Summer 2011 Voyage to HI
The adventure… one of the longest passages possible, over two thousand miles, from Sausalito to Hawaii.
They say: out the Gate, hang a left for a bit, then turn right into the isobar slot, then hop off with the trades to the island. can't do much wrong, worst case follow the contrails of the passenger airplanes…
The adventure - as on every passage so far, mostly in my head. That's how we like it, we don't really want to break the steering, or a spar, get breached by a whale, or have a mutiny. We like the adventures NOT worth writing about. or something like that.
Well, out the Gate we went, leaving the dock in the wee hours of the morning, 2:35am on July 16th, 2011 to be precise. We motored through the dark and a slight bit longer out the shipping channel and past the mid channel marker. there wasn't much wind. Just the night before we checked out the isobars and the latest grip files ad it all said: not much wind. At daybreak we were still motoring, our course the rumb line until further notice.
lightly different approach, because we can!
The North Pacific High is so far north and west, that we won't be in danger to get to close to its center and lose the wind. we are far from the center and there is no wind. Always an eye on the barometer we keep heading straight for Hilo.
Still coastal enough, the first day presents us with whales and dolphins, and i even get to see the fin of a great white! Distinctively huge and moving through the wave from side to side and not arching up and down it is clear that this is no marine mammal. Sharky stays in our wake long enough for me to call Tim up on deck to see him too, then he disappears into the depth of its territory.
Meanwhile the condiments of the "real adventure" are brewing.
My wife and son are below, they're not feeling well. The other crew, a police detective and friend of the owner from Montana is sleeping as well.
It all happens fairly fast, wife throws up, son tries to throw up to be sympathetic with his mother, cop feels ok until a bit later she doesn't and throws up as well.
Tim, the owner and i are splitting the watches. My wife had decided to ride it out, she figured she'd be sick the first two, three days and then get over it… wrong. she was still barfing on day eleven. it was heartbreaking!
See what i mean by real adventure!? Here we are embarking on an epic sailing trip, the first of many, the baptism of sea travel as a family, and then that. Less than a week into the voyage that, we know will last at least 2-1/2 weeks, i hear "never again" and "i will kiss the ground when we get there."
It was hard, standing watch, cooking meals, making sure everybody stays hydrated, mopping up barf, trying to spent playtime with my kid, sleeping, navigating, standing watch. My wife was miserable, so was i, i love her, it is so hard to see someone you love suffer. She was so good and brave and held her shit together not to frighten our kid even more, yet sometimes she was so weak and i felt so helpless. So i spend many a night watch sitting in the cockpit and shedding some tears, poor her, poor kid, poor me, what's with our dream to buy our own boat and sail around the world! aaaaah
we stuck it out, the sail was fairly uneventful otherwise. The wind came from the quarter most of the time, later in the trades it came from behind, we rolled, we surfed and made good time, reefing when we averaged more than 8kts and motoring when we did less than 3kts. In the trades we could see the squalls come day and night, a dark cloud or a patch without stars coming from behind, sprinkling a bit of rain on us, turning the wind around a bit, then passing over us and that was that. During the day we could surf it out, sometimes we'd put a reef in, sometimes not. At night we'd put a reef in anyways, and sometimes we added another.
one night, on July 27th, the squall didn't pass. It came and it stayed all night, with the wind coming up to speeds of 30 to 35 knots, subsiding by morning and getting us back into the known pattern. Phew. That was a moment of scariness. I had seen the little cloud spiral in central america when we checked the weather before we left. This depression was predicted to become a tropical storm, maybe a hurricane, and it was predicted to most likely come up the coast of Baja and blow itself out when meeting the cooler water of the North Pacific. "predicted" and "supposed to", right, but we know, on occasion, a hurricane makes its way all the way west to Hawaii. What if that was the case here? what if this never ending squall is the beginning. With two sick family members, an overworked owner and a rookie bordering on useless crew, i found myself sitting in the cockpit, watching the black sky and coming up with scenarios, plan B and C. We ran before it with only the double reefed main, and we were prepared to drop the main, put up the storm jib, turn around, heave to and go to sleep, waiting it out. I'm glad it didn't come to this. The tropical depression indeed became a hurricane, was named Dora and did the thing that was expected of it, it came up the coast of Baja and petered out. What we experienced was the tail end of it. Good enough for me!
