Akimbo & crew

Sharing the adventures and horizons of the good sloop Akimbo and her crew going sailing... You might want to start at the "beginning" (October 3, 2009)? Thank you for visiting. It means a lot to me, so please leave comments or e-mail me @ jonthowe@gmail.com, and encourage others to visit too. It's a way for me to feel your company even from afar. Good luck to us all. Love and hope, jon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wrapping this up.


Steinbeck wrote, “We don’t take a trip…the trip takes us.”  Tho i’m not keepin’ Akimbo on the move, tho i don’t have another rendezvous to make, this voyage is not done with me…until i write these tho’ts down. While i haven’t posted an entry for weeks, i’ve not been idle.  I’ve been fixing Akimbo and re-entering life ashore with my community and son.  And i’ve been exploring my way to the bottom of another page, instead of across an ocean or to another island.  My clearest thinking happens in the morning.  That’s when threads of tho’t lead me to new horizons, or force me out of bed, at 3:30 one morning.  In Akimbo’s dark cabin i get out from under a heavy layer of warm covers, pull on yesterday’s clothes, slip on my fur-lined booties.  I bump the thermostat up a few degrees as i go by, i click on a dim cabin light.  At the stove, the burner sparks to blue flame, which i cover with the kettle.  I come and sit down here, in front of the keyboard, and get this far before the kettle whistles. 

Writing is a solitary endeavor, but my grist for it comes from heartfelt conversations with friends.  Walking with one, she asked  “So how’s it going?”  “Okay, but i sure have plowed thru a lot of tho’ts.  At the end of the 2010 trip i threw most of them away.  This time i want them to add up to something.”  “Why,” she asked. 

Now THERE is a question that i swore off long ago.  Whatever answer i found, “why” could be asked of that answer too.  It never ended, could make me crazy.  The only legit answer, so far as i could tell, was “why not?”  But by now i’ve met enuf of life and death to let go of that vow.  We ask why of mountaineers.  Of sailors, adventurers…of composers, dancers, artists and poets…and of ourselves.  Why do you do what you do?  And the way you do it?  For an adventurer sometimes the question sounds more like “What the hell am i doing here?”  But we’re all “here.”  We gotta do something.  Beyond food, clothing and shelter, we gravitate to what we feel resonant with, to something where we might find…meaning (or money, for some)…even if the thing we seek and the way we strive for it is meaningless.  Like sailing. Or climbing…

Or writing?  I replied to my friend, “Sure, i want to write something beautiful, something that will resonate with other people, something that will last.  But my best writing is when what’s coming out on the page surprises me.  When i ask myself, “where did that come from?”  When i find some insight or viewpoint that i didn’t know i knew.  When the unknown meets me there.  THAT is why i’m writing.”  “Good,” she said, “there’s no better reason.” 

“The most beautiful thing in the world is the mysterious,” Einstein said.  “It is the source of all true art and science.”  This quote comes to me from “North to the Night” by Alvah Simon.  It is the story of wintering in the Arctic aboard his 36’ steel sloop, an extreme adventure far beyond my ken and desire.  He addresses “why” as well as anyone i’ve ever read.  Aboard Akimbo, in that last week of sailing, the “mysterious” included torn sails, an exhaust leak, a fuel leak, a failing pump on the main engine, storms…in the meantime there was trimming sails, cooking, navigating, checking in with crew...  Some of this was not fun at all.  It demanded my attention, all of it, which is to say it was immensely entertaining.  A part of adventure is risking ourselves.  On the theory that every challenge presents an opportunity, we put ourselves where we will likely get more entertainment than we bargain for.   Where more might be required from us than we knew we had to give.  Where we remember that life is dear. 

For living is a tenuous thing.  Whether we face it or not, reality is constantly shifting under our feet.  On shore, in a 9 to 5 routine, this is easier to forget.  Or deny.  Still, “change is gonna come.” At sea, shifting reality is impossible to ignore.  And control repeatedly proves to be an illusion.  It’s not “man against the sea.”  Are you kidding?!  A losing proposition could not be more obvious.  But it’s us in dialog with something bigger than ourselves.  We go “out there”… whether it’s on an ocean or a mountain peak; on a dance floor or a stage; into the eyes of a lover, the arms of your child, or in conversation with a stranger… to discover what this is that we are part of and what our tiny part in it may be.  To explore an unknown it makes sense to reach beyond what we know, beyond our home, to something new.  Horizons call to sailors, but by definition horizons cannot be reached.  They recede…and beckon.  By keeping a horizon in sight, we keep the unknown within sight.  We let what we usually feel as a boundary between ourselves and mystery come close and sometimes blur.  We bring what is inside of us to meet and be met by what is outside.  In doing so we seek…intimacy.  (that is NOT the word that i tho't would end that sentence)

My favorite memory of this voyage?  Skinny dipping in the middle of an ocean, in incredibly clear blue water three miles deep.  I’ll have to count how many islands we visited.  If i fell into the “ADI” syndrome (“another damn island”) it was because i felt called home.  It was hard to leave the islands, the adventure, but after enuf time, it was harder to be so far from the people i love and the adventure of loving them.  No, not one of the islands is “just another island.”  Each is unique…like the rest.  Each day.  Each person.  Each breath, drawing us on.  Feeling between chapters in my life, the other day i reached into a bowl full of angel cards and pulled out “intention.”  Tyler asked, “So, what is your intention?”  I answered fast, so that i couldn’t think about it, “To take no one for granted, to appreciate every one.”  

It is irony that fills my sails now, that propels me on.  The irony that surprises me is this:  that the depths twin praise with grief, love with loss, pain with pleasure and in all of it i find myself grateful.  I catch my heart smiling and that feels new.  There is a TED lecture entitled “how to buy happiness”…turns out it’s by spending your money (or whatever your resources are) on someone else.  I am so enjoying loving my son and my friends, involving myself in their lives…and they are letting me in.  “THIS is where they know my name”…what luck!  What a welcome home.   Thank you cannot say enuf. 

A crew member, looking back at his leg of the voyage, wrote to thank me for what he now realized was a high point in his life. “Wow!” i wrote back.  “There you are thanking me...when it's me who thanks you.  It was a voyage made much more possible by the help i asked for and received.  Seeming coincidences led to the opportunity of making this voyage, and once it became possible, for me it became necessary.  I felt an imperative to not look back and wonder what it would have been like, wonder if i should have done it, could have done it.   Instilled in me since childhood, i'd tho't about it for too long...to only talk about it.  "Just (shut up and) do it."  So we did it, took care of it, lived thru it, got it done.  And on deep levels i simply got lucky.  Hinged on too many details, it could have really gone badly.  A distinct part of my luck was your help and encouragement.  Thank you.  I am relieved that no one was injured, and rewarded that your part in this means a lot to you.  Maybe remembering sailing to distant islands and across open ocean...will help us sail into our old age more at peace because we can look back and feel with a certainty that we lived.  
But maybe we knew it before, if we have loved.  For love is a voyage too.  And having loved, we should know we have lived.  
Socrates said that an unconsidered life isn't worth living and a few thousand years later Australian art critic Robert Hughes added that an unlived life isn't worth considering.  In the end, maybe the real risk isn't choosing to hazard ourselves.  Maybe it's choosing to not hazard ourselves.  
A toast to living a full and lucky life!”

