Thursday morning and breeze is up

Good morning –

it’s Thursday, and I”m sort of on final approach to a visual landfall of the island of Hawaii, I’m coming in from the SE in theory the south point of the island is 142 miles out. The part I’m most likely to see first is one of the two tops of the mountains/volcanos (not sure which they are), either Mauna Loa at 13680′ or Mauna Kea at 13784′.

It’s been a strange day out here wind-wise; the breeze was up for the night, then down this morning and quite pleasant. The buoy report had 15 knots of wind, and then quite suddenly I had 30 knots of wind come whipping through for an hour, and then suddenly that wind dropped off to 12. Now I’m back at 18 knots and making good progress down the track. Kristen mentioned there are meteorological effects from the tall Mauna Kea mountain/volcano on Hawaii, plus there’s an underwater volcano in the area that affects the sea water temperature, all of which combines to create interesting weather.

First task after checking in to the country is to get online and purchase the Boat US liability insurance. Hawaii requires all boats to have liability insurance, just like Mexico does (in Mexico it’s only the foreign-flagged boats that must have liability insurance). Once online I can set that up.

Other than that there’s not much to do, keep some sleep in the bank and roll along. It looks like a Saturday late afternoon arrival is a possibility, it will depend on what the wind does over the next day and a half and how Beetle performs. so far we’re doing fine.

Not much else to report, just a good night’s run and a squall-free start to the day! Still haven’t seen anybody on AIS or visually, which isn’t too surprising as the great circle routes to Panama and the US West coast take ships (and airplanes) out to the north of the islands, not to the south.

Enjoy the day!

– rob


Wednesday eveningand breeze is up

Good evening – it’s been an extra windy day out here, the forecast is for 15 knots out of the NE (both NWS text forecast as well as the GFS weather model), unless you look at the WFax Analysis and the isobars running relatively near each other and parallel slightly to my north and the give-away indicator of 20 knots from a ship report. The WFax has it right – I’ve had 20-21 knots in the lulls and 24-26 knots in the puffs through the day. In response Tiger Beetle has migrated to Micro-Sail Plan mode, meaning the triple-reefed main and just enough jib unrolled to help hold the bow down and we’re still bombing along at 6’s & 7’s. The swell are coming in from the starboard beam and slightly aft of that, that’s why we’re being quick; if those seas were slightly from the bow it would be a different story entirely.

The sea state has remained relatively flat for this much wind and water on deck has been small and mostly due to white caps that strike the hull and splash into the air – those are wet and tend to travel across most of the deck. The companionway washboard is still in place and the hatch is shut and I’m doing the snug-bug-rug thing down below with the occasional Up Periscope! to see what’s going on topsides.

No squalls so far today, there is one working through NE->SW and well aft; squalls are in the area and upwind towards the NE it looks clear going into the first part of the evening.

Today has mostly been sleeping intermixed with dialing in the sail plan to keep things moving but comfy without loading up the boat. I boiled up another batch of hard boiled eggs, they are cooling off in the ice box and despite over cooking them the eggs are tasty.

I’ve also been perhaps optimistically trying to watch a movie on the nav station laptop while bouncing around, and I must say it is difficult to concentrate on a little screen that keeps waving back and forth as boat rolls in the swell. I have a set of noise-canceling Bose headphones and those work remarkably well at cutting out the background clatter bang clonk creak of the boat and wind and waves and I can hear the audio; it’s trying to keep the eyeballs even with the screen that is the difficulty, plus just being in the nav station seat takes a bit of work or else I slide along towards the switch panel. I think I will switch back to reading my book, that’s easier to work with as we jostle our way along.

Wind is forecast to maintain this level or build slightly into tomorrow, certainly at least remain at this level based on the WFax drawings. That works for me, we’re continuing to make good speeds in the right direction – knocked off 160 miles over the last 24 hours. Almost down to one LongPac in terms of distance to go. I’m also looking forward to ducking in behind Oahu and see what kind of wind & wave shelter the leeward side of the island can provide.

So it’s on into the evening! Still warm inside the boat, slightly cooler outside (t-shirt weather at best), water temperatures have come down from 80 degrees at 10N to 77.7 degrees here.

current position: 16 19’N x 152 32’W, course 309T @ 6.4 knots distance to go: 242 miles to S point Hawaii
429 miles to Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu

– rob

Wednesday morning, wind is up and we’re moving along well

It’s Wednesday morning, the sun rose over a big patch of mostly clear blue sky with little tradewind white puffy clouds moving along above the bright blue water. Breeze was light and I’d gradually unfurled more of the headsail through the night. Great way to start the day.

