Friday, April 27, 2012

We love our Nor'West 33

As we continue to chip away at getting Tao prepared for another long journey, we would like to take a moment to sit back and bask. We each look around at our little floating world, and realize just how much we have put into this boat. Not only money, but sweat equity, time, and love. And we both understand that we have already gotten 10-fold in returns. We have learned about and attempted to adjust nearly every part of her. The education has been immense, gaining knowledge and experience (sometimes the hard way) as we go. Tao has been a patient teacher, solid in foundation, she has put up with us learning by trying different things. We have all grown together. So currently, as we weigh her down with provision after provision, we are grateful that Tao, Nor'West hull #10, found us so many years ago, excited and with a dream. And as always, with nervous anticipation, we think about the new unimaginable adventures unfolding before us. We enjoy each moment in safe harbor even more knowing it will soon end, and all the while, Tao strains against her mooring lines, eager to head out again to sea.

If you are interested in learning more details about our Nor'West 33 sloop, please check out our newly updated "Nor'West 33, Hull #10, Tao" tab.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Goodbye and Fair Winds Don Anderson

Don Anderson
Obituary Picture via
Orange County Register
I have a huge soft spot for Don Anderson and I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He has been our mainstay weather guru throughout our cruising s/v Tao over the past 5 years. I actually have a little guilt as well, because I am angry. Our time with him was not finished. I was actually not-so-patiently awaiting a reply e-mail from him regarding general weather routing in the next month from Hawaii to the South Pacific when I found out. I know he does not like contact via e-mail, but we are currently preparing to leave and in a harbor that is too noisy for good reception so were trying to set up a time to be able to bug him via HF radio with his beam antenna pointed our way. Rather solitary out here in Hawaii, without the cruiser connectivity (as Don had warned us, this is not considered a good cruising ground and after spending a year here we think it deserves more of a chance, though most cruisers don't give it the time), we did not hear of his passing right away. Luckily, before we sent a second e-mail, we heard the disturbing news when talking with Midnight Blue, cruising friends from Mexico, who had heard via the PacSea net. And I am angry still, because after this season’s cruise we had special plans to stop in Oxnard to present him with a bottle of scotch, give him a hug, and talk story with him about what a huge impact he has had on our lives.

Chris and I finally threw off the dock lines from Berkeley, CA in November of 2008. We slowly moved down the California Coast toward Mexico and unfortunately did not know about Don until we were way downwind of Ventura. If we had known him yet, we would surely have made it a priority to stop in and say hello. We slowly made our way down the Outside of the Baja and found one of the nets he forecasted on. As we neared Scorpion Bay, where we hoped to set the hook and surf for a few days we finally got up the courage to ask for a weather fill. He was happy to report (we were to find that the bigger the storm, the more excited he was to report on it) that a big low was coming down, and winds were going to be from the south all the way down to our intended anchorage. His advice, he would not be caught in there! We took his advice and continued on to the protection of Bahia Santa Maria. The southerlies did not end up making it quite that far south, yet we were grateful to have had his fill, were content with our conservative decision, and happily hunkered down from the strong northerly flow that set in. From then on, we listened to Don religiously. He provided us relief and knowledge and education (about both weather and radios) from there on.

Through our first season in the Sea of Cortez in 2009, we were entertained as we listened to his weather reports and learned about squash zones, northers, coromuels, adiabatic winds, and iCom 802 clipping. Then he talked us through a second season in 2010 which included several unexpectedly motorless long distance passages as well as us being early season cruisers in the Northern Sea of Cortez where he patiently explained to us what Elefantes were the morning after we had encountered a blessedly small one, forecast Chubascos as they began to menace, and the promontory effect, of which he often spoke, suddenly became clear. Most of our time in the Sea of Cortez we tended to be away from the bulk of cruisers, so we frequently chimed into nets for weather fills in “off the beaten track” areas. Don was always willing to provide us fills and often times we got way more than we asked for. We trusted his advice all the more as over and over again his predictions were spot on. Then in 2011 we decided to jump from Mexico to Hawaii. Without fail, Don was there standing watch before the Amigo Net every morning of our 26-day passage (except Sundays) logging our track, ushering us in the right direction, allaying our fears of hurricanes, and providing us special weather routing. One morning when I questioned him about squalls we were seeing he replied "South of 22-deg N, you are in the tropics, my darling, squalls are everywhere and are impossible to forecast. You forecast them with your eyes and your radar. They always travel NE to SW and you will see an increase in local winds of 5 to 10-knots". Yup, this was exactly what we saw (though we don't have radar). Lovingly, get used to it, was written between the lines. He further educated us about trade winds, channelized winds, and warned us about the channels between the islands as we approached Hawaii.

