45d 08.4 N 135d 51.1 W
Time for an update from aboard Salient. It has been a while. We have been very busy here and our social media coordinator has been racing during the long weekend.
The program has changed: We are no longer in the ‘leisure program’ and are now into the adventure part of our sailing adventure. The days of swimming in the ocean and shorts on deck are definitively over. Welcome the Pacific Northwest!
Three nights ago, we sailed in near gale conditions through a black night. Winds picked up to 30 kts, gusting to 35. The sky and ocean blended into one dark canvass with no visual reference points. All we could see were the white caps on top of cresting waves, illuminated by our navigation lights. The seemed like galloping white horses in a hurry to go somewhere.
For our sailor friends: We had the #2 sail up, partially furled on a spinnaker pole, no main, sailing at true wind angles of 160 – 170 degrees. This is a very conservative & forgiving yet effective sail plan to go downwind. It was set up, so we could furl or even gybe the jib without having do anything with the pole.
Before sunrise we reached our gybe point but decided to belay that maneuver until sunrise avoiding having to reset the pole and foredeck work in these conditions. Imagine being on a 20 square foot platform, that rolls 30 degrees back and forth and pitches at the same time randomly. The bowman only a step away from falling into the dark water swooshing by the bow it was safer to stay in the cockpit. After all, we did not have to win a race coming home.
The average wave height was three to four meters with the occasional one being bigger. Waves can be double in height from the predicted average wave height. One nasty wave slammed us broad side and leaped into the cockpit and I was standing ankle deep in water at the helm and everybody else got a cold shower.
Suddenly, we could hear birds twittering. They flew on our port side, their tiny bodies lite up by the lights on top of the mast. They showed up as we were supposed to gybe. It was almost as if they wanted to tell us “gybe now, gybe now”. We carried on our gybe though, and they stayed with us all night giving us some comfort during this dark and stormy night. We were all tired and happy to see the day break with the winds down in the mid twenties.
In the afternoon the sun came up. Back to the leisure program with champagne sailing. Sadly, in the middle of the day, one of the pins holding the stove on the gimble gave way and the stove fell partly into the pans & pots cabinet below. It did not look very practical to cook that way. After close inspection we could tell that those pins were not meant to every be replaced but after the 1,000,000,000th gimble back & forth the constant seesaw the pin was neatly cut in half. Not having the gimble or no stove at all was not an option. The first phase was to secure it and we tied it to the guard rail in front of the stove and shimmied it with plywood. For phase two: Out come the tools: Drill, punch, hacksaw, the whole nine yards and a few hours later we had a fully gimbled stove again and better designed than before.Much fun doing this while we sail on, in 20 kts of breeze, big swell left over after the heavy winds.
The project was done in time for dinner and we had our meal & captains hour on schedule. Happy crew!
Day 9 – Half way!
39 d 43.8 N 147 43,2
For the weather gurus among you: Have a look at the two pictures: One from the weather fax showing a low pressure system (1001 hPa) right near our position. The grib files (2nd picture) does not show that low. We experienced the winds filled in much earlier from the NW than earlier gribs suggested. This worked well. Squalls frequently build and for the better part they pass us on our favorable side giving us a boost where the prevailing winds are light. Squalls typically last for 15 – 30 minutes, with light to heavy rain and winds 5 to 10 kts above the prevailing winds.
Mostly though the weather presented itself friendly and we sailed in shorts during the day. At night however the foulies have come out. Jono won the competition of the last crew sailing in shorts. He took some pride in the fact that the sole Kiwi aboard won over the tough Canadians.
The big event today however was that we reached our Halfway Point!
At 4 pm Vancouver time we were equidistance between Maui and Victoria about 1150 NM from each point. We cranked our new "Half way song": Bon Jovi "Living on a Prayer":
"Ohhh we're half way there, living on a prayer" - LOL.
We expect to be in Vancouver at happy hour on Friday August 10th. We still have a lot of Ocean to cross and a lot can happen between now and then. Nevertheless, the crew is proud to have sailed over 2,000 km since July 24th when we left Honolua Bay on Maui.
We have seen strong winds in formidable swell early on and champagne sailing later in the voyage. Mostly the weather was fantastic with sunny days and spectacular sunsets broken up by the occasional squall. Fishing, swimming and food lived up to expectations and we all enjoy this special time on the ocean away from land.
August 1st is also the Swiss National Day. The Swiss flag went up again and we celebrated with fresh baked bread. A nice treat for all.