The US Customs office in Honolulu opens at 7AM, and I now have a phone number for them – so I rang them up on the Satellite telephone to find out what I could as regards checking in to the country at Ala Wai Harbor. The Customs agent explained the details of how it should go:

arrive at Ala Wai, tie up at the Aloha dock (and failing that, tie up at the long dock in front of the marina office), go up to the harbormaster’s office and make whatever arrangements I’m going to make, then telephone Customs with the boat’s location. As my arrival is likely to be non-business hours (which are 7AM-3PM Monday-Friday) the Customs & Agriculture agents will come over from the Honolulu Airport and check me into the country. I also provided over the phone my passport information so they tee that up in their system, and they’re expecting me. Entire telephone call took six minutes, hats off to US Customs to being clear and concise.

Last night was a mellow night on the ocean, the big swell settled down to a smaller swell running around 6′, wind held in there and I made good progress northwest.

And now the breeze has filled in at 19-22 knots and Beetle is hurrying along towards Oahu. ‘Hurrying’ is a word that Hal Roth used to describe his Santa Cruz 50 race boat participating in the BOC Round the World race, I kind of like that to describe the boat behaving as if it were a horse trying to get moving, that’s the connotation I come away with. It is difficult to slow Beetle down with the wind and seas where they are, I can’t make the main any smaller and the jib is now wound up to size tiny and we’re hitting 8’s and 9’s going down some of the swells. It’s a little rocky rolly down below, there’s definitely spray going over the boat when a white cap crests into the starboard side. The washboard is in place and the companionway hatch is shut. Below-decks it’s not bad, boat is rather level and you can hear the water whooshing by outside the hull as we zip along. The rudder or keel is also making a descending happy hummmmmmm sound as Beetle surges down a wave.

Today I’m going make up some hard boiled eggs, they should be ready in time for lunch. Other than that, weather continues to look good in the forecasts and the inshore forecast suggests there might even be wind to sail with in the lee of Hawaii. That would be somewhat surprising given the height of the island and the direction of the wind, I’ll get to find out, perhaps as early as Friday afternoon.

I’m going to go get some sleep, then boil up the eggs.

Enjoy the morning!

current position: 15 45’N x 151 50’W, course 311 @ 6.7 knots distance to go: 295 miles to Hawaii south point
481 miles to Oahu

– rob

Tuesday evening and continuing to move along

It’s been a good day on board Beetle, the breeze has held all day between 14 and 18 knots, making good progress towards the Hawaiian Islands. Rather nicely, there were only two isolated squalls that went by overhead, everything else has been open sky with puffy tradewind boxcar clouds. Still reaching along under the tiny sail plan and boat speeds are surprisingly high – it’s always surprising how little sail area one needs to reach along at good speed.

I got in a lot of sleeps, no shipping traffic popped up on the AIS, and the evening check-in on the PacSea net went well with good propagation.

One thing I found is I forgot to research how US Customs works in Ala Wai. I sent an email over to Ala Wai Harbormaster to remind them that I am arriving soon and asked about where the Customs dock might be, no response from Ala Wai yet. I also posed the question to the PacSea net as there are at least two net controllers in Hawaii – and they weren’t sure, either. One of the net controllers said he would look into it and let me know before I arrived. If anyone out there knows where the US Customs dock is in Ala Wai Harbor, and/or knows what the Customs procedure is, let me know! Otherwise I’ll be talking to the US Coast Guard on the VHF to ask them what I’m supposed to do, and if they don’t know I’ll just show up and figure it out on the fly.

There was bad news tonight on the PolyMag net – Coastal Drifter came close to sinking while on a mooring at Marina Taina in Tahiti: a bilge pump line started to siphon water back into the bilge from the ocean, and this is not good. It sounded over the radio as though the engine was submerged or partially submerged, too. When the problem was noticed the water was all the way up to the floor boards and the engine is installed at least partially below the floor boards.

After a bit of rapid bucket bailing by Phil & several other cruisers that came over to help, they noticed the water was responding to the bailing – everyone relaxed a little bit at that point. Eventually the water entry point was figured out and plugged or stopped. I think I heard Phil say they had an anti-siphon loop in the bilge pump outlet but it did not work properly.

