Sunday, August 14, 2011


We're home.  More than a year has passed.  Not much has changed - but how wonderful to see familiar faces and places!  I expected we would feel strong emotions as we stepped on the dock at Comox, but curiously, we both felt neutral.  Happy to be back - yes.  Sorry to be back - yes.  I think it will take a while for us to sort it all out.  But one thing we know - the last year has been the greatest adventure of our lives.

I still have a couple of blog entries I will post - one on our time in Port Angeles and another on our trip home through the San Juans - but right now I am caught up in all the whirl of sorting out Ka'sala, re-establishing ourselves in our home, and getting ready to go back to work.  I also intend on taking a stab at answering our initial question.  Did we find the meaning of life?  Stay tuned.

Ka'sala on the dock in the Comox Bay Marina
Thank you, Brad!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Honolulu to Port Angeles July 14 to 24: Part 2: Fast Passage

Once we transited the Pacific High, our passage became very different. Gone were the endless blue skies and sapphire blue waters. The sea and air temperature dropped. The skies became overcast and the wind and seas picked up speed and height. Now we were really going to sail the boat!

Strange skies over the Pacific High

From my journal on Day 15 (44.28N/154.58W, July 13/14):

"We’ve punched through the High! As I write this we are on a course of 62 degrees, with full sails wing on wing in 15 knots of wind and maintaining a speed of 6 knots. We are heading directly to the mouth of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and we have about 1200 miles to go. The motion is very different. We’d got used to a starboard tack and now Ka’sala is surfing along a 2 foot wind chop which causes us to sway side to side. I had to rearrange my galley lockers to accommodate the new motion and we’ve cross fed the water tanks for more even distribution of weight. The sea temperature is down to 15 degrees and the fog has rolled in. We used the radar last night – the first time this trip. Doug thinks it will take us 10 more days to complete the passage.

From deep storage, we’ve dragged out our sweaters, long underwear, toques and gloves. Although it’s 20 degrees today, it will be chilly on night watch. The days are lengthening and the light stays until 10pm and begins again at 5:30. We still have two time zones to get through before we’re home.

Our whole little So Long Hawaii fleet has turned east now. Yesterday Alabar and Kialani rendezvoused and Joel passed over some chocolate chip cookies. I wonder if we did that if they would throw us a fish! It must be amazing to see another sailboat so close in such a vast expanse.”

Over the course of the next 24 hours we made almost 3 degrees west, covering 130 nautical miles. The barometer dropped from 1036 to 1029 as we left the centre of the Pacific High. From my journal on Day 16 (44.43N/151.54W):

“What a difference a day makes! Looking at Doug’s chart we can clearly see we have turned almost 90 degrees out of the centre of the Pacific High. We continue to fly wing on wing toward J de F with the swell coming in from the west while we are heading ENE, trying to keep a course of 60 degrees. As a result, we are being tossed side to side in the waves and things below crash about and move around. I’ve got most things pinned down, but it’s impossible to get them all. We’ve stayed at 6 – 7 knots all night with the waves at 3 – 5 feet – maybe bigger. It’s hard to get used to these new circumstances after the last week of gorgeous weather and fabulous sailing. By tomorrow, or the next day, this will all seem normal. I can’t get over how environmentally adaptable human beings are.

Doug checked the weather faxes last night and it looks like we could pick up more wind as the high deflates. Two boats at the same latitude, but two days ahead of us, are reporting 25 – 30 knots and higher seas. We may not see these winds as the high deflates, but if we do, we want to be ready for them. This morning we talked about various sail configurations and what we need to do if we encounter heavy weather. We may have to move out of our wing on wing configuration into a broad reach in order to maintain our heading. This might make us unfavourable to the waves. There are gale force winds reported to the NE of us – we’ll unlikely see them, but we could get the swell.

High Seas in the Pacific

According to the GPS, we have about 1100 more miles to go. If we keep cracking off 130 mile days we will be at Neah Bay in 8 days. I know the journey is more important than the destination, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, but…..oh my! I’ll be glad when it’s over. The constant stress and anxiety really saps my energy. For some reason, I feel more anxious on this passage than the one to Hawaii and I can’t figure out why – perhaps the worries of home are closer? Perhaps a third person aboard? Perhaps the change in the weather? I just need to get control of myself and my fears. Doug and Tony are incredibly supportive and understanding.

It wasn’t foggy this morning when I came on watch and I could see the full moon clearly.

Calm after the storm

As the light increased, the radiation fog did too, but it’s brighter than yesterday. It was 19 degrees in the cabin this morning – cold! Doug taped one of his T shirts across the companionway to cut down the draft as the wind was coming from the stern. I was wearing long underwear, full wet weather gear and a toque, as well as a blanket wrapped around me. It is very damp and humid, so it’s not only to the motion of the boat to adapt to, but the change in climate as well. The water is only 13 degrees today! I imagine we will be turning on the diesel heater soon.”

Do you recognize the shirt, Phil?

From my journal on Day 17 (46.29N/148.56W) after making 138 miles in the previous 24 hours:

“We’re roaring along this morning. The waves are 3+ meters high and rolling in from the NW. The wind is at 25 knots from the west. We’re trying to keep a broad reach, heading 70 degrees true, but we get tossed on our starboard beam by the crashing waves, which are fairly close together. Every few minutes we get a higher set. The monitor is holding and keeping us within 20 degrees of our course. We’re heading straight home, trying to make a little northing as we go, as we expect the wind to veer more to the north the closer we get. If we can keep up these daily mileages, we will be home in 7or 8 days. That’s the good side – on the other side, we are hardly able to stand up and cooking is a real chore. Yesterday, I was expecting it to be rough, so I made a couple dinners in advance that I can heat up, as well as a loaf of bread. We’ll see how it goes. If all else fails I can warm up some tinned chili.

Captain Doug

It feels really cold – 18 degrees in the cabin and the sea is down to 11 degrees. Yikes! We’re spending more time below, just to stay warm. All our winter clothes and wet weather gear is out and on. Outside the gray seas have crested waves as far as the eye can see and, overhead, the dull sky is flat. Not much fog. We are under double reefed main and full headsail travelling over 7 knots. I’ve been able to hold my watches, nervous but determined. As I write this, Tony has come below to tell us the wind is now over 30 knots, and so he and Doug rolled in a big piece of the headsail. If the wind continues to rise we will move to the staysail, but we want to maintain our speed to keep Ka’sala steady in the heavy seas. Although I know the boat is sound, the circumstances seem very precarious to me. Precious Ka’sala!”

