Friday, July 31, 2015

Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest - July 2 to July 25

Our departure from Hawaii was delayed twice due to very light wind but we were finally underway on July 2. The passage was better than anticipated in many ways, despite the lack of trades initially, with gentle rolling seas during the first two weeks and many days of sunshine spent sitting on the deck, and with the good fortune of several interesting wildlife sightings. While we had a couple of howling, gusty nights, there were no gales or fogs to wade through or unexpected bumps in the night. Plus, it didn't take a month as it seemed it might way back during the slow second week. Highlights from our daily log follow.
Gregg and Karsten setting up the spinnaker early in the trip
July 2, Day 1 – Leaving the dock in Nawiliwili Harbor on the south side of Kauai, a wind suddenly picks up. Still within the harbor breakwater we stow fenders, raise the sails and with a steady 15 kt wind we're on our way by 0945. The wind holds all morning enabling a fast start of 6+ kt sailing, weakening in the afternoon and with a calm sea. By 2000 we're traveling just below 2 kts so we start the engine. First evening out a huge, orange moon rises to light up the water! We motor 4 hours before the wind picks up again and we're able to sail. The first night watch seems long to me; very sleepy.
Sunset over calm waters
July 3 – Good wind all day and traveling well at 5 to 6 kts most of the day and all the following night. Karsten prepares a tasty soup made with leeks, meat, cream and a little white wine which he brought along. Nice!

July 4 – So far, the seas have been calm enough for good sleep though it is quite hot inside the boat...and outside! Even at night the breezes are still warm. Wondering how long this will last. We hear daily from HaiYun, a sailboat that is ten days ahead of us on their way to Sitka. They report being in fifty shades of grey, maybe more! The water and sky are still brilliant blue here. We celebrated the 4th of July with a picnic style dinner in the cockpit of hot dogs, potato salad and baked beans but it's not quite the same without fireworks. We ran the engine for three hours this evening to give True North a chance to top off her batteries and run the watermaker. Otherwise, the light winds are at least strong enough to keep us moving north!

Gentle sailing in light winds
July 5 – Light, variable wind all day from 5 to 12 kts, except for a brief 10 minute passage beneath dark clouds in the evening where we find 16 kts. Fortunately, we had taken down the spinnaker. We had it up most of the afternoon and were enjoying a breezy, carefree early evening sail at 4.5 kts. It was tempting to leave the spinnaker in place for the night rather than disrupt the ease of the situation but conventional wisdom is to take it down overnight to avoid likely hassles in the dark with a huge, unruly sail if the wind picks up. We motor for an hour, then enjoy good sailing the rest of the night on a close reach at 4 to 5 kts. Still great sleeping conditions with hardly any rockin' and rollin'!

July 6 – First words of the morning are from Karsten: I have a fish! We rush to the deck to assist. It's a dorado, about 10 pounds, and this time we keep it. Karsten already has a fine meal in mind for lunch: fish, zucchini, onions and pasta. We think about taking a swim while stopped in these calm waters but now that we've put the bloody fish parts back it is less inviting. Something big might be down there looking for dinner...I cannot speak for the others but that was my thought. A 13 kt wind at 60ยบ starboard keeps us sailing smoothly at 5 to 6 kts. There have been a few flotsam sightings to date: two large styrofoam chunks plus a two inch piece of blue hard plastic in the belly of our fish. We have savory dorado fillets for dinner. Plastic aside, dorado is one of the tastiest kinds of fish, right along with salmon.
Karsten with dorado
The messy part...
... and the delicious part
July 7 – We sail all night with a freshening wind of 16 to 20 kts. It's getting cool enough to wear pants on night watch yet bare feet are still okay. The morning wind is stable at 13-16 kts and we cruise along between 5-6.5 kts, close hauled, calm sea, under sun and clear sky. Absolutely perfect sailing!
Transferring fuel in the calm seas
July 8, day 7 – One whole week has passed already. (It seemed endlessly slow at day 3!) This day has mostly light wind, then when the breeze picks up it's right on our nose. We motor through some headwind, then sail and tack a few times to avoid using too much fuel too early. The ocean is glassy smooth with long, gentle 2-3' rollers. Meanwhile, we're discovering how much Karsten enjoys cooking as he again does the galley magic, transforming the last portion of the dorado into one course of dorado tacos, California style with lettuce and bits of carrot, and a second course with pasta, white wine, celery, onions, papaya and jalapeno. Great way to end the first week! We are sailing so slowly, though. It is a fabulous night for star gazing. As we take inventory of known constellations, stars and planets, three new stars (to me) become readily apparent: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, brightly forming the summer triangle just outside the Milky Way with Delphinus faintly visible nearby.
Motoring in really calm seas and winds
July 9 – Every day we mark our noon position on the paper chart of the Pacific. It's exciting to see our progress, even if in small increments. However, today reality hit when measuring the distance covered against that still to travel. Good gosh! It really may take a whole month to get back!

