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Old 16-05-2011, 12:14   #1
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Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

As I mentioned here some weeks back, I volunteered to help my boat systems mentor in La Paz get his boat back home to Seattle. His crew jumped ship in La Paz to sort out personal difficulties at home. My maintenance guru, Dr. Capt. Brian, had friends from Alaska who could crew for the second half. So, being grateful for all his help I agreed to crew for the first half, put my boat on the hard and moved aboard.

A few weeks before departure, a third crew popped up, a friend of a friend recently laid off with some Caribbean charter experience. So after he interviewed her, they agreed she would come and she arrived a week before departure date. She didn't have all that much hand's on experience as a sailor as it turned out, but having 3 crew did allow us to have a 4 on, 8 off watch schedule, making it much easier, at least for me. Brian had to stand part or all of about 2/3 of her watches during rougher conditions, which left him pretty exhausted at one point and I did extra watch time to ensure he got some rest. More than anyone, the skipper needs a clear head.

New crew Dr. Wallis (Brian and Wallis are both geophysicists, he retired, she laid off), did, however, contribute very good skills in making meals from our just sufficient provisions, managing stores like a pro. I know, ladies, don't jump all over this with neo-feminist clubs. After all, each crew needs to contribute what they have in terms of skills to any voyage, n'est pas? And it was her choice not to eat our simpleminded rations of beans, sandwiches and canned meals and to seize control of the galley. She wanted better fare and for that I am grateful.

The three of us left La Paz for Hilo, Hawaii on April 13, spent the night in Los Muertos anchorage 55 nm around the headland and our last touch of the land, and proceeded to Hilo on the 14th. About 2800 miles and 23 days later we arrived in Hilo on the big island on May 6th.

Passing Cabo San Lucas, we had a close reach SW with northwesterlies in 10-15kt range. 3rd day out was windlass and calm seas where water temp rose to 80 F., so while in irons we had a swim and a wash. 4th day the wind came back soft at 12-16 from nnw and we had several days of beam reach w/ swells on the stbd quarter. We were still making southing but were determined to hold latitude 20, with Hilo being at 19 deg.44'. It turns out, Lat/Long positions are actual places and not just lines on a planning chart. Who knew?

Here I'd like to offer a Razzberry to the folks at NOAA. NOAA's grib files kept showing 10 deg. more wind shift to the east than we were getting, but their direction was generally ok for the crossing. However, be warned if using their data, we found their “satellite measured” wind speeds and sea states consistently underestimated actual conditions. If they forecast 15 kts we began to realize we could count on 25-35 kts. If they had current winds at 20, we would be seeing 35-45, and on one occasion, 52 kts! Geez, what are they doing with all those assets?? If they forecast 3-4 meter seas, we got 6-8 meter seas. Stands to reason, if the wind is higher the sea states will be too. The biggest seas we had on the heaviest day was probably 35 foot peak to trough.

Speaking to Capt. Don of Klondike in Radio Bay at Hilo, who's cruised for 25 yrs +, he said grib files have been that way since their inception. Brian, who built this boat (his second), who'd gone around in his first build in 3 years in the last 90's, said he had never seen conditions this rough during his circumnavigation.

From day 10 to day 22, we saw half a dozen days of 25-35 kts, 4-5 days of 32-45 kts, and one 8 hour period of 40-52 kts. While keeping as much north as we could, after the first 6 days or so, we pulled down the main and ran a twin jib rig that would allow us to hold the wind up to about 50 degrees off the stern. I liked it quite a lot and am thinking about using my twin tracks for a similar downwind sail set. He has twin furlers which makes it much simpler tho', not having to take down one sail on occasion if the wind goes too far forward. The boat is 47', 20 ton steel sloop with unique features, like radio tower mast, struts, and boom, and steps across the stern with rollers in the center to haul up and secure the dink. I'll add some pics.

Before departure almost everyone said, “Hawaii, great! Shorts and t-shirts and a downwind sleigh ride, never having to touch a brace or sheet.” That was totally a fantasy from my experience. (It's funny how some conventional wisdom is just the opinion by someone who has never been, that gets repeated until it's taken as fact.) Water temp stayed in the low 70's with windchill often in the 40's. Night watches needed layers of clothing, a cashmere turtle neck and foulies if you wanted to stay warm and dry in the squalls.

Brian didn't like the passage, feeling it was on the edge of dangerous much too often. I, on the other hand, having made no previous ocean crossings and having a residual taste for adrenalin from a misspent youth, loved it all and found it very instructive. For instance, each of the first 3 or 4 times Brian decided to reef, I felt it was too early, but then, each time the wind built and I saw it had been the correct time to take some in. I learned how to see the wind increase coming, studying the whitecaps and realized the value of PREcaution. On perhaps the second reef, the first time during the trip the wind had built to a bit over 30, Brian said, “When I see 30, I think 40.” A little bell rang in my head and I said hmmm.