(So that feels like a wrap to me.   But how can it be when i’m still here?  This trip that is life has taken me and is not done.  My eyes already look up for another horizon.  I've been filling pages trying to bring it into focus.  But that voyage will not be this one.  This one's done.  And i am grateful for it, for the ancestor it is to the next.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Whew!

After being within radio range of shore, we had been listening to the weather channels on the VHF.  What we were hearing forecast was hard to believe.  "Are they kidding?"  They were reporting hurricane force winds along the coast, gale warnings turning to storm warnings, and seas that could get as high as 30 feet and on 15 second periods.  "If this is a comedy, it's NOT funny."  Any time the period between the seas is less than their height, life out there is like living in a washing machine.  But 30 feet on 15 seconds?  I can't imagine.  As we pulled into a slip at Port Angeles Boat Haven, we saw more than one person on the dock doubling up mooring lines and a few of them told us we had got in just in time.

But we never felt the weather we had been led to expect.  Maybe it's because Port Angeles was in the lee of the Olympic Mountains.   We found ourselves motoring due to lack of wind as we departed early the next morning to catch the flood into Puget Sound.  As we approached Port Townsend a reasonable wind came up out of the south and our deeply reefed main and jib, combined with the current, carried us at over ten knots at times.  THIS was too good to not take advantage of, so we gave up any thought of stopping in PT.  Three big tacks took us past Marrowstone Island and to Bush Point's squeeze of Admiralty Inlet.

There the wind went light.  We shook out reefs, put the jib away and unrolled the genoa and finally resorted to motoring.  We enjoyed beers and talk of the first things we would do when we got to shore. We called family and friends who would meet us there to give them an ETA of dusk.  But all that changed at Point No Point, where a solid 25 knot wind in our teeth met us.  It felt almost mean to have to triple reef the main and at least unroll part of the genoa, to don our foulies and even put our harnesses back on.

Nearing Edmonds, the only other sailboat out there spun round upon our approach and waved.  We waved back and blew on by - they were under reefed main and motor and put in at Edmonds.  We still don't know who they were or if we knew them.  At this point we considered motoring too, but the engine refused to pump raw water thru its exhaust - which meant it would soon overheat.  Winds gusting into the 30s, finally we rolled up the genoa, unpacked and hoisted the trusty old jib again - NOW we could really sail to weather, if only that old rag and its halyard would hold together.  Still, we had to call friends and family back and revise our ETA.

As dark fell, we listened to a few dramas developing on the Sound.  Another sailboat without instruments, lights and with a weak engine was being shadowed by a Coast Guard cutter until he could be directed to someplace safe to re-anchor.  Flares had been sighted off West Seattle.  "There but for the grace of whatever..." went us.

Finally we tacked for the south end of Shilshole's breakwater, tired, wet, cold and late.  It felt like the day had "thrown a lot at us."  To add insult to injury, the light we were looking for at the end of the breakwater was out.  Luckily we had enuf local knowledge to make our way in, drop sail and motor a minimum (so the engine wouldn't overheat) into the slip.  Where...we were greeted by applause?!

Oh my!  Twenty or so hardy souls, many of whom had been crew over the past seven months, were there to catch our lines and welcome us home.  Their numbers had dwindled as the night had worn on.  We were getting in at nearly nine pm.  Their welcome stirred too many deep emotions for me to single any out.  I felt overwhelmed, grateful, sorry, happy...  I wish i had made that last week look smooth and easy, but what has pride got to do with anything?  We were in, unhurt, smelly, safe and glad to be home...well met and hugged.  Thank you all!

Closing tho'ts soon.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Final leg


Before i start telling you about the final leg of this trip, i want to share a few photos from our all-too-short visit to Hawaii.  Our friend, Jim, did his best to take Greg and i on a few quick hikes and whet our appetites for coming back.  Pololu was the name of the beach we hiked to.
















There is something remarkable about having a friend waiting for you where you are going.  Thus i am remarking.  Especially so with Jim and Dar.  One comes away from meeting Jim feeling well met.  He wants to do something, anything, for you.  Like you're doin' him a favor to let him meet and help you?  When what you are enjoying is meeting him.  And Dar's gracious welcome parallels that feeling.  She can't wait to have you over.  Thank you both very, very much.










Again excerpted from our noon position reports.  

Tough stuff, beating or close reaching against 20 knots and 6 to 8 foot seas.  Starboard tack.  Life at an angle.  Under solent jib and triple reefed main.  6.9 knot average speed, noon to noon.  HOT sun and clouds.  One crew member motion sick.  But she's game anyway and stands her watches.  Akimbo doing well what she was made for.  The chores we took care of at our last harbor seem to be standing us in good stead.  Dropped the jib this morning to check its halyard for chafe.  Found a flat spot in it but no chafe.  Wrapped some sail repair tape around the flat spot and re-hoisted.  This'll be a daily check.  Wind should clock a bit more tomorrow according to the weather charts, and life be a little more reachy/less heeled over with it.


Beam reaching now, but still tough out here.  And beautiful too.  Big swells and steadily 20+ knot winds.  Sailing under triple reefed main and jib still, with main traveled well down.  Appetites are low...likely bought too much food for this leg. 

Curious:  woke up to find flag and flag staff at the transom…gone.  No one saw it go.  Before dawn, shackle on the starboard running backstay broke, replaced it and re-tensioned the stay.

Very good crew, unphased by the weather's intensity.  A wave just tried to splash thru the dodger, into the companionway and onto the computer!  I slammed it shut and got more wet than the computer.  Close one, that.  Would have stopped these noon reports in their tracks...and you'd be left worrying about us.  At which point my back-up report would be the "we're okay" button on Art's "Spot" beacon…and you'd have to call each other.  Will keep the companionway hatch slid shut now. 

Hooked a big fish and had a good fight until the line broke.  I think it was a dorado. 

Gettin' tired of this but expecting more of it.  I keep reviewing the textbooks on this leg and finding we are following their lessons.  Seas big now, occasionally breaking. This young crew laughs at getting splashed.  We're wearing our harnesses now when we are on deck.  Kinda just hangin' on. 


After yesterday's noon report, conditions began to moderate.  Last night’s sail was very pleasant.  Woke up and shook two reefs out of the main.  Pretty glorious, close reaching at over 7 knots on relatively calm and sunny seas.  In a way it feels like we've paid our dues for an easy day.  Enjoyed a brief visit from a school or porpoise this morning.  And lost our 4th lure to another fish too big for us.  Hot showers for everyone, outdoors, at the swimstep, ahhh!  Always a morale booster.  We are profoundly lucky. 

We wish you were here.  And so do you. 

Given the weather reports we receive from our fathers (thank you Bud and thank you Gary), plus the grib files i get and re-reading the textbooks...we began our easting a little earlier than originally planned (plans being especially subject to change out here).  There's an ugly lookin' low churnin' SE in the Gulf of Alaska that we want to stay well away from (south of).  At the same time, the LAST thing we want to do is close with the coast south of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and have to beat up the coast.  Meantime, the High we want to leave to starboard?  It's too big to miss.  We'd be wasting miles and time trying to go around it.  Thus we began our northeasterly arc from 33 north and 159 west and expect to motor some.  The drifter has been working magic for us, to keep us sailing in very little wind.

