This is the video of our shake down cruise to Hawaii and back to the mainland.
Passage making is hard, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It tests you mentally, physically and emotionally and not for days but weeks possibly months on end. When you leave the safety of land at some point there is no going back. You give yourself up to the universe and have to deal with whatever the universe is going to throw at you. You have no choice but to “sink or swim”.
September 10th at noon we left side by side with with Randal Reeves on board Moli and that would be the continued effort throughout our trip home. Randall became not only a huge source of information, guidance but a companion for us and especially Steve as we both made our way across the sea. Randal is a well accomplished sailor and is now preparing to be the first person to sail around both Americas and Antarctica solo in one season. He calls this the figure eight voyage to find out more go to his website at http://figure8voyage.com
The first week was something like a dream, Warm air, bright blue sea, full moon and a light 10 knot breeze. Every day and night more beautiful than the last. If every day was like those I would never miss land. We jump off the boat when the winds got light and drag behind holding onto a rope. The fishing was great! I’d cooked up battered fresh dorado every other day for lunch. The good life! Although in the back off our heads we knew that this weather wasn’t going to last forever we sure did enjoy every minute of it.
The second day in the autopilot went out again… This time the magnet in the electric motor shattered and there was nothing Steve could do to fix it. At this point the conditions were so favorable for us that we didn’t mind hand steering through the beautiful moon lit nights and blue as blue can be days. Because of the autopilot failure we changed our watch schedule to 2 hours on and 4 hours off – for a total of 8 hours a day steering.
999.9 km from Hanalei Bay
Kelsey was at the end of her watch right about sunset when she spotted a huge 4ft in diameter and about 60ft long tree floating just 10ft of the starboard bow. She called us all up to see. It was huge we all stared at it in amazement and with relief that it didn’t hit our boat. We had been warned that 1,000 miles off shore we would start seeing trees floating by from the logging companies up in Oregon and Washington. Our imagination would have never imagined how big the trees actually were going to be. The damn thing was huge and we had just barely missed it.
The sun went down and I came up for my first night watch of that day. I was quite a bit worried about not being able to see those massive trees at night and on top of that, a weird mist came over the water. Then all of a sudden I couldn’t see anything at all. The wind stopped and so did the boat. Looking down at the instruments it showed the wind speed at 7 then 8 then 5 the 9 knots but coming from one direction then another then another. The wind was shifting all around us. I waited a while to see if the wind would find a steady direction. After some time I woke up Steve and we decided to heave two.
The wind had picked up while I was asleep and Steve had got the boat back underway. Kelsey was supposed to go on watch at 5am. Not knowing what was happening I was woken by Kelsey… She was too afraid to steer the boat and wanted to trade shifts with me. I agreed and went up top.
With full sails up, the boat was so healed over that Steve was standing on the starboard side straight up with the railing digging into the water. Steve told me that Solace was happy on this tack and that I should keep the boat at bearing of 350 and 000. Steve then decided that Kelsey should be up here with me to be gaining confidence. He left and went down below to wake up Kelsey. Doing as he said I held the boat at 350. Solace started to pinch harder and harder into the wind. She started to point higher and higher well above 000. I tried to counter act to bring her back down to 000. I had the wheel turned as far over as she would go but she was progressively heaving over more and more now with the surfboard attached to the railing now under the water. Holding the steering wheel with all my strength the boat wouldn’t budge. Steve went to come back up the stairs just as his head popped up in the cockpit SNAP! The steering cable broke. Fuck! Is about the only way I can describe that feeling.
In hind sight I should have just let Solace go. She would have just swung around and heaved two all by herself. I would have most likely broken something but it wouldn’t have been the steering cable… with no one on deck and the boat close hauled it wouldn’t have been dangerous to any crew. We can all shoulda, coulda, woulda, but at the end of the day we had unknowingly sailed into our first squall and broken our steering cable, now as a team we were going to have to fix it.
We spent the next few hours in the rain messing with the emergency tiller and lashing it down into place. After some time, we reefed the main and got the boat depowered going a steady 4 knots with the tiller lashed down we no longer had to steer.
Now we had to all work together to figure this one out! We had over 1,500 miles as the crow flies still to go to Vancouver and even farther if we were to change course to San Francisco. None of us knew exactly how quadrant steering worked so it took us quite some time to figure it out. The first thing we tried was to mend the broken cable. We tried this by taking two of the four clamps on the end of the cable that attaches the wires to the quadrant. We took those two clamps and fastened the two broken ends of the steering cable together then Steve wove the two ends together with a small wire after that adhered them together with JB Weld. It took 24 hours for it to adhere. 30 hours later we tested the JB weld and almost immediately the wires slipped apart.