Day 8th – The Day in Numbers & a Swim
37 d 42.4 N 149 13.0 W
Last night we passed a first milestone: 1,000 NM north of Maui. We have now sailed almost 2,000 km since leaving Lahaina on July 23rd. 1,300 NM to go until we get back into Canada. Our position is at the same latitude as San Francisco, about 1,300 NM to the east, equidistance to Cape Flattery where we will enter the Juan de Fuca Strait. Soon we will be at our point furthest from land around 1,100 NM from anywhere. That is about the same distance as from Vancouver to Baja California.
We can barely feel the wind on our skin and Salient is ghosting along at a slow pace. The Pacific Ocean lives up to its name. Salient is ghosting along at a slow pace as a gentle swell heave her up and down. The ocean is breathing, gently. Peace.
The water temperature is shy of 22 degrees C. The air temperature is perfect for shorts & t-shirts. Unfortunately, this speed is too slow to fish. I think we can make out the bar on the horizon with Mahi Mahi tacos, cold Bikini Blonde and Cuba Libre.
On the topic of food: Feeling a bit hungry mid morning, I could not help frying up a few slices of Spam. My watch loved it. With a bit of HP Sauce on top, a delicacy! My race team did not approve, and I could not bring a single can of Spam on the way to Maui, but this team loves it 😊. We will have to add another check box on the application form for next time!
Later in the day, we were becalmed took the sails down and finally went for a swim. A thousand miles from anywhere, with the closest land 5,000 m strait down. We all jumped into the deep blue ocean. The water is unbelievably clear and of the most intense blue colour. It is a strange feeling to swim that far from land. A swim around the boat and a dive to inspect rudder & prop. Still no mermaids to be found.
After a shower on the transom, we found our bar and had beer & burgers. Mahi Mahi tacos for tomorrow. We inspected our mainsail & Jono our sail maker patched up a few chaffed spots and on we went. With the wind speed under 3 kts, we started the iron spinnaker and plan to motor for the next 24 hrs.
We now switched from Honolulu Standard Time to Vancouver Time. The sun is gently lowering over the horizon and another day in paradise comes to an end.
Day 7 – The Weather Conundrum
35 d 48.2 N 150 d 38’.4 W
Yesterday we found another Italian restaurant on our journey. It featured delicious Mahi Mahi with a lemon, orange and soy sauce reduction. Fresh with a few leaves of salad served on a tortilla wrap. It is amazing what you find on your way when you go off the beaten track. Chef Andrea was very happy when he found a spice called “Italiano” in the cupboard. We are a little light on olive oil though. Note to self: Add one liter of extra virgin olive per week of travel to the provisions when sailing with an Italian!
After pouring most of the morning over the weather forecast, comparing GRIB files (raw weather data generated by a computer for our routing software) with different weather faxes (weather maps generated by a meteorologist, i.e. a human being versus a computer) I realized that there is a different approach to looking at this: Instead of trying for the fastest way to Vancouver we can sail a more comfortable route, adding maybe 100 to 150 NM to our journey. Instead of motoring for two days through the doldrums going for where the wind is, we can practice being patient (not my strong side) and let the weather come to us (Thank you Gunnar for the tip on “being patient”). That might possibly add another day or so to our trip. So instead of 16 days we might be 18 days on the Ocean.
What is so bad about that? A couple more days in paradise doing what we love to do and delay the return to the rat race? I also think I remember that bar in the North Pacific that serves Bikini Blonde and Cuba Libres. They might even prepare fresh Mahi Mahi tacos. What is not to like? On we sail, foot off the pedal, wind on the beam and everybody is happy. Cruising style!
Lying in my bunk during the afternoon rest, I can see the waves reflecting on the open porthole window and I can’t help but feeling happy and blessed to be out here away from the stress of the daily life. No pressure, just sailing, catching fish, eat, rest, marvel at sunset after sunset one more spectacular than the other, sailing to the stars at night, following a distant cloud by day all interrupted only by Captain’s hour each day at 6 pm. An ocean passage seems to be a good remedy for anybody who has let the daily life get to them a bit too much. It took me a while even on this voyage to realize this again. Late yesterday I ended up pushing the team to sail harder to have a fighting chance at making the 16 day passage to Vancouver. Today, cracked off, knowing that the wind will always come back again having enough food, water (& beer) on board life just slowed down and all I can see are happy faces as Salient slices through the water.
Day 6 – Mahi Mahi!!
32 d 46.5’ N 152 d 01.2’ W
As the sun lazily appeared of the horizon in the east the moon lowered and disappeared in the West. For a while both the Sun and the Moon are visible over the horizon. Sailing was smooth, and the fishing gear was deployed.
