Friday, June 24, 2011

Hilo; first 2 weeks on the Big Island

Our first 2 weeks in Hilo have been quite busy. We made landfall on a Saturday, and after we checked in with Customs, we re-activated our cell phones (which were at the end of their possible 6 month/yr hold anyway) so that we could make a required call to set up an appointment with the state veterinarian. As previously arranged, Dr. Pease from All Pets Mobile came down to do a “boat-call” early Monday morning and fill out a current certificate of good health (required by Hawaii State Department of Agriculture). While awaiting the state veterinarian for their examination of Griz, Chris dove to check Tao’s bottom for log damage. Amazingly he found none! A call from the state vet the next morning woke us up and we met her 20 minutes later at a nearby picnic table to check Griz’s microchip number, that she wasn’t carrying any critters, and to fill out a mountain of paperwork. All of a sudden we were free, all three of us checked in to the islands.

We hopped on of one of the Tuesday cruise ships shuttles (a cruise ship seems to dock at the pier every Tuesday) to a nearby mall and were overwhelmed by all of the big stores you see in every American city. With no internet available via our Bad Boy wifi device at the port, we started our research for how to get some internet. We chose to try out a USB mobile broadband modem from Mobi, a local Hawaiian Islands service, for their 14-day trial period. We spent the next few days aboard drying out the boat (between rain squalls), generally observing the daily changes here (which included the entry of 7 traditional Polynesian sailing canoes making landfall from New Zealand), making a dream list of all the activities we might like to do around the Big Island, and frequently sailing Fatty out to explore the bigger Hilo Bay.

Radio Bay is located within the working Port of Hilo and is therefore a high security site. It is very calm weather-wise (no roll!), but there is a near constant noise of large cranes and loaders and multiple axle trucks moving cargo through the port. There is a nice bathroom with hot shower (for a refundable $50 key deposit) and for us to get to town we are required to be escorted through the port (laden with semi-truck trailers) by very friendly and accessible (as long as you have a phone to call) 24-hr gate security. By Thursday, we finally motivated to do laundry. Carrying all of our clothes and bedding from the passage, we managed to miss the free hourly bus and instead had a rainy day adventure of hitchhiking (which we hear is legal in Hawaii) and walking some of the longest blocks ever (under our newly purchased umbrellas) to find a self-serve laundry several miles away in the town of Hilo. All fresh and clean, we celebrated our crossing with a dinner on Comocean, who had been just behind us throughout much of our crossing.

Saturday was as sunny as Friday had been rainy. All of the plants here appear to be on some kind of growth enhancing drug (lots of rainwater!) and fragrant flowering trees litter the sidewalks with their blossoms. We walked to Rainbow Falls just outside of Hilo, through jungle vegetation and banyan trees, to perch atop the waterfall on a rock basking in the sun. Then returned to town to purchase succulent vegetables at the twice weekly market and catch the last bus home where we met Amanda, a friend from graduate school. Since CSU, we had visited her once before when we were on the Big Island for Chris’ family reunion, though were surprised to realize that it had been 7-years! We quickly caught up over frozen Hawaiian style margaritas and then picked up dinner which we enjoyed outside (to the smell of night blooming jasmine) at Amanda’s beautifully grown up house with Jeremy and their two boys.

The next morning Amanda took us on an adventure to the South Point (Ka Lae) of the Big Island, claimed to be the most southern point in the United States, and showed us all the good spots along the way. Our tour included sandwich markets in Hilo, up to a pumpkin bread stop near the volcano, down to South Point and several beaches and view points along the way. We stopped at the Black Sand beach (Punalu'u) and hiked along the extremely windy SE tip of the island to a beautiful green sand beach. The black sand is made of basalt and the green sand, olivine (if you look closely, you can see flecks of the green sand in the handful of black sand here). On the way back to Hilo, we stopped into Volcanoes National Park to see bright yellow sulfur beds and then the overlook of the Kilauea Caldera to see rays of sunset wash over the volcanic gases exiting a newly formed vent.

On week 2 of our stay here, we got more serious about trying to plan out our adventures. We made our way to the bus station to gather information for different routes around the island. While downtown, we visited the Hilo Bay front museums including an aquarium and extreme lava art displays and finally filled our craving for sushi (thumbs up for Ocean Sushi). An enjoyably memorable day was spent learning about Hawaiian culture and Mauna Kea astronomy at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy center, 3D planetarium, and native gardens. And there is still a long list of exciting things to do and see while safely anchored here in Radio Bay...

