We caught up on some much-needed rest and are feeling great. We woke up to a peaceful quiet anchorage with waves lapping the shores. Went for a snorkel before breakfast and spent 15 minutes swimming with two sea turtles – it was awesome and we shot some GoPro video we’ll have to share. We love it here but the weather window beckons so we plan to leave tomorrow.
So here’s the plan:
Tomorrow morning (Saturday), once the SE wind lightens and the seas moderate, we will leave Honolua Bay bound for Honokohau Harbor on the Kona coast of the Big Island. It’s a 100nm run so we should be in at first light on Sunday morning. We’ll hit the fuel dock and top off the diesel tank. Then we’ll immediately put back to sea and motor south along the Kona coast. It should take us about nine hours to clear the lee of the Big Island and encounter (what is forecast to be) light E winds at 10 knots. We’ll ride the light easterlies due south. On Monday the NE trades are forecast to fill back in at 15-20 knots. We should be well clear of the venturi effect of the Big Island and we’ll put the trades on the quarter and run for Fanning, 900 miles south of the Big Island. These trades are forecast to strengthen to 20-22 knots but we’ll have them on the quarter so it should be a nice angle and sea state. By the time they are forecast to strengthen above 25 knots we will be well clear of the squash zone and encountering the ITCZ around 9N. Then it’s anyone’s guess what the wind and squalls will do from 9N to Fanning at 2N. We’ll plan to make landfall 7 days later on Sunday (which is Monday in Kiribati because they keep the same date as the rest of Kiribati, much further west, and because they say so).
So that’s the plan. Stay tuned for the actual account.
Today the Mermaid is cooking up a storm in the galley prepping passage meals. She is also jarring green beans so they don’t spoil. I am tightening the lower shrouds because they looked a little loose when we had 25 knots on the beam; they are suppose to go slack on the leeward side but not flail around, and they seemed to be doing a little flailing, so I’ll give ‘em a half turn and see if that does it. I am also going to seal up the hawse pipe (where the anchor chain enters the deck) and un-pickle the watermaker. I adjusted the belt on the autopilot so it should work now. If it’s still acting like a moron I’ll throw it overboard and put in our spare.
Then it’s back to watching all the ridiculous tourists on the charter catamarans belly flop into the bay.
April 23 – In the past 24 hours we have experienced extreme discomfort and are now enjoying the best life has to offer. Allow me to explain…
We bid our farewells to friends dockside at 0900 and put out to sea into a lumpy steep sea state with little wind. We were bouncing and heaving side to side over 12-14 foot mixed seas as we cleared the lee of Oahu. We dosed on Meclizine the night before and the morning of our departure but despite our preventative measures we both were feeling terribly sick as Ellie got tossed around violently in the big washing machine seas with no sail to stabilize us. We’ll have you know that we have sailed over 9,000 miles together and have yet to throw up – although we have come close many times. In case you were wondering – the streak still stands.
Once we cleared the island the wind filled in from the NE at 22 knots and we sailed 50 degrees off the wind under double reef and half a jib on a heading for the lee of Lanai. A few hours of brisk sailing later the wind died but inconveniently the seas decided to seriously mess with us – hard. Once again we found ourselves in huge, steep, short-period swells from what seemed like all directions…..and no wind. Every monohull sailor out there knows how horrible it is to motor through steep washing machine seas with no wind to stabilize you – it’s the worst, most uncomfortable, barftastic motion you can experience on a boat. We were miserable. To compound matters we were forced to motor directly into the wind for 7 hours in this mess because we had to clear Penguin Bank, which was to the north by only a mile and fishing boats operating to our south. It seemed like an eternity to clear that bank and head north towards Lanai.
Once we reached the edge of the bank we started our slow turn north….and so did our headwinds. That’s right, they stayed directly on the nose, and then started increasing in speed to 20+ knots as the sea state got steeper and steeper. It was so short and so steep that if the sets hit us just right it would slow us to less than 2 kts. We were sailing close on the wind with a double reef main and engine cranking hard. This went on for another 6-8 hours.
