Goodbye Hawaii – Hello Pacific Northwest Day #1

Air temp: 81 degrees
Humidity: 75% Barometer: 1016 mb and steady
Speed: 4-5 knots Course: North 0 degrees magnetic
Distance: 50 miles due north of Maui
Point of Sail: Close reach with double reefed main and 60% furled jib
Wind speed: Northeast at 15-25 knots
Swells: East at 6 ft.
Camanoe’s fish count since Maui: Flying fish – 0 Squid – 0

What? I know,I know, the plan was to stay in Hawaii for a year and cruise. These plans were made before I arrived in Hawaii. After two short, wonderful months I came to the realization that Hawaii isn’t an ideal place to winter over. Hawaii is beautiful and the locals are friendly, but everything is EXPENSIVE.  The winters are very hard on boats, the available long term amenities for boats are few and expensive (if I had to fly home), and mostly, I would probably wind up bored after four months. It was a tough decision, but money, available cruising time and the above have forced me to head for the Pacific Northwest. Where exactly this will be, I don’t know. It will depend on the weather and my morale as I head north to get over the Pacific High.

For those of you non-sailors, the Pacific High is a large, clockwise-rotating high pressure system that resides in the North Pacific. This time of year it generally sits about 1200 miles above Hawaii but can move several hundred miles in a few days. Since it rotates clockwise, the wind rotates clockwise. So, in order to go east from Hawaii, I have to go clockwise above and around it with the wind. I also have to keep track of where it is to make the most of it. This being said, I can’t realistically guess when I will make landfall. Most boats ride the high up to the prevailing westerly winds at 50 degrees north and run into Vancouver Island. When I’m farther north I will decide how far I want to push on. Until then, I will be right here holding on, as I beat into the tradewinds.

-CAPT

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Post #2 – The Last Month: The Alenuhaha Channel, Kihei, Naked People, Molokini and Lahaina.

The winds veering around the island were suppose to have decreased down to five knots in the evening. As I laid in my bunk in Nishimura anchorage at midnight the wind generator was still howling, a good sign the wind hadn’t decreased. By 0100 I was worried the wind generator would take off, taking the back half of the boat with it. The wind was seriously blowing now.  Well, at least the batteries were charging. Maybe we wouldn’t be heading across the Alenuihaha Channel tonight; or for the next week. There was suppose to have been a break in the weather for a few hours tonight. At 0130 the wind died completely, almost ominously. Looking through the hatch it was eerie. Pitch black and I could hear the breaking waves on the rocks 75 feet away. Is the wind gone for the next few hours? Can I make a break for it? Never mind. Stupid wind generator; there it goes again, threatening to disintegrate again from the howling trade winds funneling through the channel. 0230, the wind has dropped to a faint breeze for at least the last 1/2 hour. The wind generator’s motionless blades tell me it’s time to raise anchor and make a run for it. usa-alenuihaha-channel

At 0330, Camanoe and I were on a beam reach three miles into the Alenuihaha channel with a 12-15 knot breeze cruising along at six knots. We had a 6-7 foot swell every five seconds hitting us on the beam causing us to roll a bit. As the sun rose around 0630 it was easy to see how the trade winds could funnel through this channel creating havoc on any poor soul caught in the middle. It was even easier to understand this was one of the worst feared channels in the world. It has been the death of many people and more ships, including Captain Cook’s ship, during his sixth circumnavigation. Apparently, as the day progresses, the wind builds in strength through the channel. By noon, on average, it is an unsafe place to be. Fortunately, the wind remained steady as it clocked around to our stern pushing us to within five miles of Kihei, Maui, before it changed 180 degrees onto the nose.

What is that? Yup, it’s what I think it is. As I was dropping the main sail and rolling the head sail in preparation to motor the last five miles to Kihei I spied me a nude beach 100 feet off my starboard side. Unfortunately, the water was full of coral, not a great place to drop the hook. This would have made for a perfect blog photo!

Less than an hour later I was anchored in Kihei in front of the Mana Kai resort. Kihei - Mana Kai resort What a difference from the big island. This was paradise; beaches on either side of me for five miles, full of people swimming and boating. Camanoe was anchored less than 100 feet from shore; an easy swim. After swimming ashore with my gear in a dry bag, I walked five miles down the main strip. It’s a beautiful place lined with beaches, parks and people smiling. It was great chatting it up with the locals after being confined on the boat for the last few days.