A portion of each day has been spent trying to decide how to be affordably connected while we’re cruising in the States. After much debate, we have decided to drop Chris’ phone line and the Mobi service and share (yes, the dark ages) one smart phone for our time cruising the Hawaiian Islands. We’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Also, we’ve still got lots of pictures and processing of our crossing to catch up on and we’ve been trying to figure out how to continue updating the blog now that our lives aren’t exciting enough for a daily update... We're waiting for some fast internet to upload lots of pictures. Please keep in touch and keep checking back for updates.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hola to Aloha: Selected Trip Stats

To start, we want to send big thank yous out to everyone that followed us throughout our crossing via this blog. All the love and supportive energy from all over the world was with us through all the lows and the highs. Special thanks to the vast amount and the array of people that posted comments and showed interest via e-mails (you know who you are). Their magnitude was a pleasantly unexpected surprise and very much appreciated. Following are some of the numbers that we've calculated and some of our initial reflections of the passage. More thoughts and pictures will be forthcoming as we spend the next little while here in Hilo recovering and figuring out our next steps.

Punta de Mita in Banderas Bay, Mexico to Isla Soccoro, to Hilo, Hawaii, USA

Total Travel Time: 26-days and 53-minutes
3-days 10-hrs 15-min from Punta de Mita to standing off Isla Soccoro
33-hrs from standing off to anchors back aboard leaving Isla Soccoro
21-days 5-hrs 38-min from Isla Soccoro to Radio Bay Hilo, Hawaii

Weighed anchor from Punta de Mita: Monday 16 May 1945 Zulu, 1445 PV, 0945 HI
Standing off Isla Soccoro: Friday 20 May 0600 Zulu, 0100 PV, 2000 HI
Weighed Anchor Soccoro: Saturday 21 May 1500 Zulu, 1000 PV, 0500 HI
Med-tied Radio Bay, Hilo Hawaii: Saturday 11 June 2038 Zulu, 1538 PV, 1038 HI

Total Travel Distance: 2,962.1-nm
362.6-nm between Punta de Mita and Isla Soccoro anchorage
2,599.5-nm between Isla Soccoro and Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii
(2,785-nm is the shortest distance between Punta de Mita and Hilo via the Great Circle route. Just for comparison, it is 2,580 miles from SFO to JFK.)

Total Engine Hours: 9.9-hrs
5.1-hrs motor sailing between Punta de Mita and Isla Soccoro
2.4-hrs motoring onto and off of Isla Soccoro
2.4-hrs motoring into Hilo Bay

Fresh water consumed: 30-gallons of 70-gal capacity. This means for all of our drinking and cooking, we used just over 1-gal per day. It was difficult to be interested in drinking, especially from wide mouth bottles so we must have been dehydrated out there as well as exhausted.

Items that required fixing en route:
replaced Monitor wind vane steering control line
cleaned soot-stained cushion
removed litter box swinging door
reconfigured jib downhaul connection at headstay
removed failed propane solenoid
repaired tear in base of 150% drifter
changed Fatty tie down
duct taped: heater stove pipe, teak haus pipe plugs, Chris' foul weather boot, plastic companionway hatch runner, AIS computer cables.

Surprisingly useful items:
Monitor wind vane- we knew this would be important, but not quite how integral!
Dodger, awning, weather cloths- we also didn't fathom just how nice these would be.
Efficient electrical system- this is obvious, but we were impressed with how our new solar array kept our battery banks topped off and how well the refrigerator worked when it wasn't even originally intended for off-the-grid use.
HF Radio and AIS- again, we knew these would be important, but the connectivity provided us via the HF radio was much more than expected and the AIS was very soothing when needed (we can only imagine how nice radar must be and full system chart plotters...).
Ear plugs- required for quasi peaceful sleep amid all of the sounds of constant motion.
Gimballed stove, pressure cooker, fiddles- used for every single warmed meal as well as the most stable storage platform anywhere aboard. Each meal was an achievement of huge proportions.
Folding cushioned cockpit chairs- we spent innumerable hours sitting on these.
Red light headlamp- night reading without completely ruining the night vision.
Logbook calendar-difficult to keep track of time underway.
Yardstick- we needed an extension for plotting on our very small scale chart (i.e. over very large areas).
Additional items included- clear lexan weather boards, lee cloths, bunk fans, and iPod.

Other interesting thoughts:
  • As noted frequently throughout the voyage, the roll was more pervasive than we could have imagined. It made it quite impossible for us to do much besides keep the boat moving in the right direction- so there was little time/energy for learning (i.e. many people try to learn French on the way to the South Pacific) and we had no interest in watching digital media to pass the time.
  • The creaks and groans on each different point of sail were nearly deafening with upwind being more pounding and downwind more rolly.
  • Although we did our reasonable best to water tight the boat before leaving Mexico, water indeed made it's way into every nook and cranny so much time was spent attempting to keep things dry.
  • A mere 2-weeks after we visited Isla Soccoro for a moment of respite, the 2011 season's first East Pacific hurricane, Adrian, visited it as well. This reconfirms why we didn't stay there long, though we would have like to.
  • After landfall, when we first hopped out into Fatty, we were surprised to see the sea life that had attached itself to our after port side (both below and above waterline) which, due to our heel, had constantly been submerged for the entire voyage.