Once we reached the channel between Lanai and Molokai we were hoping to finally find this lee that was forecast and the dead air that windy.ty promised. Instead we were hit with 35 knots on the nose, short steep seas, squalls and lightning. The Mermaid was hissing at me and we were both miserable. Ellie was pissed as well and was only making about 2 knots towards Maui so I spun us around and ran for the lee of Lanai. It was 0200 (am). And the AIS was showing two tugs with tows coming right at us and a fishing boat thrown into the mix just for kicks. I woke up the Princess who had only laid her head down 30 minutes prior. “Lyss Get Up! Sorry! But the autopilot is busted, I’m hand-steering down huge seas running from 35 knots and we have three ships on a collision course steaming right at us.” At 0215 our autopilot conveniently bit the dust for good. Murphy’s law right?
I should mention here that in the midst of all the fun we were having we decided to bag the Big Island for now and go hang out in Maui until favorable weather is forecast for our crossing. So the night was spent trying our best to reach Lahaina. Hence why we found ourselves between Lanai and Molokai..
.Back to the passage from hell.. We motor-sailed around the south of Lanai in big lumpy seas while the sea tried it’s best to test our provision-stowing skills (Lyss was awesome and it all stayed in place). We rounded the SE point of Lanai around 0400 and found some dead air. One crappy element down, one to go (sea state). Once Manele Bay, Lanai was to port the sea state started to finally moderate. It felt amazing to be back in a reasonable sea state (it was a bumpy 5-7 feet at this point).
The seas kept calming down as we neared the lee of Maui and I was treated to a most spectacular sunrise. The sun started peeking out from behind both peaks of Maui and I saw it slowly creeping up from the valley in the middle. It was glorious. As I snapped photos, I forgot, for a moment, just how miserable the past 18 hours had been. I also remembered how sailing throws life at you in its extremes. I had not been that uncomfortable – ok, let’s call it miserable – since sailing between these islands last. I had also not had a moment as serene and welcoming as that sunrise. The misery was necessary to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of that sunrise over calmer seas. I always say, “The sweet would never be so sweet without the bitter.” That statement was certainly true of this passage.
We motored up the coast of Maui and dropped the hook in the beautiful Honolua Bay. The charter cat moored in the bay was cool enough to help us grab a sunken mooring pennant and even offer us some leftover grub – we swam the dry bag over to meet them and snag some fresh grilled chicken.
Inside of 12 hours we went from wet, cold, seasick, and frustrated – to – relieved, elated, welcomed and refreshed. We’re still exhausted but we’re smiling. We’ll take that over flat-lined any day.
We plan to spend a couple of days here and then we’ll have to go to Lahaina to find some diesel and a cheeseburger in paradise. In the meantime, wish us some rain to wash all the salt off our newly polished stainless.
We are finally done provisioning Ellie up and will be sailing out of Oahu tomorrow morning (Wednesday). We made a video so everyone can see how beautiful my girls (Alyssa and Ellie of course) are lookin’ before we put to sea. Tomorrow we sail for the Big Island, a 160 mile overnight run. Once there we’ll patiently wait for favorable wind to sail south. I’m stoked to be putting to sea again. Stay tuned for updates…Aloha Oahu
A huge mahalo to Spencer of Harbor Sharks for cleaning our prop of barnacles today for no charge – you’re the Man Spencer! Also a special thank you to Danielle, my Mother, for the GoPro that shot this video.
The send-off party was a huge success. We hosted about 40 of our friends on Ellie and down the dock. The keg was emptied halfway through the party, which happened to be right after the Aussies showed up! Our friends were jamming on guitars and Ellie’s waterline was half a foot below the boot stripe! We have made some amazing friends here and we’ll miss them all when we leave.
Today is our last day in the marina….so we are suppose to leave tomorrow….but it’s howling 30 knots in the marina and the forecast is for stronger winds through Wednesday. We learned our lesson last fall. We’re not going anywhere until the wind abates. No need to beat the crap out of Ellie and crew when we can patiently wait for a better weather window to head south. To make the passage even less appealing, in about 5 days they are forecasting multiple low pressure systems/tropical storm centers spinning on the edge of the 30 knot trades around 10N and huge squalls and thunder boomers – ya – F*** sailing into that crap!