The ‘fishing apparatus’ is quite low key: A lure, some line and a bungy at the boat end. Works like a charm though. Within short order we caught two beautiful Mahi Mahi (also known as Dorado). Their skin shimmers golden and green and the colours stand out against the deep blue water. Ian spotted the first fish and Andrea got it out and fileted it skillfully. The second one was caught by Neil and filleted a bit less skillfully by your writer. Timing was not great as we just ate so we put the two fish in the freezer for today’s lunch. Fishing operation seized due to lack of freezer space.
On the topic of food: We still have plenty fresh apples, oranges and grapefruit. We also have romaine salad (best to keep in the open, not refrigerated), cucumbers, tomatoes and celery sticks. The grapes lasted well but the last ones we ate for breakfast yesterday. The premade dinners are a hit with the crew. Keeps work below to a minimum and they are delicious. Can’t beat a hearty home-made meal!
The overall weather forecast does not look too great for us. The Pacific High is unstable and low-pressure system pushes it towards us creating a large area of very light winds reaching from the northwest to the northeast. There is no way route around it short of going east which is not an option as this would result in a very long uphill slog towards Canada.
The high has been volatile for a while and perhaps things improve for us over the next couple days. One can always hope.
After a few days of sailing in paradise we decided to heat it up a bit and sail closer to the wind. This might give us a better route through the high. The other option is keep more northerly, add about a day of sailing and possibly wait for the wind to fill in after the low passed through:
Waiting for our 'window or opportunity' to go east.
In the meantime, still fantastic sailing but it requires a bit more work and our friends soggy pants have made their ugly appearance again last night. Partially due to the occasional spray over the deck as well as our other friend:” Squally night”. Once we "played enough" with the hot wind angles, we take the wind on the beam again for option two above and more leisurely sail.
Day 5 Mermaids & Sunsets
30 d 44.0 N 153 d 11.3 W
600 NM north of Maui in the middle of the Pacific there is this fantastic Italian Restaurant. It is by invitation only and serves the most fantastic pasta with Italian sausage. We listen to happy Latin tunes and enjoyed our dinner and suddenly heard a thumping against the hull. We wanted to believe that it was a mermaid joining us for dinner. We stopped the boat, but nobody climbed aboard. We furled the foresail and back up a little under the mainsail in case we lost the mermaid. Still nobody. We put the GoPro camera on the boat hook and had a real good look under water. You never know, our mermaid might be shy and sitting on the bulb of our keel. But it was nothing but blue water, a clean hull, a shiny prop and a rudder that looked ok (although it could use a bit of a scrub). We set sail again and the mermaid lived on in the dreams of eight salty sailors.
Dinner was resumed as the sun set and created a dramatic back drop of towering castles engulfed in orange and red flames. Captain’s hour was half an hour late due to the mermaid incident but well attended. We watched, mesmerized by the ever-changing spectacle on the horizon as the sun sank into the ocean creating colours from deep red in the west to pink with a slight purple in the east. As the sun vanished the moon made its entrance over the eastern sky together with his companion Mars. The moonlight cast a sliver blanket over our wake as Salient pushed north.
Sitting on the transom listening to the gentle gurgling of the water coming of the stern and the light whisper of the wind in the rigging I can’t help to think about how lucky we are to be out here, alone, sailing in absolute peace.
Day 4 – Black Magic mini
28 d 31.2 N 154 d 04.0 W
Another perfect day on the Pacific Ocean. We have 10 – 15 kts of breeze, just forward of the beam. The sun is up, not too hot during our morning watch. The water is deep blue, reflecting the sky. Only a few cumulus clouds on the horizon and for now no squalls in sight. Life is good.
Today we saw more flying fish, one did not make it and landed on the boat where we found him sadly too late for rescue. We gave him a proper sea burial.
Sitting on deck, enjoying a leisurely day at sea we came up with the idea of flying a black garbage bag as a kite. First trials off the cockpit looked promising. We then decided to hoist it on a spinnaker halyard and fly it from there. This worked wonderfully and we all had a good laugh. This is our Black Magic! Much fun. Some said it works great as a tell tail or we could use it to calibrate our wind instruments. All was tested, and wind instruments found to be accurate.
Peter borrowed Neil’s 80s style sunglasses and looked like a rock star behind the wheel. Searching for a team name for our watch we are now the “Smoking Pacific Longtails”, name after the bird that keeps circling our mast: The White Pacific Longtail.
As the temperature increased over the morning, we came up with another game: The transom surfer. Standing on the swim grid, facing the wind while holding on to the transom. The waves lapped up our feet and calves making for a refreshing experience. Too much wind & waves to swim just now, so transom surfing was a good second best.