This morning we got a big tuna to the swimstep before s/he gave a last thrash and got away.  So we're learning, visions of sushi dancing in our heads.


Well, we put the calms of the Pacific High to good use:  went for a brief mid-ocean swim; cooked a big dinner while the galley was quiet.  Only motored 5 or 6 engine hours, put the drifter back up and sat in the cockpit to watch a movie. 

In the night, went to the genoa alone, and around dawn, the jib alone.  Morning found us broad reaching in 25ish knot winds at 6 plus knots.  Rolling quite a bit in building 8' seas.  Since then the wind has, as expected, clocked to the north.  Welcome to port tack.  We are now - noon - beating under jib and triple reefed main.  

If the weather info we got about the ugly storm now crossing our bow about 600nm away still holds (moving east at 35 knots?!), it is past our closest point of approach (about 550 nm).  But we are warned that as much as 720nm in our direction, until noon today, we could feel 25 to 40 knot winds and see 8 to 14 foot seas (better than the 35 to 50 knot winds and 15 to 30 foot seas ?! at the storm itself).  We remain alert and battened down.  By tomorrow this thing that has all our attention should be well away.


A long night of winds arcing back and forth thru 40+ degrees, from single digit strengths to mid-20 knot gusts...  We "fought a good fight" and made what progress we could.  But this morning, as i write, we motor a few hours to make more northing and find better winds.  I'll write more at noon.  Weather is turning markedly colder now, under gray skies.

Almost noon, Kara called us up as she reeled a dorado close up to the boat.  S/he (the fish) freaked out up close and took off.  I tried reeling him/her in.  Jack took over and finally the fish jumped and got off.  Jack thinks he is cursed as a fisherman - we need to convince him otherwise. 

Okay, wind and waves looking more consistent - or at least our optimistic eyes see them so.  Engine off.  Jib back up.  Whew!  Sailing again…”a superior form of travel."  Thank you very much.  So grateful to have the engine, more grateful to not have to use it. 


And now...good afternoon.  The wind has continued to back to the NW, still at 14 knots.  So we are on a course of 25 degrees magnetic, speed of 7.5 knots and REACHING.  Oh boy! 


We are north of 40.  Basically halfway.  So it's time for everyone to place their bets by estimating our time of arrival at Shilshole. My guess?  Before noon on September 30. 

We hooked another tuna today, but again s/he was too big for us.  We fought and s/he then took back whatever we had reeled in.  Finally our line broke.  It’s startin’ to feel like anyone who catches a fish out here will also gain one of our lures.

Noon position:  39 degrees 45' north and 152 degrees 9' west.  Distance made:  164nm. 
Halfway?  Time for a toast. 


Startin' to look like home?  Awoke to gray skies, 30 knot winds, big waves, occasionally breaking, water temp 66.2F...but we're still 1100nm away.  My crew seems to welcome and relax into these things.  True northwesterners, hardy stock.  We expect less wind tomorrow and then more of the same after that. 

Broad reaching under triple reefed main and jib.  Deep dipping and reeling.  Gotta hang on to get about the cabin.  Considering...this is going pretty well.  But Akimbo is workin' hard - she's got new leaks showin' up.  This's a little disappointing, but to be expected.  She’s not new, in fact she’s gettin’ older and has not sat at a dock but travelled far.  "The list" of work she'll need is growing. 

Sighted a big ship this morning for only the third time this leg.  The AIS (thank you Tina and Jim for gifting it to Akimbo) reveals more shipping nearby but over the horizon (5 at a time)...as far as 93 miles away. 

It’s time to rest and pace ourselves. 


We've been beam reaching in solid 25 knot NW winds and 10 to 15 foot waves all night.  When we look up from the troughs of the bigger waves, we estimate they top out above our lower spreaders.  Say 20'.  Gusts are into the lower 30s.  Jib and triple reefed main are doing yeoman's duties.  So far as i can tell from the grib files and forecasts, we're in for a few more days of the same.  While today, Puget Sound has gale warnings. 

Sitting at a table lit by Florida sunshine nine months ago, with charts and paper in hand, the guiding ideas for planning this trip and keeping it fun were 1. to get out of hurricane territory in a timely manner and 2. get into the NW before the winter storms and 3. enjoy the scenery and company along the way.  While the storms seem mostly focused on the Gulf of Alaska, we are feeling their effects and they seem early this year.  The #2 goal of the plan isn't working out.  I guess the plan should have been more subject to change.  What are our options?  We're not goin' back to Hawaii.  We're committed here. 

Last night after running the generator to charge up, i smelled diesel in the garage.  Investigating today, inside the gen's sound shield i find fuel to mop up.  Can't see where it's coming from.  Instead i see a pinhole leak at the fitting where the exhaust hose hooks up.  Dangerous. to one’s health, exhaust leaks...looks like we will rely on the main engine for charging this last week.  The engine being noisier, consuming three times as much fuel and charging a quarter as fast as the gen...still, glad we've got the engine. 

A big wave came aboard this morning and busted out most of a dodger window, around its edges - we hand stitched it back into place.  It leaks more but suffices.  The hatch over the galley is dripping a little...  Chaos is chipping away at us.  Pained to see Akimbo's defenses crumble, we fight back where and when we can.  Still, the important things are here - the jib, the autopilot, instruments to navigate by...and a good crew's cheer in the face of everything.


We sailed thru a pleasant night.  (tho what i might call "pleasant" you might not)  Winds and seas moderating a bit.  Stars out.  COLD.  This morning i fired the furnace up to take the chill off. 

No new news is good news.  We keep finding our ever changing equilibrium out here.  Don't know what else to tell you (i must be tired).  Our AIS tells us we will see some shipping go by within the hour.  There is a beauty out here, a very dynamic beauty, shifting and moving, sun coming up and contrasting with grays, sharply white white caps...tumbling, gnashing...  Asking each of the crew for an adjective:  Jack describes this place as a giver of perspective and gratitude;  Kara names humbling, salty, infinite and blue;  Jen says "boundless, endlessly unique and immediate."  Wow, i think they got it.  "You don't have to be old to be wise."

It feels like we've "turned a corner?"  Or maybe it's just the music on the stereo (thank you again Susanne and Juli, for their compilation) and the sun on deck.  It feels like we don't have to work so hard for our northing now and can beat feet for our easting.   Wishful thinking?  Shall see. 


I see a jet's con trail in the sky as i write this.  Another sign of civilization. 

There is a High chasing us.  I don't know why it's so persistent, but it seems to be shouldering aside the Lows.  We're trying to stay ahead of it, to take advantage of 15 to 25 knot winds and beat it to the coast.  To Tatoosh Island, to the Straits.  If it catches us...Thursday? we will be motoring in its calm. 