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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 26- the smell of land

Time: 1700 Zulu (7 am Hawaii time)
Position: 19-deg 54-min N 154-deg 53-min W
Wind: SW 5-knots Seas: ENE 3-ft
Avg. Course: 272 T Avg. Speed: 4.2-knots
Rig: Full main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 101-nm
Distance to Hilo: 12-nm

Our last full day was bittersweet. Dramatic clouds, wet squalls, sun shining through, rainbows connecting the sky and ocean, shooting stars. Winds decreased a bit, but we had to wait for the sun to rise before entering Hilo Bay anyway, so we didn't fret or even think about putting up more sail area for speed. Slowly and (relatively) comfortably we made our way west through our last structured day of daily watch tasks. We ate polenta and pasta sauce with our remaining fresh squash, onion and potatoes as we both searched in vain for Hawaii through the clouds to the west. Surfing down the 8-ft waves, Tao tirelessly continued on.

Winds decreased as we neared the island, and by the end of Chris' graveyard watch, we were a mere 20-nm out and barely moving. Chris went below to catch some zzzzs and Shawn had a magical last sunrise watch. The island of Hawaii had been shrouded in clouds as the sun set the evening before and it was still cloaked as the sun rose. Visually there was no way to know land was near. Squalls repeatedly moved through bringing much rain and we were grateful for their increased winds to keep us moving. The swell was still rolling from the ENE, but as day approached the winds shifted to SW, directly off the as of yet unseen island. So, up went the mainsail shaking all the reefs until finally the entire mainsail was up for the first time possibly since leaving Mexico. After re-running the jib sheets for upwind work, we set a course as high into the wind as possible. Rain enclosed us as the sun rose and we continued west.

Sailing into the clouds, Shawn was the first to smell it. Warm, wet, off shore breeze carried the scents of: freshly rained upon Earth, floral fragrance, and dry. And then she could see a little sliver of it through the clouds, 1630 Zulu, Land Ho! We're close, it was time to wake Chris for the final approach. Winds were light and coming directly from the protected bay where we were planning to make landfall. Our desire was to sail it all the way in, but common sense and pure exhaustion won out. With business weighing on our minds to take care of (Customs offices open only until 2 pm Hawaiian time and then not again until Monday and only 48-hrs to check Griz in), we decided to fire up Yannie for the final 12-nm. We are indeed tired but ecstatically happy. We'll fill you in on the exciting last 12 miles of the crossing and checking into the Islands tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 25- refelctions over 5 time zones

Time: 1700 Zulu (7 am Hawaii time)
Position: 19-deg 51-min N 153-deg 09-min W
Wind: ENE 17-knots Seas: NE 6-7-ft Mixed
Avg. Course: 271 T Avg. Speed: 5.0-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 120-nm
Distance to Hilo: 109-nm

Yesterday afternoon we again jibed over and spent 4-hrs on port tack to hold our southing as the winds continue to veer more easterly. In preparation, we switched our non-Zulu timepieces from PV time to Hawaii time creating a minimum of confusion. We uploaded and downloaded several times in a flurry of last moment pre-Kamehameha holiday e-mails to customs and the quarantine inspector in hopes of having most everything lined up for both Grizzly and our check-ins tomorrow and/or Monday. Dinner was Chinese lemon chicken over rice and then we settled in for our night watches. Dreamworks clouds and a half moon waxing were present before sunset. Later, shooting stars, the southern cross, Scorpio and the Milkyway were gazed upon. Nighttime temperatures have been quite pleasant, feeling cold with increased moisture, not low temperatures. Only two small squalls visited us, one during Chris' graveyard watch and one during Shawn's sunrise watch. Both were weathered well with the awning cutting out 3/4 of the rainfall and holding up well in gusts just above 20-knots.

We turned on the VHF today. Memories of our early cruising life flooded back as we immediately recognize the computerized woman's voice providing NOAA weather. Must be back in the States! Close, but we are grateful to have yet another 24-hrs of sailing. Still, as it is impossible to contain our excitement a mere day from landfall, we've gotten a bit reflective...

What we'll miss: the novelty of living in motion and sharing this on the blog, 360-degree horizons always visible, witnessing each moment of every sunrise and sunset the complete transition between day and night, participating in roll calls and HF radio contacts, being disconnected and completely off-the-grid, feeling an intimate connection with the ocean, hearing the lull of water rushing past the hull, and spending quiet solitary hours awake amid the ocean wilderness inspiring deep thoughts about life.

