Monthly Archives: May 2011

ai ai ai – look at the size of that high!

We’re still getting the boat ready, knocking items off the prep list, and all is going well.  We’d like a little more cooperation from the weather though.  The position and size of the pacific high (remember, big windless hole in the middle of our route) are incredibly inconvenient at the moment… our plan is to be in Kauai in about 10 days time and wait for mother nature to give us the green light with a good weather window – a window where we don’t have to plan on days or weeks of motoring…

See if you see what I mean from this outlook image:

 

Advertisements

Drama on the high seas

I was going to post something today about the past week – you know, and update on what we got done on the boat, the frenetic social life we’ve been living recently, etc.  But something much more dramatic happened last night so first things first.

We were just two boat over, on board S/V Shadow (a Tayana 37, from Marina del Rey, CA), enjoying a Friday night barbeque with new friends… then we noticed there was some serious commotion in the water just outside the breakwater right in front of us.  We saw two boats with blue flashing lights (think police cars) and one very very powerful spotlight searching here and there.  It took a minute to figure out what we were looking at – but when we did, we were horrified to see that there was a sailboat on the reef!

This is probably one of the worst nightmares a sailor can have and immediately we felt some degree of empathy for these guys.  The boat was lying on the reef and taking a good pounding from the incoming surf.  You could see the navigation lights fore and aft, as well as the steaming light about half way up the mast.  From that set of lights, you could tell she was laid over at about 70 degrees… when a wave crashed into her hull, you could see the steaming light shudder and swing around a sickening angles.  The Coast Guard boat had a very powerful spotlight on the poor boat, so we could see the whole tragedy unfolding, even in the darkness.

A crowd had gathered ashore, and by the time we walked down the pier closer to the scene, several firetrucks and police cars had already gathered in the parking lot.  A while later a helicopter came and hovered very low over and around the boat.  With their additional spot light, everything was really well lit – allowing us to see that the crew was getting off the boat.  We saw some kind of boards, surf boards or paddle boards, that someone had taken out to the crew on the boat.  Soon afterwards they were ashore and being attended to by firemen and paramedics, though it appeared everyone was fine.  Lucky for that!

We don’t know how it happened and without talking to them it’s impossible to say what the real circumstances were.  It’s likely they were out on the Friday evening races and hung out in the bay watching the sunset.  There are races every Friday night and last night was no exception with something like 25 boats out there battling their way around the buoys.  This particular boat never made it back into the channel and ended up on the reef instead.  At this point, only they know what really happened.

This morning I went over to take some pics… and discovered that the boat had come in several hundred yards closer, probably on the high tide overnight.

I don’t know if they’re the owners, or friends, but there are some people walking out on the reef to board the boat – checking things out, salvaging what might be salvaged… It’s sickening to watch the waves bash her, harder and further up on the reef.

You can see how shallow it is there… the guy at the stern, behind the surfer, is walking out to the boat.  Makes you wonder how in hades they’re going to get that boat out of there…

 

More about the week, Shadow, and other bits and pieces later on……..

 


route to SF? the weather will tell…

What, did you think that we decided our precise route just by steering the boat, or plotting a waypoint on the chartplotter?  Ha!

Perhaps it’s time to do a little post about a subject very dear to our hearts (and peace of mind): the weather!  It’s a Sunday and I was informed by the Admiral that I was not allowed to work on the boat today… today will be a beach day!  However, while the Admiral beauty sleeps, I’ve been looking at weather again, and thinking about routing for our next passage – San Francisco!

Weather and routing for sailboat passages is a huge subject – and we’re no experts so this should not be taken to mean we know exactly what we’re doing!  However, the weather is the single most important thing to look at when planning a long passage like this, so we’re doing our due diligence.  Cruising sailors truly come in all shapes and sizes, just like their boats, and the same goes for their take on the weather.  The two extremes?  On the one hand, the sailor who only checks the weather ashore, before leaving and if at all, and simply points the bow towards their distant destination and says “the weather is pretty much just what you get”.  I’m not knocking that, as plenty of successful passages are made that way… but this isn’t how we prefer to do it.  We do check the weather before we leave but I don’t like the idea of having no updates for two or three weeks… On the other end of the spectrum is the cruiser whose boat is super-duper-equiped with all sorts of modern equipment and may even go so far as to pay a professional weather forecaster to send the skipper regularly updated outlooks and forecasts while the boat is underway on a long passage.    We’re somewhere in the middle of the pack I think: our sophistication, better perhaps than many, only goes so far as keeping a literal eye on the weather all the time (no technology needed!), and using a computer software and satellite phone to download weather files whenever we want.  More on that later.

What does this mean in terms of the planned route? Simply put, it means we can’t go ‘straight at’ San Francisco.  Nope, no rhumb line, straight to the bay, shortest route possible for us on this passage.  We’ve got to take a longer route, and the weather is the reason.

