Friday morning and off South end of Hawaii (the Big Island)

Good morning –

We got somewhere! Believe it or not, there is real estate out here and I’m 15 miles offshore scooting along past the southern point of Hawaii (the Big Island, as the weather people write).

I’m going to move northwest in the lee of the islands between here and Oahu, hopefully that will tamp down the swell and wind, as there is definitely swell and wind to be had ’round these parts.

Last night was a good run with wind in the low 20s and when squalls came through wind would jump to low 30s. That went on for much of the night, and I stayed with my micro sail plan so I could get some sleep in and not keep hopping up and down to adjust the size of the headsail, and, sometimes, the angle of the mainsail to the wind. When I was up early this morning to inspect things, I found that what was a nice quiet calm boat interior was hiding a 30+ knot squall on deck, lots of flying water and wind. Bleah! Turned on the radar to try and find the extent of the squall and it was a lengthy one extending about 10 miles astern of Beetle, I was at the last rainy bit of the squall, so I went back to sleep and let the squall go its way while Beetle continue on in the other.

Dawn was fun, there was the island, a low grey smudge on the horizon that didn’t move, the squalls I’d been looking at earlier were off on the horizon now and new set of squalls were coming in – but they missed me and I’m not unhappy about that.

It’s also nice that the swell has dropped off to a single roller coming in from the east, the north stuff is blocked by the island. The inshore forecast is calling for what I have now, 20 knots east near South Point, variable <10 further on up. I will be crossing the waters west of the Alenuihaha Channel between Hawaii and Maui, the channel forecast is calling for east wind at 20 knots, I don’t now how far out that wind will extend to the west (my planned route has me 55 miles out in the ocean, well away from the channel). It will also be interesting to see if there are any counter-currents swirling around the islands; I bet there are.

All is well on board. The deck looks good and organized, I can find all the sheets and strings and lines in the dark mostly because every time one gets adjusted any left-over tail gets coiled up and put bag in the sheet bag – so no spaghetti mess in Beetle’s cockpit! With the sea state way down the boat’s motion is smooth, and I’ve been moving around below-deck to stow all the gear that’s been gradually extracted over the past 2-1/2 weeks. Found the roll of Gorilla duct tape and put that back in its spot, wiped down the sink, and putting clothes into the dirty laundry bag that need to go there.

And here’s a novel USCG Marine Safety Broadcast that just came in over the airwaves: all vessels are required to maintain a safety exclusion zone (I think he said 300 meters) that extends out 300 meters from the entry point of lava flow into the Pacific Ocean. I’ve not heard that kind of informational broadcast and warning before.

I’ve got 184 miles to go to Oahu, hopefully can be there before tomorrow night! I’ve got plenty of fuel to burn, and the sailing is good right now so onwards!

– rob

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Thursday evening and approacing Hawaii (the island)

Good evening –

it’s been a good run today, wind hung in there and has been gradually building through the day. In response I’ve been gradually shrinking the jib, and we’re reaching along now in 21-23 knots of breeze with a swell that is building up to the order of 8′ or so, and a second swell is running around too and when they stack up it’s impressive. The swell is still on the beam and Beetle does the up-down thing as the swell roll through, so you don’t really notice them from below decks.

The squalls have generally stayed away today, with the exception of perhaps two hours spent working through a line of squalls that were traveling somewhat along my path – in the afternoon the wind had backed more to the east and that made my path come more in line with the squalls’ path and we intersected at a shallow angle. This gives you lots of time to examine the clouds and the rain as they play through. The winds on the leading edge of the rain columns were 30 knots and with the jib rolled well up Beetle kept on moving through.

I did find a boat on AIS today, it must have been a fairly big fishing boat as it was running a class B signal (which all of them have been, so far), and was making 8.5 knots INTO the swell – ick! I hope they find their fishes, they are definitely working for them tonight out here.

I’m now within VHF range of USCG Honolulu, I heard them pop up on 16 to announce a small craft warning for the channels between the islands – they must have powerful transmitters located way up high for me to hear them from 80 miles out.

Speaking of distances, the southern tip of Hawaii is now 80 miles off; I don’t see anything yet, but I should be able to see the island by morning. That will be good, as I can then turn slightly north and duck into the lee of Hawaii and carry on in flatter water and light breeze on my towards Oahu.

I heard from Cinnabar, Tom & Sylvia, today – they hauled out in Raiatea two days ago and are decommissioning the boat for the hurricane season. They also passed along the idea that the Aloha dock in Ala Wai harbor is probably the Hawaii Yacht Club’s arrival dock, so I will look for that when I get there.

For tonight, the game is still to move along and not press the boat. The local forecasts are for 20-25 knots at South Point on Oahu. I have scoured the chart looking for a *place* named South Point and haven’t found one, so I have decided the forecasters must mean the south point of Oahu (named Kalae on my NOAA chart). There is a wind shadow of sorts that may extend from the eastern point of Hawaii (Cape Kumukahi) down towards the southern point; I haven’t been here before so I don’t really know the local weather details. The GFS model suggests that wind shadow, but that model is not known for doing a good job around edges of land.

I’ve still got a small amount of jib rolled out to hold the bow down, main is triple-reefed and snugged in, we’re moving along at low 6’s, and the wind generator is making plenty of power tonight.

I’m going to go get in some sleeps. I’m quite looking forward to making my turn to Oahu. I’m intending to clean up and organize the interior tomorrow so we’re all set for the US Customs agents when I get in. Saturday still looks reasonable for arrival, provided I can keep boat speed up (I need to average 5.83 knots to be at the Ala Wai Harbor entrance with good daylight).

current position: 17 58’N x 154 43’W, course 305T @ 6.1 knots distance to go: 83 miles to my south point Oahu waypoint
269 miles to Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu

enjoy the evening!

– rob

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