Even though Kihei was beautiful, my real reason for stopping there was Molokini crater. Molokini Crater, easily visible from Camanoe’s anchorage, is considered one of the top 10 places to dive in the world. Essentially, it is the remains of a volcano crater that has been sinking/erroding back into the ocean. Molokini crater The land, coral and wildlife are protected, so it makes for fantastic diving. Anchoring is not allowed, so the state has installed first come, first served day-use mooring buoys. Unfortunately, the top of the buoy is 15 feet underwater, so you must dive down and tie up to it. Not so easy when you are by yourself and it’s blowing 15 knots towards shore and you’re only 75 feet from it. Unless you’re a fast swimmer, you really only get one chance. Unfortunately, the local dive charter boats consider these moorings their personal property. By 0900 every morning the moorings are pretty much full until 1500. These are day-use moorings only. But, because the charter boats hog them all day, it was easier for me to sail out to Molokini at 1600, grab a mooring and make a dive, then leave for Lahaina, the next anchorage, by nightfall. Instead, I ended up spending the night on the mooring. The wind had really picked up by nightfall. It was coming from the direction I wanted to go. No sense beating into it for 20 miles. This worked out perfectly. Only exception being the chains holding the mooring to the sea floor were banging into the sea floor every couple seconds. Loudly, I might add. I had weird dreams that night of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas past.

The dive itself was beautiful, very peaceful, especially since there was no one else around for at least five miles. Tons of coral, fish and a few reef sharks. None of the sharks were over five feet, so I followed a few. It always amazes me how confident they appear as they swim around the reef with power and attitude. Initially I descended down to 80 feet and did a drift dive towards the edge of the crater working my way up to 30 feet. Perfect!

By 0830 the next morning charter boats were circling the mooring giving me the stink eye. By 0900 I departed Molokini for Lahaina 20 miles away. The wind was light to non-existant, so we drifted the first five miles in three hours. Then, all of a sudden, before I could put a reef in the main, the wind picked up to thirty knots on the nose. By the time I put up the stay sail, running back stays, and reefed the main, the wind started to peter out. The last 10 miles was a perfect close reach into Lahaina. The Vic-Maui Race had just finished so the Harbor and Yacht Club mooring balls were full, so I was forced to drop the hook way out in Mala anchorage. As I was weaving my way through all the derelict boats I noticed a trimaran sailboat motoring in circles really close to the breaking waves on the reef. A second later, a guy frantically ran up to the bow and threw over an anchor while he made a cross with his fingers over his chest, praying the anchor would hold. I motored over only to find his steering was stuck and he could only go in circles. To make matters worse, something was wrong with his boat’s electrical system. He had no juice to run the anchor windlass or the blender for an Oh Shit margarita. Fortunately, he had some friends with him to help with the praying. It worked! By the time his anchor caught he was in only 10 feet of water and 30 feet from the reef and it’s breaking waves. After circling for an hour, he couldn’t repair his stuck rudder. He claimed his boat was too large to kedge (use a series of anchors to pull the boat into deeper water) without the windlass. It was also too close to the reef for Camanoe to side tie to him and use my engine to over power his stuck rudder and pull the boat into deeper water. Eventually, one of his religious friends onboard swam a  line out to Camanoe so I could help pull him into deeper water and hopefully over-power his frozen rudder. No luck. A stuck rudder on a trimaran can’t be over-powered with Camanoe’s single rudder and 44 h.p. engine. After an hour of pulling, we finally gave up. He stayed there close to the reef for three days, until one morning I awoke to find he was anchored behind me here in Mala (trimaran in pic shown below). He hasn’t been on his boat since he dropped the anchor three days ago, so I don’t know the full story yet.

Tri-maran in question

-CAPT

Sailing with Rats = A Shitty Time

Life is funny.  While in Mexico we were worried about accumulating wild creatures, rats, mice, and cockroaches aboard Camanoe. There wasn’t much we could do to keep out the wildlife except keep Camanoe clean and inspect/clean all fruits, vegetables and foods. Not only did we not have any problems on board, we never saw any indication of potential problems, such as bugs and roach eggs on any oncoming food. This being said, I was very surprised one morning here in Hawaii when I woke in the morning to find various fruits and foods in the cabin nibbled on by what appeared to be a four legged rodent, most of them only 2-3 feet from my pillow. We had collected this fourth member of the crew after less than a week while med-moored to a concrete dock in Radio Bay, Hilo. Potential rodent problems crossed my mind when first tying up, but I quickly dismissed them after naively thinking, “This is isn’t Mexico!”  Besides, I wanted shore power!