Between Hawaii and California is a big, windless roadblock called the Pacific High.  This is a gigantic area of high pressure that hovers over the NE Pacific.  What’s there?  Water, just like everywhere else on the high seas.  What matters is what isn’t there: wind.  No wind = no sailing = motoring = using diesel, which is limited by how much you can carry.  We carry 600 liters normally and will up that to 700 on this trip – still, we don’t carry enough fuel to motor a straight line course to San Francisco…

Some visual assistance here will explain this better than I can.

These are images from a weather forecasting site called Passage Weather (http://www.passageweather.com/), useful for sailors and other kinds of adventurers. It’s called a GRIB file, or ‘gridded binary’ file used in weather forecasting.  If you’re nerdy enough about it, you can find all kinds of references on the internet, not the least of which is in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GRIB.

Anyway, the colors in the image indicate wind speed and the barbed arrows indicate wind direction, and this image covers the area that interests us: Hawaii to San Francisco.  In the middle, with the white and lighter shades of gray and light blue, there’s hardly enough wind to sail.  In the top of the picture, the green and bright green colors represent a good bit of wind, over 30 knots.  This is a low pressure system, but more on that later.

This image is a forecast for what the conditions will be like on Tuesday, May 24th, at midnight in Greenwhich… or 14.00 here in Honolulu.  As the weather does, these images of course change all the time… it’s a dynamic world we live in!  What I’m getting at is that the picture you see above, with lighter winds here and heavier winds there, will be different 24 and 48 hours later… the same is true of barometric pressure.

Now let’s look a bit a the route:

I added two lines to this same image: the straight red line would be our course directly from Hanalei Bay to San Francisco, which my chartplotter tells me is something like 2,000 nautical miles.   But if you’ll notice, this route crosses an area of light color on the image, or very little wind.  Where there is wind, you might also notice from the barbs that the wind would be directly ‘on the nose’, or against us, much of the time.

This light area in the middle is the Pacific High.  Big, isn’t it?  Well, the black line represents the suggested route by cruising guru Jimmy Cornell in his book “World Cruising Routes” (6th Ed).  This particular course is suggested to avoid the Pacific High by going up and over it.  Rather than 2,000 nautical miles, this route can be anywhere from 2,300 to 3,000, depending on how far north you have to go.  In studying the routes that plenty of others have taken before us, many boats sail straight north (toward the Aleutian Islands) until they hit the steady westerly winds that allow them to sail east.  Making sense?  Sail north, find the wind, then make a sharp right, and head for the coast…. How far north you need to go depends on the time of year (ocean passagemaking is more seasonal than you might think), and the specific weather window you’ve chosen to make your passage.  The summer, while better from a warmer weather standpoint overall, sometimes means you have to sail to nearly 45 degrees north to find those westerlies – that means that you’ve sailed north to a latitude of about Portland, Oregon.

That’s how it is with the Pacific High.  To sail this route, you need to follow the western edge of the high, and then curve eastward around the northern edge of the high.  You can cross right into if you want to – you’ll likely have sunny weather and flat seas, but then again you’ll need diesel diesel diesel to cross it.  Go too far north and you’ll likely have the opposite: heavy winds as the low pressure systems move from west to east towards SE Alaska.  So our intention will be to try and follow this black line, the suggested route, which is intended to find the best ‘squeeze’ area between the wind-less Pacific High to the east and then south of you, and the raunchy more northern area, frequently embattled by low pressure systems bringing strong wind and heavy seas (ever watch “Deadliest Catch”?). Having said that, my bet is that our actual route will be significantly different: as we’ll likely have to head directly north from Kauai and not NNE, as the first part of the black line indicates.  We’ll see!

Let me exaggerate, on purpse, to demonstrate the point about going up and over the Pacific High.  If we wanted to sail the whole way, and the weather were to remain stationary, our route might look something like this:

See the red line?  A bit different from sailing straight to SF, isn’t it?

Anyway, more on all this later – enough weather talk for the moment.  Besides, the Admiral is up, and talking about the market, the beach, and a whole list of non-boat-work activities.  🙂

Have a good one gang.