Thru the night, the winds dropped to ten-ish knots and clocked well forward on us.  Seas dropping.  The crew trimmed well to the shifts.  Under genoa and full main we've been close reaching around 7 knots.  Some blankets of stratus clouds with some blues in between just now    gave way to lots of blue and winds under 5.  In other words, the High seems to have caught up with us...we just now turned the motor on...after quite a pleasant noon to noon (moonlight on water, whoosh of our wake, world to ourselves...). 

A high point is that Jack persisted with our fishing:  we finally landed a tuna.  10+#, 3 or 4 meals worth.  Oh boy!  Fish tacos for dinner last night.  Tuna fried rice for lunch today.  Sushi?  Any other suggestions?   


Oh my kingdom for a square rigger.  Did i write that?  I didn't mean it.  Really.  But last night the winds went light again and aft while the seas shook out whatever the sails would catch.  Anything else and we could sail, but we motored 5 or so hours.  Tired of the noise and fumes, about dawn we were more willing to compromise our course.  Kara and i hoisted the drifter and we sailed 30 or 40 degrees north of course to keep it full.  The wind built to 19 true.  At 7 knots of  boatspeed we felt 12 knots across the deck when, without warning, the drifter split completely in half.  Half at the masthead, the other half swimming along side.  Instead of having to go aloft to get the remnant down, Kara simply pulled the sock/snuffer down and with it what was left of the sail.  Cool!  We drug the rest of the sail out of the water, stuffed the whole mess in its bag and unrolled the genoa.  It was a warhorse of a sail and owed me nothing more. 

Some hours later, still not satisfied with being off course and the quartering sea slapping the genoa around, i decided to hoist the tri-radial spinnaker.  With its pole well aft, seemed we might make our course and good time too.  Bad decision.  I very rarely choose this combo and we blew the hoist.  The sail is fine but i've got more repairs to make.  Damn!
No Jack, it's an ear patch, not a nose patch. 

Okay, so next we tried the main and genoa wing and wing.  Again the seas were uncooperative.  So now we are very broad reaching (still 20 degrees off our course) on starboard tack with the main way out and half the genoa (half collapses in the lee of the main less than the whole thing).  Expecting to tack downwind to the Straits.  Starting to wonder if we will ever get there.  Feelin' like a rookie again.  Do you get some idea of how much work this can be?  I once compared the lifelines on the foredeck to the ropes around a boxing ring. 

Just a moment ago a very big whale surfaced parallel to us on starboard at most 70' off.  Whoa, big fella!  That’s close enuf.    Guessing s/he is at least as big as Akimbo.  Jen spotted him/her (or another) a little while later similarly close off our port side.  And then…they were gone.

We are in fog, glad for the radar and the AIS.  Chatted with a 592' cargo ship 6 miles off our starboard beam, "Tiger East" heading for the Columbia River from Asia, and confirmed we show up on their radar. 

I've been wearing my foulies and boots too long.  Can't take them off for fear of the odor.  Maybe you can smell us comin' already.  


Had to "get back on that horse." 

We spent the night under the genoa, going 5 to 7 knots and very nearly in the direction we wanted.  But around dawn the wind got lighter and backed and the waves were shaking the sail and rig while we went over 30 degrees off course.  So we hoisted the spinnaker and pole again and have been enjoying good speed about 15 degrees off our rhumb line to Tatoosh Island.  With good luck, we will carry this until dusk and then switch to the genoa for the night.  Prayer:  may the taking down the spinnaker go well when the time comes. 

The night started with the NW misting rain that soaks to the bone...but soon got better.  Y'know how the eskimos have 80 some names for snow?  Can anyone explain to me what northwesterners mean by "rain turning to showers?" 


Anchored in Neah Bay. 
THAT was "a day and a half."
I think it was the third(?) storm of the year to hit the NW that caught us "out there."  So please forgive the tardiness of this report - we were busy.  The weather forecast (thank you Gary and Jim) pretty much tells it. 

"Tonight: W wind 5 to 15 kt...becoming S 15 to 25 kt after midnight. Wind waves 1 to 2 ft...building to 2 to 4 ft.
W swell 5 ft at 7seconds...building to 7 ft at 14 seconds.
A chance of showers...then rain after midnight.

Sat: S wind 15 to 25 kt...becoming SW 25 to 35 kt in the afternoon. Combined seas 9 to 12 ft with a dominant period of 13 seconds. Rain.

Sat Night: SW wind 25 to 35 kt...becoming 25 to 30 kt after midnight.
Combined seas 14 to 17 ft with a dominant period of 12 seconds…” 

In other words, ugly.  And getting worse.  We don’t want to be out here any more.  This will soon be THE very wrong place to be.  We want out of here in the worst way, and we want some shelter from the storm.  We want to anchor in Neah Bay.  But CAN we get what we want?   

We got the spinnaker down in the nick of time as the weather worsened, glad for the progress it had given us.  With luck, it put us within range of where we are tonight.  The genoa carried us downwind until it started to blow too hard for all of it.  We wrapped up half of it and carried on.  By dawn its lack of help to windward was going to send us to the shores of Vancouver Island.  To make matters worse…there is no sign of water flowing out the engine’s exhaust.  Effectively, we have no engine.  I begin keep confirming the sea-strainer is clear, and begin replacing the water pump impellor.  This is easy to write, but, tossed about in a boat on stormy seas…imagine. 

I’m not one inclined to this, but i called the Coast Guard on the VHF radio.  Wondering why i called, they asked if we needed assistance.  “No, i replied.  But i want you to know that we are out here, and where here is.  If more things go wrong, this could get serious.”  I proceeded to answer all their questions, spelling our names for them by using the “alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, echo…” alphabet.  They replied that they would NOT monitor our float plan, but to call them if we need them.” 

So we tried the storm jib and triple reefed main - found the storm jib too small to be any use.  Back to the trusty old jib, with a prayer.  But boy was that the right choice.  Suddenly instead of being dragged toward a lee shore (best case: a harbor to shelter in, worst case: shipwreck), we could point even closer to the wind than our destination required.  (“destination:  a place from which the wind blows”).  Our prospects improved drastically.  If we pushed to average at least 7 knots, we MIGHT make it to Neah Bay by dark. 

It was a truly rough day.  The kind of day when i'm on shore that i say "sure am glad i'm not out there today."  And worse to come.  But our luck held, we're all soaked, LOTS of leaks showed up so it's a bit clammy in here (what an understatement!).  We're safe and sound and will consider our next sail in the morning.  Thank you crew, thank you Akimbo, thank you luck of the draw. 

Tired.  Good night,

(I learned later that as i posted that last “report” via sailmail to friends and family (we found no cell service in Neah Bay), Tyler was actually on the phone inquiring from the Coast Guard if they had heard from us.  He may have been even more concerned, knowing me, to learn that i had indeed contacted them.  And Kara’s parents, sailors too, were too well aware of what the weather was dealing to us.  They were worried.  But then our report arrived in their e-mails and they could breathe a sigh of relief. 

Our good luck held.  It seems my long trips end with a storm (having said that, i’ll likely never be able to get crew again for a last leg of a trip).  My 2010 trip ended on a really stormy November night.  That night i clearly learned a lesson:  never stop trying to sail your boat.  Continue to consider the engine a last option, keep trying to play your game instead of letting the conditions overwhelm you out of your tools, out of whatever you’ve gained from experience, out of your wisdom…and into simply holding on.  Maybe it was dumb luck that we came thru this storm okay, or maybe it was because we remained pro-active.  While this storm gave us a thrashing and we have wounds to lick, it held some much worse possibilities that we are glad to have dodged.)