We had been in the lead until now but Randal had gotten close enough to coordinate a rendezvous. Just about sunset we spotted Moli on the horizon. Slowly but surely Randal was right by our side. Kelsey and I had made peanut butter cookies. Steve, with a good toss managed to throw them over to Randal. We all took turns chatting on the radio. When it was my turn, I talked to Randal about the quadrant steering. He described a diagram he had once seen. Saying that there were two separate wires that attached to a bicycle chain. We had figured out the bicycle chain bit but hadn’t realized that they were two cables - not one. That small bit of information is what inevitably fixed our steering cable. We talked well into the dark and both went on our way.
After Randal had left we soon thereafter decided to switch our course from Vancouver to San Francisco. The weather is normally predictable in the north pacific. The pacific height usually slowly shifts up and down the cost. You follow the trade winds and have to make your way around it. This year the height seemed to not only have no position to call home. One day there would be one high then the next two, then the next no high at all. Making planning your route nearly impossible. On top of that at the rate we were now moving we wouldn’t be making landfall till October. That means we wouldn’t be making our way south till November at best. Sailing in the pacific north west in winter … no thanks! Last but not least we had a friend out in the middle of the ocean and he’s headed to San Fran. So we decided in our current state that was the best course of action.
As a low pressure system approached the next day. We postponed our fixing of the steering cable and focused more on steering with the tiller and making way. We jerry rigged a pulley system to the forward cockpit to help keep out of the weather. We steered like this for the next few days… until the wind picked up. The wind picked up to 30 – 40 knots and the seas 10 -15 feet and we just couldn’t do it anymore. We were all just too exhausted to steer. After some struggle we managed to get the boat heaved two and we waited for the brunt of the weather to pass. With the current watch schedule we hadn’t got more than 3 hours of sleep in the past two weeks. A full night’s rest was so necessary. The next day still too exhausted we didn’t even want to look outside. Instead we spent the bulk of the day fixing the steering cable despite the sea state. We fixed it by in short replacing the steering cable with a very strong rope called Dynima. By the end of the day we had the quadrant steering fixed. Steve, eager to get underway to ensure that Randal didn’t get too far away. Over some debate Kelsey and I convinced Steve to wait one more night. Nothing good happens when you change plans so late in the day.
At first light we got underway, but Randal was nearly 400 miles in front of us now. The first day the wind was still westerly but by the next day it shifted to North East. The wind change gave us two options: head north west, or head south east. Not wanting to head back the way we came we headed south east. The only good thing was we were close hauled… at this point of sail Solace practically sails herself. For the next week we hid down below. The further and further Randal got from us the more bummed Steve got. Negativity is like a virus, it spreads through one and then to the rest of the crew. I spent the majority of my day’s ether painting or trying to sleep as much as possible.
Finally, another low moved in, and the wind slowly shifted to north west. Solace finally could head up! Everyone’s attitude improved and we were gaining ground in the perfect direction. Solace was hauling ass! It’s really amazing how fast Solace can go with next to no sail out. Often times when the winds above 20 knots we will have just a small handkerchief of a jib out and we will still be going about 10 knots.
I was on watch late afternoon. The Sun was bright and the air was cold. Yyyyyinnnng! The trolling pole started going off. I let go of the steering wheel and saved all the line from going out. Gave a couple cranks on the spool to make sure the hook was set. Kelsey dashed up the stairs sat down at the trolling poll and started reeling it in. I went back to the helm. It was a fighter! I Slowed the boat down and then eventually heaved two. Kelsey cranked it in. Slowly but surely we could start to see it. It was HUGE! By far the biggest tuna any of us had ever caught. Neither Kelsey or I were strong enough to bring it on board. Kelsey got a good gaff in and Steve with all his strength fell backwards onto the deck and flung the tuna on board. The tuna was about 4ft long and approximately 80 lbs. Steve spent the next hour filleting the fish. Kelsey took the majority of the meat cut them into steaks and stacked them neatly in the freezer. We ate the rest as sashimi. This was by far the best tuna any of us ever had.
Watercolour - Lost at Sea
Randal, now close enough to land to receive Coast Guard radio broadcasts got word that a 35ft sail boat named Watercolour, with a pink dingy had gone missing. Randal relayed the radio broadcast to us... We were all shocked! Thats Paul! We had made friends with Paul Lim while we were in Hilo. Paul was a cheery guy, extremely smart and likable. One morning Kelsey and I had complimented the color of his pink dingy. He went on to tell us he painted it that color because no man in there right mind would steal a pink dinghy. "theft proof". Later that day I had to scare some young Hawaiian boys off who were trying to steal it. Among other positive experiences hanging with Paul, he was also kind enough to give us a whale pump rebuild kit. Out of all the people we met along the way there is no doubt that he was each of our favorite. We couldn't believe he had gone missing. We both departed from Hilo on the same day nearly 2 months ago. For the next few days we speculated what could have gone wrong and all sure that he was still alive and making it all work somewhere out there. In our thoughts we still hope the tide brings Paul Lim to land, where ever that may be.
