We had the luxury of a nice big breakfast followed by a mountain of dishes to clean without the added stress of bracing against the motion of big seas or having to keep a good watch while doing them. It was just after 1pm when we finally pulled the anchor out of the Hanalei Bay sand.
We sailed along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai before heading off to sea
We left the bay and turned left, taking the path of least resistance along the dramatic Na Pali coast along with the trade winds. Our last look at Hawai’i was up impossibly steep green canyons topped with puffy white clouds. When we got to where we were looking skyward at the tiny pinnacle at the end of the Awa’awapuhi trail, where I had stood a few days before, we turned north across the wind and left beautiful Kaua’i at a pace that made it seem like we were trying to escape instead of savoring the moment.
By the time I came on for my first night watch, there was no sign left of the island, not even a faint glow of a town or a lighthouse far over the horizon. We were alone in a vast deep and dark sea.
For over a week, we raced due north, rolling and skipping across the beam seas, making easy 160 to 180-mile days. The days lengthened at the same time the noonday sun gradually fell south from the zenith. As we passed 40° north, the sea and air temperature began to fall with each passing degree.
I had one last night watch where I got to do the whole thing in shorts. Every night thereafter, I had to add an item of clothing to stay warm. First it was just a t-shirt, then a t-shirt and a sweatshirt, and then I added long trousers. By the fifth night, I was wearing the full foul weather gear with layers underneath and I was still chilly by the time it was Maryanne’s turn. The sea temperature had gone from 33°C (91°F) in Hawai’i to 14°C (57°F). The air on top of it had made a similar plunge, which brought it below the dew point. We were sailing in cold, thick fog.
We had hoped to be able to start angling east toward the North American coast around 40° latitude, but the North Pacific high was moving north as well, so we headed another 180 miles to 43° before making a slight turn to the north northeast. We had to go all the way to 47° before we could head properly east to the coast. We cut the corner a little and had to suffer a couple of slow days in light winds as a consequence.
Moving over the top of the high pressure, we left the main current headed to the Aleutians and the water temperature rose back into the low 20s. The nights were still pretty cold, but we had no more fog, so the sunny days made it nice and warm inside our cockpit enclosure. We altered course a few degrees left and right as were trying to skirt the edge of the high far enough away to avoid the calms in the middle, but not so far to be in the full force of the storms racing by to our north, some of which had forty-knot winds. For the most part, we did okay, staying in a ten to fifteen knot band of wind in seas that were double what you would expect as left over swell from the storms.
As we sailed further east passing 135°W longitude, the North Pacific high began to drift even further north, separating us from the two hundred mile wide band of winds running southward along the North American coast. We would have had to go all the way up to 51° to get around it, which would put us in the path of a particularly nasty looking storm afterwards. We decided to sail through it at our current latitude of 48° in very light winds instead.
It was a frustrating few days drifting and bobbing our way through. The swell from the distant storms made us roll around, causing the sails to slat back and forth annoyingly. Most of our progress was from the favorable eastbound current. At least it was sunny.
We were supposed to start picking up wind at about 130°, but by the time we got there, the forecast was now for 129°. When we got there, it changed to 128°. That never materialized either and it wasn’t until we passed 126°, only 100 miles from the coast before the wind finally picked up.
Approaching the coast at Coos Bay, Oregon, we encountered the cold current coming down from Alaska. The water temperature plunged to 12°C (54°F) and cold, thick fog returned.
Although our ultimate destination for the year is the San Francisco Bay area, we had hoped that since we had to sail so far north anyway, that we would have a fast enough passage to be able to make landfall before then at a couple of places along the coast. We aimed initially for Coos Bay because my dad lives there and because it’s a nice place anyway. Dad has been there for over thirty years, and before that my grand-parents lived there, so I’ve spent a fair chunk of time there myself. I was looking forward to seeing both him and the area again. Coos Bay is also the safest harbor between Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay, so our chances of getting in were pretty good.
The real impediment to our arrival was the Coos River bar. Even though Coos Bay is relatively safe, the bar at the entrance can be very dangerous and is often closed to smaller craft like ours. The safest time to enter is at the tail end of the flood, when the normal ocean swell is moving up the river with the tide instead of clashing violently with the runoff on the ebb. The water is also deepest then, which reduces the chance of breaking seas.