M

PS – the first thing I saw this morning early when I poked my head out of the cockpit…


Saturday random

Yesterday I started in on the mast job, not wanting to deal with the oil change for reasons I’ll explain later…

The mast job is all about stopping a leak.  We have keel stepped mast, which means that the mast passes through a large hole in the deck and rests on a huge stainless plate, inside the boat and directly above the keel.  Some boats have what are called deck stepped masts… where the lower end of the mast simply rests on deck, i.e. no hole and no leak like we have.  But that’s not really here nor there, is it? The trick with a keel stepped mast is that you need to not only support the mast where it passes through the hole, but you also need to seal it effectively to keep water out of the boat.  Basic principle: for a boat to remain afloat, the water needs to stay on the outside.  🙂

Our leak is not threatening,  just annoying.  Our mast is supported by thick blocks of very sturdy rubber, allowing for only a minimum amount of play, or movement, which the mast needs.  That part of the equation is fine.  The second part, the seal, is what’s annoying.  The original solution by the boatyard was to fill the gapped space with spray-in expansion foam.  This works well enough to keep out light and air, like you would around a duct for example, but water is a lot more persistent and expansion foam is not waterproof.  If was stands on the outside surface, it will and does find a way to make it inside a badly sealed hole, thanks to gravity which never sleeps.  So, to attempt to seal the outside surface of the foam, they used a sealant compound like sikaflex, only it wasn’t sikaflex or 5200, and then they painted over it.  I could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say that the solution is not waterproof at all and so we get an annoying drip when it rains (or when we’re taking water on deck during a boisterous sail to windward).

I haven’t decided how I’m finally going to solve this problem, but I’m giong to give it better than a college try.  In the end, it’s annoying and the darn thing doesn’t have to leak, right?  Plus, it drives Larissa absolutely crazy.  The first step at trying to solve this is to remove the old sealant and foam, which I’ve started to do:

This is from inside the galley, looking up the mast and through the hole, where I’ve removed part of the foam and sealant.

This also from the inside, where you can see the rubber support blocks and some of the foam.  This layer of foam is not all that thick – perhaps and inch and a half.

This out on deck, port side.  You can see where I’ve been chipping away at the foam and sealant on top of it.  It’s going to be a mess to really clean this up.

Chip chip, scrape scrape.  🙂

Progress on this job was slow Friday morning and we still hadn’t been to West Marine.  Hmmmm, pick away at stubborn sealant or go shopping for boat goodies?  Easy.  After Lara had her coffee too, we hopped on TheBus (great public transport in Oahu) and headed for Sand Island.  First we hit Napa Auto Parts, where we found some replacement fuel filter elements for our primary filter, a Racor.  The elements are actually branded Napa and not Parker Racor, but I don’t mind – they’re all made by the same company anyway and simply branded before they’re shipped.  So we picked up two spares of the 2 micron size filter (the finest one I can find) and for fuel filtering we’re good to go!

Next was West Marine, where we were able to find a bunch of things we’ve been needing and some ‘must haves’ before our upcoming passage.  We found the CO2 re-arm kits for our ‘exploded’ life vests, some MOB strobes for the same, a metal primer for some deck touch up painting I need to do on rusty spots, a holding tank cleaning and odor removing solution (don’t hold your breath), a fiberglass LPG gas bottle (we were down to one bottle), a bunch of stainless cotter pins and split ring pins to beef up a few installations, and so on and so forth.  Nothing frilly or unnecessary, but a very good shopping day.

It may be  that only a cruiser sailor could be so excited about a gas bottle!  We love the fiberglass ones because there is NO RUST!  This particular model is the same one we saw used in many homes in French Polynesia. 

On the way back from West Marine, we saw this bumper sticker and I had to get a picture for Roberta, she’ll love this!

We hadn’t walked more than 100 yards when a guy pulls up in a Jeep and asks us if we needed a ride.  He’d seen us at the Chandlery and then walking down the street with all our stuff under the hot tropical sun… So Pete drove us back in air conditioned style to the Marina and we chatted about boating, Hawaii and so on.  A super nice guy, who with a simple gesture made our day and saved us a bunch of time.  This little event is what sparked Larissa to comment on Facebook about what a great group of people boaters are…

And the oil change?  Well… I still have to do that, but there is a deeper question that is worth mention.  What do you do with used motor oil?  Typically, you take it to a processing or recycling location and get rid of it.  In most of the free world, and even in ‘3rd world’ marinas, this is easy enough to do: walk over to the predisposed container and dump your oil.  That container is later processed or recycled by the competent and responsible authorities.  Should Hawaii be any different?  Ha!

We’re at a large state-run marina with more than 700 slips, which is full to about 98% capacity from what I can tell.  Probably 90% of these boats have an engine and most likely they are diesels like ours.  Sooner or later, everyone needs to have their oil changed… see where I’m going with this?  There is lots of used oil around.  You would think that a marina like this, with so many boats and so on, would have a processing or recycling facility, even a large receptacle at the very least, right here on the property. I wasn’t able to find one anywhere.

The other day, I went to the harbormaster’s office and asked what boaters in the harbor typically do, or should be doing, with their old motor oil.  The response shocked me: the person in the office simply pointed to a large poster on the wall and said “Look and see what it says up there”.  The poster, published by the state (or the Feds, DLNR), correctly points out that the oil should be taken to a proper facility, etc etc etc.  So I asked the person, where is that facility in the harbor?  “Oh, we don’t have one.”  In the end I was able to get exactly zero help and only a vague response, from the harbormaster’s office no less!, about what I might to with my used motor oil.  I left, dumbfounded, and sad. Another reason why Hawaii, very sadly, is not a prime cruising ground – and this discussion merits another post, perhaps even a book.

