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After 15 days at sea (actually 15.16…) S/V Julia arrived in Hilo, Hawaii.
Departing Oakland for the Pacific Ocean
When we departed Oakland and headed out in San Francisco Bay, a thick fog hung over the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog was selective, above us and behind was clear blue sky, but the fog sat surrounding the bridge – just the peaks of the suspension structures barely showed over the bank of fog.
I’m glad we got such great weather and pictures while we came into SF. I was on watch as we passed under the bridge going out, and I called out the announcement: “we are right under the bridge!” We looked up to see nothing but fog and were chased out of the bay by the sound of foghorns.
We kept straight out west, into the wind and waves to get out from the lee of the shore. The route planning for this trip was to carefully thread the needle – if we went too far west, winds would be too strong, but if we stayed too far east, the winds would be too light. We kept a lookout for whale spouts, and at one point even had a group of three whales swim right up close to us. 150 miles offshore, a sea lion’s fin waved to us as we passed by.
Julia has tons of fishing gear onboard. Tom went overboard on the shopping spree, with lures I doubt he will ever use as they are too big, too much drag. However, I can’t complain too much because in a matter of days, we’ve landed five mahi-mahi. Four were small, two-feet long females, but one was a 36-inch bull. I showed Tom how to fillet the fish, and they’ve still got two in the freezer. We’ve had mahi-mahi five ways: sautéed with butter, lemon and dill; ceviche; fish dip; steaks with a cumin seafood rub; and curried.
The last week or so was extreme downwind sailing. We’ve mostly been wing on wing. We were trying to sail as fast as possible early in the week, and then as direct as possible later in the week.
Our watch schedule has been:
- Susan: midnight – 3 am
- David: 3 am to 6 am
- Tom: 6 am to 10 am
- Amy: 10 am to 2 pm
- Susan: 2 pm to 6 pm
- David: 6 pm to 9 pm
- Amy: 9 pm to midnight
As is usually the case on long passages, after the first few days, everyone is up and enjoying the afternoon.
I’ve cooked dinner every night, some times with appetizers, sometimes with just cheese and crackers. I’ve been very pleased with how everything I’ve made has come out, and I think Susan and Tom are too. “I think I said this last night too, but this is my favorite meal you’ve made for us!” Tom said as I served an Asian chicken with vegetables and peanut sauce. Even the mahi-mahi came out well, which is surprising since I’ve only cooked it a few times on Starry Horizons and it never came out that well.
It’s amazing that we lived onboard Julia for 35 days. We’ve had flatmates for 35 days. Everyone has got on well, as expected there are little things that they do differently from us, but we defer to them; after all, it’s their boat.
We’ve continued more sailing lessons. There have been some moments where a gap in Susan & Tom’s knowledge has surprised us. Small errors have been made, the kind frequently made by one who is not 100% confident in the workings of the lines. There was some frustration for all parties involved, but there was no yelling or fighting, so that’s good. I’m confident that we’ve taught them a lot, and Susan and Tom were pretty lucky – they got a very good rate for us. Susan told us what other people quoted and we were WAY cheaper.
Pacific Garbage Patch
Our passage on Julia has been going quite well so far. We’ve had a nice mix of sailing conditions, everything from close-hauled and bumpy leaving San Francisco, to calm wing on wing downwind sailing to now the winds have pretty much died out and we’re motoring. Amy has been serving up some delicious meals and the crew is all getting along great. Current estimated arrival into Hawaii is sometime on June 4th.
The one big negative about this passage is that it has been incredibly depressing to see just how much plastic and other garbage debris we’ve been sailing through. Standing on the deck for 15 minutes and I saw large chunks of styrofoam, an old plastic washing tub, dozens of smaller pieces of plastic, and even a small section of the orange plastic construction netting. We’ve seen garbage floating by us in the ocean before, but never on this scale.
So it wasn’t terribly surprising when Amy and I woke up yesterday to an obviously wrong sound coming from the port engine. My first thought was “we wrapped something around the prop” and we hurried to get up on deck. Tom was on watch and did a good job of getting the engine out of gear quickly. Granted, they’d had some practice with this scenario as they had snagged a crab pot at night on the way from Seattle to Portland, but still… it was a nice quick reaction early in the morning.
I couldn’t see anything trailing behind us on the port side, but when looking at the starboard side, there was a 2ish meter length of green netting trailing behind us. Tom tried to push it off with a boat hook without any luck so I volunteered to jump in.
Fortunately, there was hardly any wind and the seas were incredibly calm, so with the engines off Julia was just barely drifting. Even still, we threw out several lines behind the boat that I could grab on to if needed, as well as a line from hull to hull so that I could easily move across the boat. Tom and Susan have masks and snorkels, but no fins which would have made the job a bit easier.
Julia has Max Prop feathering propellers and I could quickly see that one of the feathered blades on the starboard prop had just barely managed to snag the netting. I didn’t even need to cut the netting as just lifting it over the blade did the trick. However, the port prop had definitely gotten wrapped up in some netting but I was able to cut the net free without much difficulty and once I got out of the water, we checked the engines to make sure everything was still good and then got back underway.
It wasn’t until I was rinsing off that I realized that was the first time I’d jumped into the water mid-ocean. I sure hope I never have to do it again for this reason, but it was pretty cool to gaze into the depths and see just a seemingly never-ending expanse of the richest blues I’d ever seen. Just don’t ask me to try and free dive to the bottom!
Watch the Video: Sailing S/V Julia: Part 3 – We Got Stuck in the Pacific Garbage Patch
Arrival into Hilo
We had a bet going about when we would get cell phone signal – I won! 12 miles out. That meant I had to get busy making our plans. We’ve got a week to run around Hawaii before we fly back to Tonga. Flights were tricky. Unless we wanted to route to Sydney or Auckland, which adds 20 hours to our travel time, we needed to layover in Fiji. There’s only one flight a week non-stop from Honolulu to Fiji. Then, we had to decide if we wanted to fly the Nuku’alofa or direct to Vav’u. The flight into Nuku’alofa from Fiji doesn’t arrive in time to catch the domestic flight to Vava’u, necessitating an overnight in Nuku’alofa. But the flight from Fiji to Vava’u is only twice a week….necessitating an overnight in Fiji. Ugh. Top it all off with crossing the dateline and it gets REALLY confusing.
We docked in Radio Bay in Hilo. Hawaii has a reputation for not being very cruiser-friendly and Radio Bay is a prime example. There’s a wharf to tie med moor style, but no road access. The wharf is big, the cleats are big and spaced out. It’s not designed for the cruising boat.
Susan and Tom went ashore for a walk while David and I packed up all our stuff. We grabbed an Uber and said goodbye to Julia. Tom and Susan graciously took us out to a celebratory dinner in Hilo last night, where we said our goodbyes!
Now our plan is to spend 3 days seeing the sights on the island of Hawaii (the Big Island) before heading to Oahu for a few days and then flying out.