What we won't miss: the roll. It colors everything aboard. (We have likened it to the fire swamp in the movie The Princess Bride, you get to expect it and know when the big ones will happen so you can prepare but there is no avoiding it). We will not miss spilling water on ourselves while trying to take an innocent sip, being bruised merely moving around the boat, barely having one hand to hold onto our food, cleaning dishes inside a washing machine with flying knives, cutting boards and food trimmings, or quick visits braced inside the head.

What we look forward to: calmer water (read: reduced roll), setting up our king sized bed and all of us sleeping together- as long as we want, spending awake time together, exercising, swimming, connection with the land and getting an introduction to the aloha of the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 24- frustration and anticipation

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 49-min N 151-deg 02-min W
Wind: NE 19-knots Seas: NE 5-ft
Avg. Course: 282 T Avg. Speed: 4.7-knots
Rig: triple-reefed main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 113-nm
Distance to Hilo: 228-nm

We realize that with highs come lows and we admittedly have had a few trying times on this voyage. But really, isn't part of the adventure overcoming the difficulties? In reality, we are both tired and run down, so life aboard does indeed have struggles. Yesterday Chris had a frustrating day watch as atop the constant roll (and a headache that wouldn't go away), winds varied between 10 to 25-knots, slacking enough to put the main partially then nearly all the way up, then filling in to the point he needed to pull a reef and then completely take it down again. It began to seem like a tortured game of pulling and shaking reefs book-ended by rolling rail to rail in the seas with such little canvas up each time the winds diminished. Shawn boosted spirits by making Chicken alfredo, sundried tomato, artichoke, pepperoni pizza and was rewarded by a mellow sunset shift. But then after a clear star filled (did we mention dry) graveyard watch for Chris, Shawn got to enjoy her tea in a continuous downpour as windy wet squall after squall (with frustratingly rolly lulls between them) passed overhead in the darkness. Each of us faces our own difficulties and challenges, yet still, we work hard to take every moment as it comes searching for the positive highlights throughout each day. In general, together we manage to turn most of our challenges into opportunities. That said, we continue to try to enjoy our last couple days of this passage to the fullest, but we have each found ourselves gazing westward in eager anticipation, hoping to be the first to glimpse our 14,000-ft volcanic destination.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 23- The Human Gimbal

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 27-min N 149-deg 05-min W
Wind: NE 18-knots Seas: NE 7-ft
Avg. Course: 268 T Avg. Speed: 5.1-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 122-nm
Distance to Hilo: 339-nm

The winds have stayed consistently between 15 and 20-knots providing us with some quite large swells of 7-ft or so rolling into our stern quarter. Surf is often up for Tao, which is great for speed, but it does create some rolly conditions aboard. We luckily have a gimballed stove upon which we can leave things with a good probability that they won't move or spill. That is as long as they aren't top heavy or too full. These items have an even better probability of staying put if they're actually strapped down or being held with fiddles.

As humans we are also evolved to be able to compensate for this roll, though some of us are better at it than others. Grizzly, though obviously not human, deals with the roll best by making it look like she meant to do it whether it is sliding across the floor, missing the spot she was aiming for, or sticking her head into her feeding area and allowing her legs to gimbal with the roll. However, it is quite hilarious to watch Chris performing this gimballing function walking from the galley to the refrigerator with a bowl of hot cereal for breakfast in search of some cold milk to improve the texture. He multitasks first by timing opening the refrigerator to a back roll, quickly closing it again, then pouring the milk into the self-gimballed bowl and returning the milk to the fridge on yet another back roll. Finally, in the home stretch, he takes large wide stance steps all the while gimballing the now medium filled bowl back through the boat, up the ladder and out of the cabin into the cockpit where we've been eating most of our meals. This whole process is much improved when all four of our hands are involved.

Most of our meals, such as last nights dinner of Ginger squash puree over Whizzy rice (a la gourmet chef Lisa Whiznat, first saute onion and garlic then rice and finally add broth water and simmer), are made into "one pot" meals for ease of handling. We are grateful for the silicone grip at the bottom of our extra large bowls which helps them to stay put on the cockpit seats for precious seconds without being held. It is a game to guess when the roll of the boat with the weight of the food inside the bowl will be too much and will send the bowl sliding (often to be caught with our newly formed reflexes as we knew that we should never have let go of the bowl anyway).

The winds and waves have been up and we have been under the 80% alone (i.e. no sail changes!) all day. We're making fast enough speeds and are actually trying to slow our progress a bit in order to get into Hilo not on this Friday's holiday, but instead during daylight hours on Saturday. We spent most of yesterday afternoon on a port tack to stay south near the 19th parallel until we're closer to land. Once we are within a couple hundred miles of the island, the winds are forecast to turn more easterly (and even SE). So, the farther south we can stay now, the more down wind our course north to Hilo will be.

