We took in our lines and sailed out of Ali Wai harbor early Thursday morning intending to meet up with Minstrel Boy, a Canadian boat that was to be our “buddy boat” for the passage. They were in Ko ilina marina, further along the coast.
Well a crappy start, an hour after we left we found out that the GPS information wasn’t getting through to our VHF radio nor our shortwave. In itself – not a show stopper, but if we have an emergency and need to push the big red button, the radios will send out a distress call, but not our position. I tried everything I could think of but could not get it to work.
We talked about it and decided to turn back to get it working. We let Minstrel Boy know we would be a couple of days behind them and turned back to the marina. After working on it for a day or so – suddenly it all worked. Apparently, it was a power problem. As a little side reward, Vinni, whose control gene was working i high gear, had said that she had total control over our food/refrigerator etc. Of course she had forgotten the 3 tubs of my chili we had standing in the Yacht Clubs refrigerator. Going back – we picked these up.
Sunday, we again left Hawaii Yacht Club, this time with all the GPS data functioning. Two hours later, the data stopped showing up on both radios again.
Ok, so again a discussion and this time we decided that we would just continue. So – we’re off! The passage is close to 2800nm (or longer depending on wind and weather – it could also be 3200nm) and we expect it to take almost 3 weeks. The winds were strong once we got out of the shadow of the island but hereafter they settled down and we were able to hold a course almost straight north.
Sailing from Hawaii to Washington/Canada means sailing in a roundabout way. The winds here come from the west, but this time of year there is a strong high-pressure system that settles north of Hawaii. So to go east, you have to go north (or northwest, the high pressure doesn’t stay put in one place) until you pass the high-pressure zone, then turn east and sail to the mainland. This weather system is known as the “Hawaii Carrousel”. A straight-line course from Hawaii to Seattle is about 1900nm – we will sail almost 1000nm more to get to the same place.
The first few days we’ve had good wind but coming from ENE, so we’ve been forced to sail a bit west. Minstrel Boy is several hundred miles ahead of us and despite being a much heavier boat they are making good time. We should catch them easily, but they are making the same speed we are.
We seem to be beset by problems on this passage. Note the aforementioned GPS issues. Then a few days out, it was raining which shouldn’t be a problem. When we mounted all new electronics after our lightning strike, the chartplotter we purchased had both a touch screen and buttons. Seems that no one makes a chartplotter with only buttons anymore. Everyone wants touchscreens (well – most true bluewater cruisers don’t – they hate touchscreens – as do I). Why do we dislike touchscreens? They are difficult to use when the boat is in heavy weather, they don’t work in the rain and if your fingers are cold, they also don’t work. Anyway, it was raining and when I looked at the chartplotter, it had gone crazy and the icon of our little boat the shows our position was speeding across the screen. Nothing I did could make it behave correctly. Finally, I fired up Vinni’s PC so we would have an alternative navigation instrument. But I had to install a portable GPS receiver to her PC, which I’d never done before and all that took a couple of hours (blood, sweat and tears – I hate PCs). Fortunately, Vinni was asleep and didn’t realize we had serious problems. After I got everything working, I took one more stab at the chartplotter. It turned out that I had not switched on the “touchscreen lock” when it started to rain and the rain had activated some hidden settings. I was able to reset them and the chartplotter worked fine.
Live and learn.
Oh – just for fun, our bilge pump starting pumping. Quite regularly. The hunt was on for the leak.
Many hours later, we found it. The shaft seal on the drive shaft was loose. This isn’t supposed to happen – the clamps are tighten with self-locking nuts that supposedly never work themselves loose. I managed to get an extra nut on there as a locknut. Now they’ll stay. Of course, this is a boat, so getting in there and putting extra nuts on requires having arms with two sets of elbows and wrists that bend both ways.
On day 11 our watermaker quit.
This had the makings of a serious problem – we had around 240 liters of fresh water in our tanks and at least 14 more days of sailing before we can get fresh water (unless we get some serious rain – then we can try to capture it). Let’s see – 240 divided by 14 equals – 17 liters per day or 8.5 liters person per day. Ok, we can survive on that, but it means no morning coffee (tea) or anything else. No bathing, all dishes washed in seawater and just barely rinsed off in fresh.
Minimum survival (and here we are talking pure survival) is about 2 liters of drinking water per day per person, 4 liters is much better. But we can do it if we have to.