July 10 – We motor most of the day with little wind, staying west of our north heading. Commander's Weather sends a message advising us to get to 39°N before heading east to avoid more light air. At sunset we get an unexpected visit from a pod of spinner dolphins. They are very small in size and are exhibiting highly acrobatic behavior we haven't seen before. They jump high into the air with a vertical twirl like a ballerina. During the night we come across our first other vessel about 11 nm astern. AIS indicates it will come no closer.
"Red sky at night, sailor's delight!"
July 11 – Today we celebrate our 23rd anniversary! We have saved the only bottle of wine we brought for the occasion. To our surprise and delight, Karsten presents us with a gift of one of his music CDs, signed. It is a beautiful recording of the violin, which he plays, and a piano, and is the perfect accompaniment for this happy hour. Out on the water we see new life: sail jellies! They are all over the water! They are difficult to photograph so here is a description: they have a three inch clear, flat round base with a vertical fan shaped bluish sail. Gregg tries to catch one with his hands for a closer look but cannot capture it. 
Anniversary XXIII
July 12 – This is the day we are finally able to angle NE towards our goal, the strait of Juan de Fuca. We are closer to 38° but within striking distance of the waypoint at 39° so are cutting the corner. We are still way the heck out here. Great sailing all day with an 11 to 17 kt wind. Gregg prepares his galley specialty this evening: Cincinnati Chili. It's a hit! We have been sailing wing on wing with wind directly astern and moving swiftly through the water at 5-6 kts. Night watch brings our first drizzle, some chill, plus a change in wind direction making a port tack necessary but we maintain our speed throughout the night. Now we're really moving!

July 13 – What happened? Yesterday ended with blue sky and water but today's landscape is muted grey every which way we look. It's still warm, thankfully.
Night watch selfie
July 14 – Making good time today sailing downwind wing on wing with 12 to 16 kts, 3' seas going our way...until the late afternoon when we slow down considerably to a lazy 3.7 kts with dying wind and sloppy sea. We initially change to a port tack for night, then back again to wing on wing at midnight.

July 15 – This morning's watch from the deck is mesmerizing, surrounded by more fascinating sail jellies. Thousands! They appear to be sailing south as we sail north but really, we are sailing past their tiny sails even faster than they are sailing. Nice to know we're not the slowest sailors on the ocean. Actually, we sail all afternoon at about 6 kts! Another bonus: a return of full sunshine and the deep blue sea. Back to our adopted tropical roots!
A few of millions of sail jellies
July 17 – Today's big excitement: a Minke whale visits us in the afternoon, twice! It completely surprises us when it first surfaces close to the boat's port side to show it's full length, about ¾ the length of True North, but only fleetingly before quickly disappearing ahead of our bow. It wasn't more than 50 yards away and at one point as close as 20! An hour later, the exact same thing happens, probably the same curious whale. Fortunately, Minkes are very intelligent so, whew! It doesn't attempt to cuddle up with True North

