Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Close Encounters

A boobie catching a ride on our sail.
I got some exercise yesterday morning; I grabbed my mask and fins and jumped over the side of the boat to hang out with some spinner dolphins swimming circles around the coral reefs in our bay.  I cannot even begin to describe the amazing feeling of being in the wild with these wonderful, intelligent creatures.  Some were even curious enough to come very close and turn their head to make eye contact before dashing away.  There were about 45 dolphins in total including at least two babies no longer than one and a half to two feet.  I know better than to get too close when babies are involved but I barely had to chase the pod as they drifted in and out of my view.  It was just me and the dolphins for about and hour before Adam joined us.  Despite being very cold (I am completely spoiled having grown up in the South) this was definitely a highlight of the whole year.  We are currently anchored in Honomalino Bay, a secluded location in the shadow of Mauna Loa bordered on the south by an old lava flow and the north by palm trees and a black sand beach.  The visibility in the cove is about 50 feet so we can easily see the ripples in the sand on the bottom from the deck of the boat and watching the dolphins below and above the water is a definite treat.  If you have never seen spinner dolphins and what they can do, Google "Hawiian Spinner Dolphins" and be amazed!  The coral here is much more impressive than anything we saw in Mexico, even if we hadn't
made friends with Flipper.  We were also able to dive our anchor last night and make sure it was set well, which always leads to a comfortable night's rest.

Adam heading off the trail into the roots of a Banyan.  Do things ever change?
We had hoped to ease back into sailing after our long voyage but that was not the case.  From Hilo, any destination secure enough to call an anchorage is at least at 24-hour sail.  We actually started our voyage on Sunday but as we were exiting the bay the Coast Guard radioed that there was a 36-foot sailing vessel disabled outside of the Hilo breakwater.  That could describe Moments, but we were having a fine time sailing and were not disabled in the least!  In the distance, however, was another sailing boat with their sails barely raised and when we approached them we learned that they to had crossed from Mexico but that their engine had quit working almost 1000 miles from Hilo.  Typically that is not a problem in trade wind sailing. We didn't run our engine until that last day of our voyage as we were headed into Hilo.  It is much easier to anchor using an engine than under sail, but this story provides another reason to learn how to do both!  Being the friendly mariners that we are we offered a tow back into the harbor and after a few tries we managed to attach them to our stern and tow them through six foot swell into Reed's Bay, one of the anchorages in Hilo.  It took four or five tries to get them anchored in the right place but in the end Adam and I were able to anchor ourselves and take a nap!  We decided that one false start was good for the day and instead of heading out of the harbor immediately rose early the next morning to travel clockwise around the island.  It was a great sail and despite some currents doing their best to hold us in Hilo we made it to Honomalino with plenty of light to anchor.  I never knew that the big island was so, well, big!  Right now we are about to weigh anchor and head further north with the hope of crossing to Maui Friday or Saturday to meet the first wave of visitors in Sugar Beach for two weeks of family fun.
Rachel clicking her heels to be on land, even if it is in the caldera of a volcano.

For those interested regarding our repairs: The gooseneck is holding up and supported with an insane amount of webbing but the reefing hooks have completely broken off.  That is where the majority of the damage was anyways so no big surprise and it looks like the weather may not even provide enough wind for a slow sail across the channel so we may get lucky here.  We have not hand a problem using the cunningham to reef and have ordered a replacement gooseneck to arrive in Maui while we are there.  Our outboard went on the fritz two days before we left Mexico but the anchorages so far in Hawaii have been so calm that we are easily rowing the dingy anywhere we need to go.  The propane system, which has continually given us problems for the entire year is once again broken but we think we have it figured out this time.  We can cook but for safety reasons keep the tanks closed when we are not using them.  Replacement parts are on their way with our parents.

OK, now I need to start cooking this challah french toast in my effort to burn through all of the remaining Mexican eggs!  Thank you for all of the wonderful messages of congratulations and support we have received in the last week.  It has been really touching.  We were honestly not aware that so many people are reading our blog and have followed our journey.  Aloha!
One of the many beautiful sunsets

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Recovery

The most remarkable thing is that the boat is no longer moving.  I cannot even begin to explain how strange that is.  My legs are both sore from use and yet atrophied from only walking a maximum of 36' feet for a month,  I am covered in bruises affectionately called "boat bites" from zigging when I should have zagged and I can't believe I am writing this blog post before taking a shower since I have only showered once a week since we left Mexico.  We left the fuel dock in Ixtapa on Sunday, April 13th at 20:20 UTC and we put our anchor down Sunday, May 11 at 21:47 UTC making the trip about 28 days, so our estimate of one month was pretty close.  In general the crossing was excellent.  We had relatively good weather, moderate winds, only occasional large swell and most importantly the boat and its sailors are still in one piece.  We entered Hilo harbor on a drizzly Sunday morning just as the sun was melting back the morning rain clouds.  Even though I have always been a fan of environmental regulations, having left
Our V-berth shortly before departure!