On the other hand, I could just get off my lazy butt and fix the damned thing. Oh yeah, the watermaker is mounted under the front bunk. We stow everything on top of the front bunk when we passage sail because we don’t sleep there. Nothing to be done – get busy. Not only do I have to restow everything, but I also have to dismount most of the front bunk so I can properly get at the damned machine. An hour later, I can now start diagnosing the problem. Ok- lots of juice, measuring 13.1 volts DC. That’s not the problem. The pump is not turning so therein lies the problem. Either the pump motor is shot (it is brand new) or else the pump has seized (it is also brand new) or else – damned if I know.
To get to the pump the entire unit has to be dismounted (note to all – there is very little space to get at the screws etc.) Once dismounted I again check the electricity. Still 13.1 at the switch. Aha! Eureka! There is a little pressure switch on the pump that shuts it off if the pressure somehow gets too high. I can measure 13.1 going in, but nothing coming out. So the switch is fried. I have an old pump so I (first I have to find it and dig it out of storage – another hour) then cannibalized it for a working pressure switch.
A couple of hours have now gone by; Vinni occasionally calls down from the cockpit asking how things are going. Put everything back together again and remount it (it has to be completely remounted to test – idiotic design). Well it works, but because of all the twisting and turning, several of the hose connections are now leaking. The engineer who designed this should be put sentenced to purgatory and forced to spend several thousand years dismounting and remounting these things. Some of the hose connections are virtually impossible to get at.
To spare you all more of this trail of tears, suffice to say I had to dismount and remount the damned twice more before everything was tight and not leaking.
But it works again, albeit with slightly lower production. Vinni officially crowned me HERO once again meaning I get to dig my Superman t-shirt with the giant “S” on the front and parade around, looking like the hero I am. I forgot, however, to pack my Superman costume (didn’t think I would need it – anyway there are no phone booths on Capri wherein I can change into it), so if any of you happen to have a spare Superman costume (my size please) you can end it – donations to buy a new costume gratefully accepted.
Of course, I could just go whole hog and have a big “S” tattooed on my manly chest.
When we talk with other cruisers, they have the same problems. Life at sea, if you were wondering, is not just lazing around in the cockpit in your birthday suit soaking up the sun. But there are compensations. Every day (when it is not overcast) we are treated to sunups and sundowns that are beyond belief.
Or else the moon decides to just peek through a little hole in the cloud cover and you suddenly feel as if you not completely alone in the pitch black night.
We are now in day 12 of this passage and have passed the halfway point. Unfortunately, we’ve had no wind for the past 2 days and have been running on the engine. When took stock of our diesel situation this morning – we about ½ tank (65 liters) and 9 x 20 liters in jerry cans on the deck (180 liters) or a grand total of 240 liters of fuel.
The weather forecast shows that we won’t be seeing any wind for the next 3-4 days or 72 to 96 hours. We use about 2 liters per hour, so 96 hours times 2 liters means burning 198 liters of fuel and that means we will have 42 liters remaining.
That will be cutting it very close indeed, since we may need all that fuel for our trip up the San Juan Straits to Port Angeles in Washington.
If we don’t see wind by the 3rd -4th day, we’ll have to shut down the engine and lie ahull until some wind shows up.
We get a weather forecast every day and hope to see some change – sorry, no wind.
This is day 15 and we’ve had no real wind. Occasionally, it will blow a bit, for an hour or so, but then everything dies down again. We’re short on fuel. Late this afternoon, the wind finally came – a bit sporadically.
What also came were whales! I was sitting in the cockpit reading, Vinni down below, when a humpback surfaced and spouted right next to the starboard side of the boat. I damned near had a heart attack. Suddenly we were surrounded by whales, a herd of them. They surfaced and spouted all around us, some as close as 20 feet from the boat.
This is actually a really scary thing and you can only hope that they realize Capri is here – getting hit by a swimming whale is no joke.
Thereafter we got wind. Early evening it was blowing up to twenty knots, pitch black because the sky was completely overcast. We had not reefed the sails because the forecast had not said anything about 20+ knots. Suddenly, out next to the boat, I heard a whale spout and for the next half hour, they were spouting all around Capri. I have no idea how close they were, but they sounded just as close as the ones we heard earlier, so they were also right next to the boat. Fortunately, Vinni was sleeping – I wish I had been sleeping.
Day 16 and we continue to have wind – we’re on course and making 5-6 knots. The clouds are right down at sea level and it is almost foggy – not good when you rely on solar to charge your batteries. Our AIS is also not sending – we can only receive. That means that we can see other ships, but they can’t see us. In this fog, that is not good. It is bitter cold and we can’t fire up the diesel furnace in the boat because of our fuel situation. Damn!