We have also been amazed to see birds nearly every day of this trip and often solitary. Unfortunately, we haven't a bird guide aboard. When we were at points furthest from shore we were seeing tiny black birds. Yesterday afternoon, we saw a medium sized white bird with a long thin tail (Jimmy, very reminiscent of ones we saw in the Galapagos, any ideas?). And this morning, we watched a medium sized black bird with white on the undersides of its wings fishing as it flew up and down between the crests of steepening waves during sun rise. Also, every once in a while we are still treated to seeing flying fish, sometimes pods of hundreds at once, launching themselves from one wave to the next. It seems they end up on our deck only when we sail more beam to the wind and taking waves over the bow as opposed to winds over our quarter. Yet another great reason to sail a downwind course whenever possible.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 22- Rolly rolly

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 33-min N 146-deg 57-min W
Wind: NE 19-knots Seas: NE 5-ft, N 4-ft
Avg. Course: 274 T Avg. Speed: 5.5-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 133-nm
Distance to Hilo: 460-nm

With the winds back up, the seas near instantly grew rolly again. It is so funny how quickly we forget what it's like... Over the day, we decided to put the triple-reefed main back up to provide some stabilization and the sun did indeed come back out so we took the 3rd cockpit shower of our voyage. As the afternoon wore on, the winds increased even a little more so we reduced sail again by taking the main down and enjoyed a yummy Cashew chicken pad thai over udon noodles for dinner. Shawn checked in on the PacSea net (which is over before the sun sets these days!) and Chris happened to be up for a bathroom break to see his first sunset of the trip- which also happened to be the first hot pink one. It was a quiet night overall, and as the winds decreased and life turned extra rolly again, Chris put the triple-reefed main back up. The highlight of his graveyard shift was watching the previously obscured moon appear at the horizon, yellowish red under the clouds as it set. Shawn's sunrise watch was gratefully squall-less and she pulled up the main again to its 2nd reef. As noon came round, the winds came back in force, so we pulled the mainsail down completely to once again end up with a noon-time rig of 80% jib alone.

It was a surprisingly big mileage day for us, likely all that surfing down the wave faces. Besides our normal daily tasks, both of our thinking has subtly shifted to include the bureaucratic preparations regarding our upcoming landfall. We seem to be headed for this Friday or Saturday to reach Hilo, made more interesting by a Friday Kameamea holiday. It is therefore a bit of a difficult time to check Grizzly into the islands as she needs to be seen by a local veterinarian and the Hawaiian Agricultural inspector (who do not work the weekends) within 48-hrs of landfall. We have e-mail contact in the works. The past few days we have also found ourselves in many discussions about where our path will lead from Hilo. There are lots of exciting options, and don't worry, we'll let you know as we figure it out!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 21- This is the life, squalls and all!

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 24-min N 144-deg 36-min W
Wind: NE 17-knots Seas: NE 5-ft
Avg. Course: 278 T Avg. Speed: 4.9-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 118-nm
Distance to Hilo: 593-nm

The Pacific can actually be quite calm. Today was one of those days we've imagined sailing in the trade winds could be like. Clear blue skies, consistent breezes (12-15-knots) yet small seas (down to 2-ft!) with the drifter alone whispering us along at nearly 5-knots. Life is good.

During our late afternoon overlap time, we enjoyed a St. Patty's Day dinner of corned beef and buttery cabbage and potatoes (Pisces where were you with the Guinness??) in the comfortable shade of our awning. We then made the conservative choice, although it was difficult as the sailing was so superb, to change the sail configuration for the night. Up went the mainsail to shadow the drifter, down came the drifter, and up went the 80% in its place. (In our estimation, it's all well and good to say we're fine getting waken up to help reduce sail in the middle of the night, but in reality, by that time, it's really too late and something is more likely to go wrong in the dark). We made nearly the same speeds, but felt more in single-handed control. The evening watch change is getting earlier and earlier in the daylight. So much so, that Shawn can start her watch off in a sundress and lifevest (versus the usual foul weather gear). On the other hand, with the light still strong, Chris has less motivation to crawl into the bunk and is therefore getting to sleep later and later.

It was a magical night watch, Tao sailing over 5-knots in to the moonset with dolphin playing in her bow wave, jumping and splashing in fun. Then Shawn noted something on the eastern horizon- maybe a star rising? But alas, the binoculars confirmed that it was a ship. AIS on. Yup, there it is, just over 10-nm away and headed for somewhere in Japan. Once the ship's information was received, the AIS immediately soothed worries of a collision course by visually showing Tao and our heading as well as the ship and its heading with the closest point expected to be over 8-nm away. Continued checks with the binoculars, confirmed that indeed the bearing was changing in the expected direction. Another AIS success story.