Zihuatanejo only days after government agents posted "playa contaminado" signs along the beach and then pulling into a busy Hawaiian harbor that was still clean enough that you could see the bottom 35-40 feet below the boat, I have a renewed conviction about their importance.  After anchoring in Radio Bay we did a deep clean of the boat and spent the first night celebrating with a good dinner, a bottle of wine and listening to the luau going only feet from our boat.  Unfortunately, we were confined to Moments until Customs and the Harbor Master could clear us officially into the country today but the beautiful sounds of the Hawaiian language and ukuleles were a more than pleasant welcome.

Fresh food from the sea
There were many exciting times on our adventure across the ocean, a few of which I covered in my other posts but here are some of the highlights!

Provisions: We were carrying 110 gallons of diesel, 110 gallons of water and 50 gallons of gasoline.  We still have more than 50% of all of these quantities.  Still, I wouldn't do it any other way. Even though we ran our refrigerator most of the way across, we didn't have to run the generator or engine nearly as much as we thought we would because we made plenty of wind power.  We did make some solar power but the sky was cloudy except for a handful of days, the wind power is really what saved us.  When it comes to food we were very well provisioned and didn't even have to break into our canned/boxed supplies.  I still have about 35 onions and a few pounds of potatoes!

A little serenade before sunset
Casualties: Our biggest problem was chafe on the Monitor lines.  We had to move the blocks running the lines thought the cockpit, rotate the lines, wrap them in tape, and many other measures to limit, distribute or control chafe and made it here just in time.  All of the sheets will probably have to be replaced before we head anywhere long distance.  We also chafed through one of the belts for our wheel pilot, the electronic autopilot, but we had a spare so that was no big deal.  The most important item to break was the gooseneck, the large hinge that connects the boom to the mast.  It did not completely break and we were able to support the cracks that developed by rigging up a webbing harness.  Our best guess is that it bent and cracked when I (rather violently) accidentally jibed the boat during one of the brief periods of heavy swell and wind that we experienced.  Luckily we had already reefed the sails (decreased their size) so the damage was nothing we couldn't deal with.

Fish count: 7 dorado (mahi-mahi) and one tuna

Notes on wildlife: We were surprised that there were birds with us the whole way across.  Neither of us thought that we would see birds way out in the middle of the ocean, but there they were every day.  We also didn't see any whales, turtles or dolphins once we cleared the Mexican coast and have yet to see any in Hawaii.  Lastly, flying fish can fly an impressive distance!

The best part of for me is that we were literally sailing into the sunset every evening and believe me, there were each different and spectacular!

Would we do it again?  Yes!  Yes, we are sick of sailing, we have been dreaming of steak and Taco Bell since about day 15, and we are planning to spend the next two hours in the shower, but we wouldn't give up the experience for anything.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big Ocean, Small Boat

I cannot believe that another week has passed.  We are making steady progress with great sailing conditions.  Energy is low but morale is high and we are very excited to make landfall hopefully sometime this weekend or early next week.  

My biggest complaint right now is that I just finished my last book!  All I have to read now are boat part manuals and reference books, not exactly the kind of reading you want when you are trying to stay awake on a night shift.  I brought six novels with me and thought that would be sufficient for four weeks but it turns out that I should have brought twice as many.  I would try to spend some time at night navigating by the stars or at least trying to find the constellations I know but we have had almost 100% cloud cover, day and night, for most of the trip.  Today happens to be sunny but I would put money down on clouds rolling in sometime around sunset and staying put until well after sunrise tomorrow.  This is great for our efforts to prevent sunburn but it also makes us a little energy starved when our solar panels don't get a full dose. 

We are feeling very comfortable with our provisions.  We still have more than 50% of the diesel, gasoline and water that we brought with us and although I spend some time every day throwing out rotten produce there are a few apples, oranges, tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers left in addition to all of the potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and jicama that wouldn't go bad even if our trip were twice as long!  

This week we have been very fortunate because our persistence on the fishing front has paid off.  After coming down the Baja this fall we really didn't have much luck fishing until just recently.  Part of that is probably timing: we were sailing most of the time in the middle of the day, and part of it is probably laziness: we were using the same lures over and over and by the time we removed them they were barely sharp and definitely rusty.  We did catch a tuna early in the trip but it was mealy and we ended up throwing most of it back.  However, in the last few days our luck has changed.  We have caught so many dorado (aka mahi-mahi or dolphin fish) that we have released a number of them. Adam even rigged up one of the flying fish that unfortunately landed on our deck to see if he could catch a monster, but no luck so far. Yesterday I reeled in one dorado that would probably keep us fed for four days if we ate fish for every meal!  Unfortunately, I don't know if we will be able to eat it all before it spoils because we have had to turn our refrigerator off because it was using too much power, but right now the sun is shining, we are almost there, fresh ceviche is on ice for lunch and it is past time for my nap!

480 nautical miles to go!
2546 nautical miles covered