My parents and I had a perfect weather window to round the north part of the island, so I hastily went into town and purchased several sticky traps. I underestimated “Monty’s” (the rat) size. I figured he was probably only 3-4 inches overall. I’m not so smart!  We set the sticky traps out around the cabin. Sticky traps are humane traps. When the mouse/rat walks through the traps, their feet stick  to them. Then you can relocate them off of the boat. The first night Monty stepped in one, only three feet from my pillow. I heard him, but when I turned on the light he had already dragged the trap back to his hole between the mast and the floorboards and squeezed through. He had one paw stuck in the trap. So he was stuck momentarily with his hand in the air on the trap, but his body in the hole. Then he was gone. No more Monty, and no chance of him stepping in the traps again. He was smart!  For the next two nights, while we harbor-hopped to Kona where they have an Ace Hardware, I didn’t sleep much. Every half hour I would vaguely see him running around the cabin, hopping up on the table, behind the walls, eating tupperware, eating various food items and boat hardware, including wiring.  Of course he left turds everywhere as a calling card. I went so far as to mix boric acid with chicken broth as a makeshift rat killer. No luck.

Either way, we had a great sail around the island; Hawaii is truly beautiful. After arriving in Kona, Mom and I walked the three miles to Ace Hardware and purchased over $100 worth of rat traps, poison, huge sticky traps, and an electronic rat zapper. It was time for Monty to go!  By then I had cleaned out all the cupboards and isolated the food so he couldn’t reach it. He was hungry and desperate.  I was having visions of an infestation, chewed wiring and hoses. After all, he actually ate my Tupperware.  Monty was a rat! That night, the boat looked like a war zone: sticky traps, huge, spring-loaded traps, Rat Poison, and a fifty dollar electronic rat zapper.

Not ten minutes after shutting off the lights I heard a large snap in the starboard cupboard, followed by a few seconds of thrashing and wriggling by Monty, then silence. Monty’s back was broken. The spring trap got him in ten minutes. No mess. No dealing with a live, biting rat on a sticky trap. No dead rat from posion. Screw humane, screw posion, it’s all about traps. Monty was huge!  At least 15 inches overall, including tail, and about two lbs. He was not attractive, with large teeth and large claws. Monty and I

Living in a small area is tough enough, let alone knowing every inch of the boat, table, counter and sink, has been dirtied by a rat, who by the way, pees and poops as he scurries along. In short, Death to Rats!!!!

 

-CAPT

Hawaii and the Price of Paradise

It has officially been nine days since my parental units arrived here in Hilo. In one week, with the help of a rental car, we have seen most of what the Big Island has to offer.  The highlights being Acaca Falls, Volcanoes National Park, Crater Rim Trail, more oceanside parks than I can remember, museums, rain forests, deserts, lava tubes you can walk through, petroglyphs, steam baths, breathtaking views, stunning beaches, and a semi circumnavigation of the island.  It has been a whirlwind week of exploration. In fact, I’m actually glad we had to turn the rental car in yesterday. There is no doubt we made the most of it. I need a vacation from my vacation.

The Big Island is unlike anywhere I have ever visited; and that is saying something. The combination of the trade winds, an active volcano, and the two 13,000 foot mountains on the Big Island makes the perfect setting for multiple eco-systems.The northwest side of the island is extremely wet due to the large mountains forcing the consistent N.E. tradewind clouds to dump all of their water before continuing west, resulting in rainforest and lush vegetation. On the other side of the two mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, it is much drier. In fact, it’s so dry, there are actually deserts, and everything in between. In a two hour drive from the east side of the island to the west side of the island we drove through rainforests, deserts, rural farmland, lava fields (a terrain all its own), and livestock country. Everywhere you look is a postcard view in Hawaii.  A postcard company could easily thrive selling the pictures taken from the the break room window of their company’s office.

Hawaii is expensive though, and not just because I’m cheap. A non name-brand loaf of bread is $4.30, a dozen eggs $4.50, a gallon of gas $4.30, a whopper is $5.57, the meal deal is $7.25, even a Subway $5 foot long is $7. Of course this is all in Hilo, on the Big Island. In general, not just food, everything a normal person spends money on including clothing, tools, haircuts , insurance, dining, etc.. seems higher than the states, by about 25-50%.  Apparently, this is the price of paradise.

-CAPT

Customs, Immigration, and a Bunch of Greedy Hawaiians.