Gray seas

In the next twenty-four hours we covered 150 miles. We saw winds over 30 knots and Ka’sala did a fair amount of surfing off waves well over 14 feet in height. Doug and Tony configured the sails into double reefed main, staysail and a third of the yankee. Ka’sala remained stable and moved fast – we regularly saw over 8 knots on the speedometer. We had gone through a cold front and between the NW swells and the wind chop, the seas were confused. Down below it was bumpy and we had to brace and hold on. Food crates flew around the V berth and Tony took a tumble just brushing his teeth. During the day we took a few breaking waves over our foredeck and constant slapping on our portsides. The waves crested, broke and spumed. One wave hit us so hard, the sound of it interrupted us in the middle of a conversation down below. The three of us went quiet, listening to hear what might happen next. I stayed in the bunk for most of the day – warm and comfortable – my reward for all the cooking. The Monitor kept our course with only a little tweaking as Ka’sala rose, fell and skittered her way along. We talked about reverting to two hour watches, but it turned out not to be necessary as, by the morning, everything calmed down considerably and we found ourselves in 15 – 20 knots in quieter seas.

                                              Doug and Tony - relaxing after a hard night

Even though this 24 hour period was taxing, all three of us, were absolutely taken with the terrible beauty of the sea. We spent hours watching it writhe and twist wondering how something so angry could be the same as the benign being we had experienced just a few days before. Additionally, we knew that what we had gone through was only a tiny window into what the ocean could do when it really storms. At no time did we feel we had to fly our storm sail or deploy our drogue. Once again, we were incredibly pleased with Ka’sala’s performance. It seemed to me that Ka’sala’s cook was also improving, as I could not imagine going through conditions like that a year ago!

By Day 19 (46.55N/142.22W) we had travelled over 2000 nautical miles from Hawaii. We were still covering 130+ miles a day and the wind was holding at 15 – 20 knots. We continued to slowly work our way north in latitude, wanting to make 49 degrees before we turned completely East in case we met with more northerly winds closer to the coast. We were moving along under most of our sails, occasionally reefing the main, on a mostly port beam reach in 6-8 foot seas. Unfortunately we seemed to take the seas on the side which caused the boat to skitter, slow, then speed up. It was not a comfortable motion and meant it was impossible to stand without holding on to something.

From my journal that day: “The port tack makes working in the galley difficult as everything wants to fly across to the other side. My galley stores and equipment, which are stored on the port side, lean and rattle against the cupboard doors. The gimballed oven cants away from me and I have to reach over it to use it. Even preparing a cup of coffee is incredibly complicated and takes time as I wedge myself in, hold on, and try to pour, stir, etc. We soldier through, but we are getting tired with the constant unrelenting anaerobic exercise. It is extremely cold - the water now 10 degrees, continuous fog and drizzle. Everything outside is soaked and we go out only if we have to. I made a chocolate cake in an effort to raise spirits. You can imagine how it turned out in these conditions – kind of like a grade 7 volcano project - but with the icing we managed!

The AIS and radar are on constantly but so far we haven’t picked up another boat. We heard Sequoia tell the Pacific Seafarer’s Net that they had come upon Kialani in the fog yesterday. They were both surprised to see each other, as they hadn’t picked each other up on radar, and neither transmits AIS – yet another example of the necessity to keep watch.

Doug and Tony continue to be complimentary and accommodating about the food, but I’m getting pretty tired of eating out of cans. Oh well. With these stronger winds, our passage has picked up speed and we may make it to Port Angeles earlier than we thought. I just hope there won’t be more drama ahead. I find it hard not to be despondent and today all I want to do is stay in the bunk with a sleeping bag over my head. Instead, I’ve made another loaf of bread and tonight I will try to cook up something special. The care and feeding of the crew goes a long way to keep my mind off negative thoughts. I am happy to realize that Doug has found his element and is holding on to every minute, storing the experience in his memory banks, though I know even he wishes it were warmer. Each day he teases me by suggesting we turn south again – Mexico, Hawaii, the South Seas. But I am determined to return home and finish the business I started there.

Staying cozy in the bunk

From the “So Long Hawaii” net, Trial Run, Bianca, and Freedom are now heading east and making their way homeward to California. They are worried about potential gales off Cape Mendocino. The rest of us continue to work our way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Soon the passage will be over and we will remember it as a dream.”

On Day 20 (47.47N/139.04W) we finally relented and fired up the heater. It remained on until we reached land. The cold sea temperatures had caused a great deal of condensation aboard and everything felt clammy and damp – even the port lights and hatches were dripping water. However, it was possible to get too much of a good thing because, with the constant boat movement, we needed to keep the flow of diesel high to keep it lit. We ended up opening the companionway for ventilation and wearing T-shirts and shorts below. Our tans were our only reminders of the heat of Hawaii.

On Day 20 from my journal:

“We have begun to see signs of land. A flock of brown birds, a school of dolphins playing around us, and kelp! The weather continues overcast and cold. Last night we went through another cold front that had passed North East of the high. It gave us winds over 20 knots and veered back and forth from WNW to N. We had reefs in the main and yankee, but managed to maintain 6.5 to 7 knots all through the night, to make another 150 miles in a 24 hour period. Farther north a gale blows and the waves we are experiencing from that are 3 – 4 meters high. We are slowly clawing our way northward on a beam reach, which causes us to take the waves on the side and over the foredeck. Last night a wave, that obviously didn’t know where it was going, crashed into the cockpit and surprised Doug with a soaking. We’ve been going so fast we’re becoming speed junkies!

We’re thinking of Port Angeles now and looking forward to the stop. Proper showers, laundry, provisions, a good restaurant meal and a clean boat! Tony may leave us there (after celebrations, of course) but we’ve invited him to stay with us as long as he wants. We’ll miss him when he moves on to do all the other things he has planned for his summer. In talking to Alabar, Kialani and Quest on the radio, we have proposed getting together in Port Angeles to actually meet each other!