Chris then came onto the graveyard shift and was treated to a mellow watch with an hour of moonlight, the first on that watch in several weeks, and a clear view of the southern cross before the moisture started to move in. It wasn't until Shawn's dawn watch that the squalls organized. Though she was able to sip her tea for the first hour, after that, it was a busy watch. Just as time to check in with the Amigo Net came (which is by the way completely in the dark now), the winds piped up, and kept coming. So, Shawn pulled the 1st, then quickly the 2nd, and after a few more moments, finally the 3rd reef. An hour later, post-Don's-weather, thinking she'd made it through, an even bigger squall passed over us forcing our heading nearly 90-deg above our intended course. Down came the mainsail as well.

The blustery NEasterlis are back and in a quick hour of increased winds, the seas have also returned with force. We currently find ourselves a bit north of our intended 19-deg 22-min north by longitude 150-deg west so we'll likely make some sail changes to lose some northing over the coming day. As we've gotten to enjoy it, we're hoping that the sun will again make its late afternoon appearance to clear up all these squalls so we can again dry everything out and top off our battery bank.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 20- clearest skies since Mexico and still sailing

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 09-min N 142-deg 32-min W
Wind: NE 12-knots Seas: NE 4-ft
Avg. Course: 269 T Avg. Speed: 5.1-knots
Rig: full main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 123-nm
Distance to Hilo: 712-nm

It was an amazingly lulling and beautiful afternoon. We set the drifter (our large loose luffed light air sail made of 1.6 ounce rip-stop nylon), pulled down the main and relaxed. Tao glided quietly and quickly along in the light 10-15 knot breezes as the sun shone down from the near clear blue sky. It was so beautiful that Shawn didn't want to crawl in the bunk and miss it. Yet, both of us have discovered that keeping to our schedule helps everything run more smoothly aboard, and we're both feeling the effects of cumulative lack of sleep. So Shawn finally surrendered to sleep and Chris soaked in the rest of the gorgeous day.

Dinner was a very refreshing cannellini bean tuna salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and capers smothered with lemon and lime juices and baked a fresh loaf of whole wheat topped with honey cashew and sesame seeds. Well fed, we decided to take the drifter down and replace it with the 80% and main so we could could each sleep well with the knowledge that the other could easily manage Tao alone through the night should any changes in wind direction and intensity occur (as they always do). The moon is indeed growing and once it set the milky way was in full view between small squalls with stronger winds and little moisture.

Today dawned mostly clear, but the sky continues to grow more cloudy as we write. We were still able to tune in to the morning SSB Amigo Net from mainland Mexico this morning. Our weather guy, Don Anderson, continues to forecast 20-25-knot NE winds all the way to Hawaii. However, our GRIB files (data extracted from a GFS weather model) forecast light NE 10-15 knot winds throughout the rest of Sunday. So far, the GRIB predictions are closer to our current reality. While we're both still up, it's time for some tabouli quesadillas and decisions about possible sail configurations for the rest of the day.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 19- we found your lost piling...

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 12-min N 144-deg 22-min W
Wind: NE 11-knots Seas: NE 6-ft
Avg. Course: 273 T Avg. Speed: 5.2-knots
Rig: triple-reefed main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 125-nm
Distance to Hilo: 959-nm

We are extremely happy that Tao was built super tough. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Well, todays licking initially sounded like a wave stopping our boat, but was actually a barnacle covered piling. WTF? Yes, that's what we said too. It was during the sunset watch change and both of us happened to be down below. Shawn signing on, Chris ready for the bunk. We'd just finished our dinner (Kung Pao Chicken) and the sun hadn't quite set yet, when Smack! Tao stalled a second and continued on. "What the hell was that?" queried Shawn from the head. "Just another wave", assured Chris. In response we heard a thump, thump, thump. Chris sprang up on deck watched the tiller bounce up and down a couple times and then said, "it's a LOG". Shawn appeared on deck just behind him to see a 30-ft tall telephone pole sized, what we can only assume to be a piling, completely covered with barnacles bobbing horizontally, directly in our wake. Back down below Chris was pulling off all the bilge covers looking for inflow and Shawn was (clipped in) hanging over the bow to see below the waterline as the boat climbed up each wave. Nothing. Both of us found nothing.