A trail of light
My 1 am to 3 am night shift has slowly but surely become my favorite watch. As we have made our way across the sea and just a few hundred miles off shore from the mainland my 1-3 am shift has become 3- 5am shift. The night is always darkest before the dawn and at this time I get to see the sky at its best before she fades to purple and slowly turns to day. With just a sliver of a moon set just after the sun, the night’s sky couldn’t be much darker. Not a cloud in sight - the stars dance across the sky with the milky way prominent just over head. It is almost as the night sky reflected in the tar black water as Solace makes her way through the glassy phosphorescence sea. With every small wave that hits the bow, its bounces off with light up almost like glitter on top of the water. Solace creating a beacon of light around her as she glides through the glassy sea. I moved my cushion off to the side close enough to the railing to watch the glittery sea and the starts above but just close enough to the wheel so that I can still steer. The night is calm with just 200 miles to go the wind has died on us. Too eager to see land after 25 days at sea we had turned on the motor and continue making way. I spent the first hour going between watching the the starts and the sea. If you looked deeper into the water you could see huge glowing orbs pass by in schools. I had never seen squid before and I was remarkable to see how bright they glow. Some pass by on the surface others deep down below, with a variety of sizes from only a few inches to ones as large as a foot or so. The bigger ones closest to the surface you could see the detail of the squid and the ones farther off look more like light bulbs floating in the sea. As time wore on, it’s amazing how slow time seams to pass on watch. You literally watch the the seconds pass by as you grow tired and weary. Occasionally you’ll get lost in a train of thought and when you come to the end of the thought think well some time must have passed? At least 10, 20 minutes or so… Look down at the clock and only a minute maybe two has passed by. Slowly but surely the regularity of the squid passing by stated to diminish. With an hour still to go, I gazed down in to the darkness hoping the squid would return. A huge creature made its way towards the boat moving fast! A trail of light quickly made its way across the sea to the bow of the boat. I made sure the boat was steady and worked my way forward to the boson’s chair. A pod of dolphins had come to swim with us. Dancing in the front of the boat they light up to appear like ghosts. So excited, I laid belly down on the boson’s chair with my arms stretched down towards them. They would jump and squeak just below my arms then dash off glowing, drawing lines through the ocean as they flew. Then the lines would make their way back to the bow. More and more dolphins were joining and I just had to go wake up Kelsey and Steve, something so common as sleep was not worth missing an experience like this. Kelsey sat near the bow and I gave her my jacket as we both admired the dolphins glowing in the sea. How I wish I could capture a moment like this. There are so many moments like this where it is dark and the boat moves to much even on the calmest night to clearly capture these moments. I hope I never forget it, by far one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Even now just a few short hours later its seems so much like a dream, if only my dreams felt that real.
Finally! The sun was on its way up and we had only 20 more miles left to go! Last night the Coast Guard broadcast had issued a small craft advisory but thankfully they predicted the weather wrong. With no clouds in the sky and not an ounce of wind we made our way under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay. It took us 27 days exactly to make the passage from Kauai to the mainland. We celebrated with beers and enjoyed the warm sunshine. The bay was glassy and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful way to end our journey home.
The night before leaving Oahu was the first lightning storm we experienced on board Solace. The flash of lightning woke me up as the storm got closer and closer the storm got worse and worse. Lightning striking all around us, we could feel it shake the boat as we slept in the bow. I thought for sure our 60ft aluminum mast would get struck, but it never did. One of the many beautiful but also terrifying moments we experience on board Solace.
The next morning, we headed out to Kauai. Kelsey’s best friend Mallory and her boyfriend Chris had been waiting to visit us. They had been on Kauai for a few days already awaiting our arrival. My mom had to fly to Kauai in order to fly home so there was no way we couldn’t go to Kauai. We would be letting down everyone who had come so far to visit us by not going. We had thought we were going to be in for one hell of a day due to our rough night we had endured. To the contrary we ended up limping across the 100-mile channel on a half broken engine with no wind. We pulled into the Nawiliwili harbor and up to the loading dock just before sunset, and their Solace would sit.
We spent the the next few days acting like we were on a “normal” person’s vacation, drinking heavily, staying in hotel rooms, and seeing the touristy things, laying by the pool with our friends and family. It was really fun, and so nice to sleep in a big bead in a nice room for a night or two. Mal, Chris and my Mom all had to return back to reality and so did we… with one hell of a hangover.
We had left Steve marooned on the loading dock for the past couple days. Finally, the harbor master had found a slip for us, so Steve could at least leave the boat. We had found a mechanic, and he had tried and failed to fix the part we needed and had to order a new one. The part was due to arrive in the next 4 days. We got the part we needed to fix our engine the day before the hurricane warnings. Now that we could finally have our engine back, we could not leave the most protected harbor in all of Kauai to head to the least protected spot.
