Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 27- confirmed arrival Mexico to Hawaii

Time: 1700 Zulu (7 am Hawaii time)
Position: 19-deg 43-min N 155-deg 03-min W
Wind: calm Seas: calm
Avg. Course: 215 T Avg. Speed: 4.1-knots
Rig: Med-tied to pier, Radio Bay Hilo, Hawaii
24-hr distance traveled: 12.3-nm

As the hour struck (noon in PV, 7am in Hawaii, and 1700 Zulu) with our sails still up, we fired up Yannie (who gratefully, after 22 days of non use, started right up). We pulled Captain Tilly, our electronic autopilot (mechanical arm that steers based on a compass heading), out in preparation. From a half hour out of Punta de Mita to this point, Moni had been hard at work (his only respites having been during our Day-5 stay at Isla Soccoro and 15 minutes for Chris to replace his near chafed through steering control lines on Day-12). Yannie engaged and Captain Tilly was now on the job pointing us directly toward our outer Hilo Bay waypoint.

Just as the cloudiness we've been experiencing has not been oppressive, this light but persistent rain was surprisingly refreshing. We've decided this is due to the rapid changing of conditions, having always been able see cloud margins breaking and converging (no boring stratus layer), and the sun forever sure to break through any moment, even as the rain continued. Shawn headed to the bow to start the process of getting prepared for landfall. Before we had a chance to do anything, a rainbow appeared in the short distance from the clouds to the houses nestled along the shore and a pod of dolphins joined our bow wave to show the way. First order of business was to pull down the 80% jib (making sure all lines stay aboard as our engine was now in gear). Chris dug out the sail covers, and in the process emptied the lazarette to reach Rocky, our bow anchor. We motor sailed with the main for a bit, and then decided to pull it down as well.

The deck secured, Shawn went down below to prepare the final freshies for consumption before landfall (we had already "liberated" all of our extra potatoes, onions, limes and garlic into the ocean 100-nm out in preparation as was suggested by the customs agent's return e-mail). Chop, chop, chop of 2 jicima, 3 cucumbers (the little Mexican pepinos lasted amazingly), and the final 4 apples (yes, we ate them all!). Then squeezed the final lemon and added chicken, salt and pepper and some ranch dressing for the most tasty crisp chicken salad we've ever had. We would have placed in on slices of the fresh whole wheat raisin bread baked the evening prior, but it was raining and easier to just spoon it straight from the big mixing bowl to our mouths as we huddled under the dodger.

We were getting closer, near to entering Hilo Bay. This bay opens to the north and east, like a right triangle chunk out of the island, with the innermost 90-deg angle corner protected by a breakwall (our intended anchor point). We could see waves crashing along the shoreline on the western edge of the bay to our starboard, and the land mass jutting out of the water on the SE edge of the bay to our port. Chris took over steering from Captain Tilly, time to pull up our MaxSea chart plotter on the computer to add to the visual data pouring in. A very long break wall runs from the south edge of the inner harbor almost connecting to the western shore, but not quite. This opening was our entrance into safe harbor. There was no red mark, but reassured by the MaxSea chart data, we took the green to port and the seas, broken by the breakwall, instantly calmed. Shawn took over steering and slowed the speed down so Chris had time to take Rocky forward and reconnect him in preparation for imminent anchoring.

For all of the time that we'd had at sea, we had put little thought into the details of this landing. Using data from a printed copy of the Hawaii Compendium (written by fellow cruisers Soggy Paws) and the info relayed to us by friends that had recently landed here, we set our sights on the inner, inner harbor of Radio Bay. The entrance was super tight (maybe 20-ft between a cruise ship dock to starboard and the breakwater to port) and we were suddenly inside the inner bay. One boat at anchor filled the center of this tiny space and 6 other boats were secured, bow out attached with bow anchor and stern double-tied to the rock wall, Medditerranean style. We took Tao out of gear and floated while we discussed how to make this Med-style tie up (which would require turning around 180-deg and getting our stern nearly to rock wall pier) happen with our small yet relatively un-maneuverable vessel (backing Tao in a straight line is nearly impossible due to the position relative to each other of our keel, prop aperture, and rudder).

We motored forward directly toward an open yellow ladder on the rock wall, between a coast guard dock and another Med-tied sailboat. About 75 feet off the rock wall, we dropped Rocky and let out 50-ft of chain. He set, the anchor chain tightened along our starboard side. Fenders at the ready, Chris started on his engine work using strong forward and backward maneuvers repeatedly against the anchor to get us turned around. Once our stern was facing the rock wall he put the engine hard astern. As anchors must reset when turned around, Rocky skipped along the surface. Hearts pounding, we were still heading toward the wall, he skipped again, we got closer, 15-ft off the wall, he dug in and set. We let out more anchor chain, Chris reversed to get us closer to the wall and Shawn tossed our stern mooring lines to our kindly moored neighbor who had jumped ashore to assist.

A mere moment later, a security guard appeared telling us we needed to go to customs before they closed and he was willing to take us, how long did we need? Anxious to be checked in, "Ten minutes" we replied. Not a moment to relax, we plopped Fatty in the water (to bridge the 7-ft gap between Tao and the wall). Chris went ashore to secure Tao in position and Shawn turned on fans and gathered our paperwork. The guard gave us a ride to the gate (this area is apparently high security) and pointed us across the street to Customs office. We walked the couple hundred yards (that's WALKED on LAND) to a surprisingly pleasant and welcoming check-in to the US. It crashed in on us at this point just how exhausted we truly were when we could barely fill out the required paperwork. We had to fill in the normal customs form you'd receive on a plane and purchase a $27 customs decal for entry back into the US. Also, the nice informative Customs agent, Bill Foss, called Hilo's Agricultural Inspector to inform him of Grizzly's arrival. We expect the inspector and a traveling vet that we have contacted to visit Tao on Monday morning to check Grizzly in.

Free at last, ridiculously tired and hungry, we crossed the busy road to a corner store. Too tired to decide what food to buy, we settled on a pint of Haggendaz Coffee icecream, sat down on a bench outside, and indulged. We made it. Due to increased homeland security, Radio Bay security guards are to accompany us to and from our boat, and we still had yet to check in with their after hours people. Looks like the only thing we have to wait for until the office opens on Monday is a ($50 deposit) shower key (a hot shower should have been on our "look forward to" list, worth every penny). Our neighbor lent us his shower key and time just melted away in an exhausted haze. Although there is no internet access, we think we might have found Paradise. We made popcorn, pulled out the bed and made an attempt to clean some of the month of cat hair and dirt from the floor while waiting for our turn on the PacSea net. After our "confirmed arrival" check-in, we fell into bed and it wasn't until 14 hours later when an alarm (noting a daily radio contact time, which today also happened to mark the end of Day-27) went off that we awoke feeling unbelievably refreshed.

We look forward to recovering here for the next few days, reminiscing about the journey across the Pacific, cleaning, re-connecting with family and friends. Thanks to each of you for taking our epic journey with us, making comments, and sending us good thoughts and energy along the way. When we find some good solid internet, we'll upload pictures and will continue to make regular (thought not daily) blog updates as we cruise the Hawaiian Islands.


  1. so great to hear your voices!!! loved following you.. can't wait to hear all about it as it's all fresh in your minds.