So here’s our plan:
1) Wait until the trades shift to the ESE, which is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. Then the Big Island creates a large enough lee of dead/light air to possibly get to Maui (80 miles east) or even all the way to the lee of the Big Island (150 miles east). We will try to make the Big Island but if we fall short we’ll head for Maui.
2) Once in Maui or the Big Island we’ll fuel back up and wait for the trades to lighten up. The current forecast is calling for lighter trades on the 30th – 1st. We’ll use those lighter trades to sail south to Fanning. The ITCZ also looks much less active after the 1st. [Stronger trades = stronger ITCZ]
So hopefully this plan works and we’ll be in Fanning around the 7th-8th of May. Timing the passage is tricky because we want to leave the islands in moderate trades but we also need to time our arrival in Fanning to clear in during the week so we avoid overtime clearance charges. We’ll be watching the forecast closely and heading out as soon as the wind lightens up a bit.
We’ll write again before we depart the islands. Hopefully it will be a message of satisfaction with our amazing weather interpretation and smooth crossing between the islands and NOT another horror story! We have the utmost respect for the seas between these islands so we will be as patient as necessary.
You would think I have had enough sea time over the past month, and 3,200 nm, but nope. Alyssa was hoping that I would get my fill of the sea and come back to Hawaii with plans to bury the anchor for another year. Well, that’s not how it went. A few days after returning to Oahu we decided it was time to head south again. We leave the marina on the 18th. If the weather window looks good we will exit the breakwater and set a course 1,050 miles due south to the little island nation of Kirbati. The passage should take us a week. We plan to make landfall at Tabuaeran (Fanning) Atoll. The lagoon is navigable so we will enter the pass and set our hook in fine white sand and enjoy the flat turquoise water.
The first couple months of the season will include remote isolated atolls with no internet access. We will most likely be unable to post pictures until we reach Samoa. Be sure we will be taking some epic photos and video and will share as soon as we can. Of course the regular blog posts should be coming throughout the next few months. You’ll just have to Google image search these various islands to get an idea of our surroundings.
I put together a map (below) of our “planned” route for the season. This is what we have written in sand at low tide so who knows where we actually end up going. That said, this is the general plan.
Our 2015 “planned” itinerary includes:
Tabuaeran (Fanning) Atoll (Kiribati)Manihiki Atoll (Cook Islands) [if the weather allows for anchoring off in the lee]Suwarrow Atoll (Cook Islands) [a nature preserve with only one person on the island]Samoa [we’ll go to American Samoa if we need to receive packages, otherwise Apia]Vava’u TongaFijiNew CaledoniaAustralia [where we have 1-year work visas]
We are having a send-off party this Thursday at our slip. We’ll be filling up the kegs, rolling out the grills and celebrating our departure with all the wonderful friends we have made here in Hawaii. So many people have helped us out while we have been here, the least we can do is fill up their glass with a libation and say a proper farewell. We have really enjoyed it here and are very glad we decided to spend cyclone season in Hawaii. Ko Olina Marina has been a perfect home for Ellie. She is ship shape and bristol. We even treated her to a hull waxing this week so she’ll be sparkling for the party on Thursday. Still need to finish loading her up with a few months worth of provisions, empty the dock box, top off fuel and propane, etc. Then it’s South Pacific here we come!
Spending the season in Hawaii would not have been possible without Alyssa’s hard work. She was able to land one of the most coveted serving jobs on this side of Oahu (MonkeyPod Kitchen). She made enough to cover the entire slip fee (about $1,100 a month) and cover most of our other living expenses. There is no way the cruising kitty would have been able to sustain our fun lifestyle here in Hawaii without her contribution. She said it has been worth every minute of effort. We’ve both had a blast here and made friends that we will know for life.
Oh, I sold the car…..for $2,000….a nice $700 profit after expenses. I also sold the motorcycle a month ago, for $3,300….a nice $900 profit. I’ve got a knack…
Mahalo to all our friends here in Hawaii. Once again the sea beckons. Let’s go chase the green flash.