Yesterday I went to the fuel dock to fill our new propane bottle.  I asked them about oil too.  They don’t have a facility either (though they sell gas, diesel, and oil!), and said that sometimes people buy a special box, a sort of absorbent kitty litter like substance for oil.  Ok, so you have your oil in a box, then what do you do?  “Most folks just throw it in the trash” was the answer, or something like that.  Dumbfounded, again.

I went outside to get back in my dinghy, still wondering what I’d do with my oil once I did the job… and ran into a group of ‘Coasties’, personnel from the Coast Guard, who were having lunch while their 2 shiny new RIB patrol boats (complete with machine guns and lots of horsepower on the stern) sat moored to the fuel dock.  I asked nicely if I might interrupt their lunchbreak and inquire about old oil… “Well, ours is processed by CG personnel and shipped off island every so often by a CG vessel.”  Good, at least the CG is taking care of their own oil.  But the string of useless-to-me answers as a boater in Hawaii only continued: “I think there used to be a facility a Keehi, but I’m not certain it’s still operating”.  Keehi is marina miles away from here.

Wow.  I am shocked by this.  I am in my country, the good old USofA, as 1st world as it’s supposed to get, yet as a boater I can’t properly dispose of (recycle) old engine oil in one of the largest, if not THE largest state run marina in Hawaii.  Mind boggling.  I guess I’ll have to take the old oil with me and try again in California.  It’s a better option than throwing it in the trash, which I’ve heard clandestinely most boaters around here do… only they do it at night so noone notices, and the trash guys take it away anyway.

– – –

Deep, ‘calm down’ breath.

– – –

To end on a happier note for now, allow me to share with you a very cool youtube video just posted by my friend Tony in Rio.  To celebrate his 40th, he and three friends recently crossed the US on Route 66 on… you guessed it, Harleys!  I know they had a great time and Tony did a bang up job of documenting it for this video.  Have fun with this one (volume up for the music!).  You can always watch it on youtube directly if you wish (http://youtu.be/Pqwb30hpecU)

JoJo, mostra esse video pro meu sograo!

Here it is:

Ciao!


Friday already? Can’t be…

I can’t believe it’s Friday already.  Not that I mind, of course, but it reminds me just how quickly this week has gone. I need more Monday through Thursdays to get these boat projects done.  🙂  We’ll put in another day today and then take the weekend off – I’ve got to keep Baby Cakes happy and do some time off the boat too.  Could be worse: at least we’re in Hawaii.  You remember, right, “Cruising = Fixing your boat in exotic places”.

Thursday was all about caulking and bedding.  First I finished off the vertical caulking in the shower and realized that I have no future as a tile/bath/caulking guy.  I mean, it looks OK, but it’s clearly not my specialty and you can tell the job wasn’t professional.  At least there won’t be any water seeping in behind the joints and cracks that make up our formica-lined shower.  The floor will be a bit trickier but first we’ll take out the teak grate and get the area thoroughly cleaned and prepped.

Next was the famous portlight in the forward cabin.  I had suspected that the drip drip drip was coming from the extra hole that I saw from the outside.  You know, the hole that serves no other purpose than to be just a hole in the steel plating, where you don’t need it?  From the inside, I took off the portlight hatch (the one you open and close) and then took off the inside frame.  This piece is held tightly together to the outside frame, making a sandwich with the hull itself.  Once you take it off, you get a better idea of what’s really going on… There are several things wrong with this installation:

First, the hole for the portlight is supposed to be cut using a template that comes with the darn thing when you buy it.  Also included are the instructions on how to install it.  Here are a couple of pics to give you an idea, these from the Lewmar installation guide.

Place the template where you want it and mark your cut.  Not as easy as making cookies, but that not difficult either.

Carefully cut the hole where the portlight will go.  It’s important that it’s ‘just right’, so that you don’t have gaps between the edge of the hole and the portlight frame when you put it in.

There, a nice, neat hole, ready for a portlight.

In our case, the hole was’t cut with a jigsaw of course – our boat is steel and so you have to use different tools (they probably used an angle grinder with a cutting blade attached).  Still, no matter the material, you have to be careful about cutting the hole to the correct size…..

Here’s what happened on Walk On: the upper, lower, left and right edges are not straight, and the the portlight is.  So what we have, especially around the four corners, are significant gaps between the portlight frame and the hole.  To minimize leakage, you need to set the frame in a good bedding compound – for which I would use a marine sealant like 5200 or Sikaflex.  On this particular hatch, and I’ll never know why, they used common silicone, and not enough of it.