The good cruising life aboard Salient in the middle of the Pacific. Time for lunch and an afternoon siesta.
Day 3 – Dolphins & Moonbow
26 d 19.8 N 154 d 58.2 W
Champagne sailing yesterday and most of today! Although our old friends ‘Soggy Pants’ and ‘Squally Nights’ made a re-appearance we enjoy fantastic sailing conditions. Tracking just east of true north at an average of 7 kts sailing is pleasant with little spray over the bow. In the afternoon about a dozen dolphins approached us from our port aft quarter, jumping through the air as they closed in on Salient. They played in out bow wave for a while until they dashed off to the north.
Captains hour was a bit better attended with three signed up for it: A glass of wine, a beer and a virgin rum & coke! Everybody loved the homemade lasagna by Renee and we polished it off in record time. Note to my racing friends: To make this more enjoyable we crack off on our course, ease the sails a bit and level the boat much to the enjoyment of the crew. Cruising style!
It was our turn on deck after dinner. As the set in the west, illuminating the towering cumulus clouds making for a dramatic exit, the scene in the east looked gloomy: Dark, grey skies – a squall was brewing and soon enough we are drenched in water as the sky opened is flood gates. A short-lived affair and before we dried out, the stars & our friends Mars, Saturn and Jupiter made their entry. A clear sky and full moon two days away made for a bright night. So bright in fact that for the first time we see a moon bow. It is not as colorful as a rainbow but magical nevertheless. Against the dark backdrop, created by squalls in the distance the moon bow arched almost 180 degrees.
As beautiful as it was, time to head for the bunk.
A note from the crew:
Everybody got their sea legs and all are well. Food is plentiful and delicious. The grapes are a welcoming addition and they keep surprisingly well. Four days since we bought them, and they are still fresh! Salad, oranges & apples keep us healthy. Beer & Coke chilled in the fridge ready for the next captain’s hour!
Until tomorrow – Salient out.
Day 2 – July 25th
23 deg 08.9’ N 156 d 05.0' W
Salient and her crew left Lahaina on July 23rd for Honolua Bay at the northern end of Maui. Pailolo Channel lived up to its reputation: As we sailed north, the wind went from less than 5 kts to 20 gusting 25 kts within a couple boat lengths. Already a bit late with our departure beating back and forth took extra time and we got to the anchorage just before dark. Two catamarans and a 73’ mono hull sailing under the Swiss flag already sat at anchor. We found a happy spot between all three boats and set our Danforth. It was windier than expected and we saw gusts close to 20 kts and sustained winds between 10 – 15 kts. Given these conditions and an anchor that we normally don’t use we set up for an anchor watch: 2 crew would stay on deck for 2 hours when they get relived by two other crew. I must admit that the Danforth anchor held as solid as a rock and while we swung back and forth like a pendulum, and we did not drag an inch.
For dinner we ate delicious Maui ribs, with homemade roasted potatoes and a glass of tasty red wine. For the thirsty sail cold beer was available too. Thank you Renee for barbequing the ribs to perfection!
Sadly, we discovered that we did not have our wraps on board, an essential staple later in the voyage to make the all time favorite tuna salad wraps. We hailed one of our neighbors from a Catamaran who offered us a ride ashore in their dinghy where I met Andrea, my lovely wife. She hauled two large bags of wraps to the rocky beach. A last kiss and I ferry back to the boat for our final departure. Susan, Dan and Alex were also there and had a good laugh at my provisioning hick up. I really miss our provisioning chief!
A final dip into the turquoise blue water, swam around the boat – checked keel, rudder & prop and off we sailed, back to life at 30 degrees. We managed to sail a course just east of true north without being on our ears and spray over the deck all the time which was comfortable. Captain's hour at 6 was a brief affair and drinks stayed chilled for the next time. For dinner: A hearty chicken soup with fresh bread.
As the sun went down it drenched the sky and ocean in a warm, golden light. The last rays of light poked through a layer of low clouds as we sailed into our first night at sea. Now off to bed until our late-night watch.
Until tomorrow – Salient out.
The pressure is on.
We sailed the hardest night most of us have ever sailed.
We sailed in sustained 27 kts and gusting to 32 with the spinnaker up all night. We pushed the boat and crew to the limit. The loads on the gear at those tight angles are tremendous, so much that the hardware for the pole downhaul lifted off the deck. We installed a second completely independent downhaul to spread the load and keep pushing hard.
Waves got formidable during the night and made driving a challenge. Luckily we had Mars right on our spreader tip for several hours helping much to keep Salient on course.
Getting low on Ibuprofen. Crew tired but in great spirits.
For breakfast: PB & J