Yesterday we had the privilege of sailing the 144 foot super yacht ENCORE. It was an incredible experience. The 200 foot carbon mast and boom cost $6 million! After hearing that I though the mainsail was quite reasonable coming in at just under $400 thousand. The sheer size of all the hardware and the extreme loads on the rigging was amazing. You control the sails by joysticks that turn huge drums below deck to trim the sails. The three roller furlers are driven by hydraulics and are also controlled via joystick from the helm. She sailed beautifully and drove hard at 14 knots on a beam reach out of Ko Olina Marina. Oh how we wished we were bound for the South Pacific on her! We joined the Captain and his family for dinner afterwards; prepared by the live aboard chef of course. We both agreed it was one of the most amazing days we have ever spent.
I took a bunch of GoPro video and as soon as I learn how to cut and edit video I’ll post it up. In the meantime here are some pictures.
I’ve been working on the boat day and night for the past month. I start when we rise and work until Alyssa gets off work around 10pm. It was fun in the beginning but I’m getting burned out on projects and luckily Ellie is almost ready for sea again. Half of the projects were fun quality-of-life improvements, the other half were strength and safety items, and I kept finding more to add.
In the quality-of-life improving category we have installed the following:
1) Brewing setup
2) New swinging screen doors for companionway (I broke out the tinted plexi and installed mosquito screen – came out awesome and allows great airflow through the boat)
3) Stereo remote control in cockpit (volume control from hammock – oh ya)
4) Saltwater pressure water tap at galley sink (we estimate that half our water usage is from dishes – this should buy us another week before having to run the watermaker)
5) Red LED light over nav table (priceless under way)
6) New fans (turbo fans for $17 off amazon – they sound like blow dryers – we’ll let you know if they are still working when we land in Oz)
7) New 0.5 micron drinking water filter (high quality drinking water filters for our new sparkling water system of course)
8) Bleached and cleaned the entire fresh water system
9) Installed new digital thermostat for fridge (gotta keep that beer cold!)
10) Added a flag halyard block under port spreader (to fly burgees)
11) New music has been downloaded to add to our library (our MP3 library was extensive but totally lacking music recorded after 2000 – this has been reconciled)
We also acquired a new complete kiteboarding setup, inflatable paddleboard (thanks Slove!), and a used digital SLR camera AND a GoPro to film this epic upcoming season.
In the safety department we have:
1) Reconditioned the powder-coated steel propane tanks (I hate these but they don’t make aluminum or composite tanks that fit our propane locker)
2) Renewed the cooling system on the engine
3) Oil change, racor filter change and new belt
4) Installed new Raymarine AIS receiver unit (the old one was only working intermittently)
5) Installed new masthead VHF antenna (for no reason it turns out – I later found out the connector at the back of the VHF was poorly installed and shorting itself out. Oh well, moving on.)
6) Bought and spliced in 225 feet of new 5/16″ galvanized G43 anchor chain (and then figured out the old chain was also G43….I thought it was Mexican generic crap but turns out all chain in North America is now made in Mexico and considered ‘domestic’ … Lesson learned the expensive way.. I managed to sell the old chain on craigslist for $300 so am only out $500 and now we have brand new chain)
7) Replaced a temporary plastic coupling in fuel vent line with a permanent brass one
8) Inspected and oiled the steering system cables and chain (it’s sooooo smooth now!)
9) Cleaned and lubed the autopilot
10) Bought, and installed at the helm, a Raymarine A65 chartplotter I found on craigslist for $250 (I finally broke down and decided to buy a chartplotter because the cm93 charts we have on our laptop-based Open CPN program had very little detail for the Line Islands and didn’t have nearly the detail I wanted for Fiji, so we are now set up with the latest and greatest)
11) I finally shimmed the boom vang (not so much a safety issue as much as an annoyance at sea with that incessant clicking)
While I was up the mast replacing the VHF antenna I also noticed a single strand break on our aft starboard lower shroud so I ordered new wire and a new mechanical HI-MOD fitting. When the parts arrived I went up the mast, dropped the old wire, put spectra line in place to stabilize the rig and laid the old wire on the dock to measure the length. Turns out it was not a single strand break but three! Good thing we caught it. Looks like we will need to be watching the rigging closely this season. We plan to re-rig in Australia; it was new in 2011 but has seen over 20,000 miles since then! Anyway, while I was hammering the wire out of the stubborn old fitting that did not want to release the wire, the $80 fitting slipped out from under my hammer, flew off the dock and promptly sunk! I wasn’t even mad – probably wouldn’t have been able to get the damn thing out anyways. So we have ordered another Hi-Mod terminal which should arrive on Monday.