So we rented a car and went about the Island exploring. My favorite by far being the Napali Coast. I had so much fun running the trail. Hopping from rock to rock across the river bed and through the forest to the waterfall. The water was freezing, Kelsey and I swam up to the falls and and drifted along the cliffs edge. Before long we decided to make our way back to the car. But now my knee was swollen and nearly twice the size of the other… I hurt my bad knee once again. Limping half way back on the 8-mile trail. It was swollen and I could feel my knee float around under the skin. I spent the whole night icing it and kept off it for the next few days. It still feels quite a bit off but I have it wrapped up in KT Tape which seems to be helping quite a bit. Hopefully I’ll take the time to rehab it on my way home the best I can when underway.
We are ready to go, the boat is provisioned, everything is fixed, and we are mentally prepared to make the journey home. Monday we will leave Nawiliwili harbor before dawn and sail by the Napali Coast around 2 in the afternoon. From there we will continue sailing north. We have 2,400 nautical miles to go until reaching Vancouver. The concern isn’t so much hurricanes as it was on the way here. Instead we will keep our eyes open for trees, and shipping containers floating 1,000 miles off shore. We will be arriving in the Pacific North West in the beginning of Fall and our hoping to beat the conditions that come with Fall weather. So here we go back to nothing but the deep blue sea.
Well that was the plan anyway. We set out to leave and it was much too close to the time the hurricane passed. We got out from under the leeward side of the island and boom! It went from a pleasant 10 knts nearly flat sea to 35+knts and 10 ft seas. The forecast showed that the seas we supposed to be relatively calm that day but it obviously was not the case. Caught completely off guard we had full sails up - close hauled and headed right into the thick of it. Bash! Bash! Huge 10ft waves crashing from the front all the way over the entire boat. Everyone on deck soaked from head to toe… We looked around at each other, with bewilderment and consent on all of our faces. Is this really how we want to start our trip home? We don’t even have the life lines out? How the hell are we going to put them out now? It was getting late in the day and we knew that if we were going to make it back to land and anchor before the sun had set we needed to turn tail quick. We chatted with the coast guard, and some local charter captains came to the conclusion that the Napali Coast would be the safest and closest place to take up anchorage.
The following morning, we knew that if we were going to do any research we would have to make our way to Hanalei Bay. So we pick up anchor and headed around the Napali Coast.
We spent the next week at Hanalei Bay waiting out the effects of hurricane Lester. Spending our days adventuring around the beautiful bay and up the river on our dingy Solacito. Hanalei Bay was the only place in all of the Hawaiian Islands that we felt like we could call home. Such a beautiful place with so much to see and explore.
To be honest after our first attempt at leaving we were all pretty scared. Thankfully, for us we made a new friend Randal Reeves. Randal had bought his new all aluminum boat Moli in Alaska and as his shakedown cruise had sailed it to the south pacific. Now he too was getting ready to make the jump back to the main land and home to San Francisco. Together we left the safety of land on September 10th at noon and headed out on our voyage home.
I wasn’t particularly excited about going to Oahu. I had never been to the island but its outward appearance seemed something like Los Angeles.
The sail over was really fun! We were flying at 9 knots with a 25 knot wind and 5 foot seas following behind us. A boat called North Light - also from San Diego had left the harbor a few hours before us and we sailed past her at mid-day and left her off into the distance before you knew it. As a sailor there really isn’t much better feeling then completely beating someone. As they say “how do you know two sailboats are racing each other? When they see each other”.
We pulled up to the Hawaii Yacht Club in Waikiki Harbor. The Yacht club was the nicest place by far we have stayed. I love to anchor in a cove all by ourselves, but there are necessary tasks that are too difficult to do at those times. So we take advantage of showers, laundry, grocery shopping, doing repairs and what not when we stay in harbors like these. The Hawaii Yacht Club had plenty of live aboards and everyone was super friendly. It seemed like every night there was some kind of event with live music witch made the upstairs bar really fun. Just a short dingy ride out side of the harbor was a really fun wave called Ala Moana Bowls. All though the wave was fun it was also really crowded and aggressive line up.
Momma & Dani!
My mom arrived in Oahu and was going to visit with us for the following week. My mom and I are close and I was excited to have her visit for the week. The following day one of my very best friends Dani and her fiancé Cuyla came to Oahu for the Dukes contest that Dani was to compete in. We drank and told stories and surfed. I wish we could have spent more time with them but in order to see Kelsey’s best friend in Kauai we had to get a move on.
I went with my mom by car and Kelsey and Steve sailed up to the very north part of Oahu called Makua Beach. We met there later that afternoon after spending the day surfing Waikiki with Dani and Cuyla. My mom and I packed up our things and walked down the stretch of beach. She laughed and laughed as she strughted down the beach in her black dress with her suit case in hand. I laughed so hard that I dropped my phone and the shore brake quickly washed it out to sea. It started to poor rain. We made light of the situation and decide to go swim in the rain why we waited for Kelsey to come pick us up. We drank and played Catan till we all slowly rocked to sleep.
The following day was amazing! We spent the morning swimming with dolphins. A pod of about 30 or so dolphins has made --- their home. We’d go fish, then chase the dolphins some more. We did this nearly all day till it was time to drop my mom off at land so she could fly to Kauai and we prepared to sail across the 100 mile channel the next day.