It has been a long first week. I’m not sure where to begin, so I will start with clearing customs and finding a spot to anchor, then do a second post on exploring Hilo. Camanoe and I sailed into Hilo, Hawaii just before sundown on June 14th, 2012. A momentus occasion, as it marked my first long distance solo ocean passage. Upon arrival we anchored just off the Bayfront Beach before sunset. No one yelled at us or chased us away, so I figured it was good enough for the evening. The next morning, I had a difficult time contacting customs, the Harbor Master, Immigration and Agriculture. When I finally contacted the Harbor Master they informed me I would have to move Camanoe to Radio Bay (a mile to the southeast) and clear customs there. I couldn’t row my dinghy ashore and walk. No I had to go to Radio Bay because, “I couldn’t walk through town until clearing customs.” Upon entering the tight Radio Bay I dropped the hook and lowered the dinghy quickly, because it was crowded so I couldn’t lay out too much chain. I rowed to the beach as instructed and began the walk to Customs. Supposedly there were signs all over pointing to Customs. Guess what? There were no signs, and I had to walk through a mile of town in order to make it to the Customs building. Clearing back into the states was quick and painless.

Customs: Do you have any weapons on board?  Me: No.

Customs: Do you have any fruit and meat on board? Me: No.

Customs: Are you smuggling illegal aliens into the country? Me: No.

Customs: Can I see your passport and vessel paperwork? Me: Sure. Be careful with the passport, I just finished making it.

Custom: Welcome to the United States, you need to check in with the Harbor Master next.

Image
First picture in Hawaii on my way to Customs.

 

At the Harbor Masters:

Them: When did you come into Hilo Bay? Me:  Last night.

Them: Were you anchored by the beach? Me: Yes.

Them: If you were anchored by the beach then you need to pay for the evening with the DLNR. Me: I’ll get right on that!

Them: Are you going to stay here in Radio Bay for a while? If so it’s $10 dollars a night plus $30 for an annual mooring/anchoring permit. It’s only valid in Hilo, but you can only stay here for 30 days maximum anyway. Me:

No, I will anchor way outside of the bay (seriously trying to hide my contempt. Why should you have to pay for anchoring? They don’t provide any services; not even a dinghy landing.).

Them: Oh, ok. If you anchor outside of the bay, you need to contact the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) so you can pay them. Here is the phone number.  Different organizations control different parts of the bay. Me: Sure; will do!

Afterwards, I moved over next to the break wall and stayed several days for free until my parents flew in to visit. Apparently, none of the GREEDY organizations had a boat to come and collect the fees. After talking to several other cruisers it’s safe to assume Hilo is a greedy, third-world country for boaters. They expect anchorage fees, but make no attempt to provide anything in return. They could at least provide dinghy docks or designated dinghy beaches, there is no security for your dinghy or boat whatsoever. I have obviously been spoiled by Mexico and their hospitality towards cruisers. 

-CAPT

Day 21: Land Ho!!!!

Air temp: 80 degrees
Humidity: 74% Barometer: 1019 mb and steady
Currently: Anchored in Hilo Bay
Camanoe’s fish count: Flying fish – 26 Squid – 7

We did it! More like Camanoe and Windy did it. We are currently anchored in Hilo, Hawaii, about 1/10 of a mile off the beach. The beach is full of outrigger canoes, and the bay is filled with them as well. Through the port hole I can hear and see multiple canoes flying past the boat with at least six people in each rowing in unison.

It feels weird; the boat is not rolling or pitching. It will definitely be difficult to sleep tonight.

According to the GPS we have traveled 3,169 miles since leaving Punta Mita in Banderas Bay, basically Puerto Vallarta Mexico. Since leaving Cabo San Lucas we covered 2,669 miles in 21 days. We averaged 4.9 knots throughout the trip. We had an average of 15 knot winds for the duration of the voyage. Camanoe made great time, considering we didn’t push the boat, every night I reduced canvas in case a squall came through. All in all it was a fantastic trip. I will comment more on it in the near future. Now, it is time to take a hot shower, drink a cold beer and congratulate Camanoe and Windy on a job well done.

-CAPT

Day 20: 90 Miles and Counting

Air temp: 75 degrees
Humidity: 84% Barometer: 1017 mb and steady
Speed: 3 knots Course: 260 degrees magnetic
Distance Left to Hilo Hawaii: 90 miles left to go
Point of Sail: Broad reach with jib
Wind speed: Southeast at 8 knots
Swells: East at 3-4 ft.
Camanoe’s fish count: Flying fish – 24 Squid – 7

Alright, we have less than 90 miles to go. We have been eeking along most of the day, until a few hours ago when a very slight breeze from the southeast developed. It would be nice to have a spinnaker about now. Even though we are so close to land, it still feels as though we’re mid-Pacific. There is no traffic or signs of life except the occasional bird. However, we are receiving channel #1 of the weather station over the VHF, in addition to the occasional Honolulu Coast Guard “Pan, Pan” message. At this rate we will make landfall tomorrow, late afternoon.

