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
Day 12th – July 12th - " Black Magic "
28 deg 15.1 N 152 deg 52.7 NM W
Yesterday we sailed a conservative sail plan, too conservative. The competition is tight, so we put up a kite. It’s called Black Magic. A heavy duty North Sail spinnaker all black with glow in the dark chevrons. We fly it right at the limit we can making driving very physical, but it is faster. We take frequent turns at the helm now as it is very tiring to steer such tight angles.
It is a ton of fun to sail the boat in those conditions though and we all enjoy it tremendously.
Luckily some clouds covered the sky and it was not scorching hot on deck but very pleasant. Below decks is a different story. We went from Turkish bath to Sauna. Particularly the starboard cabin is bad. The hot water heater is right under the tank. Note to self: Put some shut off valves in the water circulating lines to be able to stop the water from being heated when we run the engine for charging batteries.
Today we see more birds than in the past mainly albatross and some snow white birds that circled our mast for a while. More and bigger flying fish today, the largest perhaps 10” long.
Time to catch some sleep before the next shift on deck – Can’t wait to see those glow in the dark chevrons!
Until tomorrow – Salient out.
Day 11 - July 11th, " Sailing by the Stars "
31 deg 10.0’ N 151 deg 10.9’ W
Yesterday was ‘Latin tunes day’. With the sun shining all day and a pleasant breeze, our hearts were light even though we were slower than we hoped. We enjoyed a day in paradise!
The night was no less spectacular. A starlit sky, the milky way and pleasant wind. Mars and Saturn rising on our port side and Venus descending on our starboard side was a beautiful sight. For the first time we had a visual reference at night making it so much more pleasurable to sail. Pick a star near a shroud or a spreader and sail towards it. At 1 am the wind finally veered enough, and we put a spinnaker up making for a fantastic run down the milky way. But it would not be the 2018 Vic Maui if clouds weren’t covering the sky soon thereafter and the next watch was greeted with rain.
We woke up to a grey sky and rain, but at least a decent wind blew allowing us to carry the spinnaker for a while longer. Sadly, the wind backed not long into the morning and we were back on white sails. As one of our competitors said: “Beating all the way to Maui – living the dream baby!”. To brighten the day flying fish made an appearance jumping all around our boat. They apparently do this to avoid predators such as the Mahi Mahi.
It sure looks that by the time we are done we would have sailed some 2,000 NM into the wind. A different experience…..
Aboard Salient spirits are high though. We focus on driving fast and sail trim. And there is always time for a good joke. Whether we laugh about ‘life at 30 degrees’ or try to make up songs about ‘soggy pants’ everybody is having much fun.
We can’t say enough about the delightful food we eat: Yesterday’s dinner was Indian Curry and today Chicken Manhattan was on the menu. Throughout the day there are delicious snacks such as chocolate, cookies, home made smoked salmon and we still have plenty of apples & oranges.
Life on deck is often wet and down below it is like a Turkish bath: Humid and hot making sleeping harder. With just over 650 NM to go, we don’t mind too much and are looking forward to Mai Tai's!!
Until tomorrow – Salient out.
Day 10 - July 10th
34 deg 02.3’ N 150 deg 0.4’W
What a night! After the long-awaited spinnaker run, the wind died, and we were struggling along, pointing the boat in any which direction to at least get her moving. Shortly before 10 pm, it was pitch black, and we heard dolphins next to the boat! They streaked through the water creating a ray of bioluminescencent light. It was too dark to see the dolphins, but the light-show they put on was dramatic as the criss-crossed under Salient’s hull. The winds slowly picked up through the night and we are now sailing once again close hauled towards Maui!
Today the sun came out, and with blue skies and we are listing to 80s tunes as we plow through the waves. We are still under white sails, but at least it is warm, sunny, and we are pointing towards Maui without standing on our ears! In eight knots of breeze, we enjoy the shade of our mainsail on deck as we work on sail trim to keep us going in the light air.
In the morning during our off watch, it was time for boat maintenance: Engine checks, steering cable inspection and clean out the bilges. Three buckets full of water had collected in all the nooks & crannies and were removed. We need to keep the boat light and sail fast! Sadly, one of our bags that contained a stash of oatmeal leaked and had to be discarded: Oatmeal for the fish!!
We are now less than 850 NM from Maui, just over four days if all goes well, but it is still a long way to go. Total distance sailed to date: Almost 1,600 NM and most of that against the wind!
Tonight on the menu is Indian Curry with rice & salad. Add some spice to the day!
Until tomorrow – Salient out!