The fog persists and we are glued to the radar. We’re expecting another rough night, as it looks like another cold front is making its way toward us. As we get closer to the coast and the shipping lanes of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Columbia River we consider the potential fatality of a collision. We never forget we are such a tiny speck on this large ocean. Huge freighters and fishing boats will soon make their presence known and we will need to be even more vigilant.

Even though we have more than enough wind to sail, we have been running the motor every few days to charge the batteries and make hot water. The fridge is still taking up most of the power, but we are also using computers, lights and radar. It all takes its toll and without the daily intense sunshine we experienced the first two weeks of the trip, the solar panels just don’t crank out enough amps. Our wind generator has begun to make grinding sounds so we have disabled it. Perhaps having one of those trailing generators might be the answer in this situation.”

On Day 21 we were three weeks at sea at 48.16N and 135.37W. We had just made 141 miles. From my journal:

“Last night the winds and waves built again to over 30 knots in 12 – 14 foot seas. Pretty awesome! We tried to make the most of the wind to keep ahead of the waves, but we’ve been knocked about quite a bit. As I write we have only ½ our headsail up and still doing 6.5 knots, shimmying and shaking side to side as the seas follow us and push us toward the coast. I saw over 10 knots on the GPS in one surfing episode and I was amazed. Doug had to explain to me, yet again, that just because a boat was travelling over its hull speed didn’t mean it was about to break up at any moment. What was incredible to me was how smooth and quiet the ride became at these greater speeds. From down below you can hear the water rushing and bubbling by the hull and you just hold on.

View from the cockpit

Conditions were so difficult this morning that I was relieved of my watch – the first time on this entire trip. Tony and Doug took turns monitoring the boat all night with little sleep in between. Looking out the companionway to the seas behind the stern reminds me of the cover of the Adlard Cole book on heavy weather. Ka’sala rides through waves that tower all around. Everything is grey and great plumes of spray heave off the tops of the swells as we ride into the troughs and out again. The waves hit us with mighty slaps, careening us, shivering the timbers and rattling everything tucked away. All of us feel weary of the constant effort to stay upright.

A wave rides away from our bow

Although this cold front seems rougher than the last, I feel more psychologically prepared for this one. I guess because we are closer to home and it is warm and cozy below. I’m being spoiled, tucked up in the bunk under my sleeping bag, wedged in with cushions, reading an excellent book and trying to ignore what is happening around me. Doug and Tony are having a great time, enjoying pitting themselves successfully against nature. All of us now have more confidence in each other and Ka’sala making this heavy weather seem manageable and temporary. Home is only a few days away.”

Nah, nah, didn't get me!

From my journal on Day 22 (48.21N/132.36W):

“Peace at last! During the night we passed through the cold front and gradually the winds and seas diminished. By the time I came on watch at 4am we were almost without wind, slopping and slatting around in the seas. Doug tried to employ the whisker pole on the yankee, but the darn thing jammed on him again. At 3am he was sitting on the foredeck, under the deck lights in the pouring rain and pitching seas, trying to sort it out to no avail. He came down below and announced he had “pegged his fun meter”. We bounced around for a bit, then started the motor to keep up our speed and charge the batteries. Later, we were able to get the main up again and, before long, we found ourselves going about 5 knots in 10 knots of wind on a close reach. The wind had veered and the seas calmed to a long, large swell with Ka’sala rising and falling like breath upon this vast stretch of blue. The water is beginning to warm up – now 12 degrees. (Yahoo! Get out the bathing suits!). It’s sunny and dry. How wonderful it was to see the long stretch of clear skies to the north at dawn. Bundled up in the cockpit it was quite pleasant. Down below the heater keeps us cozy and warm. The movement of the boat is gentle enough that I am able to cook a big hot breakfast and plan for a roast beef dinner tonight.

 Beautiful sunset

 Unfortunately, in these milder conditions, our mileage also decreases and we realize we will take longer than we figured to reach the S of J de F. However, we don’t really care about it because, once again, the sailing is magnificent and we are enjoying our “Cruising World Moment” – after all the excitement.”

 Dolphins (?) off the bow

Day 23 (48.28N/129.53W). From my journal:

“We’re getting closer! The winds have dropped way off and we are struggling to maintain 5 knots. It doesn’t help that we need to go wing on wing to keep our heading. The Monitor doesn’t work particularly well on this course and the waves, though only a meter high, cause us to shift side to side and bang the sails. We’ve prevented the main and Doug has managed to get the whisker pole 2/3s of the way out to hold the headsail. Today is overcast and showers are threatening. Yesterday was such a magnificent day with a glorious sunset. It is hard to go back to another gray one.

I remember now how much I appreciate the sun in this part of the world – no taking it for granted! It’s hard to believe we lived six months without a single drop of rain! My energy levels rise with sunshine and I swept the boat, made bread and apple pie as well as a special dinner of roast beef in mushroom gravy, ginger carrots and roast potatoes topped off with a couple glasses of red wine. After clean up I hit the sack and slept like a baby all night. It was such a reprieve to have sunshine and not be knocked about. I’m in no hurry for the passage to end when we have conditions like this. Tomorrow we move our clocks to BC time!

I'm not the only one who kept a journal!

We are starting to see more freighters now – 4 this morning. Luckily no fog and short nights, so the visibility has been great. On my watch this morning I hailed Aladdin Rainbow because, according to the AIS, our courses were converging. He was happy to hear from us and changed his heading 20 degrees to accommodate us. I can just imagine how invisible we must be to these great ships that also look speck-like to us in the distance. AIS is proving to be worth its weight in gold and wish we had the transmitting component of it as well.
Freighters start appearing more regularly

I spent most of my watch today hand steering Ka’sala. The light winds, waves, course and sail configuration make it extremely difficult for the Monitor to hold the course. It was chilly, but kind of nice having the whole dawn world to myself. “

 Flying along under the drifter a hundred miles, or so, out to sea

Day 24 (48.34N/127W) was our last day at sea. From my journal:

“The wind has shifted over the night to ESE and we are now sailing under full sail on a high close reach managing 60 degrees, but we need 75 degrees to enter the Strait. At some point we will need to motor as the wind will be right on our nose (unless we chose to tack back and forth). Additionally, Doug has just announced that we will enter the Strait against the tide - which will put a knot against us. Weather-wise, it looks benign to enter – perhaps we will be motoring. We’re seeing regular freighter traffic – 9 ships showed up on the AIS during the night. One of them, Elena, was heading straight for us, so we contacted them by VHF to alert them of our presence. We were pleased when they told us they could see us on their radar over ten miles away. Elena ended up passing us a mile astern, then paralleled us on our starboard side for a while. Thank goodness for AIS!! I can’t imagine what it must have been like before it – lots of cruisers in blissful ignorance, I bet! We expect to see even more traffic as we approach the entrance to the Strait. The night watch will be busy as we expect to enter about midnight which will put us in Port Angeles later in the day.