First sight of land, and arrival in Coos Bay
By the time we arrived at the point where we had to decide whether to continue straight ahead to the bar or turn right and head down the coast, we were really hoping we wouldn’t end up having to stay at sea for a few more days. We got lucky. The wind died down to nothing by the time we got to the bar and we crossed it under power in flat water that was only a little swirly at the breakwater. Two miles later, we were tied up to the transient dock in Charleston, Oregon. The passage was 2836 nautical miles and took just over 26 days.
The arrival messed up both of our watch schedules. We each had to push through a period when we would have been sleeping, so it was all we could do to stay up until nighttime. We finished the checklist, did laundry and had showers. I called Dad, who had no idea we were coming. He wanted to see us then, but it was all we could do to have a quick meal out before collapsing into bed.
For more details of the passage, below are copies of daily logs Maryanne sent from sea to our emergency contacts...
Sunsets are generally the highlight of a passage day. Both day 1 and 2 provided amazing ones
Day 2 at sea
Weather: [Warm - mid-high 20's, and we are protected from the wind with the enclosure]
Sailing conditions: [Windy, we are sailing across the wind. The enclosure is doing a great job of protecting us from both wind and spray so even at night are sailing in shorts and t-shirts. It's bouncy but not crazy so a hand at the ready all the time and special caution when pouring hot water or at the stove generally, but otherwise OK]
Food: [I made a large batch of chili, so we had that, and will continue to have that for the next couple of days. Both of us seem to be OK on the seasickness front (thankfully), but I wasn't to know that and wanted food handy 'just in case' I couldn't cook at the start of the passage]
General Comments: [It's amazing how quickly we get back into the swing of it all over again. This passage seems short to us now, but I'm sure we'll be glad when we make landfall]
Day 3 at sea
Weather: [Sunny, with about 10kt of wind]
Sailing conditions: [Much calmer seas now we are away from the influence of the islands. A pleasant sail at around 70 degrees apparent. We continue to head north and currently plan to turn between 40 and 42 degrees north towards the California/Oregon border (depending on the status of weather nearer the time)]
Food: [Breakfast: Parfait, Lunch: Freshly made salsa and hummus with veggies and tortilla, Dinner: Chili cottage pie]
General Comments: [Very little to see or do. Sunset is a highlight (really stunning), and we read or listen to podcasts while on watch. The wind is stable so there is no sail trimming, We saw a couple of different ships on the first day, but nothing since. No dolphins, and certainly no whales]
Day 4 at sea
Weather: [Sunny with scattered clouds, still nice. Enclosure keeps us happy in shorts and t-shirts still]
Sailing conditions: [Seas are getting a little choppier, winds in the low teens, currently looking at a rainbow but no rain for us so far]
Day 5 at sea
Weather: [Same - warm and breezy - seas rolly enough to need to hold on whenever moving and sometimes even when not.]
Sailing conditions: [Very little sail trimming, just a little reefing and unreefing of the jib as a precaution, rather than actual need.]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch: Quinoa Mediterranean Salad, Dinner: Thai veg curry] Food on prior day (not reported) [Breakfast: Turkey Bacon sandwiches, Lunch: Salad, Dinner: Chili]
General Comments: [Kyle saw a giant tanker last night pass 7 miles across our stern, it was headed for Singapore and was over 1000ft long. There has been something metal clanging against something else metal for this passage and both of us have failed to locate it (turned out to be one of the snaps on the enclosure). It seems to be outside, but every time we decide we know where it's coming from and head towards it, it stops, or we then convince ourselves it is nowhere near this new area. Still, something to occupy us! The kettle (that sits atop the stove and whistles when boiling) flew off the stove and landed such as to break off it's whistle - sigh]
Day 6 at sea
Weather: [Occasional showers, but mostly sunny and with stable wind]
Sailing conditions: [Same! sailing about 75 apparent, reefing occasionally, life is easy on this front]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch: Salad, Dinner: Noodles with a peanut sauce]
General Comments: [We had a brief visit from a pod of dolphins yesterday, and saw a couple more large ships headed towards Japan. We mostly occupy ourselves with podcasts, books (and I'm studying for anticipated job interviews too)]
Day 7 at sea
Weather: [No change. Sea temperature however has been dropping over the last couple of days. For most of the week it has been 33 C (91F) - but now it is 26C (78F)]
Sailing conditions: [Seas bigger but much calmer again this morning. Wind is slowing down so that means that we are too. We are still headed north, and plan to turn at 45N, 161 W (slightly) and then a bigger turn east (towards whatever destination we then determine) once we reach 155W]
Food: [Parfait, Cheese and crackers, Mediterranean quinoa salad (left-overs)]
General Comments: [We've been ticking off the miles so well for this trip, but we know that is going to slow (at least for a couple of days). It feels good to see the bigger gaps between daily marks, especially when compared to our Galapagos and Hawaii trips. If we'd have managed this speed on those passages, Galapagos would have taken 8 days (rather than 17), and Hawaii 28 (rather than 34) ]
Day 8 at sea
Day 8 - a calm day ends with another sunset
Weather: [Really calm and easy aboard.]