Good morning. 
We have time to get 50nm closer to home, to Port Angeles, before the worst of this weather hits.  The forecasts we are hearing on the VHF radio are phenomenally ugly.  And we hear there's something there called a "shower," and something else, maybe "cell service?"  And "laundry" perhaps...  So, picture us stumbling about the docks there as if we were drunk (we might be) because our sea-legs haven't been ashore for 17 days.  If Monday is as bad as advertised, we might just stay there...or with luck make the next 20nm to Port Townsend?  Or even home.  We'll let you  know. 


Okay, that last day is a report in itself.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alohaaa!


I don’t think i can keep blog notes for over a month in order to tell you about this long leg.  But what i can do is extract the more interesting parts from my daily noon position reports that i send to Bud (and family and friends).  It will seem like it goes on and on, the days will blend one into another…maybe it will bore you, or maybe you’ll get the feel of it. 

Before i tell of our passage to Hawaii, tho, i have to damn our departure from Panama.  Their immigration extortion takes the prize.  I dedicated a day to getting our exit papers in order and ran up against a bureaucracy and a bitch who liked wielding power to frustrate my efforts.  When i arrived at their office, she sent me away with paperwork for my crew to fill out.  When i returned, she told me how much this would cost – why didn’t she tell me this the first time? - $220, which i didn’t have with me.  When i returned from a bank ATM with the money, she told me the office would close in 15 minutes and we didn’t have enuf time.  I argued.  She folded her arms.  On the way back to the boat, i ranted.  My cab driver called the immigration agent at the Balboa Yacht Club, where Akimbo was moored.  Turns out, this agent is his brother-in-law.  He said that if we aren’t sailing back to Panama in the next three years we didn’t really have to have the papers for the boat’s departure…all we need is to have our passports stamped and he could take care of that.  I took him up on it.  We departed the next morning, betting that the authorities in Hawaii won’t want more than our passports.  

Meantime, my illustrious crew took care of the rest of the provisioning.  ALL of it.  Thank you! 

Hawaii bound.  The thing is…there’s a tropical storm (or it might be a hurricane by now) arriving in Hawaii as i write this entry.  Usually storms veer north before they get to Hawaii.  Let’s hope this weather pattern is getting this over with before we get there.  Our planned route will take us to Cocos Island and south of the storm tracks until we are beyond most of them and can safely head northwest to the islands.  

8/1/20123  “And…they’re off!”  Departed at 9am.  Very light winds.  Had to motor.  Still only made 100nm in a day.  Next day, grateful for a little wind even if it is “in our teeth.”  Dodged some squalls, made 123nm.  A dorado got off our hook, three tuna not so lucky.  Thank you tuna.  Next?  Only 71nm made.  Sailing against wind and current is NOT a profitable prospect.  The next day, with only 79nm made, we finally started some westing and a decision felt made for me – getting out of the Panama basin is too hard to waste our opportunities…we’re not going to Cocos after all. 

We have to get south of the equatorial counter current (against us) and into the equatorial current (with us).  This will take us temptingly close to the equator – tempting us to go 120nm further south to cross it, thus letting us leave astern our dull pollywog selves to become (far more glorious) shellbacks.  Shall see. 

In this first week, the crew is still in their transition phase, adapting to the rhythm of watching and sleeping and watching and sleeping.  And eating – very well, by the way.  At this point, they still question the schedule.  We really must learn to pace ourselves, to take advantage of sleep when it is an option.  From experience, i trust that our bodies will learn to live well enuf with this new pattern.

5 days out.  We seem to have sailed beyond the daily squalls near the coast.  By the time they get this far offshore, they've either spent themselves or been dissipated by the tropical sun.  Got a beautiful day on our hands, Akimbo moving well, the Milky Way in the night sky has been a delight to behold.

To get out of the adverse and into the favorable current, we tack south for 12 hours.  Then tested going west for 6 hours, and are now dipping south again.  Result?  We made only 70 nm noon to noon.  Way too slow.  And it's not that we aren't sailing well or the wind has gone light.  The wind is moderate, our speed thru the water is good.  The more i study this, the more i don't know what else to do.  It's a challenge to go the wrong way and believe it will work.

Our latest tack south was precipitated by a very strange thing.  288nm from the nearest coast we came across a 30' panga with maybe 70hp outboard tilted up.  Drifting.  With what looked like a Colombian flag flying on a tall antenna.  Mostly an open boat.  Fisherman?  Or drug runners?  Or someone in distress?  We turned around, sailed by close enuf to avoid the sea anchor they were tethered to.  We saw another staff with flag far behind them.  Net?  Didn't see anyone.  Honked our horn and someone's head popped up.  He waved.  But not for a rescue.  Two more people stood up.  He put the outboard down in the water and started pulling to start it...like they wanted to get away from us?  He didn’t get it started, they did not wave for help, we waved goodbye and sailed on.  When we were out of their sight, we tacked to a course they would not know we were on...  Strange experience.

Replaced one of the feed pumps to the water maker today.

"Ocean Passages for the World" describes the exit from the Panama basin as "vexatious" for sailboats.  We agree.  Only 102 nautical miles made, this day.

The jib halyard chafed thru today.  Halyards normally last years, not four days.  In Cartagena i noticed chafe on the halyard, so i replaced the sheave at the top of the jib hoist.  Tho’t that would take care of it.  Obviously i should have kept a closer eye on this.  We've got the jib hoisted on the leeward spinnaker halyard for now.  Also we're using the windward running backstay so the mast will work less.  This is working well enuf since we will likely be on port tack for the next few weeks.  When we get to 090 degrees west longitude, the wind should move aft for us , whereupon we’ll reach with the genoa instead of beat with the jib.  But we are compromised a little.  Can't pull the halyard as tight as usual, can't point as high or sail as hard...  And i don't want to lose another halyard, so we plan to drop the jib daily to check it and the spinnaker halyard for wear. 

So, what is causing the chafe?  My guess is:  the age of the jib.  That to tighten the luff enuf on an old stretched out sail, i over tighten the halyard.  The cure?  A new jib.  (pause) I have to think about that.    The halyard itself is long enuf to be re-reaved and continue to be used.  But i'm not willing to go up the mast out here.  It won't get calm enuf for that.  So i figure we'll make the repair at a dock in Hawaii.  This kind of thing happens and i try to take it in stride.  But i'm afraid it wears hard on my new crew.  They asked if we have to turn back, where the nearest safe harbor is (for a repair - we would have to backtrack (so this won’t happen), but this kind of equipment failure might give us a good excuse for stopping by Cocos without permission), what my fail safe parameters are?  All good questions.  I’m afraid my assurances that we are only 10% compromised didn’t allay their concerns…that i only know things will go wrong on any passage, but i don’t know what things, so i can’t plan for them.  I carry spares.  I don’t have fail safes.  I plan on being able to jury rig and keep going, virtually no matter what, not on stopping, going back or looking for help.  That may well be a weak part of my skills. 