I began my early watch in the fog and drizzle and followed a band of clear sky becoming larger as we moved toward it. It’s warmer today – the water is 14 degrees and, with the heater on below, 26 degrees in the cabin. We had yummy beans last night and this morning bacon and eggs. I’m making the last loaf of bread today and tonight I will make a chicken pot pie – hopefully tomorrow night we will be eating at a restaurant! My stores and provisions have held out remarkably well.

It feels strange being so close to the end. Life aboard Ka’sala has fallen into a routine and has a certain rhythm. It’s hard to believe the journey will soon be over – frightening, actually. What kind of adjustments will be necessary to get back into working clothes, shoes and make up –not to mention how much personal time I will have to give up for my work? Getting back in the saddle will definitely cause blisters!

We’ve just heard our first airplane passing overhead. Earlier we heard our first Canadian voice calling “security” from Tofino. We’re almost home!

Doug says: “Steak dinner, shower and 8 hours uninterrupted sleep, not necessarily in that order”. I agree and would add a clean and organized boat, clean laundry, and fresh food. But it hasn’t been a bad trip at all – no hardships we couldn’t overcome. Ka’sala is an amazing boat!”

Land Ho! At 4:30 pm on July 23 Doug sited the mountains of Vancouver Island. We were at 48.35N and 126.21W, 65 miles west of the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Day 25 (48.18N/124.15W) was the last day of our journey. From my journal:

“ It’s a gorgeous, sunny, west coast day, but it’s chilly on the water. Mist rises from the shore and the haze obscures the distance. A low is moving in from the north and, as we move down the S of J de F, we can see it following us in. A small craft advisory has been given for later in the day through to tomorrow morning and a “gale” watch has been put in effect. All going well, we’ll catch a bit of that northwest wind, before it gets too strong, and sail right into Port Angeles. At any rate, we should be snug on the dock by 7pm. We’re motoring along in flat water and little wind, admiring the brilliant shoreline of trees as we pass by, dodging all the little sports fishing boats heading out to sea. I wonder if they know where we have been?”

 Dawn, last day at sea

The shipping lanes are like a highway and, all night long, the AIS warning alarm went off. We must have passed at least 20 freighters and they continued to pass us by. We hadn’t seen many commercial fishboats and only three sailboats – one heading to Barkley Sound and two others anchored near Cape Flattery. I was on the dawn watch, but Doug stayed up with me to greet the day and we passed Cape Flattery together – the point where our circular trip drew to a close.  From there we would be retracing our steps.

 Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island - closing the circle of our amazing year long voyage

We could hardly believe a year had passed – what an adventure! Right to the very end Doug was keen to head south again. My thoughts are random and I feel discombobulated. Will we ever do this again?

 Sorry to be near home?

We took advantage of the stable seas, relative warmth and hot water to bathe again. I am so impressed with our water consumption – almost a third of the tanks are left after the entire passage. We used it to wash dishes (the greatest consumer), food prep, drinking water, daily wash ups and 15 shampoo/sponge baths.

Doug also managed our diesel very well.  We motored every few days to top up the batteries, an afternoon off Hawaii, a half day close to the Pacific High, 30 hours through the High, and then again most of the last day entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  We arrived in Port Angeles with over half our tanks!

We watched the familiar landscape of the Pacific Northwest, somewhat stunned, as we glided past

As we got closer to PA, we couldn’t resist deploying the drifter, but had to take it down when the wind rose as we approached the spit in front of the town.

 Under the drifter - Port Angeles in the distance

When we rounded the spit we found ourselves beating into the teeth of a 25 knot wind, close hauled and heeled over so far we buried our port rail. We scampered around setting up lazy jacks, getting out lines and fenders, dropping and furling sails. We had to run the engine at high RPMs to get through the wind and into the boat haven. Within minutes all was calm.

 Happy Tony at the helm on the Strait of Juan de Fuca

We came alongside at the guest dock, turned Ka’sala around and, before it had even really registered, realized we had our feet on the ground. I jumped and danced and stopped Doug from putting Ka’sala to bed. We broke out the bottle of champagne I had been chilling and toasted Ka’sala on her binnacle, Neptune with a splash over the side, and each other with the rest. After 25 days and 11 hours we had travelled approximately 2800 nautical miles. It was a joyous, yet bittersweet ending to a fabulous passage.

 Ka'sala at rest in Port Angeles after her long journey

Honolulu to Port Angeles: Part 1 – June 29 – July 15: Two Weeks of Paradise

Midway through a hot and humid morning, we slipped out of the Ali Wai harbour in Honolulu to begin our long journey home. We were sorry to leave the Hawaii Yacht Club where we’d been treated so well.

Aloha HYC

Stashing the lines for a long passage - note Jordan drogue behind the helm

I felt like we had seen hardly anything of this beautiful city and island. I couldn’t imagine coming to Waikiki on a week’s vacation because, for us, two weeks was hardly enough time.

Passing through the channel - Waikiki in the background

Our 6 week visit just barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in this intriguing place, so different from the rest of the United States. Barbara, off Sequoia, advised me to throw a lei into the water as we left – that way we would return. I didn’t have a lei to throw and wondered if we would ever be back.

Aloha Hawaii

The forecast was good. The trade winds were predicted to moderate - which would allow for a more comfortable transit away from the islands. We remembered our recent channel crossings and were not looking forward to a similar experience between Oahu and Kauai. As we passed the buoys we raised our sails and enjoyed a relaxed sail along the south shore, watching as the familiar landmarks slipped away.