Sailing conditions: [Winds have died down to about 5kts, and the sea is (despite a long 2m swell) very calm and flat. We now only have the sun to charge the batteries.]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch: Cheese/Fruit plate, Dinner: Spaghetti ]
General Comments: [Getting cooler. At night we are now wearing long trousers and a jumper, and in bed we have a light blanket. During the day t-shirts are still fine. Overnight temperature in the cockpit is about 20C (68F) and during the day we get 25C (77F). Yesterday we broke 1000nm for this passage, the next 1000nm should be a bit slower.
Thanks to Sarah for the encouraging note, and Happy Anniversary to my brother Paul and the beautiful Ali]
Day 9 at sea
Weather: [Cloudy, cooler, seas flat, skies grey and overcast with a little bit of fog overnight]
Sailing conditions: [Decreasing winds, slow and light winds, Flat mild seas (seriously it is like being at the dock). It looks like the high pressure system we have to get over and around has grown so we've altered our course to account for that (adding extra miles to go). ]
General Comments: [We've definitely moved into a different type of water (cooler), we now see bioluminescence at night, and there are plenty of jelly fish in the water. We continue to be followed by a small group of storm petrels and an albatross. Sailing on my night shift (Maryanne) is rougher now as once it gets dark there is no moon, so it is REALLY dark. In addition the clouds last night hid away the stars and it is like sailing totally blind. I can see NOTHING in any direction. I have the sound of the boat and the instruments to tell me we are moving and I only hope that any other boat out there is using the correct lights, and/or will show up on the AIS. It looks frighteningly easy to plough into any large debris or a whale. Gulp.]
Day 10 at sea Weather: [Much cooler (especially at night, dropping to 16C (60F), and FOG (Kyle is enjoying the use of our automatic fog horn, me, not so much!]
Sailing conditions: [Still on the same tack, mostly calm (a little bumpy last night), we still have a mostly steady wind out of the SE, same tack as day 1]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch & Dinner: Potato soup!]
General Comments: [Feeling the cold - we now have two light blankets on the bed for night time and we wear long pants at night along with a sweater still (almost ready for jackets, and hats), ready to dig out socks and forego the flip-flops.]
Day 11 at sea Weather: [Fog, Damp (90%+ humidity), cooler - 16C (60F)]
Sailing conditions: [light winds, dead downwind, very flat seas]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch: Potato soup, Dinner: Pad Thai]
General Comments: [Last night (around 4am) we were visited by a group of Humpback whales; both amazing and terribly frightening, but they seemed to be well aware of us and happy to ignore us. Kyle woke me to enjoy the sight, and I spent the rest of my off watch having dreams of being circled in a dinghy by killer whales - I guess I'm still not over our last incident! We are looking good for our ideal land fall of Coos Bay (Oregon), but still won't be able to make that a definite YES until we get closer. We seem to be north of that high pressure area we needed to get over, (You'll see we've made the turn to head west) and we hope soon to collect the winds to pick up speed. We're now actually using a quilt at night, and I'm starting to worry we'll be getting condensation aboard soon.]