I had the bilge pump line go into siphon mode on the Newport 33 and that was very surprising, especially to realize how much water can come in that quickly through a 1″ hose. For a siphon to occur the bilge pump’s overboard thru-hull must be located below the water line – and the builder on the Newport 33 did exactly that, when the N33 was moving even a little bit the thru-hull was suddenly underwater. I moved that exit point to be above the water line and the problem never happened to me again. On Big Beetle all the pump outlets are way above the waterline on the transom (I had to install them so I got to put them where I wanted them), and that keeps them clear of the ocean when moving and when heeled. At least if the anti-siphon loops in pump hoses fail there’s no access to water for the thru-hull to siphon back into the boat.

Several of the PolyMag net boats are there helping Phil & Deb clean up the boat and sort out repairs to the engine. This is good as it has got to be fairly distressing to find your boat partially filled with water. Friends pitching in can go a long way towards relieving stress and moving forward to a fix.

Back in my bit of the pond, the weather forecast is for more of the same for at least the next two days, with a slight tick up in the wind on Friday. I’m continuing to hold course to leeward of Hawaii, and Beetle is happily covering the miles.

I’m off to make up a bit of dinner, turn on the radar to check for squalls, then turn off the motor that is running right now for to charge batteries, then it’s time to grab a sleep.

Enjoy the evening!

current position: 14 42’N x 150 32’W, course 311T @ 6.9 knots distance to go: 393 miles to S end Hawaii
579 miles to Oahu

– rob

Tuesday morning and rolling along

Last night was good sailing out here, no squalls and lots of open clear space, wind held through the night and has come up a knot or two this morning. Now we’re running along still with clear sky above and lots of puffy tradewind boxcar clouds scooting by. Wind is 17-19 knots from the slightly east of north, the breeze is just aft of the beam and Beetle’s boat speed plus a push from the swell pulls the apparent forward to a beam reach and pointing straight ahead towards the South tip of Hawaii (the Big Island).

The swell has come up, now running a good 8′ from the NE and that lifts and lowers Beetle every 10-12 seconds, somewhat like an elevator oscillating up and down slowly. It’s a darn good ride for the conditions, and I’m sure glad I’m not pointing into the swell – that would be a lot more bow-punching-into-wave and most wet on deck.

I’ve been looking at the Hawaiian coastal waters and channel forecasts, and it is definitely bouncy and lumpy there – not often you see a forecast that calls for 6′ wind waves over a 3′ swell. I talked with Raynad last night on the SSB for a bit, and he knows a fellow that sails from Hawaii to and back from Alaska each summer; that person stated that being to weather of the Hawaiian islands is asking for big confused seas and the channels are nasty. I can attest to the confusion of seas to weather of Molokai, that was big chop the one time I was there (coming in towards the finish of the 2000 Pacific Cup).

I have decided to go west of the islands and have brought the course down a few degrees. The forecast is for significantly lighter wind and more importantly much reduced seas plus I won’t need to run through a channel. I do have plenty of fuel to motor the 180 miles from the S end of Hawaii all the to Oahu – that’s 20 miles further than the trip across Southern California from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

At this stage of the run I’ve made it through the various weather obstacles and Hawaii is three days out; what I need to do now is make sure the boat gets there in one piece and don’t break anything. To that end I’m not pushing the boat and instead letting the sails and swell move Beetle along at a comfortable pace. It’s kind of a quiet time on board as there’s less and less weather routing I need to do, other than keep an eye out for something wildly unexpected (hurricane, major frontal system sweeping through). I’m able to spend time reading again, I’ve got the Sherlock Holmes collection on my Kindle and those stories are fun to read, especially if you don’t remember how it ends.

All is well on board! Looking forward to (hopefully) seeing Hawaii on Friday.

current position: 13 58’N x 149 38’W, course 310T @ 6.6 knots distance to go: 462 miles to S end Hawaii
648 miles to Oahu

– rob

Monday evening and rolling along

Good evening, it’s been a nice day afternoon out here on the pond, making good miles towards Oahu, fresh water rinse of the boat (many times), and we’re headed into the night.

The morning didn’t look promising what with all the squalls dotted across the horizon, and those squalls continued non-stop through to the afternoon. Tiger Beetle was getting splashed with salt water as the squall’s accelerated wind drove in white caps that would land on deck, and then 15 minutes it would be raining (sometimes quite heavily) as the squall overran the boat. Repeat. A lot. Squalls get old, but at least these ones had wind beneath them and we kept on trucking.