Aloha Honolulu

Diamond Head slips away

As we rounded the south western point the wind freshened and then died before picking up again at the northwest end.  By sunset we had rounded Oahu and were maintaining a heading of 360 degrees, reefed down and close reaching, into 20 knots of wind. Our first night at sea was rough, almost as if the islands did not want us to go. As we left them in our wake, the seas became more regular and we were able to settle down into a routine. These various conditions in the first 24 hours were an excellent introduction to Ka’sala for Tony, as he began learning the ins and outs of sailing our little ship.

The remote western shore of Oahu
Despite the conditions, seasickness was not a problem for any of us. I was the only one who had medicated – I took dramamine for the first 48 hours – and all we suffered was a bit of queasiness and lack of appetite. I had planned bland and simple meals for the first few days out and we satisfied ourselves with lentils, rice, chicken and apples. My biggest worry was the fridge, which had begun acting up again. We realized the coolant was leaking, but by keeping the cooling plate frosty, the ice seemed to keep it sealed. I had frozen a large package of meat before we left and that seemed to give the fridge the cold boost it needed. Doug bought some automobile airconditioning coolant that he pumped in regularly and we were able to lump-de-dump it for the remainder of the voyage. Whew! How would we manage without cold beer?

The three of us discussed watch patterns and decided to try 4-4-4 during the night. I took the 4-8am shift so I could enjoy some night sailing and also watch the dawn. Doug and Tony decided to switch off each night between the 8-12 and the 12-4, which meant that every second night one of them could sleep through the night. During the day I looked after housekeeping and cooking while Doug and Tony kept a less regimented watch. Occasionally I would be on deck in the late afternoon while the two of them napped. It was not a rigourous arrangement, but it seemed to suit us all and we never felt too tired or fatigued as a result.

Life at sea is tough on the crew

We were a bit challenged by sleeping arrangements with this watch pattern. We have lee cloths on both the settees and we thought that would work – 2 off, one on – but with me in one of the bunks for the first 8 hours we ended up hotbunking. At the beginning, we tried having one person in the quarter berth, but they interfered with the person on watch who needed access to the navigation station. Besides, the berth was hot and stuffy and not very comfortable. Additionally, for the first half of the passage we were on a starboard tack which meant the bunk on the port side was comfortable, but the sleeper on the starboard side pressed up against the lee cloth. We came to the conclusion our lee cloths were really “toy” ones – too short and narrow to really do the trick. Eventually we figured out if we stuffed the cloth with cushions we could wedge ourselves in easily enough. Because I was the smallest I seemed to be more comfortable on the off side than the guys, so I took that one whenever I could, leaving the lee side to one of them. We tried personal pillows and sleeping bags as well, but that eventually broke down too. It didn’t take us long to realize that three people in a small space would have to sacrifice some of the niceties of land life in order to be comfortable at sea.

Messy cabin

We did 120 nautical miles on our first day. On my dawn watch I could just see the vague outline of Oahu far to the south and felt a pang of regret to leave this tropical paradise. I thought of the other boats which had chosen to lengthen their stay by heading to Hanalei Bay, (home of Puff the Magic Dragon) on Kauai, before jumping to North America, and kind of wished we had done the same. However, we were anxious to get home and knew that if we stopped there, we would not have been able to relax and enjoy it, so we continued on.

I was worried about the fridge on the second day and was thinking of how I would have to rearrange my meal plans. Our new batteries were doing a valiant job of keeping the fridge going and I was monitoring it closely hoping it would cool right down. This time I had two crates of fresh provisions in the forepeak. One contained 40 humungous Gala apples from New Zealand – fresh and crisp, they lasted the entire voyage. In another crate I had 30 small tomatoes, 12 large naval oranges, a huge pineapple, 6 limes and lemons. I’d bought 12 peppers – 6 red and 6 green. In retrospect, I should have bought 12 green as the red ones wanted to spoil quickly and the green ones eventually turned red anyway. I had a big bag of carrots, 12 potatoes, 24 onions, a large stick of ginger and 4 garlic heads all stored in the old microwave cabinet. I had finally found the expensive green bags that are supposed to keep food for a long time, but they did not work as well as the perforated Ziploc vegetable bags. In order for the green bags to be effective the produce had to be absolutely dry. I found it impossible to keep up with the natural gassing off and sweating of the vegetables, despite wrapping them in paper towel in the bag. I won’t use them again. I bought most of the fresh produce from Chinatown in Honolulu (best quality and prices) and topped up the rest at Foodland.

In the fridge I had 2 heads of romaine, 4 blocks of cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, monteray jack), 4 pounds of bacon, 2 steaks, 3 packages of spicy sausages and 3 packages of black forest ham, as well as a big tub of cold chicken we had barbequed just before we left. I had two ½ gallons of fresh juice, a litre of fresh milk, 4 litres of yoghurt and 2 pounds of butter in 1 cup sticks. The rest of the cold space consisted of tins of beer and ginger ale, some white wine and boxed apple juice as well as perishable condiments and yeast. Keeping the fridge full meant keeping the fridge cool. As the passage wore on and I had more room, I added in the peppers, carrots and ginger.

In dry storage I had 4 dozen eggs, 10 pounds each of white and whole wheat flour. Five pounds of white sugar, 2 pounds of brown sugar, a large box of Bisquick (which was worth its weight in gold), oatmeal, granola, baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla were stored along with a generous supply of walnuts, pecans, mixed nuts, cashews, pistachios, raisins, cranberries and coconut. Lots of rice, pasta, dried potatoes and couscous provided starch. I had my tin locker filled with things like baked beans, corned beef, roast beef, chicken breast, Spam, salmon, tuna, dried soup, olives, fruit (peaches, pineapple, fruit cocktail), tomatoes, UHT milk, curries, mixed vegetables, cream of mushroom soup, and chili. Extras were stored in plastic trays in the bilges (along with a couple cases of beer). Many of my dry and tinned provisions I had bought in Mexico, but topped up at Walmart and Costco in Honolulu where I found better prices than Safeway.

While we were underway I made bread every other day. At first I made the famous Ziploc bread, but we didn’t enjoy it as much as the good old fashioned kneaded bread, so I reverted to that, using whole wheat flour to keep it healthy. One day I even made cinnamon bread which was a great hit. On the days I wasn’t baking bread I tried to make sweet things. Muffins were appreciated, especially warm out of the oven, but also for night watches. I made apple pies with Bisquick and even a chocolate cake to satisfy Tony’s sweet tooth.