So, replacing that shroud should be the final project I complete before departing for Tahiti on Friday. It better be because I’m running low on boat bucks! Forget about waxing the hull myself – life is too short – it’s hot as hell here – and Alyssa’s making money – we’re gonna pay some guy to do it.
Between March 7th and the beginning of April I will be helping a friend sail his Outremer 55 catamaran up to Hawaii. Once I get back to Hawaii we will provision Ellie up, sell the roach car and get the hell out of dodge! I want to visit Kauai first then make our way south to the Big Island again to clear out and then sail for Fanning Island in Kiribati. Unfortunately we will not be allowed to visit Palmyra Atoll due to budget constraints in the oh-so-well-run US Government; LAME!
Here are some pics of my latest projects. These were taken with our new camera; a craigslist special by the way – Canon DSLR for $70…not bad right?
In the spirit of self-sufficiency we have designed, bought, and installed a boat brewery aboard. Over the past couple years we have moved ever closer to being self-sufficient and relying less on overpriced grocery stores in foreign ports. We catch our protein, bake our own bread, make yogurt, grow sprouts and wheat grass, press coconut milk, and now we can brew our own beer!
While back in the states we visited my uncle, Jess, who lives in Boise, Idaho. He mentioned he has been brewing beer in his garage; we requested to see the operation and sample the goods. He is an excellent brewer and all five of the beers he had on tap were outstanding. I told him how much we have been paying for beer in the islands ($4 US per can!) and he asked why we don’t brew on the boat. A light came on that I was unable to turn off. He helped us brainstorm some of the issues specific to brewing aboard such as keeping the fermentation temp down, storage issues, keg size, etc. Upon returning to Hawaii I ordered all the gear necessary for brewing and kegging beer. We now have a complete brewing setup including, kettle, chiller, fermenting carboy, stainless kegs (one for beer and one for carbonated water), CO2 tanks, regulators and a stainless steel double tap tower for dispensing the magical final product. We were able to fit a 5 gallon and and 2.5 gallon keg in the fridge no problem. Our fridge used to be a cold box so it has a lot of space in the bottom that was previously used to store blocks of ice. It was a dead space in the fridge where we stored cans of beer, when we could afford to buy it. Conveniently the depth made it possible to fit a 5 gallon low-profile ball lock keg!
We brewed our first batch a week ago, let it ferment in the soft cooler (to lower the temp by 10 degrees so it’s in the 65-70 degree range required for fermentation), and then kegged it. After a night in the fridge to cool it down to 35-40 degrees, we hooked it up to CO2 and force carbonated. I had my doubts about the quality of the first batch but one sip and a huge smile later, we can confidently say we successfully brewed a high-quality wheat ale on a boat in the tropics! Our buddy Jessie is visiting us this week so he has already made a dent in our supply. Looks like we’ll need to stock a lot of raw ingredients!
I plan to write a detailed page about our onboard brewing system because the info out there specific to brewing aboard a boat in the tropics is limited to non-existent. We need to share this with our fellow sailors so you too can start brewing high-quality beer aboard!
Here are some pics of the brewing system and process:
Pick up the February edition of Latitude 38. On pages 98 – 101 you’ll find some awesome pictures we took in the South Pacific and the story of the harrowing passage to Oahu.
UPDATE: Still making progress on the boat. I have the cooling system all ripped apart and just cleaned and re-painted the heat exchanger. Now procrastinating the install but it will probably happen this afternoon…..maybe.
Hope everyone is having and excellent weekend! Cheers from Oahu!
Click on the picture below to read the article. Will open new window to read PDF file.