July 18 – More wildlife today! A large group of northern white whale dolphins catches up with us and swims aside for a few minutes, barely surfacing and leaving a trail of bubbling water behind. They are distinctive because they have no dorsal fin.
Gregg's daily shower with the Sun Shower
July 19 – Looks like we've put the high pressure ridge behind us. We are flying! Through the night and most of today we've been running at 6 to 7 kts. It is a cool, sometimes drizzly, grey day. Are we having second thoughts about having left the clear warm waters of sunny, dry Mexico? Yes! Gorgeous, green Hawaii? Yes! Hopefully, the PNW will show it's better side when we return so we can simply remain nostalgic about our time in the above named warmer climes, while happily reconnecting with the the local beauty and culture again. Among cruisers the dilemma of there vs here frequently leads to a discussion of two boats!
Anne prepares Gregg's favorite dinner
July 20 – What a wild, windy night we had. Early on we took down the main entirely, then reefed the jib as the wind began rising from the 20s to the howling high 30s in a bumpy sea. We were only making 2.5 to 3.5 SOG using so little sail, which means we kind of wasted the opportunity for a wild but faster 7 kt night – a racer's dream, but racers we aren't! All night long, the wind was up and down, changing directions, confusing Heidi (hydrovane) and throwing us off course a few times.Thinking of this much wind for the next three days is wearisome. (Weren't we begging for more wind about a week ago?) Fortunately, as dawn comes along, so does a decrease in the wind, back to the upper teens and low 20s. Much better! The day brings three dolphin sightings, each swimming right along with us. This night is pitch black, just as the last two have been. No moonlight, no stars, just clouds. Kind of spooky, even with radar and AIS.
Reefing in wet weather
July 21 – Reaching a significant milestone, 48°North!
Dinners are a big source of entertainment
July 22 – Mid-afternoon we lose our wind, then it is directly from the east at 20 kts! For hours, the wind howls as we motor east, making just 3.5 kts through most of the night. By early morning it has at last decreased to 7 kts on the nose so we are moving along more quickly.

July 23 – Morning watch begins with a fish on the line. Karsten tries to pull it in but it's too hard to do alone and it takes two of us to bring in the line, suddenly lighter. Uh, oh...did anyone mention slowing down the boat first? We lost the fish but kept the gear! We fly along at 6 kts which continues for most of the day.
Week three and still smiling!
July 24 – We have a fish! It is an albacore tuna so we keep it, about 8 pounds and just right for a couple of meals for three. Karsten prepares fillets with carrots, the only fresh vegetable we still have, plus rice. Dee-licious! At 1800, land ho! A distant Vancouver Island appears. Now it's getting exciting!

Karsten with the albacore

Albacore carpaccio
July 25 – 0245, passing Cape Flattery! Today we are primed for reaching land. We spend most of the day in the cockpit soaking in scenery of land! It is very chilly for July. We pass through Cattle Pass at the south end of San Juan Island at 1725 against a mild current and arrive in Friday Harbor at 1910 to be assigned the last available space on a dock inside the inner breakwater. The docks are full of family activity and though we think it is cold outside, most everyone else is in shorts enjoying the summer evening. It is almost two years to the day since we left Friday Harbor for Mexico on July 31, 2013. Hot showers are in order, then a cold beverage at the Cask and Schooner for bragging rights where an indulgent bartender lends us an ear with a hearty welcome home. We will sail on to Anacortes in a day or two but for now, it's time to decompress in a favorite port.
Land Ho!
True North and crew in Friday Harbor
It has been a fantastic adventure to sail in waters new to us, first port-hopping south along the California coast, hooking up with the very fun Baja Ha-Ha to Mexico and cruising the warm waters of the Mexican coastal mainland, the Sea of Cortez, and finally, navigating our way safely across the Pacific to tropical Hawaii and back to the Pacific Northwest. To our family and friends, a hearty thank you for taking an active interest in our adventure these past two years! Your support certainly added to the fun.
Tracking our route in Bend, Oregon


  1. You did it!! Great passage guys! Congrats...
    Jake & Danielle
    S/V 'Ohana

  2. was fun, and beautiful! Congrats are in order for you, also. It's no small feat to have gotten yourselves as far south as 'Ohana is now!

  3. Better late than never, congratulations on your accomplishment of crossing the Pacific! Good for you guys. I love reading about your travels, lots of marine life. We are home in So. Cal., happily ensconced in our home and working on Finisterra to sell her in the near future.