Monitoring the oven temperature

One of Doug’s requirements for meals was that they be served in a bowl for easier consumption. I was able to do this most of the time, though on the few quiet days we had we ate off plates. As a result, my menus reflected this challenge. Each day I tried to vary breakfast so we ate toast with marmalade and cheese, yoghurt with granola, porridge, scrambled eggs, fruit, juice and dark roast coffee. Lunches were usually more casual – ham sandwiches, soup when it got colder, grilled cheese, cheese and crackers and fruit. For dinner I would use my large flat bottomed wok to do stir fries or, more often, fry up some onions and peppers with dried spices and added tins of canned meat, curries, beans, and hash usually served over rice. However I also made pizza three times, made a couple ham & cheese quiches, pot pies, casseroles and, when it was really rough, even just opened a couple tins of chili and heated them up. My Force 10 oven is gimbaled and has clamps to hold pots. You can’t go to sea without these accessories.

A gentle heel

Most days we had happy hour and enjoyed a beer and/or a glass of wine with dinner. I wanted to make sure we were all comfortable and I think I probably succeeded. It may sound onerous, but I really took great pleasure doing all the planning, provisioning, cooking and eating. It’s kind of like a very challenging game and I took immense satisfaction in organizing it and seeing it all through successfully. However, I think our waistlines might have suffered! So much for the Pacific diet!

This entry from my journal pretty well describes what the sailing was like for our first week out of Hawaii:

“Yesterday was nice again – sunny and warm and on a close reach to a beat, trying to maintain our heading of 360 degrees in steady 15 knot winds with higher gusts. The sea state is comfortable at 2 to 4 feet, so taking it on the beam isn’t too tough. The variation on this leg is the squalls. We got our first one yesterday afternoon. You can see them coming in the distance, generally from the east. Their black underbellies drape with rain and we watch closely for thunder and lightning, but have seen none. However, as we approach each one, the winds gust up, sometimes as high as 25 knots, and vary direction so, depending on the size of the squall, we can be running around reefing down, letting out and changing our point of sail to try to keep our heading. The seas kick up as well. These squalls don’t sleep, so when they happen at night, life can be a little more exciting. We’ve figured out a way to make reefing the headsail easier by wrapping the furling line on one of the interior winches. It’s nice to get the rain in the squall because it washes the sticky salt residue off the boat and keeps us cool.”

Squall at sunset

Eventually, rather than reefing each time we entered a squall, we learned to ease the sheets and make the most of the increased wind to increase our mileage. This became more important as we went along because the regular wind decreased and we had to work harder to maintain 4 knots of speed. From my journal:

“Since leaving Hawaii, we seem to encounter squalls in the evening/night and morning. Most are benign bringing a few minutes of quickening wind and sometimes a shower. Occasionally they reach gusts of 25+ knots and, when the rain comes, it pounds on the decks. Initially we would start to reef when we saw/felt them coming, but lately we’ve been holding fast and easing the sheets to fall off the wind – a lot less work. The boat will pitch and pound and it feels like we are roaring along, but because we are beating/close hauled we rarely do more than 5.5 knots.”

Double rainbow after a squall - we saw many of them on this part of the trip

For the first two weeks our mileage hovered around 100 nautical miles a day and we averaged 3 to 5 knots under full sail on a close reach in 2 foot seas. Our best day was 130 miles and our slowest was 75. Sometimes we were in complete calm and motored for a couple hours, primarily to charge our batteries and make hot water for washing. Each day we awoke to a magnificent sunrise and went to bed after a spectacular sunset. On some days we would see puffy cloud formations scudding by developing into fantastic shapes. We amused ourselves by pointing out their animal-like characteristics.

Squall coming!

In the first week, the daytime temperatures were over 30 degrees Celsius and the sea temperatures rose to a high of 31 degrees celcius under the endless blue and sunny skies! The ocean was an incredible sapphire blue, shot through with pillars of white light from the sun that seemed to go on forever. On some days there were no clouds whatsoever and it felt like being in an endless blue landscape. On other days we could see the tops of clouds over the horizon miles in the distance. While on our passage from Mexico to Hawaii I had felt like a little speck in a vast sea, however, these conditions made me feel at home and at peace. In my whole life I have never experienced anything like it and finally, through all our adventure, I understood what drives a sailor, for there is nothing remotely like this vista anywhere on land. I felt hugely blessed and privileged to experience these days – perhaps my reward for overcoming the fears and anxieties that almost prevented me from being there.

Sunset, July 4, 2011

We didn’t see an excessive amount of wildlife in our first two weeks. From my journal:

“Tony and I were talking in the cockpit after dinner when I heard a great flapping noise. I thought the sails were luffing, but instead, a 10 inch flying fish had grounded in the scuppers behind my head. It was a gorgeous iridescent blueish coloured fish with large round eyes and enormous fins that (yes) look just like featherless wings. I managed to get it back into the sea, but I know of others who would have kept it for the frying pan!”

On occasion we would see a dorsal fin gliding out of the water in the distance – perhaps a whale? A dolphin? A porpoise? A Shark? When the water was at its hottest we noticed we had a little convoy of 6 inch fish – blue with yellow stripes – swimming busily in formation in the shadow of the stern, playing in our wake.


A very feisty zebra striped fish, about 6 inches long, played tag with our bow wake, swimming like mad to get up on the crest, then cruising down it like a miniature surfer. Deeper down we could see schools of larger fish – possibly tuna – that roiled about, causing our little surface friends to press close to the hull. One day we saw a school of tuna leaping out of the water – all about two feet long, flying across the waves. We didn’t see what was chasing them, but we noted the irony of eating canned tuna as we watched them!

Yes, the water really was this colour!