Day 11 brings fog and leaves us becalmed for much of the day
Day 12 at sea
Weather: [Very foggy, and very light winds. So very little progress and not much to see]
Sailing conditions: [Slow! Light winds, deck is covered in dew so any exit from the cockpit has us soaked if we touch anything and the lines are creaking, it feels like we are in that movie (Dead Calm), except we're in colder climes; luckily so far no apparently abandoned boat...]
Food: [Breakfast: Irish Soda Farls with strawberry jam, Lunch: Quinoa Salad, Dinner: Hash Potatoes, baked beans and fried egg]
General Comments: [A frustrating sailing day, but one we expected, and we're not out of this calm yet. Last night in the pitch darkness I was suddenly surrounded with the classic sound of cetaceans venting from blow holes all around me. I woke Kyle up on the pretext that he wouldn't want to miss this (really I was petrified that the boat was surrounded by whales). Those whales turned out to be dolphins (Kyle actually looked rather than cowered with a death grip on the seat). That encouraged me to step out of the cockpit too and we were both entertained for 10 minutes of dolphins playing. With absolutely no light though, what we saw was the amazing bioluminescence trail as they swam about us - as if trying to write their names in the water as we would have done with sparklers as kids... beautiful.]
Day 13 at sea
Weather: [Overcast, fog has lifted, but it is Cold, cold, cold - 13C (55F), and the water temperature too has dropped - 15C (59F). The barometer has been about 1030+ for most of the last week and now we are slowly dropping (currently at 1022)]
Sailing conditions: [The wind picked up yesterday afternoon, and so did the seas. Bumpy and with a larger swell (about 2.5m) we definitely need to hold on whenever we move about.]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal, Lunch: Quinoa Salad, Dinner: Kyle Favorite - Kraft Macaroni & Cheese]
General Comments: [Hard to get past the cold really. At night it is still really dark until the moon rises and this is THE most scary time aboard, especially now the waves are getting bigger]
Cooler weather means Maryanne totally discards any sense of fashion to be sure her toes are warm!
Day 14 at sea
Weather: [Cool (14C), overcast]
Sailing conditions: [light winds, and much calmer seas]
Food: [Breakfast: Parfait, Lunch: gado-gado salad, Dinner: Cheese Sandwiches]
General Comments: [Very little goes on out here (at least to our eyes). Dolphins visited this morning but we are going too slowly to be any fun to them. We are at the end of our 2nd week at sea; we are fully into the swing of life at sea, and are counting down the miles to arriving back on the mainland.]
Day 15 at sea
Weather: [Overcast - we've seen barely a glimpse of sky for 5 days now, this morning it looks as though the cloud may be finally breaking up. Cold (we are now using double quilts and I've dug out my fleece PJs; I know, I'm a wimp). ]
Sailing conditions: [Some frustrating winds had us ideally using wing on wing but with a rolly sea this was, well, frustrating. We are back to beam reach again and the seas have flattened - life is much calmer]
Food: [Breakfast: French Toast filled with strawberry Jam and cream cheese (thanks Kate for that recipe!), Lunch: Salsa, cheese, crackers, nibbles, Dinner: rice & beans]
General Comments: [We are finally headed properly east, and being over half way there it feels like we are on the last leg (although there is plenty of time to go).]
Day 15 brought some spectacular skies
Day 16 at sea
Weather: [Overcast (Sigh), but otherwise calm]
Sailing conditions: [Very calm seas and a fair and following wind - about perfect!]
Food: [Breakfast:Cereal , Lunch: Quesadilla , Dinner: Fried Rice]
General Comments: [Kyle had a ship pass us last night (close enough to see); on average we have 1 a day show up on the AIS, but this is the first we've seen in about a week. The clouds finally cleared overnight (not much use for the solar power), and we are hopeful (again) today that the clouds might disperse today. Our 'house' batteries are behaving oddly - we think one or possibly 2 are seriously ill or even dead (We have 4). This just means that any charge doesn't last as long as it should and we need to use the motor more often to keep up with the power consumption of the instruments. This is a separate system from the starter battery (which was new earlier this year). Four new batteries will be yet another rather large expense (sigh, again!).
This week we've used the last of the fresh tomatoes, fresh fruit (we have plenty of canned alternatives of each) and store bought bread. Both the storage areas in the boat and the fridge are looking a little less crowded, but we probably have food aboard to last another 6 months!