Disconcerted, we waited. Still no water in the bilges, we discussed what we thought had happened. We decided that Tao must have t-boned the log floating horizontally at 5-knots, that was the first noise. Then it was pushed below water and as we continued sailing forward at a much reduced speed, it found our keel and was pushed down along the keels profile (the second set of noises), not coming back up until much past our rudder and wind vane blade. All of a sudden we were extra grateful that Tao has a full keel with a keel hung rudder. Still concerned, we decided to unload the V-berth and check more closely from inside. Chris passed all the fresh food items and several bins of canned goods, several sails, four 5-gallon jugs of water, yoga mats, backpacks etc. aft to Shawn. We both scrutinized the inside of the hull from the bow aft, nothing. Phew. We will continue to monitor and do a detailed assessment in the water when we reach Hilo unless it becomes necessary before that. We feel the Pacific has presented us with ample tastes of several dangers to be found in her waters and we would greatly appreciate getting to Hilo without experiencing any others...

Besides that excitement, we started the day with the previous evenings fresh dinner rolls slathered with cream cheese and topped with capers (thanks Cats Paw!) and lemon. (FYI lox and bagels are better without the bagels than without the lox...) The afternoon turned sunny and sailing was perfect with just the 80%, though at its lower wind range. It wasn't until post-log-experience and nightfall that the winds declined to below 10-knots and refused to return. Up went the triple-reefed-main for some attempted stabilization. The light winds shifted a little more easterly and we couldn't quite head where we wanted to without completely shadowing the jib. So, slowly we continued on heading a bit more northerly than 270-deg. Chris spotted yet another vessel off our port- this time it never got closer than 10-nm. With the amount of time we could see the glow of its lights and the AIS reporting that it was "limited in maneuverability", we think it was a fishing vessel quite far off shore.

As daylight slowly came, a fresh breath of wind filled in- though not as much as was expected. Shawn had her daily morning radio conversations with Don Anderson, the Amigo Net, heard Dream Keeper (but they couldn't hear her), and our "buddy" boat Commotion (who has been only a couple hundred miles behind us since repairing their auto-helm during their first attempt for Hawaii). When Chris awoke, Shawn filled him in on all the weather and updates she'd heard on the radio. Over chicken and kidney bean burritos, we discussed which option we should implement to increase sail area for the rest of what is turning into a light wind but gorgeous day.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 18- fast days, long nights

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 06-min N 138-deg 10-min W
Wind: NE 19-knots Seas: NE 6-ft
Avg. Course: 269 T Avg. Speed: 5.6-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 135-nm
Distance to Hilo: 959-nm

You know you've been at sea a long time when bacon-fried spam, potatoes and diced tomatoes tastes good. The afternoon yesterday was a surfing sleigh ride continued. Shawn motivated for some "spring" cleaning, deep cleaning the galley, stove top, and refrigerator and reorganizing food provisions for accessibility. In terms of fresh food, we still have plenty: cucumbers, tomatoes, jicama, squash, potatoes, onions, lemons, limes and apples. Chris calculated that we have a 4-apple-per-day minimum if we are to eat them all before we have to give them up upon landfall.

The days with their sunny afternoons fly by and the night watches have been long and dark. Although the stars do shine when the clouds break up, we are still awaiting the moon to grow and shine our way to Hawaii. Though the winds are still consistently 15-25, we realize that this is quite a range for different sail configuration options. We've chosen to continue with 80% +/- some amount of main sail. Every once in a while we are motivated to put more sail area up, but then we surf a wave and top our theoretical hull speed... Both of us are having a hard time getting motivated for our dark watches. It has been difficult to pull ourselves out of the dry, down and Grizzly warmed bunk, to face hourly squalls and search for fast approaching ships. But after a cup of tea down, Chris on the graveyard shift enjoys the alone time and listening to iPod books on tape and music, and Shawn, with the sun starting to light the sky, enjoys the dramatic energy of constantly changing cloud formations. And we each zip up and make the best of it when saltwater splashes into the cockpit or freshwater falls horizontally.

We hear that we are nearing the edge of SPOT coverage. Don't worry if the reports stop coming, all is still well aboard, we're still sending them out, just the map will not update if there is no satellite reception. Remember you can still see us on a map via other position reports (winlink, Yotreps, PacSea) by clicking one of the alternative links (on the sidebar on the right hand side of the main page, or links provided on the map page). We've been preparing for this adventure of sailing to Hawaii for so long, that as it draws closer to reality, all of a sudden we realize we need to start thinking about how we want to spend our time once we reach Hawaii, very exciting!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 17- sleigh ride begins

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 09-min N 135-deg 47-min W
Wind: NE 19-knots Seas: NE 6-ft
Avg. Course: 271 T Avg. Speed: 5.6-knots
Rig: 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 135-nm
Distance to Hilo: 1,093-nm

Today we have both felt quite light and satisfied for, we realize, the first time of this journey. Maybe we've finally found our groove. Maybe we're getting better sleep (as the creaks, groans, and rolls are interwoven in our dreams). Maybe we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it's because we realize we have plenty of provisions, energy, and water. Maybe it was last night's New Moon. Maybe it's simply because we like the downhill portion. It feels like a crazy sleigh ride as Tao surfs down across the waves, exits off the back of the, and then surfs another over and over all day long toward our destination. Whatever the reason, now that we are feeling quite good, we must admit that we have each been battling anxiousness throughout the different sections of this voyage up to this point.