After the anticipation of crossing the Alenuihaha Channel, its safe to say how relieved we were to be in the beautiful Makena Anchorage. Unfortunately, just after we were settled, the Kona winds started blowing 30 knots and the wind swell grew big enough to continuously come up over the bow. We were relatively stuck onboard till the Kona winds died down later that afternoon. We rowed ashore and explored the big beach, little beach. The little beach to our surprise was a naked beach and beside the one fat lady, about 50 naked men were sprawled about the beach. I think Kelsey and I would've been a little more bashful of making our way across the beach if we hadn't been watching so much game of thrones over the past few weeks. We made our way across the beach and up the mountain for the most beautiful sunset. Watching Solace sway about in the crystal clear blue water. Relieved and happy to have safely made it to Maui.
No worries, the Lahaina Harbor is by far the safest place we've been so far. Easy to get around, easy to surf, always something to do, and nothing to worry about. We took full advantage of our stay here. We joined the Lahiana Yacht Club and spent most of our evenings drinking mai tais and eating hula pie. Every sunrise and sunset I surfed the small punchy wave and everyday we wandered the town and its art galleries.
Being so safe and protected in Lahiana, we almost forgot what the ocean was like. Just 5 miles north of Lihiana we hit the trade winds - 25 knots right on the nose with wave after wave splashing over the bow. Running around closing hatches as the water splashed into the boat. we all laughed as we talked how nice and calm lahiana was. Still in my pajamas I reeled in the biggest Mahi Mahi I had ever caught! Bouncing around from the sea we tried and almost lost her overboard as the Mahi Mahi flopped all over the place. They are the most beautiful colored and best tasting fish but the saddest to kill. the second they start to die there color fades from the most beautiful green to grey almost in an instant.
We continued on to anchor in Honalua Bay. We spent the day scuba diving eating Mahi Mahi tacos and strolling around the bay in a little dinghy.
After a rough night at sea, we decided to rest in the small beautiful anchorage of Honomalino Bay. The water so clear you could see the bottom at 40 ft deep. We anchored in 25 ft just off shore of the black sand beach. Kelsey and I were immediately in the water, spears in hand. We stalked the coral around the lava rocks. The fish so beautiful we decided to not spear anything. We spent two days reading, writing and swimming in this beautiful cove. This anchorage was one of the most peaceful times of our trip around the Hawaiian islands. We had repairs that we desperately needed fixed so we left the beautiful anchorage and set out for Kona.
We needed to get some parts fixed and apparently Kona is the place to get them. We pulled up to Honokohau small boat harbor at sunrise. The sky pink, gold, and pouring down rain, with spinner dolphins playing in the rain at the mouth of the channel. Steve and I prepared the boat to dock. Tahiti style again, it’s amazing how many different ways you can do one thing… We are slowly but surely going to experience all the ways of docking a boat I’m sure. We didn’t have a carabiner set up like the other boats had so I laid over the bow of the boat and strong a dock line through the eye of the mooring ball then Steve backed up the boat I had to leap under the dingy but onto the high ledge to tie the back end of the boat to the wall. After we were secure we laughed about it and strategized for the day. There were no slips available. Steve had been calling around for days with no luck. Steve needed to run around town to get parts and find a hydraulics man to fix the autopilot. Unfortunately, we were not technically aloud to stay tied up at the fuel dock all day. So we did anyways. Steve left, and Kelsey and I hid down below. We drew the curtains and through on some Game of Thrones. We hid down below for the majority of the day, sweating in the humidity. Finally, Steve returned with not only the fixed autopilot, but a cooler with ice! After a couple weeks of not having a fridge we were really excited about the cooler!
Steve ran off to the harbor master and found us a slip about 10 ft too small, but somewhere we could stay to make our repairs.
The lava flows
The lava flows was one hell of an adventure. We rented a u-haul, drove across the big island getting to the hike entrance just at sunset. The hike from the van and back is about 10 miles. Kelsey and I with preparation for this trip plus the sail over really haven't walked anywhere for the past two months. The lava flows were amazing. The ground metallic , with lava showing through the cracks. Ground was so hot it felt like it would melt your shoes. So excited we ran around trying to get as close as we could to this burning lava. Eventually, we decided that it was best to getting back on our long trek home. The last two miles our bodies aching and convincing ourselves to make it back to the van. Finally we make it to the hike entrance. Covered in ash we washed our legs off with hand sanitizer from the bathroom. We were so tired when we got back to the van at about 11 at night that we slept on the floor of the uhaul on our board bags. Waking up in the middle of the night from the wind gusts shaking the van. We were so tired and sore, but was well worth it. One of those stories you'll never forget.