We’re pretty much reduced to three-hour watches because of the cold. You’re numb after three hours. Our seabunk has pillows and an extra duvet lodged up against the bulkheads to help insulate from the cold creeping in through the hull from the water. We’re sleeping under a duvet and two fleece blankets. It takes most of an hour to get warm again after a watch.
Are we having fun yet?
Damned right we’re having fun!
Day 17 and now we have wind. Lots of wind – blowing up to twenty-five knots. We’re in the third reef in our mainsail and fourth reef in our genua and we are still scooting along making six to seven knots. The swells have reached three to four meters and when we surf down the front of one, we make almost eight knots. The sea is boiling and small random waves toss Capri around like she is a “rubber ducky” in a bathtub.
Still viciously cold and even when below, we are dressed in sweat pants, thick t-shirts, a sweater, a thick fleece jacket and then our foulies. Heavy socks and boots complete the outfit.
But we are still freezing.
Dinner last night was a heated tortilla with cheese and some roast beef inside. We’re spending most of the time below in the salon because of the cold, going up to check on how the boat is doing every twenty minutes or so. Also to keep a lookout for other ships. The night is pitch black, the waves are thundering as they pass us. Capri is tossed from side to side as she rides the swells. There is a very real chance that we might broach on one of these swells. Every hundredth swell is 50-75% larger than the other swells, meaning that hundredth swell is running six or more meters (twenty feet).
Are we having fun yet?
Damned right we’re having fun!
I guess it requires a special kind of masochism to do this voluntarily, much less to enjoy it (Oh sweetheart – bring on the whips and chains). Of course, we could have stayed on Hawaii and right now, we’d be wandering around on Waikiki Beach in bathing suits. Later, we’d have cold G&Ts in our cockpit.
Day 21 at sea. Vinni and I just had a long discussion about whether this is day 21 or day 20. She claims that you can’t count it until the day is gone – I say – hell we’re in the middle of the day so this is day 21 (when on a passage you can spend hours discussing insignificant things). Since I’m writing this – it is day 21. When we write our third book, Vinni will do the editing and then she can change it to day 20.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Day 21 and the wind is just moseying along at 10-12 knots and coming from straight astern. Barely enough to give our rudder steerage. We’re making four knots, when there is a strong gust we get up to five knots. The good news is that we are only 300nm from the mainland – so two-and-a-half days to go.
Uuuuhmmm – I can taste that cheeseburger now. Fully loaded with bacon, lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers, a little bit of onion and lots of sauce. Medium please. Big plate of fries and if they have it – a couple of bottles of Negra Modelo, the best beer in the world.
The world and the oceans have many surprises, some good and some bad. Here we thought we would have made landfall at the latest Tuesday and along come “surprise!” in the form of a quickly appearing zone of no wind.
Yes dear friends, no wind. According to the forecast, it will be at least twenty-four hours before we see wind again. Guess that burger will just have to wait. Capri has ground to a stop and the sails are flapping.
An update – now a couple of hours later, we have some wind – 8-10 knots and we are able to make four knots of speed. We have no idea how long this is going to hold, but we will ride it for as long as we can. We’re hoping that it will last until tomorrow, then we will see some real wind and scoot the rest of the way to land.
The sun is shining and as we are now nearing land it has gotten warmer, f.ex., I am able to sit here at the computer and type without having to take breaks because my fingers are so cold that they stiffen. I take off my gloves when below, because they are damp from the salt spray, making them even colder.
This is now day 23 of this little adventure (by the way – Vinni and I are still discussing if day 23 starts in the morning or do you have to wait until the next day to say “we’ve been at sea for 23 days”. No matter, as I noted she can just change it when she edits the book (that, dear reader is a plug for you all to dig deep into your wallet and buy copies of our book! Book 1, Capri – Sailing Distant Seas will hit the bookstores helves this fall – but don’t you worry, I’ll make sure you are told exactly where to buy it).
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Day 23. We’re becalmed and lying ahull and have been for almost 24 hours. For all you non-nautical types, lying ahull means the sails are down, the engine is turned off and the boat is doing a sincere imitation of a rubber ducky in a bathtub. The swells are less than a foot and Capri is rocking us a lullaby. We are drifting with the ocean current – 1.7 knots per hour.
So what are we dissatisfied about? We are only 148 nm from making landfall that’s what. We drifting with the ocean current and making the wild speed of 1,7 knots. We’ll be out here until we die of old age (no snide remarks please about how that is quite soon anyway considering my advanced age) unless something happens.
We are supposed to get wind late this afternoon in about 10 hours or so. We’ll see – we’ve just finished a big brunch, bacon, eggs, hash browns, English muffins so we are stuffed.