In the lower right hand corner of the portlight you can see the lighted gap that looks like candle wax.  It’s not wax.  It’s the space between the hole and the portlight frame and no, there shouldn’t be any light coming through here. This hole was very poorly cut.  On top of that, they sealed with silicone which, in my opinion, is totally inadequate for this job.  The nasty grungy stuff you see below the portlight is a mix of dried salt (saltwater from out on deck has seeped through the gaps and dried) and surface rust.  Yikes. You might also notice that there isn’t any silicone protruding into and around the cutout – in other words, the silicone (or any other bedding compound you use) should have been applied in such a quantity as to bulge into the hole and wrap itself around the edge of the cutout, in this case to the right and below the ‘candle wax’ window that you can see.

Upper right hand corner?  Same thing.  I could post two more pics of two more corners to the left, but I think you see where I’m going with this.  BAD HOLE!

Here’s what it looks like from the inside, the full view.

Once you remove the back frame (on the inside), taking the portlight out is as simple as pushing it outwards.

So here’s the hole from the outside (with Lara in the middle – sorry baby cakes, I didn’t realize at the time that I got you with your eyes half closed!).  It’s not a pretty picture, as the edge has considerable signs of rust, corrosion, and will certainly need to be treated and repainted.  In fact, I’m going to have to do this to all our portlights and hatches, as they all are showing similar signs – now that I know what I’m looking at and can interpret the ‘bubbles’ in the paint.  But I’m not going to remove, repaint, and re-bed all of them here in Hawaii – I’m going to clean them up the best I can (removing the rusty signs with acid) and then temporarily re-seal them from the outside to prevent further water from getting in.  What I will need to do in the coming months is remove them all, and re-do all of them: 4 portlights on deck, 2 portlights in the cockpit, and 7 hatches!  Ouch.

Dried silicone is typically clearish to opaque white… except when it’s been ‘contaminated’ by rust.  😦

In the end, I spent about two hours removing every last trace of silicone from the portlight frame and around the hole.  Then I neutralized the rusty spots on the deck inside and out with acid (I can’t remember which kind, but the one steel boat owners use to cleanup these kinds of things).  Then I triple cleaned everything to remove any and all trace of dirt, dust, skin oil, sweat (it was hot) and so on, before re-bedding the frame with copious amounts of 5200 marine sealant.  I didn’t get any pics because the cleanup kept me busy and getting that stuff off your hands is tricky! In any case, the bedding compound squeezed out all over the place, both inside and out and so while we may not have perfectly treated the hole (strip and paint!), this portlight won’t be leaking again in the near furture.  When it dries we’ll do the super-blast-gale-simulation-with-a-hose test to see…

This took up most of yesterday, but near sunset I started in on the mast story.  I’ll write about that next time.  Oh, and we never did get to West Marine!  Guess that’ll have to be today.  🙂

HAPPY FRIDAY!
mm


separation of the waters, the saga continues

Yesterday I took an hour bus ride over to the west end of the Pearl City area, on the opposite side of Paerl Harbor from where we are, and picked up the Yanmar filters I’d ordered.  In the meantime, I learned a clever trick!  Jas, the lady at Spectrum Engineering, asked me how I typically change my impeller… then she gave me a tip about using a zip tie to make the job easier, very cool!  She said that when she started at Spectrum, she didn’t even pump her own gas… but after the Yanmar training, she’s full of knowledge and tips about diesels for Yanmar owners.  🙂  I’ll have to try it on this next impeller change and report on the details. Now I’m still after some Racor filters for the primary fuel filter and we’ll be done with procurement for engine spares.

The unassuming, but very friendly office of Spectrum Engineering – not exactly conveniently located for boaters, but they are the Yanmar dealer…

The spares: 3 oil filters, 3 secondary fuel filters, 2 impellers and their o-rings (sold separately!).  That should hold us for a while.

The caulking/sealing/investigating continued yesterday as well – maintaining the necessary separation of the waters. I finished off another quarter of the galley countertops and investigated two nagging leaks that we’ve never been able to solve: the mast and a mysterious leak abovedecks on the starboard side.  Neither leak allows a great deal of water into the boat, but they are leaks just the same and nagging reminders to me by way of my lovely wife that there are always things that need to be fixed around here…

Investigating consists of taking things apart and then getting the hose… simulating a heavy rainstorm or a green water wave on deck. I hate to say it, but both are construction errors by the boat yard (though I’m not surprised 😦 ). The tedious mast leak is due to the totally inappropriate use of expansion foam to seal the gap between the mast and mast collar. I thought this was a questionable idea when they did it back at the yard, and my instincts proved correct. The best fix will be to remove it all and then use a proper mast sealing product, I believe it’s called Spartite or something like that. However, as I recall it’s expensive and a bit time consuming so we’ll put that on a ‘refit’ list for California. In the meantime I’ll work up another temp solution. If I can get this leak fixed, Larissa will be in 7th heaven!