The Alenuihaha Channel
The Alenuihaha Channel is the body of water that lies in between the volcano of Mauna Kea on the Big Island and the the volcano of Haleakala on Maui. This channel is considered to be one of the hardest channel crossing in the world. The trade winds accelerate around the islands and into the channel. They say the current so strong it's like the whole ocean is trying to fit through the eye of a needle. When the wind meets the current it can create standing seas. Not to mention it's also shark infested. Just the name of the Alenuihaha Channel strikes fear in the hearts of Mariners. The locals immediately head warning and lend advice and legends about the channel. To say the least the locals and just everything you can possibly read heads warning about the channel. We waited for our weather window and safely crossed the channel. Leaving at sunrise and making it to the other side about 11 o'clock before the Kona winds are at its strongest.
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We untied from the wall in radio bay and anchored out. We planned to leave after tea on the wall. Tea on the wall is where all us transient sailors get together and chat, have dinks and food. Everyone brings a little something to give to the others. Paul rowed us to and from our boat in his little pink dingy. After tea we set out to leave… One thing after the other broke. We went to hoist the mainsail and we had twisted some of the mainsail tabs when we fixed the mainsail tab funnel. We screwed on, and unscrewed the mainsail tab funnel about 4 times before we finally got it right. Then as we were about to exit the harbor, Steve went into the lazaret to turn on the auto pilot. The auto pilot was on alright but we were doing circles. We tried to calibrate the autopilot for a while and then gave up. By this time, it was about midnight and nobody had it in them to do what was necessary to make it around the point. We brought back down the mainsail and anchored in the harbor for the night. In the morning Steve and I spent a few hours trying to calibrate the autopilot. We never got it to work and headed out without it.
We started off closed hauled and slowly ended in a run as we circled around the south end of the Island. The south side is mainly small lava cliffs about 20 to 40ft high. The waves smash up against the cliffs and fly into the air. We arrived at the lava flows just at sunset. The lava slowly cascading down the mountainside and over the cliff side and into the sea. We came within a half mile with our boat to the lava waterfalls. Such a beautiful experience. The lava so bright as it hits the water steam puffs up with every drop. We slowly but surely drifted away from the lava flows and started making our way to the south point. The south point was rough! Steve and Kelsey both referred to it being a similar experience to sailing around point conception. The current was strong; we were getting sucked back towards the point. The wind was gusting over 30 knots, the sea state now tossing us all over the place. Steve doused the main and had to motor around the point. We made it around the point just at sunrise and low and behold its flat without an ounce of wind.
Not going to lie, at first I wasn’t too fond on the town. But, after a few short days it really grew on me and by the time we left I didn’t want to leave.
The Town of Hilo
The downtown is a pretty little town. A correlation of old buildings sitting next to rivers and the sea. There is a river with waterfalls and a hand full of bridges from the north side of downtown that leads to the bay. Out front of this river mouth there is a small wave that is barely surf-able and is the only one in the safety of the bay. There are more waves on the outside of town in both directions, but we will get into that later. The water is green inside the bay due to the large amount of fresh water springs and rivers that empty out into it. The brackish water makes it hard to see for snorkeling. You are better of saving that activity for another place and time. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of drug use in the town. It is easy to see through the amount of “we can help” adds and the state of the homeless people in the town. Hilo has this old time farm town charm. Every day of the week there is a local market across from the bus stop. They have fresh fruit and vegetables, and all sorts of other trinkets. The market is huge on the weekends and quite a bit smaller on the weekdays. Hilo - siting on the south east side of the big island is why it is the brunt of all storms. Hilo is by far the rainy side. Nearly every day it goes from too hot to a pleasant rain with sunshine and rainbows in lushest green environment. There is plenty to see in Hilo and within a short distance from Hilo. There is a bus that runs all over and you can see everything from the bus. It runs about once and hour and it can be exhausting just getting from one place to another. You cannot take surfboards on the bus, and skateboards are an additional dollar. If you are looking for boat parts this is not the town for you. They do however have a Home Depot, mall, and what not. If you are looking for parts, you’ll have to make the trek to the Kona side to get repairs done. I highly recommend renting a car to do your sightseeing. Most of the cars in town will cost you about 50$ a day. My cheater travel trick is to rent a U-Haul for $20 a day. If you can try to reserve in advance, you should because they go fast. I personally make a mental note of everything I want to see and where it is by car. Then try and see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time to utilize the car.
Radio Bay- We tied Tahiti style to the wall in Radio Bay.
Radio Bay is the anchorage for transient boats. It is located at the far south end of the sea wall. On the sea wall side of the bay is a beautiful park where there is a rowing clubs home base (the old guys who hang there are awesome!). Many fishermen come to the park to fish off the sea wall. If you like to fish, it is good to know that you do not need a fishing license to fish in the ocean in the state of Hawaii. There are some protected areas and you do need a licensee to fish in fresh water or operate commercially. On the other side of the anchorage from the beautiful park is a huge ship facility. The facility It is loud noisy bright and ugly. The anchorage is for the most part safe, the bottom is sand for good holding and there is clean bathrooms and showers. You can either anchor out or tie Tahiti style to the far wall. The wall has tons of cockroaches! Tie up at your own risk. Many of the other mariners were headed to cold water after leaving Hilo and know that the cockroaches if they do get on board will die as soon as they reach their cold weather destinations. Besides the roaches … There are water spigots if you have your own hose. Shore power is available for 24 dollars a day upon request from the harbor master. The harbor master and general store is about a half mile or so away. The harbor master only except money order and cashier’s check, which is somewhat of a pain but both can be found in town at the post office. The bus stop is another couple blocks down the street from the harbor master.