We’ve reached day 24, we have WIND! And Capri is just scooting along. I’m reading our chartplotter manual cover-to- cover (381 pages) to see if there is something about our AIS. I simply can’t understand why it isn’t sending. Finally, deep in the back, under another title point, it says there is an option to turn off sending AIS. I screw around with the plotter and reset the virtual switch to on – but nothing happens that I can see. Five minutes later, a Canadian Border Patrol airplane calls us on the radio asking where we are coming from and where we are going to. They spotted us on the AIS.
One problem less to worry about when we get in.
At 11:36 a.m. I can yell; LAND HO!!! As I spot some mountains on the horizon – it is Canada and by golly we’re here! We still have 30-some-odd nautical miles to go but we’ve arrived – we can see land for the first time ii 23 days. We will make landfall at the mouth of the Straits sometime around 1900 hours tonight and then we have a 12-14 hour run up the Strait before we can tie up and really say we have arrived.
Shortly after I yelled; Land Ho! The wind died (naturally, after all – this is Carsten and Vinni sailing). It died completely and we had to fire up the iron genny. Normally, of course, we wouldn’t care – but we only had about 40 liters in the tank and we also needed to have enough to make the 60nm run up the Straits. Neah Bay, a marina right at the entrance is closed to all visitors because of the corona. The marina is on a Nez Perce reservation and they have closed the reservation off to all visitors. The only other option is at Clallum Bay, but the marina is way too shallow for Capri – no way we can get in there.
Anyway – we fired up the motor and 5 hours later, we entered the Straits. Immediately we slowed down – the current was running 2+ knots against us and we had to give the engine some more oats to keep any kind of speed on her. Not good. Not good. Not good. Bad news ( not fake news). We were only making 3 knots and that meant we would be running on the engine for at least 20 hours to make the 60nm. The pilot book said that the current would all day – there was only one tide this day.
Sooooo, we gotta problem. Will we run out of diesel? As we near Clallum Bay, Vinni wakes me – she’s more than nervous about the diesel situation and we’re down to something like 15 liters. I called the marina – yes they are open. Ok, Plan B is to anchor, inflate the dinghy, run in and get 3-4 jerry cans filled. Doable, but a royal pain in the royal behind. As we near we see lots of small fishing boats and I tell Vinni to sail up close to one – maybe he’ll run me in if I pay him some money.
As fortune would have it – the fisherman was Ned and his 7 year old son, Justin. “No problem, let me haul in my lines and I run you in.”
This Good Samaritan, Ned, ran me in and waited while I filled four jerry cans. I asked if I could pay – “nah”. Then I asked if I could at least buy him a cup of coffee – “Nah, I’ve got lots of coffee in the chest”. How about buying Justin a soda or an ice cream? Just a smile in return –“ I’ve got lots of soda and ice cream for him in the cooler”. He refused to take anything and the last thing he said before helping me load the jerry cans onto Capri was, “It will be good for Justin to see how you should treat other people.”
What a marvelous attitude. Ned – you just loaded up your good karma account to the max – we can’t thank you enough.
A full tank of diesel allayed Vinni’s nervousness and we ran the engine up to higher rpms to make some time. Of course, n hour after this, the current turned and now we had 2 knots running with us. We’re still not sure how we managed to read the current tables so badly – we will need to study them so we get better at it. We usually don’t make those mistakes.
Yes, dear friends – July and there is snow on the mountains.
We’re dressed in our warmest sailing clothes and still it is cold – very, very cold. we start talking about maybe we should turn around and sail back to Hawaii? One thing is certain – We can pack our flip-flops, bikinis, bathing suits and Hawaii shirts far away – we wont be needing them anytime soon.
Late that afternoon, we turned into Port Angeles Boat Haven Marina docked and shut down the engine. For the first time in 25 days, Capri was lying still and Vinni and I were exhausted. A couple of seals come by and say “Welcome to Port Angeles”.
We had promised each other that we would go out for a cheeseburger our first night, but we were too tired, so we had a G&T and some spaghetti and hit the bunk.
Vinni woke up at 2:00 a.m. to take her night watch. Fortunately she wasn’t as confused as she was on St. Lucia where she screamed that we were going to sail up on the rocks.
25 days at sea. There were some nervous moments when we had to make emergency repairs. Generally the weather cooperated, we only had a few days of heavy sailing. All in all, a much less challenging passage than the one from the Marquesas to Hawaii which was a real bear.
Now we will spend a few days in the harbor, making some minor repairs and getting our feet back on the ground (literally!). Then we will be off to explore the Pacific northwest.