134nm noon to noon.  At 3 degrees 8 minutes north and 88 degrees 15 minutes west.  Beating (still) in 20 knots of wind backing to southerly.  Course is 250 and speed 7.5.  Main is single reefed but the traveler is well down, so it isn't full.  Our "life at an angle" continues.  Reaching will be a pleasure.  Crew continues to adjust.  Good crew! By the way, odd thing:  Tiz and i have the same birthday.  More odd still:  Greg and Rima have the same birthday.  Still more:  Greg and Rima are left handed.  And finally someone pointed out we are all "scorpios"  (or as Tiz and i say in our case, being on a cusp, "scorpitariuses"). 


Had a few crossings with commercial ships last night.  As big as this ocean is, that surprises me.   Akimbo sails more smoothly for now.  I keep going over her every detail in my mind, and hoping for the best.  Tiz caught a nice size dorado today.  Mahi-mahi for breakfast, lunch and dinner (but not for Greg - his digestion has been way off).   Noon to noon, 160 nautical miles.

163nm noon to noon. Still beating against southerly winds of 18 knots, heeled hard over under jib and reefed main.  It appears we have current with us.  Plannin' to get to 2 degrees north and then reach.  And reach and reach.  Looking forward to that. 

A fishing boat trailed us most of the night and then diverged at dawn.  Surprising amount of traffic out here.  "Neighborhood is goin' to hell.  I tho’t we moved OUT of the suburbs."  But we've been near the Galapegos. 

Watched a frigate down a boobie...for fun?!  Didn't seem like it was for food.  Maybe comes back to eat it off the water's surface?  Wild aerobatics.  Looked cruel, but (we are reminded) nature is indifferent indeed. 

E-mailed a sailor friend in Hawaii to hear how it's been and where to harbor.  Will start reading the only thin guidebook soon and study the charts. 

From 2 degrees 5 minutes north and 96 degrees 44 minutes west.  191nm noon to noon, close reaching in 20 knots under jib and triple reefed main (tucked in the triple just before sunset).  Motion is much more liveable now that we aren't beating.  Whew!  I got weary when we had to go back to beating for a few days more.  Pounding to weather day after day takes its toll on boat and crew.  Instead of just "hangin' on" at a sharp angle of heel, maybe now we can start to catch up.  So "the list" has grown with what chaos has wreaked and then there's basic clean-up.  Of boat and selves.  Should be a morale booster, along with the bread i've got rising.  Soon we'll crack off the wind a little more and i'll hope to push for a little more speed to up our averages...IF the weather (and chaos) allows.  Traffic has finally thinned out.  Haven't seen anyone for over a day.  Just us and the boobies and frigates now. 

Wearin' my foulies at night to keep warm.  As each day goes by we each adapt more and more.  Perhaps not only shore recedes but so also do our "selves."  We have put ourselves where we are forced to not hold on so thoroughly to our "little force" and instead connect more to a "greater force."  Maybe that's why i come out here (STILL haven't figured THAT one out).
Yesterday i gave us a "day off."  We had finally gotten off of beating and the pounding it gave us and had settled into a reach.  We could have increased sail, but i left them at their conservative smallest.  Turned on the hot water heater for showers, and baked fresh bread.  We caught, cleaned, cooked and ate a tuna.  I told my crew that tomorrow i would start crackin' Akimbo on. 

So, noon to noon?  Didn't expect much, but...191nm again!  An 8 knot average.  Y'gotta love a favorable current.  I've been hoping to crack 200nm more than once this leg.  Now i'm visualizing a 240nm day please just once?

Next day now, so after dawn we unrolled the genoa and shook all the reefs out of the main.  Touched 10 knots over ground for a bit.  But we're back to 7+ for now.  I'm talkin' about the drifter soon.  Wind is backing aft on us, and blowin' 16 true.  Pesto for dinner tonight. 

Last night the winds got quite light and flukey around the rain clouds.  Even ran the engine for a little, when the waves were bigger than the wind and shakin' hell out of the sails for virtually no speed.  Woke up to find LOTS of little squid dead on deck, maybe 100?!  This morning we put up the drifter and left a reef in the main.  Reaching at 8 and 9 knot speeds since. Course is about 275.  Lots of overcast.  Wind out of the SSW at 14.  Distance made:  160nm. 

Near the equator we have been experiencing very consistent cloud cover and winds near 20 (tho at night they sometimes go light).  No rain to speak of.  Sighting birds has become more rare but they’re still out here.  And traffic has disappeared for a third day now.  The drifter and single reefed main carry us mostly over 10 knots, with the help of the equatorial current. 201nm made good noon to noon!  Thank you. 

Carried the drifter all night.  But the wind is heading us.  Greedy for a record run, i kept us to too much northing.  Will have to make it up under the genoa and main. Fresh mahi-mahi for lunch and dinner.   221 miles noon to noon!  Oh boy.

So after that good run under the drifter, at noon we turned west under the jib and full main and sailed close to the wind.  As the night went on, the wind backed.  Winds and seas were fairly light and small.  But it was a beautiful, lovely, delightful, quiet night on a close reach sailing at half the apparent wind speed.  Akimbo's bow wave chuckling along her hull and trailing astern.  Last night was THE classic one hoped for and imagined by sailors and land lubbers alike.  The half moon set half way thru, the stars were out and singing.  The wind finally did as forecast and hoped for:  it became a southeast trade wind.  Early this morning we eased our course off to about 250 and replaced the jib with the drifter.  While we are tracking our watches today, each of us lets the other sleep or nap regardless.  You might wish you were here. 

It's time to start reading the Hawaii cruising guide, and take care of procrastinated chores.  Sun is out.  Cockpit cover is stretched taut. 

Noon position:  2 degrees 57.5 minutes north and 111 degrees and 42 minutes west.  138 miles noon to noon, made with ease.  At the halfway point, a few days away, we make our best guesses at our arrival date and time in Hawaii.

August 19:  halfway celebration.  This IS a long haul.  And it calls for a ration of grog.  It's time to place our bets about our arrival date and time in Hawaii.  My guess is September 4 at 4:43pm.  Watch out!  I am uncannily lucky at guessing ETAs. 

I'm in touch with a friend on the Big Island who will try to line a few days moorage up for us.  We'll want a few days for laundry, workin' on the boat, provisioning...  I don't know if we will get to other islands or not but i would like to.  Especially as a way to ease a new crew in to getting to know Akimbo and me before launching off across the ocean.  Shall see – maybe you get the idea that i'm just makin' this stuff up as i go.  True.  I can only plan so far ahead.      

Some big fish bit our hook today but spit it out.  Still seein' birds even way out here.  Akimbo's bow charges on and squadrons of flying fish take flight away.  Have seen millions of them by now.  A brief visit from a few porpoise, sunset before last.  “Slip-slidin' away.”

Well...this isn't as smooth as i make it sound, actually.  Several nights the wind has gone light and the waves have remained - adds up to the sails (boat and crew too) taking a beating for only slow progress.  This can tend to fray our patiences.  It's never more apparent that a good sense of humor is essential.  At least we haven't had to add much engine time to the trip since the first week.  While Akimbo is not “racing” fast, she’s not slow and sails well.    