Reeds Bay has a handful of resident mooring balls and is a beautiful anchorage. The bay is surrounded by parks. The locals come to swim in the fresh water springs that make its way in and around the little bay. We managed to row in and around them in our small dingy. Good place to swim or just relax with a picnic.
Coconut island is a small island in the bay. You can get there over a foot bridge, although we sailed there in our dingy. The island is small and has some history on tsunamis. We spent our time there jumping off a man-made lava rock diving board into a small pool on the east side of the small island.
Rainbow falls- Kook city
Rainbow falls is beautiful and most definitely a tourist attraction. If you go to see it, I would go on a week day to avoid the haules. Around the railing and through the woods you’ll find that you can easily make your way to the top of the waterfall. Once you’ve taken your gander over the 200+ foot waterfall… If you’re sure footed go about 100 yards up river. There is a 20ft waterfall and huge pool that you’ll have all to yourself. Some of the sections of rock have good deep spots making for good cliff jumping! The falls are beautiful and definitely worth the visit.
The caves are made from lava! Just a short drive up the hill from Hilo, just pull of the road, that’s it your there. There is absolutely no regulations at the caves, just a few warning signs and a stare case. I highly recommend bringing a bright flashlight per person so you can explore these beautiful lava caves as much as you can.
Mauna Kea Volcano Observatory’s
About one hour up the mountain from Hilo is the Mauna Kea Volcano. Half way up the volcano is a visitor center where you can get information about the site and explore the “mars” landscape. Head warning in order to go to the top you must have a 4x4! From the visitor center there is windy steep dirt grade before reaching pavement again. We decided to go up in our crappy rental car… Once at the top a ranger stopped and was really pretty mad at us and seemed like he wanted to give us a ticket for making the way up the mountain without a 4x4. I assured him that I knew where he was coming from. I use to live in the town of Mammoth where idiots would show up in there 2-wheel drive crap cars and have to be saved of the icy roads. I assured him that I knew that the car I was driving was crap and that I was keeping it in a low gear going slow and that I would do the same on the way back down. After grumbling a little bit more, he let us slide. It is worth it to make it to the top whether you brave the road or hitch a ride. The top is above the cloud layer and the landscape looks like what you’d imagine mars to look like. The air is thin and cold! And I mean 30 – 40 degrees cold! I recommend bringing pants, jacket, water and a bitch’n camera. There is a hand full of awesome Star Wars looking telescopes scattered about the top of the volcano. One of the infrared telescopes is owned by NASA, you can just walk right up and touch them. There is plenty of information about it in the visitor center. You can also get tours that go to the top to learn more information and avoid driving the grade yourself.
There isn’t much for surf in this area. There is a couple river mouth spots that are surf-able and talking to the locals there are a few long paddles to be made. The best of all the spots and most versatile is honoli’i. This spot is out front of the Mamalahoa hwy bridge. Along the north side of the river is a perfect left point break. On the right side of the river is a perfect a-frame and on the inside is a cute little reform where you will find beginners and is a fun spot to help you surf your way back threw the river to shore. The bottom is rock and slippery so be careful on your way in and out of the water. The I personally had a great time chatting with the locals all were friendly to me and gave me more info on different surf spots in the area.
Dive Duck Dip Dive and Dodge - these are the 5 d’s of dodgeball, or hurricane avoidance 101.
July 10th- So were leaving Baja Naval in Ensenada harbor today to make our way across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. There is three hurricanes along our route. It’s really scary to think we will be out there with them so far away from land. But here we go…
July 16th - The first 3 – 4 days we rough on all of us. We headed west to stay north of the multiple hurricanes / tropical storms. We were close hauled in 5ft close interval swell, with about 25 knots of wind. I was the first thing to go… sea sick for those entire first couple days. I lost about 10lbs and spent all my time that I wasn’t on watch sleeping to avoid the splitting headaches that come along with being sea sick. Also, the reason I have been unable to write until now. Unfortunately, those conditions were just as bad on the boat. The radar went out just as we left, but we later got it back up and working again. Then the first time we went to reef the mainsail, we broke the part of the mast that funnels the mainsail tabs into the mast. This caused us to be double reefed the whole way. Next, we broke the furling line for the jib. We still are not sure where the chaffing is coming from, but it split our dinema core furling line in half twice. Both times we fixed the line with a square knot. Then, our autopilot starting malfunctioning. With the pin from the autopilot to the rudder in place we could not put the autopilot into standby. Thus meaning we can no longer steer by hand. Much better than the alternative of having to manually steer the rest of the way. In order to manually steer someone must crawl down into the transom and disconnect the autopilot by hand. Potentially problematic…
We were taking wave after wave over the bow. The leaks in the front slowly filled the forward room with water sloshing around the shelves on the walls. This caused our next problem. We were taking on so much water over the bow that the one way valves for the anchor locker clogged and became two way valves. Every time the bow would dip below the water line water would come rushing in the valves and down into the bilge. We discover the problem when the water started coming up through our floor boards in the kitchen. Steve soon figured out that our low level bilge pump was broken just leaving us with our whale pump and a high level bilge water pump. We could not fix the problem under way. So it resulted in whoever was on watch having to pump the water out of the bilge by hand every 30 minutes. The first couple days we joked about it being a good arm workout, but after a week of that it gets pretty exhausting.