We were unable to reach him via radio through the noise once we landed in Hawaii but were able to thank him via e-mail and expected we would have more contact once leaving the Hawaiian Islands. We are profoundly distressed to imagine never hearing his soothing voice discussing weather over the radio waves again. We learned so much from him and feel lucky to have known him at all. Thank you Don, for the tireless service that you provided the cruising community, we are forever grateful.

For an excellent tribute to Don Anderson, check out Just a Minute's blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boat Projects and Birthdays

Things have been crazy, and ever so slowly over the past 3 weeks since splashing, we have been chipping away at our to-do-before-leaving list as the huge Hawaiian green sea turtles swim around our boat and cheer us on. First, we reinstalled the deck hardware and running rigging, installed the refurbished engine temperature gauge, and closed off the old water tank access hatches (the ones that we found leaking just before our passage to Hawaii). Then we moved on to the following larger boat projects:

HAM exam: After way more hours of study than necessary, we are proud to report that Shawn passed both her Technician and General HAM exams and is now anxiously awaiting a call sign so we can get a new batch of boat cards printed (can you believe we are out of our original ones?!). After 2-weeks waiting, her call sign is just up on the FCC website, welcome WH6DYA (in other words Whiskey-Hotel-six-Delta-Yankee-Alpha)!

Solar Farm: Step one to getting Tao reorganized for sailing was to get the solar panels back in action to support daily power usage. This would have been quick except we decided to enlarge our solar farm. We now have 80-watt Big Daddy and 85-watt Hit Girl (if you’ve ever seen the hilarious movie KickAss you’ll understand those names) attached to the stern arch and our original Sunny (50-watts) has a new space on top of the dodger. Post wiring, we are power rich! Now we have plenty of energy for our newly wired Waeco refrigerator and integrated VHS/AIS systems to run as much as we would like. That is if we hadn’t crossed a wire and blown a 5 amp fuse (which needed to be upgraded to 20 amps anyway) or if our solar regulator hadn’t decided to quit. Right now we have our 10 amp max back up installed and a sweet replacement is headed our way via Priority Mail.

Sewing projects: Several sewing projects are lingering around the boat including, courtesy flags, a hanging bin in the reorganized refrigerator compartment (complete with the original teak door that had been removed for Grizzly’s litter box to fit), and additional flaps for the dodger in two areas that water can get through. However, our sewing machine, Elna 5000, had different plans. After the beginning of the work, she suddenly refused to pick up stitches anymore without a visit to the doctor’s office. After calling all available sewing machine repair numbers around the Big Island we now know that every technician on the island lives in Hilo (the other side) and the only two shops that offer repairs Kona side send the sewing machines to Hilo weekly or have a technician visit once a month. Luckily, the technician was scheduled to visit a week later and his diagnosis was a huge relief. Elna just needed cleaning and retiming, though he did chastise us (which we deserved since we hadn’t had her serviced since we purchased her in 2004) that she needed to be serviced more than twice a year if living in the salty environment of a sailboat (sorry, not gonna happen). We are grateful to have her back in service and Shawn is slowly moving forward with these projects.

Q: What is missing?
A: Starboard upper!!
Standing Rigging: Tao’s standing rigging was replaced by her previous owner in 2000, and in 2004 we replaced her backstay in order to insulate it for use with our HF radio. It is generally recommended to change rigging every 10 years or so, but some people claim that properly cared for rigging can last more like 20 years. Our 12-yr old rig was solid for our sail across to Hawaii, and upon examination it looked to be in great condition. However, problem areas don’t tend to be easily visible. To allay our worries, we decided to re-rig before heading out again. For the past week, Chris has been methodically climbing the mast and removing then replacing one stay at a time with only one minor puncture wound inflicted in his left knuckle and only one stainless piece requiring rescuing after being dropped into the water. We are happy to report that the old rigging, once removed, has no visible problems, and the new rigging, solid and shiny, just awaits tuning.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy… Shawn has been teaching two yoga classes a week at Bikram Yoga Kona and we have been trying to practice 4 times a week- not such an easy feat without a vehicle. Chris finally went to see a doctor about his right ear (which has been bothering him since his last dive just before we hauled out). It turns out that, likely due to Chris’ growing up surfing and kayaking in cold waters, his ear canals are very constricted- no problem for hearing, but increasing his risk of ear infections. So, 2 weeks of strong antibiotics and steroid drips and two more appointments later, we await a special ear plug delivery before pushing off. In addition (yes, there is more), we have been spending numerous hours working via Skype with a wedding planner in Mexico in an attempt to make that event happen before another 10-years pass us by (more details to come on that once decisions have been made). Oh, and we took a day off from “working” to celebrate Shawn’s birthday by taking a yoga class, then hiking to a beautiful white sand beach called Makalawena (from Kua Bay side), stuffing ourselves with delicious Kenichi sushi rolls- rolled by Kenichi himself, and ending the celebration by turning a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream into a decadent milk shake. Over the next week we will chip away at the remaining items to move our way toward our ultimate improved sailing machine for the next leg of our journey. And then comes provisioning…