We have plenty of time on our hands and yesterday Kyle calculated the number of sailing miles we've done in Begonia in the last 12 months: 11700nm, and 14143nm since we have owned her. Between Begonia and Footprint (Since 2007) we have sailed over 30,000nm, if you add in Prydwen and Baby Cakes about 37,000nm - the circumference of the earth is about 21000nm, but since we can't sail around the equator we've probably sailed the equivalent of around the world! 8600nm of which are just in the Pacific (this year!). Of course we've not been around the world - but we have now sailed through 189 degrees of longitude and 63 latitude.]
Day 17 at sea
Weather: [Sun shine!!!! (yay!) - actually wore t-shirts in the cockpit yesterday (during the day time)]
Sailing conditions: [following winds, and fair seas]
Food: [Breakfast:Parfait , Lunch: Cake! , Dinner: Pasta with a Salmon and cream sauce]
General Comments: [So nice to finally have some sun again. Our speeds are slow, and there is a big high pressure ahead of us that will slow us down some more, but ah, the sunshine!]
Sunshine and wind - a perfect sailing day
Day 18 at sea
Weather: [Overcast again this morning (hopefully will burn off), yesterday was sunny again and much appreciated]
Sailing conditions: [Still amazingly flat seas which makes sailing (and getting around the boat) relatively easy]
Food: [Breakfast: Omelet , Lunch: Cheese & Crackers , Dinner: Chili Burritos]
General Comments: [Nothing, absolutely nothing to report happened. We plod along happily, the sunshine really helps with the batteries, we eat too much and don't get enough exercise, we read and listen to our podcasts, and enjoy our time together each day]
Day 19 at sea
Weather: [Mostly overcast, a bit of rain yesterday, staying cosy in the cockpit, but well wrapped up to leave it!]
Sailing conditions: [good winds, mixed seas]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal , Lunch:Boiled egg and nibbles , Dinner: Noodles]
General Comments: [Water temperature is actually getting warmer - currently 18.5c (65F), and it got down to 14.5C (58F), probably because we are cutting across while the main current goes more north of us. We've seen a few tiny by-the-wind-sailors (I mistakenly thought they were Portuguese men-of-war again). Poor Kyle keeps bumping his head everywhere all of a sudden - he has a small raw patch on top of his bald (freshly shaved) head, it is as if he is new to the boat.]
Day 19's sunrise heralds another easy sailing day
Day 20 at sea
Weather: [Sunshine - low 20's C in the day time and not too bad really]
Sailing conditions: [Very calm seas, Close hauled moving along at 4-5kts, easy sailing]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal , Lunch: Hummus , Dinner: Thai Curry]
By-The-Wind-Sailors (Velella) are a hydroid colony, much like the Portuguese man-of-war. They drift, but have some ability to 'sail' about the water. We came across some very dense patches of them at sea.
General Comments: [The sea is totally littered with baby(?) by-the-wind-sailors (I mistakenly through they were Portuguese men-of-war). If you fell in there would be absolutely no way to avoid them. I'm not sure if they have any dangerous sting - I certainly hope not to find out. The air and the water are both warming still (oh, how very much appreciated!). Right now we are passing across the top of the high pressure so although not REALLY fast, we are moving and the weather and sea is perfect. The weather forecasts for our possible Coos Bay stop is looking good (so far), so we think this should be our first stop]
Day 21 at sea
Weather: [Things are warming up - T-shirts all day now, and a sweater for the night watch is fine..]
Sailing conditions: [Seas are almost dead flat, but there is so little wind that we create our own with any rolling around we do. We keep getting a few minutes of stable, reasonable wind and setting the sails for it, only to have it die off again so we are getting plenty of exercise!]
Food: [Breakfast: Omelet , Lunch: Cookies , Dinner: Pasta with tomato & artichoke sauce]
General Comments: [An expected, but frustratingly slow, day. We are in the midst of a high pressure system and luckily mostly drifting in the right direction - hopefully this won't last for more than a couple of days before we pop/drift out the other side of it.]
Light winds has us looking for entertainment elsewhere - Maryanne persuades Kyle to play with facial hair styles all over again! Eventually we are sailing again!