The mysterious leak to starboard comes from the portlight in our foreward cabin, though you couldn’t tell until you took everything apart, naturally. The installation of the portlight isn’t bad, per se, but the problem is that one of the yard workers drilled an extra hole in the deck plating, a hole that is not filled by anything – say, a mounting screw or some marine caulking material like 5200 or sikaflex!  What probably happened is that they drilled this hole in the wrong place first, and then later drilled the other necessary holes to mount the portlight. Too bad they didn’t seal the mis-drilled hole correctly! If I had a dollar for every construction defect I’ve found and 5 dollars for every item on the original plans that was not duly followed by the boatyard, I’d like have the cash to build another boat. Nuff said for now.

So the caulking will continue today on these leaky spots. I’ll have to completely remove the portlight in question and re-bed it, fully.  At least it should be dry after that.  Next in line will be the windows. Today we’ll also hit West Marine by bus to pickup some safety gear – rearming the two life vests with new CO2 cartridges and getting some additional lights for them. . . I keep thinking of the story of a capsized trimaran at night in Brazil where the Navy later reported that had the crew members not had the the lights on their life vests, the might never have been found…

More later, much more.
MM


passagemaking prep, touchups, and such

The last few days have been all about prepping Walk On for her next jaunt. It’s been a while since we’ve done real ‘work’ on the boat (picture being on the hard in Tahiti, doing rigging in the anchorage near Marina Taina), and so new we’ve got several weeks worth of prep to do before heading offshore again.

The first couple of days have been about list-making and weather watching. The list making part is relatively easy – the primary challenge lies in not omitting something important! This must work in our brains even when we’re asleep, the natural anxiety of the next big passage taking precedence over more pleasant dreams in the night: two mornings in a row I’ve climbed out of bed already in ‘list-mode’ and gone right to the list to jot something down, even before making coffee!

The weather watching is easy too. It’s a psychological game of course. With a long passage ahead in conditions that we know will be quite different from the downwind / tradewinds sailing we’ve been doing for the last 12 months, our curiosity is naturally tickled by what this next stretch of ocean has in store, or might have in store next month when we plan to be out there. We like to try and get as much info as we can and leave it all open for discussion. We find this is the best way to tackle the fear factor of a passage that will take us farther north of the equator than we ever were south of it, even down in Rio Grande, Brazil. After all, fear about passage-making is 90% about the unknown (the 10% being nasty conditions that you just can’t avoid). So we’ve spent considerable time on the internet studying weather reports, and using software that we have to get specific weather forecasts for the huge stretch of ocean we’ll be crossing. We use uGrib for that, and we also use the weather software provided with Airmail (our sailmail.com software) to do the same thing: get GRIB files that show us the predicted winds, waves, barometric pressure and precipitation for a selected area. These forecast files can show you up to a 7 day forecast, tough through experience we’ve learned not to really trust anything over 3 days. So now we are setting up a routine to watch these same weather files every days as they evolve over the course of the next few weeks. In the future I’ll write more about the route ‘up and over’ the Pacific High, explaining the what and why of a route that is not a straight shot to San Francisco.

Yesterday I made a trip to Home Depot. I know these stores of course, but it’s been years and years since I’ve been in one. What a difference over tracking down simple tools and paraphernalia all over little towns on little islands where availability is in question and prices always so much higher. We have it so good, and so easy in this country! A would-be cruiser in the US certainly cannot complain for lack of options, materials, tools, etc etc etc. Any-hoo, I picked up some the things I needed and in the afternoon started on some projects inside the boat: it’s all about keeping liquids where they should be! So I re-caulked some important galley areas – mostly the countertop near the sinks and where we do most of our food prep. The old stuff had started to fail, allowing random water from the countertops into little crevices and places where the moisture can grow mold and so on. You get the picture. Rip the old stuff out, re-caulk with some special sealant and presto, looks like a new galley. Same story in the shower: the walls are lined with white formica, quite commonly used i boat interiors. But there are joints of course where the flat panels come together at 90 degree angles (actually, there are lots of different angles, perhaps none of them actually 90). Joints leak if they’re not sealed correctly, especially in a shower! I removed the old stuff, probably Sikaflex, and started to apply marine sealant designed to be used above or below the waterline. This may be overkill for a shower, but that’s ok, better to overdo it in this case than the contrary. Next will be more ‘liquid management’: I suspect tiny leaks in a couple of places in our big beautiful glass windows in the saloon and so will go to work in re applying a special outdoor window caulking – just trying to decide now whether that will be a PU-based goop, or a pure silicone one I picked up yesterday.