Monday, April 16, 2012

Honokohau Harbor Splash 2012

Tao's on-the-hard view

Chris in Hawi with King
 Kamehameha Statue

After deliriously landing in Kona on Monday afternoon March 19, we picked up our reserved rental car, and with a quick stop to peek in on Tao, made our way to the Kona Seaside Hotel. Although we likely could have descended upon friends couches in Kona, it was a great decision to spend the extra money to have a space to transition and catch up on sleep. With one full day of car rental, the next morning we got organized for a road trip. First stop, Honokohau Harbor to check for transient slip space with DLNR. After walking the docks to check for space, we found one and started to pay for it on the spot, even though we were not yet in the water. Having a place to keep Tao in the safety of the harbor while readying her for our next passage is a huge relief! The road trip continued up to Hawi on the north end of the island, where family friends and fellow sailors, Toni and Tye, had graciously accepted several important packages that we had mailed to Hawaii over the past two months. Although the VOG from the active volcano has been quite thick creating hazy skies, views were still expansive and as we drove along the shore on the “low” road. We even saw several of the season's last whales breaching. Welcome back to Hawaii!

Kohala view
We had an enjoyable visit at Toni and Tye’s old North Kohala plantation ranch home, talking sailing and life over excellent cups of coffee. After collecting our packages (including items such as all of our standing rigging hardware and sail covers) we pushed off, via the “high” road through Waimea, with a bag full of fresh picked citrus to keep us going through the next few days. Around 1800 HST, we got back to Tao and spent 2-hrs prepping her for the next days move. After one more cozy night at the hotel and taking excessive showers to stock up, the next morning at 0730 we checked out and made our way to Tao. Kona’s Gentry Marine was right on time and brought the travel lift at 0830 to move Tao for a one day pitstop in the work yard. We had decided to do a quick bottom job- just one coat of paint over the still beautiful bottom job that we had Sergio do at Marina San Carlos a mere year and a half ago. Chris immediately started the light bottom sanding, while Shawn, to utilize the last few hours of our rented car,  ran to town to food provision for the next few weeks. Back at Tao, Chris finished prepping the bottom and talked Kona Marine Supply into letting us use their paint can shaker, while Shawn blue-taped the water line. We tag teamed the one-can-one-layer painting with Chris using the big roller and Shawn doing the detail spots, saving just a little paint for the final touches. At 0800 the next morning, the Gentry folks moved the jack stands supporting Tao so we could paint the squares underneath in time for them to dry before hitting the water. Finally, we inflated our fenders, dug out our dock lines, and Chris used the final spare moments to do some detailed reconditioning under our rudder zincs- so much easier when not under water!

seconds before splashing

At 1030, again right on time, the travel lift showed up to move us the final yards to the water. Half and hour later, SPLASH!!! We were finally floating again. Luckily, the dock was clear for the next few hours, which allowed us time to get Yannie back into service from the “on-the-hard” state (that included checking the oil, transmission fluid, and reinstalling the impeller with the added bonus of changing the impeller case’s gasket). At 1320 we motored off the dock, took a traffic-filled spin down the fairway only to turn around near the harbor entrance, so Tao was heading the other direction when we got back to where we’d been splashed, now lined up appropriately to back upwind in the general direction of our designated I-36 slip. With no float on the mooring, we got the stern lines to the dock, held on to a power boat next to us, and Chris swam to grab the chain. By 1340 we were again moored Mediterranean Style. We took a deep breath and celebrated with a nice cold Coke and some store bought poke before starting to chip away at getting Tao back to “sailing” condition. Since that point, our “short” To-Do list seems only to get longer...