Mid-afternoon I cleared out from under a particularly strong wet squall that was incorporated into a squall train that went north over the horizon (I counted at least 8 rain columns & clouds in the train) and popped out into a wide open clearing of puffy tradewind clouds and NO squalls – awesome! And I’m still sailing across that clearing. The wind is down a bit at 14-15 knots, boat speed is pulling the breeze forward to a beam reach which is particularly pleasant.

The only boat chore, which is a nightly chore, is to swap out the AA batteries in the dinghy bow light strapped to the bow pulpit. Then I turn on the inverter to energize the power strip in the nav station and plug in the AA charger. By morning the Eneloop rechargeables are ready to go.

Elsewise it’s been quiet out on the water, I saw a couple of pieces of plastic and foam go floating past, that’s always a bit off-putting when you think you’re out in a pristine environment and immediately trash goes by. The shearwaters are out doing their thing, and I got some pictures of different squalls.

I’m thinking about adding a Solent stay to the mast, and received word back from Buzz Ballenger (Ballenger Spar Systems) on how he attaches a Solent stay to the spar. As he designed and built the mast in Beetle he’s the right person to ask and it sounds as though it would not be difficult to put into the spar the tang fitting for a second headstay. It sure would be nice to be able to change gears on the headsails by rolling up the big sail and unrolling the small sail. As it is, a headsail change is darn exciting by myself and I’m becoming less and less enthusiastic about making changes on the fly. Next step is to see how the no. 4 would fit on a Solent stay – and it should fit just fine.

It’s a pleasant evening so far, I’m going to send this out and then go get some sleep in.

current position: 12 58’N x 148 30’W, course 315 @ 6.0
distance to go: 747 miles to Oahu

– rob

Monday morning and moving through the morning squalls

Good morning –

it’s Monday out here, my 15th day on the road from Tahiti to Oahu. This morning I woke up to several trains of squalls stretching off to the north, the good thing about these squalls is that at least they had wind and Beetle has been able to continue making good progress towards Hawaii.

The squalls last night settled on top of Beetle and I think they were traveling along with me. Shortly after the PolyMag radio net ended a squall came over and sat on top – it was a little squall/rain cloud with no wind in it but lots of left-over chop from all the squall activity over the hours. The headsail started to bounce and slam into the rigging, so I finally punted, rolled up the jib, turned on the engine and pointed Beetle down the track, dropped the main to the third reef and strapped it in on centerline – off we went into the night. I was also able to get in some good quality sleep in between checking things on deck, and I poked my head out four hours later to find the squalls had moved off and I was looking a wonderful open patch of clear ocean bathed in moon light – not even cloud cover up high!

Up went the sails, off went the motor, I had 12 knots of breeze and we were making better progress under sail (faster) than with the engine. That breeze has held all night, building to a steady 16-17 knots. The sea state also built and remained on the beam, so while we rolled a bit the motion was mostly heaving and that is fine on Beetle.

No big news to report from the night sailing other than Beetle continues to be attacked by flying fish. This time I was in the cockpit with my head lamp on, making an adjustment to the main sheet, when a flying fish shot in and hit the compass, fell on its back at my feet and proceeded to flap about like crazy. I was able to pick the fish up by one of the long pectoral fins and flip him back overboard; de-fishing the deck is something one does every morning as it is difficult to describe the dubious pleasure of coming across a two day old flying fish buried in the jib sheets…

The weather outlook for my position is looking better. The ITCZ is at least 120 miles to the south now, that seems to give the squalls where I am a place to go to, so they don’t turn and follow along with me. I’m sailing NW and cutting a course across the squall path, which seems to be mostly SW.

I’m beginning to look at the weather forecasts for Hawaiian waters. It’s 610 miles to the southern tip of Hawaii (the island), and there’s a reasonable chance I will be there Saturday morning or thereabouts. The forecast is for a filling wind Friday and Saturday from the east along with increased seas at 6-9′. If that happens, and I still have fuel for motoring to Oahu then I will likely duck to the west of Hawaii and move along in the lee of the islands rather than bang along on the east side.

Onward for another day today, hopefully today’s wind will be good, without damp clouds that drown out the wind!

current position: 12 10’N x 147 43’W, course 318T @ 6.0k
distance to go: 814 miles to Oahu

– rob