We did try to fish on this passage. Buoyed by the success of the other boats in the “So Long Hawaii” Net, we read our Dashew and Pardey, tried to remember everything we had been told and cast out a line with a weight and a squiggly blue/green squid-like lure. We had no response the first couple days and on the third day caught a small tuna which we promptly lost as we reeled it in. Robert, aboard Freedom, gave us further advise and we changed lures and tactics. However, as we made the adjustments, we brought the lure to the attention of a big honking bird who tried to pick it up. Tony reeled in as fast as he could and I shouted and waved my arms, but this was one determined bird! We drew the lure right behind the windvane and tried to sort out the now tangled line. Didn’t the creature continue going for it? At one point, it literally ran across the water, feet and wings flapping. It managed to get the hook in its beak, but luckily spit it out. We continued to try to catch fish for another week with no success – not even a bite. Canned tuna would rule the day!

After a while, it became apparent to us we were being followed by two very large dun and white coloured birds with long bills who we assumed were albatross, but might have been gooney birds. We’d see them in the morning and the evening as they circled around Ka’sala on their huge wings, then rested in the sea while we passed by, before catching up with us again. For a while we had a small flock of little brown birds that made a cheerful little twittering sound when they zoomed around our sails and wind generator. Freedom reported the same little flock. Unfortunately one of those birds met a sticky end in their wind generator!

Each day we checked in to the Pacific Seafarer’s Net. It was great hearing the Toms, Randy and Jane again, as well as all the other faithful volunteers who provide a safety net and make it possible for friends and loved ones to follow our passage. We also discovered that the route from Hawaii to North America is a highway in the summer. In Honolulu, Robert, from Freedom, told us about several other yachts making the same passage who wanted to keep in touch along the way through an informal net. We called it “So Long Hawaii”. Although we left earlier than most of them, by the third day out we had established an 8:30 am contact time. Each morning we checked in with Freedom (to San Pedro), Bianca (to San Francisco), Alabar (to Port Angeles), Kialani (to Port Angeles), Quest (to Seattle), Ikia (to Bellingham), Trial Run (to San Francisco), and Sequoia (to Portland). We also followed several other yachts on the PSN such as Camdebou and Commotion who were heading to Victoria. (Our friends on Witte Raaf had arrived in Sitka, Alaska a few days after we began our journey and 20 days after they began theirs. We realized that Alaska is actually closer to Hawaii than Neah Bay!)

Evening on Ka'sala - navigator on the net, cook in the galley

The major discussion topic on our informal net concerned the weather and strategizing our course home around the Pacific high. One of the reasons so many boats make the passage from Hawaii to NA at this time of the year is because the high moves north, blocking out the lows that regularly move across the north Pacific, making the chance of encountering a gale during the summer months fairly remote. The Pacific High moves slowly east and west, north and south and can intensify or lighten up. It’s like a living thing and, whatever its mood, depends on how we will fare.

I took this weather fax from the internet - it shows SV Telltales strategy, but it gives you an idea of what concerned us.

Whatever the location of the Pacific High, the profile for this passage is to sail directly north until you get above it. Because the high rotates in a clockwise direction, the winds change direction, as they rotate around it. Below the high, they tend to come from the east/northeast/north. Above the high they move west/northwest. The wind intensifies depending on how close the isobars are that surround it. The strategy is to figure out how to stay out of the middle where there is no wind. You have to make sure you are above the high before you can begin to head east, otherwise you could get caught with no wind and not enough fuel to motor through. In our case, the high was gigantic and deep, reaching 1038 milibars and sitting farther north than usual. Some sailors are lucky enough to begin their easting at 38 degrees. Many can begin the turn at 40. We had to climb to 44+ to get there – far higher than usual. For those of you who followed our course on Yotreps, that is why we went so far north and then made a 90 degree turn. Luckily we only had to motor for 30 hours to transit the high before we started picking up the westerly winds that would bring us home.

How did we know how to plot our course? Doug made good use of the SSB to download weather faxes from the weather stations in Hawaii and Point Reyes. These faxes were updated each day and showed the projected movement of the high over a 72 hour period. He was also able to get information on projected wind speed and direction, as well as wave height. He would analyze all this information and Tony and I would crowd around him to get our daily weather brief. Doug was able to share his ideas with the others on the informal net who were using grib files from Passage Weather. It was a good feeling to see these projections and make sense of the decision making.

We saw only one other boat as we left Hawaii. It looked to be some kind of fish boat but we weren’t sure. Our AIS picked up a couple of freighters in the distance as we headed north and sometimes we could see them far away. When we were motoring through the high a freighter bore down on us, so we contacted him by VHF. He turned out to be a Norwegian vessel and we had a pleasant conversation before heading off in our prospective directions. However, we made up for the lack of sightings later, when we approached the North American coast.

July 11, 2011 - after 12 days at sea

During our first two weeks at sea we were overwhelmed by the stupendous star cover at night. We began the passage with no moon, so the firmament was ablaze with light when there was no other interference. The Milky Way was a deep white ribbon of river across the sky. The stars seemed close enough to touch and the panorama extended right down to the water. I’m afraid I don’t really know my constellations, but it didn’t really matter to me, as I was able to pick out shapes and clusters and enjoy the panoply as if it were a large, pale starlit flower garden. We all got cricks in our necks at night. It was so clear that we could easily see squalls as they approached.

Milky Way

From my journal on Day 5:

“The crew are doing very well – lots to talk about and very companionable. What a difference having a third person aboard makes! Tony seems to be happy and enjoying himself. His wonderful seamanship and support by far out weighs any inconvenience or cramping below decks. He is extremely sensitive about our personal space and accommodating.”


We all read a lot of books. Doug blasted through most of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series (there are 21 of them!) on his Kindle and Nook, Tony read a variety of books including Two Years Before the Mast, and I read an eclectic mix of British mysteries and American literature. I read on my Kindle (which I love) and the few paperbacks I had picked up along the way.

By the end of the first week we were in a comfortable routine and getting along together well. From my journal:

“Tony is proving to be a great intellectual companion. In addition to getting to know him better, we’ve been conversing politics, religion, philosophy, and so on, all with good nature. He wants to know everything about the boat and sailing. He loves being in the cockpit and helms the boat for most of the day. None of us are napping as the watch pattern seems to keep us all alert – though if the weather was more difficult that might be a different story. Nevertheless, we have to do a lot of hand steering as the monitor does not track well in these light winds. The days and nights are very hot and we welcome the squalls when they come our way. It’s getting too hot to cook!