That stretch of the pacific was incredibly empty, after the second day and its bounty of sea life, there was nothing. after a couple of days we encountered an albatross who proceeded to visit us every afternoon for the rest of the trip. On occasion i saw some other pelagic birds, tiny storm petrels, a shearwater or two. No dolphins, no turtles, no whales, no sharks. And every day trash.
parts of plastic coolers, polypropylene line, tupped ware, plastic bottles. One day we saw a huge fender, of the big cylindrical type they use in commercial port alongside where the container ships dock. it was easily bigger than our boat. We wondered if it came from Japan, where a big Tsunami had reaped havoc several months ago. Later, when we had already reached the tropics we got visits by its ambassador, the tropic bird. First just one but later up to four of them would circle our boat and comment on this or that, eye us sideways while we looked up at them from the cockpit. The look like a mischievous cousin of the tern with a swooped black eyebrow and a very long thin tail trailing behind. very vocal fellows cawing and squeaking and fake landing on us.
I tried to fish on occasion, but it was hard. with over half the crew not well, we barely ate any of our fresh provisions for the first week in the first week, so we ate them in the second week. it would have been a waste of life and a waste of food to catch fish. Later, when we were down to canned and dried meats i gave it a whirl, but didn't catch anything. I could only trawl a hand line during my watch because nobody wanted to deal with pulling in and killing fish while i was asleep. One day i cought a piece of polypropylene line with two little 3/4 inch wide crabs, they became our pets for a couple of days, hanging gimbaled in a little plastic aquarium i had brought for my son's pelagic experiments that never happened.
We were bummed, my wife and i. with me either working the boat or sleeping and her out of commission, none of our games and activities planned for the kid actually happened. He did well, considering, read all his books 3 times, drew anything he knows to draw on any empty paper surface he could find.
Finally the weather got better and i could coax him outside, pour a bucket of water over him without being showered in protest. The cop who refused to learn to sail the boat even though that was the purpose of her coming along, the first responder who didn't help me one lick with caring for my wife, that woman finally caught on when i hinted that she should at least pay attention to my kid. She had good stories, and he loved them and then the two of them discovered "tow surfing": sitting on the side of the deck, dangling legs overboard and trailing the toes in our bow wave. fun!
That soothed my feeling towards her a bit. I was really mad at times when she would complain and be extremely sarcastic towards the owner for misleading her to come along on this adventure etc. Of course my kid caught on to that and it made for some very disrespectful moments. It definitely made me not respect her. especially as someone in her profession, first responder, ex-park ranger, now police officer, she should have more control over herself and react appropriately in dicey situations instead of instigating and showing so much disrespect for the people who were actually working the boat and making sure it got safely from A to B over the course of two thousand plus miles of open ocean.
Enough of that, we arrived in Hilo on August 2nd at four in the afternoon. 17 days and 13hrs after departure from our harbor in Sausalito we hitched "Lucky Star's" lines around the cleats at the pier in Radio Bay.
For my son it must have appeared as if somebody had heard all his complaining and misery. The little library and free box for cruisers in Radio Bay had several freshly deposited bags of toys that were just waiting for him. Instant happiness and instant forgiveness, there he sat, in the humid warmth under the little roof by the showers and picnic table, constructing his new bionicle warriors.
The cop left the boat right away, didn't even bother to help clean up or debrief with the rest of us. well, good riddance to you too! What a disappointing encounter.
We however did help a bit, went to rent a car and proceeded to explore big island Hawaii as a family. I came back to the boat for 48 hrs to help sail her from Hilo to Kailua, on the other side, then we said goodbye to Tim until Sausalito, camped on the beach in Ho'okena for the remainding 4 days, snorkeled, relaxed, cooked over fire. Those days on land, the family bonding again, me being awake at the same time as them, went by much too fast.
we flew home. that's it.