Day 22 at sea
Weather: [Light winds, warm, but not hot.]
Sailing conditions: [Calm seas for the most part, but light winds. ]
Food: [Breakfast:Parfait , Lunch: Poached Pears in Ginger Syrup , Dinner: Giant Breakfast Fry-up!]
General Comments: [Winds are so light that the small roll of the longer waves spill wind out the sails regularly, but there is enough to have us moving sometimes and keeping us hopeful that we are 'almost' done with the light winds - very little progress for the last two days, we hope to punch through that high pressure area soon!
We now sight regular ships on the AIS, and occasionally even on the horizon; last night I had to call one on the radio that was headed straight for us at 17kts asking him (politely) to alter course. We hear more chatter on the VHF radio, even sometimes the coast guard which perplexes us somewhat this far out to sea.
We are now at the start of our 3rd week at sea, with less than a week to go now, we are well over the hump!]
Day 23 at sea
Weather: [Sunny and way too calm]
Sailing conditions: [Calm seas but with a swell from the side, winds light (we get excited if we see 5kts however briefly)]
Food: [Breakfast: Cereal , Lunch: Snacks , Dinner: Thai Curry Roti]
General Comments: [Our 4th day of frustrating progress in light winds. Most of our progress is the current... According to our forecasts this should all be behind us now, but it teases us with such 'facts'. VHF radio chatter is now almost constant and we are amazed at the distance from which we are receiving signals (mostly we get one side, from the coast guard as far as Puget Sound (about 250nm)]
Day 24 at sea
Weather: [Overcast, cooler]
Sailing conditions: [Flat seas, sailing close hauled (unexpected), making good progress]
Food: [Breakfast:Cereal , Lunch: Hummus , Dinner: Lentil Soup]
General Comments: [Yesterday was another very slow day, the wind didn't properly arrive until late last night. We are still hoping to go to Coos Bay, but that comes with two issues. 1 - you can only enter at certain points of the tide (which happen twice a day, and not always in daylight, so sometimes there is only one opportunity a day, 2 - the entry is over a notorious shallow bar, which in poor conditions is not accessible. Luckily the weather conditions (currently) indicate that at the right time, entry should be fine. However our delays mean that if we arrive on the 7th, there is only one opportunity (early morning) to enter - if we miss that we either have to hang around until the following day, or move on to the next available harbor - we won't know until we get closer I guess!. We have a lot more shipping, and no longer hear the coastal VHF right now (we must have been in a skip zone previously)]
Day 25 at sea
Weather: [Overcast and NO wind.... Sigh]
Sailing conditions: [With no wind and a current against us (all unheard of for the area we are in), Kyle has finally conceded and started the motor.]
Food: [Breakfast:Parfait , Lunch: Quesadilla , Dinner: Pasta]
Over the passage of the day things just got calmer, and calmer
General Comments: [NEWS FLASH: Kyle has started the motor in a last ditch effort to make the Coos Bay bar by tomorrow morning. It's a tight call and something that Kyle NEVER normally does. We are supposed to be in 20kts of wind right now, but for some reason we've had none since late last night. Some mysteries just can't be solved.]
Day 26 at sea - Land Ho!
We have land in sight and are holding off shore awaiting the best time to cross the bar and enter Coos Bay.
The wind did not arrive until late yesterday, and it was a relief to be finally able to turn off the motor. Over the course of the day the water changed from that amazing open water blue, to green and is now brown. There were LOTS of ships, but we also passed flocks of birds, and giant patches of sea that were totally covered with those tiny by-the-wind-sailors.
Looking forward to getting to the marina, and taking a proper nap!
Day 26 at sea - Arrived 07:14 HAST (10:14 PDT) ARRIVED - Charleston Marina (Oregon) after a passage of 593 hours 52 minutes from Hanalei Bay, (Kauai, Hawaii). Travelled 2836.37nm on the log, (2156nm great circle distance). A basically uneventful passage with the only breakages being the kettle and a battery that needs to be replaced. The highlight for both Kyle and Maryanne was the dolphins on day 12 (although after being visited by whales on day 11 it took a while for her to realize and enjoy the dolphins!).