 11 – We just set the clocks one more hour back – now we are on Hawaii time! 3 hours earlier than Pacific time, 4 hours earlier than Mountain time (La Paz and Chicago) and 5 hours earlier than Eastern time (Boston). Again, it seems weird to be concerned with clocks, but there is a socialized part of us that does want to stay connected to our species by conventions such as clocks and emails. More relevant to our space/time concerns, we crossed the 150-degree line of longitude today. Lahaina lies at about 156½ degrees west. Math Vitamin: A minute is a mile (when you travel in style). 60 minutes in a degree. How many miles in the 6.5 degrees we have to go? And… at 6 nm/hour average, how many hours? Thus are the things that mostly occupy all of our thoughts right now.
So far today we have had more (what else) confused seas. I’m beginning to think they are normal and we are confused. We have had 3 or 4 squalls, with gusts up to 50 and light showers, we have slept, eaten, and Lanham is now hand washing the salon rug in the cockpit. We have the leeboard up and the cockpit doors out for the first time in months! We are running at 5 knots with lots of swell and keeping the radar on for an early sighting of our first ship, which we think could be any day now. It’s easy to feel the surge and energy of watching the mileage to go get smaller and smaller. Just under 300 miles now – still a long trip. Patience required. Must stay focused.
DAY 19 – Wednesday, June 12 – Today was a blur – maybe one of my least favorites. UGH, we are all so sick of the weather and the sea state, but not talking about it much. Nothing to be done but keep on keeping on. Today added spitting rain to the washing machine swells and waves buffeting us around. After my morning watch I rested a bit and knew it was time to keep on keeping on the food usage. Nobody’s really that hungry – but I notice the granola bars and peanutbutter are getting eaten. We have more meat that I’ve thawed in hopes of not having to dump it prior to landing in Hawaii. We are now on a Port tack with only the staysail up. After being on a Starboard tack for weeks the switch is most troublesome in the galley. I had places I could set things or tether them in and know they would be likely to stay up against the outside of the hull. On this tack there are no “safe” places to prop things, or I haven’t learned where they are, or (most likely) my nerves are frayed and my tolerance for rolling food preparation is zero. Today I lost it, almost crying, and (I guess) giving Lanham in the cockpit a menacing look – as if to say “You’re at the wheel. Why are you doing this?? Can’t you make this stop!!” Of course, no one can and it was no different from the last 18 days, but I could find no humor and only felt demoralized by the whole endeavor. I got some food on, we ate, and I went to sleep earlier than usual with the guys covering my watch. This last stretch may be the hardest. Still on the alert for ships as we get closer, but now only seeing lots of squalls on radar. They could make it harder to see real targets. We motored some today, keeping the batteries topped off and the water tanks full and keeping on our schedule to make the harbor on early Friday morning. 131.5 mile day, but at least the Solar Wind is getting some fresh water rinsing. And the rain seems to be bringing lots more flying fish on deck.
DAY 20 – Thursday, June 13 – Even though the weather continues to be miserable, and we are SICK of it, we can’t help but be motivated by how close we are getting to the END. Lanham has marked the electronic chart with a bull’s eye on the approach point to Lahaina. Each of the 3 rings represents our anticipated daily distance (about 130 nm). If we continue the average for we’ve had for Tuesday and Wednesday, then for Thursday we have a smaller target of 110 nm, which ends just 20 miles from Lahaina Harbor. All of this figuring is to make sure we arrive after daylight. We read it is not advisable to try to come into the tiny channel and make the tight turn using only lighted markers which easily disappear in the city lights behind them. We are still going a little fast, though we are dragging a warp with weights on it.
|Impossible to caption the motion and sound of the ocean|
This morning Lanham and Marcus got energized during a dry spell and tried reducing the mainsail further (it has been double reefed the last day and a half). We talked about the infrequency of wanting a third set of reefing points. How often do you ever want to go slower? We could have put up the Storm Trysail which has its own track on the mast, but instead they pulled down the main completely. Later in the afternoon as we still soared along under the staysail alone, we took down the it as well and the rest of the night we continued to get pushed along with NO sails – just the windage of the boat, solar panels, and bare mast. With the swells cresting directly on our transom and the autopilot keeping the rudder on course, still dragging the heavy warp, we wooshed along at 4 to 5 knots. More and heavier squalls came and went all night and our little icon slowly moved due west across the screen.