That said, no big challenges today like yesterday (we forgot to mention that we were visited by more pilot whales yesterday too- no aggression, they just flanked our boat as we both sat on the foredeck repairing our sail). It is amazing to us that we made our best mileage day ever with only the 80% jib and a couple hours of the triple-reefed main. It's because we're in consistent NEasterly winds of the high ranging from 18-25-knots all day long. Most of the day 5-6-ft seas from the NE have provided us with repeatedly good surfing, which surely helps our boat speeds as well. Although we likely could make more consistent speeds with the 100% alone, we want to take it easy on the rig and feel there is more single-handed versatility (no entire sail changes) working with the 80% and the main instead (sorry Jacob and your 18-day guesstimate).

An interesting side note: Although we have kept the same watch schedules, it is as if we are rotating because each day as we move west, the sun rises and sets later. By the time we reach Hawaii, we will have completely switched watches and each of us will have gotten to experience being on deck and sleeping at all times of day and night. Moni continues to steer like a champion and Grizzly continues to provide fluffy comfort. We will all continue to bask in the sun as it peeks through more each afternoon, hunker down for the squalls as they blow by, enjoy the stars that shine through and the phosphorescence in our wake and breaking waves, and welcome the waxing moon on our night watches over the coming days.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 16- sail change challenges and too close for comfort

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 08-min N 133-deg 25-min W
Wind: NE 18-knots Seas: NE 5-ft
Avg. Course: 270 T Avg. Speed: 4.8-knots
Rig: Tiple-reefed main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 116-nm
Distance to Hilo: 1,227-nm

With the light winds (which seem to always happen on Chris' watches versus rain and heavy weather on Shawn's- it's become a joke to note it's raining- it must be close to Shawn's watch, or to note that the cloud cover has opened up just in time for Chris' watch...), Chris got motivated and decided to fly our drifter (150%). Unfortunately, while being raised, the foot of the sail snagged on something creating a relatively small rip and then the sail proceeded to wrap itself several times around the headstay. Shawn was awaken by Chris' expletives from above and was on deck in an instant. Together we brought the sail down safely, repaired it, reset it and hauled it up. After losing only an hour, we got 3 beautiful hours of flying along before winds topped 15-knots and with darkness encroaching, we doused the drifter and replaced it with the 80% for the night.

After getting our sails in order for the night, we filled our bellys with chili nachos followed by a full Thanksgiving meal (mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and even cranberry sauce). Chris went to bed and then 4-hrs later, he came on watch and Shawn joined Grizzly in the bunk. A mere 5-minutes before her alarm went off for her early shift this morning, Shawn was instantly awake when from up on deck Chris said in a calm but strong voice, "Shawn, I need you to get up and turn on the computer immediately. And pass me the keys for the engine". A million thoughts raced through her mind as she willed the computer to boot faster and plugged the GPS into the AIS and the AIS into the computer. Now, Coastal Navigator, open up, open up, yes, "I Accept". OK, GPS fix. AIS on. Yes, there is a ship right on top of us! Zoom in, 1.75-nm away, 1-min 33-sec to closest point of contact: 0.75-nm.

"Where should I go, I can't tell from their lights"?! Shawn replied, "it looks like we're okay, but if you want to be sure, tack and head east". Chris did so while Shawn hailed the vessel on VHF-16. The vessel returned her call immediately, "Yes we've been monitoring you for 20-min on our radar. What is your destination? Are you in need of assistance?". As long as you don't run over us we will not need assistance came to mind, but instead she replied, "As long as you are aware we are just off your port bow, all is well." Their heading was 220, New Zealand, ours 270, Hilo which is why although not on a collision course, for the past 20-minutes that Chris was monitoring them, he was seeing very little change in bearing. Although our adrenaline was pumping, we were relieved that our vigilant monitoring paid off and that the other vessel was actually paying attention as well. It's such a big ocean, and we are such a small target, what are the chances? No matter how small the probability, the consequences can not be ignored. New protocol: in addition to our 15-min horizon scans, boot up every 2-hrs and check for longer range AIS ships (they will show up hundreds of miles away which will give us advanced warning) because 15-min is really very little time to avoid a ship moving at 18-knots. Many thanks to the Universe for this gentle reminder.