Doug and Tony repair a tear in our ancient dodger

We’ve been seeing more flotsam – large bundles of knotted line and netting with all kinds of stuff like plastic crates and Styrofoam mixed in – yuck! Every two or three minutes a lone piece of plastic floats by – could be a bottle cap, a water bottle, a float, a cooler, a fender or just a shard of white something.”

One of many plastic floats we saw along the way

Actually, we had been quite concerned by the tales we had heard of a great garbage dump floating around in the Pacific High. We didn’t see any such thing, just a continuous stream of the plastic objects which was unpleasant enough. However, at 33 and 34 degrees north we did find two glass Japanese fish floats – both green and about 18” across. Both had an entire culture of mussels, crabs and other crustaceous creatures attached to them. We cut these away and kept the balls, but later we discovered that other cruisers actually ate this little ecosystem!

This ball is similar to what we found
From my journal on Day 8:

“We’ve noted that every few minutes a piece of garbage floats by – mostly bits and pieces of plastic and fishing debris. This morning I saw a plastic barrel the size of an oil drum. All this debris seems to have a garden of barnacles or mussels on it and I imagine there are crabs too – adaptable eco systems”

This morning the dawn watch was magnificent. No moon and the MilkyWay stretched across the sky to the south. I saw numerous falling stars – what a canopy! Dawn graduated into a fiery sunrise. Soon after our albatross showed up again, soaring close to the boat. What a magnificent bird.”

Wandering albatross

“The ocean undulates today. The wind comes in puffs like a great giant breathing in and out. The ocean is like a vast animal and right now it is sleeping peacefully. What will it be like a week from now?”

“We picked up an oil tanker on the AIS. We can actually see it 10 miles to the west, so the visibility is truly astonishing now that we can measure it against an inanimate object.”

By Day 10 (37 N/ 156 W) we were starting to notice changes. From my journal:

“Yesterday was overcast with showers for most of the day with 15 knot winds and a 4 foot wind chop with white caps. It was a bumpy ride with the boat pitching up and down. The water is getting cooler – down to 73 degrees (from 88 two days before) and we are wearing sweaters for our night watches. Because the wind is directly from the north, we find ourselves struggling to keep even 320 degrees, adding more westing than we want.

Just at sunset we saw at least one huge whale breach in the distance. We held our breath, hoping the pod would move away from us. The last thing we wanted was a close encounter with a whale this far out in the Pacific. We didn’t see them again, though Tony swore he could hear air from blowholes during the night.

A slight weariness has caught up with me and despite a very strong cup of coffee, I fell fast asleep after breakfast and slept like the dead for a couple of hours. I try very, very hard to be patient and enjoy living in the moment, by trying to recognize that this is an experience I may never have again. I’m drinking it up, but I’m still thinking of what lies ahead and wondering how I’ll ever manage. Doug’s support is to say: “Don’t worry. Let’s refit in Port Townsend and head back to Mexico this fall.” OR “Why don’t we just turn south and head back to San Francisco?” OR “We could turn around and sail right back to Hawaii and continue on to the South Pacific in the fall.” It’s tempting."

On Day 11 (38N/156W):

“The day remained warm and sunny; the sky so clear and cloudless it was impossible to take it all in. I have never seen such clarity and such distance. I thought the prairies were big sky! This is amazing and impossible to capture on film. We sailed all day in 10 knot winds and gentle seas at 4 knots. I tried to imprint the whole day on my brain but already I feel it slipping away. The feeling is totally different from the trip to Hawaii where I felt we were a tiny speck. I still feel small, but in an expansive way – perhaps this experience is impossible to describe at all. I had a taste of McCallum on the foredeck at sunset. In future, when I have a scotch, I’ll remember. It’s hard to believe we are at the same latitude as San Francisco.”

Beating along on a starboard tack

On Day 13 (42N/156W) from my journal:

"Are we ever going to get home? I know we are and suspect we are more than halfway already, but going straight north (and sometimes a little west) can be quite demoralizing. And, it looks like it will continue for at least another day as the high continues to build and move north. Our barometer is now 1034 and the high is supposed to go to 1038. Even though we aren’t actually heading to our destination, we are making good as the distance between lines of longitude decrease the farther we move north. At least we are in favourable conditions. Now, however, we are truly out of the tropics. The water temperature has dropped to 17 degrees Celcius and the skies are totally overcast. Although it hasn’t rained, we can feel the humidity. The cabin temperature was 21 degrees this morning compared to 31 a week ago. We’re now wearing our long underwear for our night watches.”

The highest we have seen on a barometer and it continued to rise to 1038

From my journal on Day 14 (43N/156W), our last day heading north:

"Today we are traversing the centre of the Pacific High. As I write this I can look all around and see a flat, slowly undulating sea stretching impossible distances 360 degrees around Ka’sala. Not a cloud in the sky. The sea blue is more turquoise now than sapphire. The light doesn’t penetrate through the water the way it did before and it looks dark and unfathomable. Nevertheless, there is life here. A school of small porpoises (dolphins?) surrounded us at dawn leaping all around the boat and playing in the bow wake. I ran for my camera, but they must have guessed it for, en masse, they veered off to the west.”

We have brilliant sunshine, but the puffs of wind are cool and we seek the sun to sit in, rather than avoiding it, as we did further south. I’ve aired all the bedding, tidied, swept and washed the floors. I feel it’s important to keep things as clean and dry as possible and cut down on the smells and mustiness. We are motoring along at 4.5 knots to try to get to the northeast side of the Pacific High. The wind died about 3am and we’ve been motoring with the main up and the engine at 2000 rpm. Doug added the extra jerry cans of diesel to the fuel tank, taking advantage of the flat conditions. He figures we may find wind tomorrow and says we can motor for up to 48 hours. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. We want to make sure we have fuel reserves as we get closer to the coast and the shipping lanes. In a satellite photo Doug got from the SSB it shows clear, sunny skies all the way to NA. The weather faxes tell us we should pick up NW winds at 20 knots on the other side of the High. If this is the case, we should speed home with the wind on our quarter. Doug says I worry too much about everything: fuel, water, food, wind, waves, work, etc…. “

Picture from our chart plotter - why is the little green boat pointing to Japan?

Doug’s planning and predictions all worked out to be exactly right. What a guy!

Sunset in the Pacific High