As time went by, the swell and wind grew to about 8-10 ft, and 20-30 knots for just over a week. Believe it or not this was much more comfortable then the first few days. Finally, my seasickness had for the most part, gone away.
July 17th - Every morning on watch it always amazes me to see this bird or kind of bird anyways. (I named him Jeffery.) We’d be 1,000 miles from land in every direction, haven’t seen another boat in week and there he’d be. Bobbing and weaving threw the waves along the boat. The sun would get firmly in the sky and the bird would disappear. Then, the next morning you’d wake up and look… there he’d be flying with us. I like to think of it as a good omen. When traveling across such a great distance with so many storms to avoid along the way, the birds gave me comfort in knowing we were far enough away from the storms.
July 18th – The water has gotten warmer and the sky’s more beautiful. The moon is full! When it rises the night almost seem like day and would make the whole ocean underneath it shine like gold. The moon rose later and later and the stars grew brighter and brighter. The milky way took up a huge portion of the sky! As beautiful as the night watches were they were so hard to manage after a while. The longer the trip wore on, the harder it was for all of us to get enough rest. You’d sleep all day and still feel exhausted.
July 20th – Congratulations gang we’ve finished our first can of spam! Our refrigerator is officially broken. That’s right, now we have no possible way to keep fresh food. We cooked just about all of our meet in ketchup, worchestor sauce and anything else filled with preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Slowly but surely we were eating nothing but canned food. We couldn’t even keep / eat the fish were catching. Would be such a shame to kill such big, beautiful fish and only be able to eat a slice. So, from that point on it was purely catch and release for entertainment purposes only.
Kelsey caught a massive Ono nearly as long as I am tall. I caught a 30 lb big eye tuna. Together we reeled in at least 4ish skip jack and a couple dorados.
July 22nd - We’re now in the last 600 miles from land and its crunch time. We are running directly parallel to Darby the hurricane / tropical storm is headed directly for our destination of Hilo on the big island. While another even bigger storm is heading north to our position now from behind us. Timing is everything now. If we drop to soon we will be too close to the dangerous side of Darby and get sucked in. If we wait too long to drop down the next storm will surely catch us. The plan is to drop first thing in the morning. By this time Darby will have passed in front of us allowing us to safely drop in between the two. At this point I don’t think us nor the boat would be strong enough to fight of ether storm if we indeed did get to close.
July 24th We safely dropped down in-between the two storms. The sunsets and sunrises are incredible because of our position. It looks like heaven sky’s our about to open up and unleash hell upon us over this deep blue water. We have lost our good wind. Fortunately, the waves have died with it. We now have 8 – 15 knots of wind and chugging along at 4 knots - half the speed we’ve previously been traveling. The weather is hot! Miserably hot and humid, but the water is now warm too. Our chart plotter is reading 75 degrees with no bottom insight.
July 25th Today was so totally awesome!!! Steve woke up and put on some ACDC and we had ourselves a little day party. We drank pineapple juice and rum watching the flying fish (number one thing you see out there). After a couple drinks we put out the latter threw off a safety line and both Kelsey and I dragged behind the boat. Laughing our heads off! Was so much fun and we needed it. The ocean instantly gave us a new energy! For the rest of the trip we’d slow down the boat every day to hop in the deep blue water.
July 26th-27th We ended up getting just off shore on the 16th day. So eager to see land, but with no luck due to the haze. About 25 miles away, we slowed down the boat to 2 knots and had ourselves a couple bottles of wine. At that speed (2 knots) we ended up just about 4 miles off Hilo harbor at sun rise. Nothing so more amazing then seeing land after seeing nothing but blue water for 2,200 miles. We anchored Tahiti style in in Radio Bay within Hilo Harbor. We all got some much needed rest, and SHOWER!
Sailing to Hawaii is a huge accomplishment for the three of us. We did really well as a crew. Only had one or two discrepancy’s and we worked through all of them. This is only the beginning! That’s the craziest part.
Threw our AIS on board you can track our progression online!
If your interested in following our journey go to my website kimkirch.com -> scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue button that says “where in the world is Solace” or bly clicking the button below. These buttons will take you to a page where you can see our position!