Yesterday, my error, i let slip a spinnaker halyard.  Damn!  Disappointed with myself.  So today we prepare to climb the mast and string a new one...when wind and seas allow. We can restring the spinnaker halyard out here because it can be strung on the outside of the mast.  Can't do it with the jib halyard because it runs inside the mast and a weight on a string dropped inside while the mast waves this way and that could wrap around all kinds of things in there and cause chafe and damage down the line.  For the jib halyard, a quiet day at a dock is necessary.  Otherwise, one piece of maintenance a day (unless something demands immediate repair) takes pretty good care of Akimbo. 

Okay, we have a starboard spinnaker halyard again.  Tizz sent aloft.  No injuries.  Thank you. 

We've had three strikes on our fishing line now that almost immediately spit the hook out?  These must be the smart fish.  Not the ones we're trying to weed out (for the sake of the species).  

Clouds have mostly thinned out. Blue skies.  19 knot winds have veered back to the SE.  Course is 264 magnetic and speed is 7.6 knots under genoa alone.  Where are we?  2 degrees 57 minutes north and 119 degrees 49' west.  156nm made.  When we get to 4 north and 130 west, we plan to start angling northwest.  Lovely moon and stars last night.  

It's too easy to get so caught up in responsibilities that i forget to enjoy this ride.  It helps to see "the list" and repairs as simply a little more entertainment than i planned on.  To see them as part of the show.  And it helps to have good crew, with good senses of humor, good attitudes, agile awareness...  These guys are great!  Had our half-way debrief yesterday afternoon.  Everyone reports well of themselves and this experience so far.  Good. 

Lost a lure yesterday.  Must've been a big fish, to break a 50# test.  Full moon on the water was mesmerizing last night.  Gotta do some laundry (in a bucket of soapy water on the swimstep) and take a shower.  Noon position: 3 degrees 28 minutes north and 123 degrees 4 minutes west.  197 nm made.

Chaos won the day yesterday.  Remember the starboard spinnaker halyard we just restrung?  Complete with a trip up the mast.  Well...  At the top of the mast the spinnaker halyard blocks are each shackled to their own bail (this is a u-shaped bolt thru the top plate of the mast).  While reaching nicely with the drifter in moderate wind, we heard something pop.  At first it sounded like the hull had struck a small log?  I was down here at the computer (sending yesterday's noon report, i think) and went up on deck to find the drifter trailing along Akimbo's starboard side in the water.  Once we wrestled the drifter and all its rigging back aboard, and spread what we could of the drifter out to start drying, i inspected it's halyard block.  Which looks good.  Greg used his super zoom on his camera to look at the top of the mast.  It appears the bail broke. 

This shakes me more than a little.  Especially after having been suspended by that halyard while working at the masthead in both Aruba and Cartagena.  Note to self:  use only halyards that run over a sheave that is internal to the mast.  The other pause it gives me is to wonder what other surprise is about to let go.  Leaves me feeling quite vulnerable.  Okay, this could all "go to hell in a handbasket" in an instant...but then so can anything else.   Like drivin' down a freeway late at night, or...  I keep telling myself i replaced all the standing rigging in 2009.  But the running rigging?  Hopefully i notice weak pieces before traumas like yesterday's.  But i haven't (and can't) notice them all.  Like the watermaker pre-filter housing cracking back in Grenada, like the seals on the backstay hydraulic rams failing, etc...  Akimbo is not a new boat.  Still, yesterday's gear failure is disappointing and truly worrisome.  Chaos won.  We are "down" another halyard until we get to Hawaii. 

The good news is that the drifter is undamaged.  And the genoa has been the perfect sail for the conditions we've been in and the heading we want.  Last night's full moon sail was nothing short of lovely.  Steady and reasonably fast.  Also, as we make our way north we expect to go onto and stay on starboard tack.  Whereupon the port spinnaker halyard will take care of the sail combinations we want.  There is a boatyard at the marina we are aiming for in Hawaii - hopefully they'll have what i need to replace the spinnaker halyard bails. 

Sheesh!  We've been on port tack so long, heeling, that the bottom growth on the starboard side is well above the water line now.  Not very pretty, but i hope to scrub the bottom when we get there.  Meantime my appreciation of the crew grows.   Let us hope for no more surprises.

Noon 8/22.  Uneventful, report, this one.  Whew!  Distance made:  179nm.  Very steady conditions.  South wind, 15 to 20.  Builds during the day and then moderates after dusk.  So far so good.  Heard a little squeak from the rudder post.  Keepin' an eye on that too.  Looks fine. 

Blue sky with trains of little puffy clouds here and there.  This morning at dawn, the sun rising behind me lit the flying fish ahead brightly., flashes of light against the background of a dark blue sea.

8/23  Another successfully uneventful day and night to report.  Thank you.

We started some northing this morning.  And are trying the drifter on the port spin halyard even tho we are on port tack.  There does not appear to be any chafe of that halyard on the headstay.  Later we will drop the drifter to look at the halyard up close and then rehoist.  Here's hoping the bail holds up. 

We've been south long enuf, and for good reason - favorable current, tradewinds and well away from storm tracks.  Now we hurdle an adverse current and flukey winds to get to ten degrees north with favorables again...but storm tracks too.  Shall keep a weather eye out. 

Bud, thank you for the copying and pasting the weather reports.  They put the grib files i get into context.

The fish out here seem to be either too big or too smart for us.  We've had a dozen strikes that get off the hook quickly.  Hmmm.  Tizz and i were at the bow this morning, changing sail, and watched a dorado chasing a flying fish.  Amazing to watch.   We tossed out another "note in a bottle" today.  

(next report)  At 4:30p the wind evaporated yesterday.  We motored until 9 and then re-hoisted the drifter.  Struggled thru the night to stay above "the sanity barrier."  And then some clouds overtook us this morning at about 6 and brought wind with them.  Reaching along nicely now, greedy for speed.  Looks like the weather trend here will involve more local shifts.  Would be nice to get showered upon - went around with a bucket and chamois yesterday to wipe salt off.

Tizz has lots of entertainment on his computer.  Lately he hooks it into the stereo, sets it on the companionway hatch slide and, sitting in the cockpit, we watch a show shortly after sunset.  "Newsroom."  Fun and somewhat important drama... entertaining the way it damns news as entertainment. 

(next report) Got fish?  As a matter of fact, we do.  An abundance, thank you very much.  Say 20# chilled plus some in our bellies.  We reeled in two dorado yesterday, 42" each.  No need to fish for a while now. 

About sunset we took the drifter down and found serious chafe on its halyard.  Glad to intercept it instead of it intercept us.  Tho halyard chafe is a known part of offshore passages, seems to me we're dealing with too much of it.  Anyway, we strung a new halyard in its place, as there was no more room to shorten the existing one.

This morning our instruments tell us that we have entered the adverse Eq counter current.  We're trying to crab across it.  Winds have held, so we're reaching well under genoa alone, until a short while ago - switched back to the drifter.   