We decided to buy a car so we have transportation for the next couple months. Alyssa needs to go into Honolulu for a certification class for work and the bus system is ridiculous on the island. I bought a motorcycle back in November (2008 Yamaha FZ6) but between the crazy drivers, congested freeways and rain, it has become a less than ideal means of daily transportation. I’m also planning to fly down to Tahiti in March to help a friend deliver an Outremer 55 catamaran to Hawaii and Ill be gone for a month, leaving Alyssa without transportation. So we went shopping for a car via Craigslist…
Those of you that know me will already be up to speed but for those that don’t… I never buy any vehicle in perfect working order. I always find a vehicle that has a problem and a ticking clock. That way I can buy it under market value, fix it up, clean it up and sell it for more than I paid. This has worked well for me about 95% of the time. So with that in mind we scoured the Oahu Craigslist for steals and deals. We came across an ad that said, “2001 VW Passat – $1,300obo – NEED GONE ASAP.” We read the ad closely and it said the car had a massive oil leak and they are pretty sure it’s the oil pan. They also need it gone right away because they only have one parking space. PERFECT! This was right down the fairway. The blue book on the car in “fair” condition was $2,700 and we got her down to $1,000 via phone. Within two hours we were en route to a military base in the middle of the island to secure our new-to-us island car.
We got to the base but they wouldn’t let us ride in on the motorcycle. Apparently we weren’t wearing the right gear and shoes and we were told, “You are not prepared to ride on this installation, Sir. Please exit immediately.” So we parked across the street from the base and walked in. The car was covered in twigs and leaves and there was a huge puddle of oil underneath. I checked the oil level and it was bone dry. I poured in 5 liters of oil and watched as it began dripping out the cracked oil pan. We wondered if we had brought enough oil to get us all the way back to the marina. The car was pretty neglected and missing the glove box, a few buttons, ashtrays, etc. There was crap everywhere; I mean crumbs, trash, paper, juice boxes, you name it. She was a slob. The leather was in decent shape with a few rips. The AC blew ICE COLD which is huge in the tropics and is a big selling point when we have to dump the car. The stereo sounded awesome and it drove pretty well with good tires and brakes and no alarming sounds. So we cut a deal with the seller, handed her $900 and then had her buy us 8 more liters of oil and we drove it back to the marina with oil leaking out the entire time. We pulled over a couple times to check on the level and top it off. Turns out that if you are on the freeway, most of the oil is in suspension so it doesn’t leak that much. When we stopped at the marina I put a bucket under to catch all the oil and then went to work changing the pan with a new one I bought at Napa for $70 bucks. Alyssa went to her job for the evening and I went to work changing the pan. By the end of the night the new pan was installed and we toasted to our genius car buying skills. We were pretty excited about getting a $2,000+ car for only $900…
The next morning I added oil and much to my dismay watched as it leaked all over the ground. Frustration doesn’t fully describe my reaction. I was annoyed, pissed and frustrated that the new gasket was leaking. Well, I pulled myself together and came to terms with the fact that I did it wrong and would have to spend another evening removing and re-installing the pan the RIGHT WAY. See, I cranked the bolts right after installing the pan. This is the wrong way and you need to seat the pan and THEN WAIT ONE HOUR before tightening the bolts to spec. After another painstaking five hours, in the rain no-less, under a car that has only 6 inches of clearance, I had the pan re-installed.
I sat in the drivers seat and cracked a beer for a job well done. Then I noticed a roach on the passenger floor board. Killed it immediately. Then I noticed a couple more. Big ones, small ones, medium….oh sh!t, it’s infested with fkn ROACHES!! They were in my tools, in the bag with my snacks and water, EVERYWHERE. No wonder she wanted this car gone so badly! They sure had enough food given her total lack of cleaning. I slammed the doors and went straight to the boat to get our bug bombs. I returned with three cans. One can is enough for a large room in a house so I set one in each cup holder, let ‘em rip and closed the doors. Just then Alyssa walked up and I said I have good news and bad news. Good news is that I’m pretty sure I fixed the oil leak and the bad news is that the car is infested with roaches. She laughed and said she is not surprised. We then took our friends’ golf cart down to Monkeypod for a beer and a good laugh.
We spent today cleaning up the car and doing a thorough detail. I added the oil and NO LEAKS! Second time is a charm. Three days of hard work later, we have a clean, leak-free, roach-free island car that runs great and looks awesome, all for under $1,000. We’re happy. Check it out: