Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cabo San Lucas to Hawaii, May 2015

Cabo San Lucas:   One Long Week 4/24 – 5/3

Cabo marina/zoo - world's largest (sloop-rigged) sailboat in center
Best laid plans waylay-ed! Our planned departure from Cabo was to be May 1, shortly after picking up our friend Doug, now also crew, on April 29. Our "weather router", Commander's Weather, had another recommendation: wait for May 4. The wind would be light for several days and from the NNW – we could sail close-hauled and wouldn't motor the first 600 miles consuming so much fuel at the start. We busied ourselves with the final provisioning of fresh food, mixed in with a few remaining boat chores, and made the most of a particular taco eatery plus finding a variety of other good choices. Why mess up the galley now? Some of the docks in Cabo were still completely pulled apart from last fall's Hurricane Odile. True North was in slip F-25, not far from the relentlessly blaring bad music surrounding the marina each night and until 3 AM! NO ESCAPE.
The quintessential Cabo dance club - El Squid Roe
Well, we did leave for a couple of fun daytime excursions. We took a panga out to the beach along the cabo. It is filled with boats anchored nearby and people playing on several beaches. The surf was too rough for making shore at the first landing so our skilled driver Jose found another beach landing. We spent a few hours sitting on the rocks alongside the beach with a cooler of cold beverages, swimming, sunning, people watching. Nice!
Cabo beach excursion
Another day we walked the beachfront out to a little cafe for lunch on the beach. Great change of scenery from being marina bound. Only one other cruiser on the dock, a sailboat about to bash back to San Francisco. Finally, Monday, May 4 arrived!

Cabo street vendor
First Week, Cabo to Hawaii May 4 – 10

Leaving Cabo - Anne and Doug with Lands End in background
We three were excited to be on our way! Left the marina at 0845 to find reasonably good wind 17-22 kts most of the first day, but from the NNW. The pattern would continue throughout much of the first week: bumpy, rolly seas of 4-6', with a high of 8', and a constant companion of cloud cover as far and wide as we could see. The wind fluctuated constantly with both direction and speed, seriously challenging our Hydrovane - “Heidi”. As the wind gradually moved N, we rigged the preventer for the main and added the reaching pole to keep our jib full and steady. Night watches came with cooler temperatures and no stars for most of the first week, just more clouds. Endless clouds! They concealed a brilliant full moon most of the time. Wasn't this passage supposed to be sun-filled? Five ships passed us, four at night and each clearly visible on AIS. The AIS alarm sounds when a vessel's CPA (closest point of approach) will be within 5 miles, good insurance during a possibly sleepy night watch. We keep a schedule of 4-hour watches around the clock. Besides watching for traffic, attentive eyes on changing wind and waves keeps us busy preventing luffing sails, banging sheets and errant lines. Add to that tending to Heidi to keep our COG on track.
Faithful Heidi the Hydrovane steering True North
Anne working on the main sail halyard
The lack of wildlife was noticeable after coming from the bountiful Sea of Cortez. Total sightings for the week: 5 birds (3 gulls, 2 swifts), 1 flying fish that made it topside (more later), and best of show was a lone turtle about 3' across which only our skipper was awake to see. Over the first three days, the wind jumped every which way between 12-22 kts on the bow, NNW-NNE for a mostly bumpy ride. The fifth day brought smoother seas and sunshine. We put the canvas back to enjoy the full sky under sail, and time together in the cockpit the way we had hoped it would be. Big smiles all around! With full sunlight the deep blue ocean glistens like a sea of star sapphires. As the wind very gradually increased briefly to 27 kts in the wee hours of the night, Gregg went out on the yawing deck, securely tethered, to add a second reef to the main. It don't gotta be fun to be fun! On day 7 we were flying the jib only with a steady 5.5-6 kts, wind abeam.

Flying fish museum
Towards the end of the first week, we three were finding our groove balancing watches, sleep, meals, free time and chores. Meals became more challenging to prepare between rolls and swells. Puttanesca! How about popcorn? Even with fiddles and gimbals, a pot of boiling water on our little stove is terrifying during a sudden jerk. We could ease the lurching by heaving to but with 2500 nm to cover, why delay. A celebratory dinner marked the end of our first week with one margarita each and a chicken dinner with vegetables, potatoes and specialty chocolate for dessert. Limes are now gone.

Jib-on-a-pole in cloudy weather
Second Week May 11 – 17

We left one week ago today. Happily, we check off the completion of a rockin', bumpy first week with great expectations of smoother days ahead. A big reward presents itself today: brilliant clear blue sky and sunshine with gentle swells and good wind on a beam reach. It is so clear we can see farther than imaginable. Later, night watch under an enormous, twinkling night sky. Gradually the sea of clouds takes over again the next night for pitch dark couple of nights.

Night watch, clouds and moon
May 15: Halfway! 133°50' at 1815. Celebrated by making an apple walnut cake and at the precise time of reaching the mark, we each had a special treat of a Pacifico with appetizers. More happiness: a pod of ~30 white sided Pacific dolphins swam along starboard this morning. Wildlife, at last!

Celebrating end of Week One
At times it is hard to grasp the enormity of the ocean. We sail along contentedly in our little floating home – except that we long for a walk around the block now and then! In the beginning, especially when we were being tossed around we were more likely to run through all the “what ifs” but not so much any more. We've settled in contentedly: sturdy boat, congenial crew, and favorable weather. The last is the biggie. We've been able to successfully download weather and grib files via the satellite phone and they concur with a report sent to us from Commander's Weather each week via the Delorme InReach. Plus, a few friends with watchful eyes also send us info. It's been a little surprising not to have been pushed along by trade winds coming from behind but at least we've had a consistent beam reach much of the way with a NNE wind. Sail trim is easy enough and we're moving along but it will be smoother when the ever elusive easterly arrives. The wind waves are gustier, lunging the crew at times into the nearest hard surface and each other.

Doug contemplating Cincinnati Chili
We had a rigging failure this morning, now resolved, thanks to a tiny piece of hardware found in our spare parts container, plus gorilla tape. It wasn't the exact piece we needed but served the purpose. The whisker pole had become unattached from the boom during the night, fortunately getting hung up snugly in the neatly coiled lines directly below and not hitting the deck! A tiny piece of the mounting had dislodged and was apparently flung to sea. We were initially quite bummed out with thoughts of sailing without the pole just as the winds would be veering east. Thankfully, ingenuity came to the rescue.

Pizza night
Marking the end of the second week on the water, we celebrated over dinner with fresh from the oven baking powder biscuits. A huge mess on the galley floor was avoided just in time as our skillet, brimming with chicken á la king, lunged to create a smaller mess á la stovetop. Lesson learned: engage the gimbals before that happens.

Third Week May 18-25

It's the beginning of the 3rd week! A new day dawns clear overhead with clouds ringing the waterline all around except from where the sun will soon be rising. We are at 139°20' as I begin morning watch, only 40' from the 140° W mark we've been waiting for because it is the approximate location where the downwinder easterlies should take over, pushing us gently to Hawaii's shores. It's been bumpy to date, no doubt about it and more so than we expected. A tanker passed by 4.5 nm to starboard, first ship in 10 days.
One of may fabulous sunsets
There was a sudden wind change during night to NW. Later, a short period of easterlies. Heidi kept us exactly on course. Next morning... are those threatening ENE clouds coming our way? They didn't. A smooth day allowed the galley bakery to open: hot muffins coming up!
Muffin factory
May 20, Day 16: Okay, here's the bare truth for today: no happy passage stories of twinkling stars, etc. We need sleep! (Note: except Doug who sleeps through anything.) The sea these last 48 hours has been very lumpy and larger. Nothing we can't handle but certainly not the idyllic Mexico-Hawaii smooth run we expected by now. We've been through two short blows under ominous skies since yesterday, mostly wind and light showers. Thankfully, no lightning. It is somewhat exhilarating if you take away the worry factor but on a dark night it is difficult to see and what if...? This morning, Commander's Weather (CW) sent a message to go south to avoid squalls and a cold front. Would have appreciated an earlier message, but no harm done. Maybe a gust or two of 38 kt winds at night isn't worth notification! Looks like we're heading directly into another one. To the oven with the electronics just in case there's lightning. We changed our course SSW to avoid that cold front and its thunderstorms. The day redeemed itself by noon so that we trimmed the sails for wing on wing, a NE wind directly behind for much smoother sailing through the rest of the day and into the next.

True North sailing wing on wing
The next night and all the following day were smooth and glorious, a dreamy kind of passage that encourages lounging around the cockpit. Mid afternoon the wind changed necessitating a port tack – the first tack change since leaving Cabo. A very light 4-10 kt wind the following day with boat speed dwindling below 3 kts made the skipper and crew restless. It's time to fly the spinnaker or we will never reach Hawaii.
Flying the spinnaker in very light winds
May 22: A new message from CW indicates the cold front north of us is weakening so we are returning to the shorter, more northerly route between Oahu and Molokai. Due to the change, all previous bets among us for ETA with a prized Mai-Tai for the winner are now off. Meanwhile, an unfamiliar sudden “boat” noise caught our attention: it's our fishing reel! We finally caught a fish! A big, beautiful dorado was fighting to get away but we won and brought it aboard. Such colors! After a brief photo shoot we let the beauty go. None of us wanted to do the deed and besides, fifteen pounds is a lot of fish for three. We hove to while bringing in our fish and found it the perfect opportunity for a refreshing, brief swim in the Pacific right here: 20º31.2', 148º30.4'!

Anne with her dorado - at last!

Swimming while hove-to

Taking advantage of calm seas to top up diesel tanks
May 23: What a night and day! We lost our wind and what little we had was on our bow. We motored all night long rather than wallow in the dark. The morning wind was still very light. So disappointing! Where are the following trades? The sea was flat! Gregg made a delicious fritatta for breakfast, served with freshly baked bread, consolation of sorts. By noon we were eager for a change so we put up the sails and turned north for a little sailing with 10-12 kts, then tacked to bring us back towards our course, a most pleasant diversion for the early afternoon. Once back on course we motored until the late afternoon when huge clouds overhead brought a wild NW wind which eventually settled into the high teens for the rest of the night and next morning. It was a lumpy night at sea but we were at least making progress under sail towards the mark which was far preferable to motoring.

From the True North bakery!
May 24: An enjoyable day sailing with large, gentle swells and sun marked the end of the third week. Doug baked brownies and Gregg made dinner: curried chicken with rice. Super results, guys! The night was very calm with a bright orange quarter moon leaving a wide well-lit path before us as we continued just north of it and westward. Night visibility was superb under the clear sky, making for an enjoyable night watch with the companionship of familiar constellations. Gregg took a sighting on Polaris with the sextant during his watch and went through the calculations to get our latitude. Accuracy to 6 minutes, and his next sight was down to only 2 1/2 minutes error!

Doug serving out the terrific Ghiradeli brownies
May 26: Land ho! We're closing the gap! This morning's first light provided a glimpse of Maui to our south, then Molokai. We can see the faintest outline of Oahu in the distance off our port bow. We're already discussing first beverage and meal possibilities. For now, a leisurely evening to celebrate our final night on the water before making landfall tomorrow morning. Yay!

May 27: We were abeam of Diamond Head at 0900, 23 days after leaving Cabo. We took our time in the harbor, enjoying another hour or so sailing leisurely while soaking up splendid views from the water of Waikiki and Diamond Head, reflecting on the past few weeks, grateful for a safe, fabulous passage. John and Ivy from the Hawaii YC were on the dock to greet us and take our lines. Mahalo! Next stop, an icy cold beverage at the YC. All hands are now on land and ready to explore Oahu!

Diamond Head - we're getting close!

True North, Doug, Anne, and Gregg at Hawaii Yacht Club


  1. Nice work guys. Sounds like a great adventure. I hope pineapple is in season for you! Will you get to explore some volcanoes down there?

    1. Thanks, it was indeed an adventure. Thankfully very manageable weather and seas, and we did a LOT of reading!

  2. Congratulations on a safe passage. Will keep up with the next leg.

  3. From hola to aloha! So happy to see you had a safe and wonderful journey!

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