Also this morning we were visited by lots and lots of porpoise for over an hour.  A welcome occasion.  These were mostly a smaller variety, somewhat mottled backs and some with bright white tips to their noses. 

Along comes our first real squall of this leg...reminding me to not underestimate them.  Wind got into the upper 20s, had the genoa out, and after laying on our ear for a while waiting for the wind to abate...gave up and rolled half of it up. 

Adjusted our clocks to the local time zone, so this noon to noon is a 25 hour day and only 150 miles made.  When we get to being on starboard tack, we'll know we're clear of the counter current and on our pace again to Hawaii. 

Spent the afternoon under genoa alone.  And the night, during which the wind moderated.  Did everything we could to stay above the "sanity barrier" and not kick on the engine.  Winds and seas cooperated.  This morning, rolled up half the genoa as a storm cell brushed past but the wind didn't build much.  After that the wind hauled forward of the beam and is quite light.  Have the full main and genoa up trying to eek out speed.   106nm made.

This environ has turned into our "normal."  In a way it feels like we will never get there, or that exactly here really is our destination.  Feels like the boundaries between us and our surroundings get thinner as we go. 

After a lonngg wet night...
About 4pm yesterday some big ugly clouds came by.  They took away the wind and brought rain.  So we motored thru rain until about 7 this morning.  The rain left and a little wind started.  That's when we started on starboard tack.  At first with triple reefed main and reefed genoa - dark uglies still close by.  Somewhere between 8 and 9 we rolled up the genny and hoisted the drifter.  And THAT is what we've been sailing on ever since.  The course from here to Hawaii is app'x. 285 mag, and the distance is about a thousand miles.  The wind is a little too light - 7.5 true as i write but gets up to 12 at times.   We're tired of the engine and keep making better speed than the engine can give - which is slower now that there's growth on Akimbo's bottom.  At economy cruise (2000 rpm), we only make 4 knots. 

BUT...before we motored, after we rolled up the genoa, (left the main up, and two crew aboard), Rima and i took a quick skinny dip over the side.  Picked up the swim ladder aft and climbed back aboard.  Ahh!  Baked a couple more loaves, #5 & 6 this leg.  The Cuban bread recipe with walnuts added.  Yum! 

Akimbo the “bearded lady.”  We've been motoring now for 15 hours (at least last night it wasn't in the rain).  To make this ugly fact worse...our speed (or lack thereof) is 3.4 knots.  To burn fuel for such a poor return, and to keep doing so, feels like the opposite of pro-active.  So at 8:30 this morning we shut down and drifted.  The air compressor proves key again.  Rima scrapes around the waterline while i dive on the boat and scrape the rest.  The growth was not barnacles, but worm type things with little clam type shells at their tips.  A LOT of it, especially aft of the keel.  Greg ran support for us from the deck.  I learned that the lines i usually have taut around the waterline...their aft ends should be left untied in open seas like this.  That way when the boat rolls while you hold onto the line, the boat doesn't jerk you around.  The boat squirts its way forward as it rolls.  It was challenging and at times downright bruising.  When we got done...same rpm yielded 4.6 knots.  We spent 45 minutes or so at it and it will save us more than that much time between here and Hawaii.  I'm glad we did it. 

Afterwards we had to jump in again, just to admire the crystal clear and endless view of the Pacific’s depths.  Gorgeous!  Absolutely stunning.  Wow! 

Now, send us some wind.  Please!  The pilot chart says to expect 0% calms here.  But define calm.  The swells are running from two different directions and are NOT small.  Quite uncomfortable.  With these and only 7 knots of wind, i define calm as any conditions we cannot sail with.   Only 98nm made.   Wish us better luck, and we will you. 

It took a total of 22 hours engine time to reach the wind.  Thank heavens for the "iron genny."  Ever since, we've been close reaching under the single reefed main and genoa.  Over 7 knots the whole time, over 8 since dawn, and on course.  Whew! 

Gorgeous night.  Surprised to cross paths with a 167' Chinese fishing vessel at 11pm.  Due to a language barrier, we could only say hi back and forth a few times. 

Lots of squalls passed over us last night.  On a beam reach or so, the genoa felt just manageable to me.  But only just.  The crew felt nervous with it.  So we rolled half of it up - good to take care of the crew.  Still had a raucous night. The grib files tell me to expect more of the same and it seems the gribs usually understate the winds.

9/1  Maybe these nights alternate, one dark, stormy, wet and the next gorgeous.  We enjoyed the latter last night, altho it was rolly (almost rail down at times).  Moving around the boat requires attending to handholds and intention. Without warning the roll can pitch a person across the boat.  Whereupon the next question, and quick, is "how will one stop one's flight?"  With a lucky grab, or bracing against the impact, or with one's face? 

Laid down in the cockpit for a little while and studied the stars thru binoculars.  The Milky Way absorbing more attention than i can give. 

Today dawns sunny.  Trade winds continue on our beam, exactly strong enuf to keep up with most of the seas.  Every once in a while, a big one might roll by and shake the rig.  As i lay in my berth i could feel the tug of the sail, the rhythm of the swell.  Better is when there's more wind than sea and Akimbo rides a steady glide.  Say over 7 knots.  Starting to feel like we might actually get there - so it's time to be alert, like climbers on their descent. 

Will our "sea legs" work on shore? 
We hope to sail by and witness the part of Hawaii's coast where lava flows into the sea.  That takes us 50 nm out of our way, but the sight of it might be worth it.  I haven't allowed for much extra-curriculum on this leg, wish we could have stopped at Cocos as planned, but at that point the decision to go on was the right one. 

Given our averages from this leg, the last leg should be 18 days.  Shall see.  There have been times when i have been weary of this trip.   At the moment tho, i'm excited by the prospect of finishing what i began.  Maybe that will fuel me to Seattle. I imagine the last leg, without a rendezvous deadline to make, will feel quite different from the rest. 

Noon position:  17 degrees 39.6 north, 150 degrees 15.8 west
Distance made:  163          Av'g. speed:  6.5 knots
Course:  285 mag          Speed:  6.6          Winds:  NE @ 18

Good luck to us all.

It may be a "rule" that the closer we get to an island the more it recedes.  We've slowed down.  The waves were slamming what little wind there was out of the genoa.  We even motored briefly.  This morning we tried to hoist a spinnaker but it's "sock" wouldn't pull off/up.  Earlier we had botched a drifter hoist and put a small tear in it.  So next we patched up the drifter.  It now carries us nicely in light wind and on course. 

Hoping to sight the island this afternoon (3rd), sail by where the lava flows into the water around dawn (4th), and next day by noon make it to a harbor where we have a slip reserved (thanks to our friend who lives on the island).  So...looks like Bud may be the winner of the ETA competition. 

As if we knew what we were doing...caught first sight of a light on Hawaii at almost 1a.m.   We were about 9 miles off the coast at dawn.  Now taking ALL of a day and night to sail around the “BIG Island” – appropriately named.  Glad to be here.  If you can plot our position and course, you’ll imagine us coasting down the SE coast, almost there.


9/5 tied up in Honokohau Harbor at 0930.   Thank you for following us.  Thank you crew.  Thank you Akimbo.  Thank you ocean and winds and weather.