Last night the stars were attempting to outshine each other. We had a clear view of the heavens for the first time in a while. I was able to find the Great Bear constellation and follow it to the Pole Star which is connected to the Little Dipper. From there it was easy to trace out the Dragon constellation and the Herdsmen constellation. Very cool.

-CAPT

Day 19: So close!!!

Air temp: 76 degrees
Humidity: 83% Barometer: 1017 mb and steady
Speed: 4-5 knots Course: 260 degrees magnetic
Distance Left to Hilo Hawaii: 177 miles left to go
Point of Sail: Deep Broad Reach with headsail only.
Wind speed: East 12 knots
Swells: East at 4-5 ft.
Camanoe’s fish count: Flying fish – 24 Squid – 7

So close!!!! With any luck, if the wind holds up – knock on wood and fiberglass – I will arrive Thursday afternoon in Hilo, Hawaii. So much to do before arrival. I need to bring the anchors back up to the bow and reattach them to the chain rode, ready the fenders and dock lines for the customs and immigration dock, at least clean up the boat a little, and much more, including finding my pants. We are already receiving one of Hawaii’s AM radio stations, and picking up various blips and bleeps on the VHF radio. No TV stations yet.

Today, upon inspection of the Engine room, I came across a strong diesel smell. Apparently, the #1 injector fuel return line on the main engine, A Yanmar 4JHE, developed a leak. The bilge had a large diesel deposit to show for it. Surprisingly, I couldn’t smell diesel until I opened the engine room door. Unlike most people, the smell of diesel and oil is nostalgic for me. It reminds me of the dark hole in a ship known as the engine room, where I have spent the better half of a decade working to pay for Camanoe and this trip. Fortunately, I had visited NAPA Auto Parts before leaving and purchased five feet of fuel hose in all sizes up to 3/8″. Lots of fun replacing fuel hoses in a rolling sea with a strong diesel smell. Job is done though, and the engine appears to be drip free and running well in preparation for arrival.

It has been a slow day here, same as most days. Some reading, cloud and ocean watching, a little swimming after heaving-to, and several hours watching season four of Lost. Are they going to be rescued??? I think so.

-CAPT

Day 18: Today we Jibed.

Air temp: 74 degrees
Humidity: 93% Barometer: 1020 mb and rising
Speed: 5-6 knots Course: 270 degrees magnetic
Distance Left to Hilo Hawaii: 314 miles left to go
Point of Sail: Deep Broad Reach with headsail only.
Wind speed: Northeast 12-14 knots
Swells: East at 4-5 ft.
Camanoe’s fish count: Flying fish – 22 Squid – 6

Another day and 100 miles closer to Hawaii. The wind has been veering around to the east to southeast most of the day. This morning we moved the headsail over to the starboard side. The wind has been intermittent, but we are still averaging over five knots for the last few hours. There have been several small squalls today with light rain that have blown through causing me to carry just a partial headsail. It’s not really foggy, but it is certainly overcast.

It has been another day of reading and relaxing. I will certainly miss the consistent winds. It is nice to hang out down below in the cabin and relax while Windy and Camanoe do all the work. Occasionally, about every hour, I stick my head out of the hatch and survey the situation. I will usually ask Windy, “Que Pasa” (What’s up)? She never replies, which I take as a good sign, meaning there is nothing worth worrying about going on. Offshore sailing is such a different scene in comparison to coastal cruising. Out here, there is nothing going on. There is no traffic, no boats, no where to run aground. It is easy. As long as we are pointed in the somewhat correct direction, I’m content. Windy steers a course relative to the wind direction. If the wind changes 10 degrees to the east, then Windy changes course 10 degrees to the east. At first, I would verbally scold her for being off course a few degrees. She would always promptly turn a few more degrees off course when I did, as if to say, “I’m not an autopilot stupid. I’m a wind vane.” Now, I just relax with the knowledge that in a minute she will come back to the correct heading, as soon as the wind shifts back around.

-CAPT

Day 17: Great Day…

Air temp: 76 degrees
Humidity: 78% Barometer: 1016 mb and steady
Speed: 4-5 knots Course: 270 degrees magnetic
Distance Left to Hilo Hawaii: 415 miles left to go
Point of Sail: Deep Broad Reach with headsail only.
Wind speed: Northeast 8-10 knots
Swells: East at 4-5 ft.
Camanoe’s fish count: Flying fish – 22 Squid – 6

Today has been a fantastic day. The sun is out, it’s warm, it’s not to rolly, and I went swimming. Me gusta mucho.

-CAPT