Today I’m off on the bus again, this time over to Pearl City to pick up oil and fuel filters and some spare impellers that I ordered some time ago. As you might have a guessed, a full oil and filters change is in the near future and I’m also going to change the impeller preventively – we’re still at least 100 engine hours away from the recommended change – but changing propellers at sea is not fun! Been there, done that…

Anyway, enough of the droll maintenance log for now. There’s plenty more on the list, of course, but we’ll get to that one thing at a time. Larissa and I are well, still enjoying great meals and a movie after our work is done, and plan on a beach day or a movie sometime soon to fight the ‘all work and no play’ syndrome. 🙂

Happy hump day.
MM


the LOST photos!

Ok gang, here are the photos that Lara and Patricia took during their tour of the Kualoa Ranch.

This special place, on the NE side of Oahu, is a large family owned ranch originally purchased from a Hawaiian King 160 years ago… long before statehood. For it’s beauty, it’s oft been used as the setting for filming movie scenes and TV shows… not the least of which of course is LOST. You’ll see some pics of familiar LOST details, like the sub, Hurley’s Golf Course, and a bunch of otherwise ‘random’ scenery – all very beautiful of course. There are also scenes from the films Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, and Godzilla (check out the footprints…). The girls had a blast on this tour and although they didn’t see Sawyer, Jack, or Sayid (Patty’s favorite), they came back laughing and very happy indeed.

Enjoy!


Hawaii to SF – the research intensifies!

It hasn’t even been 24 hours since Marco & Paty (“Patty two times, two times” – more on that later) left Walk On and already we’ve stepped up our efforts and our interest in getting ready for the next passage. Larissa woke up with this on the brain actually, and I thought we’d have a day off, relaxing…

Anyway, we read and research all kinds of stuff for these passages, from books and guides, to blogs and so on… Lara took it a step further today and started checking for video too!

We found a good one on YouTube, by a cool gang who did this same trip last July (2010). We got a kick out of their video and think you will too:

You can read more about their 2007 to 2010 adventures (CA – Mexico – Hawaii – CA) in their blog: http://sailsugata.com/

Anyway, we’ve got San Francisco on our minds….

Ciao!
MJ&Lara


Coffee, empty nest, and next steps

It’s a bright a quiet Sunday morning here in slip 835, Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor yet to rise and shine fully. Over in the Ala Moana Park, to the NW, you can hear undertones of loudspeakers and a cheerful Hawaiian voice welcoming athletes and spectators to today’s Triathlon. To the SE, on Waikiki Beach (or near enough), another crowd is getting ready for another sporting event – this one the “Battle of the Paddle”, an organized paddle-board race that began yesterday. The boats around us, “Shadow” (Marina Del Rey, CA), “Dealer’s Choice” (Honolulu, HI), “Cutlass” (Honolulu, HI), “Nordic Lady” (Sweden), and “Dolce” (Japan), have yet to to stir very much, though Snail-San on “Dolce” appears to be entertaining a couple of friends for morning coffee and tea, and I can hear what would seem to be pleasant conversation in Japanese… Ask yourself what pleasant conversation in Japanese sounds like. I’m not sure, but Snail is a kind soul as is his wife, so I imagine pleasant conversations in their cockpit, even if I can’t understand a single syllable. Oh, and his name is likely not SNAIL in Japanese, but when he introduces himself, it’s the only word that comes close to the sounds coming out of his mouth. He calls me “Mikey-San” so I call him Snail-San and he always smiles approvingly.

And here on Walk On? Just the light taps on my keyboard, sips of freshly brewed coffee from the moka, and the faint sound of the fan in the foreward cabin where Baby Cakes gets a bit more beauty sleep. It’s quiet. The best time perhaps to reflect on things and catch blog readers up on what’s what around here.

Marco Antonio and Patricia left the boat yesterday, and so today we’ll likely feel the ‘empty-nest’ syndrome once again today once we realize it’s quiet and we’re not going anywhere. Actually, Marco left on Friday, and then left again on Saturday… But let me explain. Marco is headed back to Brazil after a long business trip and their trip to Hawaii, so we has scheduled to leave Friday. Patricia is headed to North Carolina for a company seminar, and so she was scheduled to leave on Saturday. Marco’s United flight from Honolulu to San Francisco did leave on Friday night as scheduled, but somewhere past Maui and only 40 minutes or so into the flight, they had to turn around and come back. One of the two engines had oil pressure problems and so was shut down by the pilot. The plane can fly with only one of it’s two engines (redundancy for safety), but they were still quite heavy with a full load of fuel, passengers, and all that heavy luggage – to make a safe return, they had to dump a good portion of their fuel (over the ocean) before making a safe 180 and returning to Honolulu. In the end, they made it back safely on one engine and with no other mishaps, but it was a full three and a half hours before Marco made it back to Walk On. The airport was pretty much closed at 0100 I the morning and so United had only two people to help all the passengers with hotels, taxis, meal vouchers and so on. Imagine the frustration and near-chaos, not to mention the wait. I still don’t know who took the luggage off the plane. It was nearly 4 AM when I heard some strange noises on the bow and woke to stick my head out of the hatch. It didn’t register immediately in my sleepy brain, but there was Marco, luggage in hand, surprising the heck out of me as he climbed over the bow pulpit. My first thought was that some drunk sailor had mistaken our boat for his and was trying to make it to a quiet bunk after a long night at the bars…. We had a good laugh and felt good that everyone was safe after the high altitude scare.