I got my cooking game back on and had a mid-day meat frenzy. We enjoyed a pound of bacon and I pan-fried the last of the arranchera from La Paz. Threw out a minimal amount of produce and am left with a little ham, small skirt steak and one package of chirizo in the freezer. Hopefully we can keep the garlic and ginger root rather than handing them over to the Dept of Agriculture in Hawaii. I even used up most of the limes with a no-bake key lime pie. Unfortunately, everyone was needing sleep more than food, so there was no communal “last supper” but we ate sometime during our night watches. I took the watch from about 6 to midnight and both guys slept. Uneventful except for squalls which brought me to the inside pilot station. Really glad we have that and can avoid the worst of the weather, but it does reduce visibility and make you feel quite removed from actually driving the boat.
About 8 in the evening we were able to “paint” the island of Maui with radar at about 24 miles away. Then about 11 pm I was outside between rainstorms and could make out the lights of Kahului off our beam. At least I hoped it was a light on the point, not a ship to our port, about 12 miles off. We had begun hearing USCG announcements from Honolulu earlier in the afternoon and about midnight I heard a ship calling the coast guard. They switched to channel 22 and I went with them, lurking. It was a tug captain, pulling a barge, asking for permission to enter Kahului Harbor. He was OK’d to do so. I realized that we were right off of the harbor. Could there be a tug about to cross in front of us that I had not seen? Had he maybe already passed in front and was I about to come between him and his towed barge? Without delay I called the “Rosemary Catherine” tug on channel 16. He responded, and we switched channels. I told him we were running without sails or motor and I did not have him on radar or AIS, could I have his position? He gave me his latitude and longitude and said there was little he could do to alter course, but they’d watch for us. I calmed down after plotting their GPS position on the electronic chart and deciding they were well in-shore of us, probably at the harbor entrance when he had called the coast guard. My call woke Lanham and Marcus and I said goodnight, “See you in Hawaii!” I was zonked and went right to sleep.
DAY 21 Friday, June 14 – Awake about 5, I joined Lanham at the interior helm as he looked out at more windy, rainy, stormy seas, with waves still going in all directions, some even breaking over the bow quarter and running down the side decks. “I had quite a harrowing crossing into the channel,” he quietly revealed. “No time to call you guys for help.” He described seeing lights on shore, then see the lights move, but not being able to figure out the ships heading. The rain squalls were hindering a tracking with radar. Just as Lanham was about to give a radio call, the tug captain called him, saying “Thanks for responding so quickly” (you bet, anytime) and “we were getting a little close so I wanted to know your intention.” Lanham said he was going around the coastline into Lahaina and the captain said, “OK we’ll pass port to port.” Lanham immediately steered away, then realized that port to port meant he needed to steer hard the OTHER way. Still unable to see anything visually or on radar due to the rain and sea state, he turned 60 degrees away and finally picked up the target. It seemed there was no barge in tow. Just before turning back on course, the lights on shore again blinked out as a small dark shape covered and uncovered them. While the tug had been lit up like a Mack truck, the barge it pulled had only two little faint lights, at bow and stern. By the time I woke up the obstacle was passed and we had turned back on course about 10 miles out from the Maui coastline, and the tug and barge had passed between us and the shore.
|Land HO! Our first daylight view of the islands of Hawaii|
The daylight was breaking and slowly, as we got around the corner, the ugly rain and some of the chop subsided. Soon we were going out into the cockpit, with the sun rising in an orange sky over our right shoulders. The carved mountains of Maui on the left and Lanai on the right were shrouded in mist and growing greener with daylight. Wow, look where we are… and still, it’s awfully windy and wet. We hear its usually great weather in Hawaii. As we continued around the north end of Maui the air continued to warm, the cockpit started to dry out and sunlight began to sparkle on the water.