Patricia was still on board, and so husband and wife were reunited and we got a ‘free day’ with both of them rather than Patricia alone. This was a good thing, as spirits were high and we love being with them anyway – great natured folks with a highly developed sense of humor. We’d been laughing and enjoying all week anyway, so Lara and I were delighted that we got an extra day to head to Waikiki Beach. Funny that after a week on the island, this was their first daytime visit to Waikiki!

We watched the paddle board race and then rented a paddle board ourselves, along with a floating ocean tricycle water bike. We had a great time – here are some of the pictures to prove it:

Marco & Patricia’s visit was a huge success, as we knew it would be. In fact, we’ve been lucky all through this ‘visit Walk On in Oahu’ period to have great guests. These last guests were no exception. They’re both super easy-going, and Patricia has a fun and funny exuberance about her that keeps everyone laughing – she’d see the upside of trying to sail in a snowstorm and make great jokes about it. Marco wanted to sail as he seems to have been bit by the bug – so we did a couple of daysails that we tried to turn into mini-clinics about the basics of sailing. He has lots of great questions and is keen to learn about all kinds of things that pertain to sailing and cruising. I bet he has his first boat in the next 3 years – then again, living in Florianopolis, why wouldn’t you have a boat!

Some of the highlights of this most recent visit:

Sunday: visited Kaiula and Lanikai under cloudy skies and scattered showers, we also climbed the easy trail to the windward lighthouse – great views!

Monday: our first daysail and evening visit to the pub with the largest selection of draft beers in the world 🙂

Tuesday: visited Haleiwa and Waimea on the north shore, again with cloudy skies and showers (the heaviest shower on Waimea beach, where there were NO waves)

Wednesday: finally a sunny day! We spent most of the on the gorgeous beach at Lanikai, enjoying the sunshine, playing with all the dogs that came by, a little frisbee and frescobal, followed by a fantastic bbq on board that night

Thursday (our 4th wedding anniversary!): our second daysail and mini-clinic, followed by celebration dinner that night at Duke’s, complete with Hula Pie! (deu inveja, nao eh Flavous?)

Friday: windward coast tour, including a visit by the girls to Kualoa Ranch to do a bit of sightseeting for LOST film scenes (they loved it!)

Saturday: Waikiki beach, paddleboard races, and then, they were gone. 😦

And so now what? I’ve been getting emails and blog comments asking about our plans and don’t we want to stay in Hawaii? Well, we would like to do that, for sure, but our plans haven’t changed. It’s very tempting to get a job here and stick around for a year, but we have other, larger plans. Jobs, starting a family, etc. It’ll all be quite a change, you can imagine.

We plan to sail to the West Coast (US) in June, and that means that now we have our work cut out for us… There is a good size list of maintenance items to take care of, as well as overall boat prep, systems checks and double-checks, provisioning, route planning and keeping an eye on the weather. Nothing that we haven’t done before, mind you, but then again we haven’t done any passage-making since January, so we’ll have to be extra diligent about our preparations to shake off some of the cushy island inertia that’s set in over the last couple of months. The next three to four weeks will be busy here in Oahu, getting our blue beauty ready to go. From here, we’ll likely visit one or two other anchorages on the island before hopping NW to Kaua’i. Since making the turn to Hawaii late last year, we’ve both looked forward to a bit of time on the hook in Hanalei Bay, one of our favorite spots in the world – even if we’ve never been there on our boat. So the jump-off point for the next passage will be Hanalei Bay. From there, we anticipate a passage of somewhere around 2,500 to 2,800 nautical miles (give or take 200) to reach San Francisco. This passage is not nearly as straightforward as the downwind sailing in the South Pacific so we don’t expect to break any personal records on this one. In fact, it might turn out to be our longest passage week-wise (previous longest passage was Galapagos-Marquesas, 3 weeks to the day, 3,100 nm). This one could stretch to 4 weeks, or slightly longer. We’ve read of 4-6 week passages for this stretch, and of course it all depends on the size of your boat, the weather you encounter, etc. To be safe, we’ll stock food and water for 8 weeks at least, heck, why not 10! 🙂

Anyway, we’ll likely post more details about our preparation, as well as more specific dates and such, as it happens. Later today I’ll post some of the “LOST” pictures after Lara describes to me what was what… 🙂

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

MJM