We tidied up the boat, and ourselves, and soon were getting out dock lines and fenders that had been stored for the last 3 weeks. Lanham went over the deck removing duct tape from the hatch hinges and the plastic covering from the windlass. We only had one obvious spot of chafing – the jib sheet on the lifeline where it met the pelican hook at the port gate closure. It had been noticed a week ago and put on chafe protection -- another thing to remove.
|Dock lines are out -- where exactly is the channel?|
About 7:30, we navigated the entrance buoys to the incredibly narrow channel leading to the incredibly tiny Lahaina harbor boat basin. There were a dozen or so boats on mooring balls a good distance outside the breakwater, and inside of the anchorage were breaking waves filled with a growing number of surfers. Lots of obstacles to avoid coming into this tiny, busy harbor. We pulled up alongside the harbormaster’s office and stepped on the dock --- Ahhh, made it.
|Happy and slightly crazed crew with our destination in sight!!!!|
Saturday, June 15th, 2013
|Looking from inside Lahaina Harbor to the mooring balls.|
Notice the surf line -- something to avoid in the dingy!
It has been really nice to be in Lahaina. The harbormaster was ready to be unfriendly and unhelpful, but we won him over. He had wished we had called him about checking in (we had talked to someone else when we called his office). He called the customs agent, who was not coming until WE called him. We had emailed him and he was receptive to coming to Lahaina from Kahului to check us in. The harbormaster softened and said we could stay on the “one guest dock” #99 for one night. Marcus walked the 6 blocks to the Yacht Club, got the gas card, and got the forms for staying on a mooring buoy. We topped up our fuel – only used 32 gallons of diesel on the crossing – moved over to slip 99 and had a fast and good wash down of the boat. Solar Wind will need some stainless polishing, and our quicky varnishing job will be gone when we hit Seattle, but all in all, she looks good and is doing great!
When the customs guy arrived, he “needed” us to move back over to the fuel dock, instead of his walking around to our slip. So, instead of staying settled we moved again, had our on-board inspection (a quick once over by a German Shepard – who had never been on a boat before and wasn’t sure he wanted to come aboard), paid our fee to enter the USA and were able to move back across the fairway to our dock. When I listed the food that we had aboard, customs agent said, “just consume it aboard.” We were pretty sure that the scepter (a 10’ cactus frond from a century plant) that we carried from the Mexican desert would not be allowed to enter Hawaii, but the deck of the boat was not even looked at enough for it to be noticed. It was definitely a game – everyone won.
Friday afternoon was spent watching the seasoned boat drivers come in and out of Lahaina harbor – it is a tourist hub for every type of aquatic entertainment the tourists might want to pay for. Ferries to Lanai come and go, charter catamarans, sport fishing boats, dolphin and whale watching skiffs, and a semi-submersible submarine pick up and drop off paying customers by the hour – a great place for people and boat watching! Lanham napped, Marcus used the internet and Melinda walked to the beach adjacent to the marina to swim, bathe, lie on the sand (ahh, earth that doesn’t move) and talk to family on the phone. We walked back to the yacht club, got ice creams, and later had a great sushi and steak dinner at Kobe Steakhouse. Lahaina was alive (3rd Friday block party) but we headed home to the dock for a relatively still, quiet, uninterrupted night of welcome sleeeeeep!
|Beautiful West Maui mountains from the harbor|
Saturday coffee about 9 (how normal, yet unusual) and we brought the boat out to LYC mooring buoy #5. It’s a great location off the beach with a full view of the beautiful mountains of West Maui. Rainbows, dramatic clouds and shadows, a pleasant breeze, beautiful crystal blue 80-degree water to jump into right out the door. Nothing more rocky than we are accustomed to. We have put out the flopper-stoppers, Marcus and Lanham have been snorkeling and went to town in the dingy.
We are happy to just be here, looking at the beautiful shoreline with anything we might want just in town, a dingy ride away. What a relief not to have to do anything right now! Later we will think more about the next leg of the trip, the longer voyage ahead to Seattle, the next challenge.