We spent 5 days in Hilo, where the sun did finally come out after 36 hours. We hiked up to 800' waterfalls and a 9 mile trek through the Kilauea volcano and stocked up from the lovely local farmer's market.

We then sailed on to Lahaina in a night crossing of the channel. Water temp didn't begin to warm until maybe 500 miles out of Hilo and didn't get above 81 even there. It hit 86 pulling into Lahaina. We jumped in the water there as soon as we got the hook down. Yippee! Finally the Hawaii of our imaginations. Maui is pretty but Lahaina waterfront appears to be an overpriced jet-in tourist trap near as I could tell from my one foray down the main drag. All the boats there were either in the tiny harbor (sorry full) or on moorings. We were the only boat on the hook. I would like to go back and see Hana some time, on the windward side.

We left at noon the next day and did an 18 hour NOAA blue wave special crossing to Oahu of the channel between Lanai and Molokai, with 10-15 kts from SE turning East forecast, and actually got 30-45 kts from NE instead. A good deal of local knowledge is needed to sail Hawaii it seems to me. We got into Ko Olina Marina at Barbers Point at 2 am, after a dazzling light show of Honolulu, and found our slip by feel and fell dead asleep as soon as we got tied up.

And here we are on our second day scrounging net access from a fellow cruiser w/our router (there's no wifi in the marina or close enough to use, tho' I just found out there are cable outlets on the dock so full cable tv/internet is possible thru your local monopoly). Ko Olina's not really geared to liveaboards, especially those without cars. I think we may have the bus schedule figured out and the pick up point about 1.5 miles away. Shopping is about 5 miles away for all but convenience store stuff which is about 1.5 miles away. Perhaps we should have looked harder into the Ala Wai options, but Brian says he couldn't get anyone to talk to him or answer his emails in advance. So we suffer and make the best of our poor lot in paradise. Lol. Aloha, Jon


ps. Johnny Depp left his boat here. see pics.


Cruisers & Sailing Forums - speakeasy's Album: Hawaii xing
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Old 17-05-2011, 06:23   #2
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Every year is a wee bit different in what it offers. Sounds like a good trip to me though........i2f
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Old 17-05-2011, 07:52   #3
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

23 days is great going for that passage. Congratulations.

Most people get bugger all wind for the first few days but you got through that section OK. On top of that, big waves really slow down your speed over the bottom. You feel like you are making progress but you really aren't. It seems like nothing major broke or you would have mentioned it so that aspect is good.

I know Lahaina is kitsch but I love the place. You learn to skip the main street whenever you actually want to go someplace - it is kinda squeezy. Take the back alley.

Besides, how could you not love the yacht club ?
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Old 17-05-2011, 10:05   #4
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Wow, 4-5 days of gale force wind seems pretty rough for that passage.

We've sailed the Pacific for the last 3 years and never seen any sustained winds that I thought were higher then 30 kts (outside of squalls). However I don't have a fun meter (AKA anemometer), I used the Beaufort scale to determine wind speed.

I'd be interested in your feedback on if you thought your observed sea state matched the pics in Wikipedia for a force 8 gale:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beaufort_scale_8.jpg

Also

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale
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Old 17-05-2011, 17:05   #5
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Aloha,
Sorry I missed your visit here in Hilo.
Don't skip Hanalei on Kauai when the weather is right.
Scotty described the "white squall" he went through on that very same run a couple of years ago. Yes, the Pacific is not always calm.
You can still call the Ala Wai and perhaps tie up at one of the yacht clubs if you are a yacht club member from the mainland. Waikiki Yacht Club and Hawaii Yacht club are very nice people.
Happy sailing!
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Old 17-05-2011, 21:53   #6
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

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Originally Posted by savoir View Post
23 days is great going for that passage. Congratulations.

Most people get bugger all wind for the first few days but you got through that section OK. On top of that, big waves really slow down your speed over the bottom. You feel like you are making progress but you really aren't. It seems like nothing major broke or you would have mentioned it so that aspect is good.

I know Lahaina is kitsch but I love the place. You learn to skip the main street whenever you actually want to go someplace - it is kinda squeezy. Take the back alley.

Besides, how could you not love the yacht club ?
Thanks, savior. I did like the feel of Lahaina, of Maui, just not the merchandising. I didn't know about the yacht club or would have checked it out. We weren't really on island time yet, so we didn't dally. I would have, but it t'wernt my boat.
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Old 17-05-2011, 22:05   #7
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

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Originally Posted by svnakia View Post
Wow, 4-5 days of gale force wind seems pretty rough for that passage.

We've sailed the Pacific for the last 3 years and never seen any sustained winds that I thought were higher then 30 kts (outside of squalls). However I don't have a fun meter (AKA anemometer), I used the Beaufort scale to determine wind speed.

I'd be interested in your feedback on if you thought your observed sea state matched the pics in Wikipedia for a force 8 gale:

File:Beaufort scale 8.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Also

Beaufort scale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Hunter 46 came into Hilo the same day we did from PV, the Bobbie McGee, and they went a more northern route than we did and saw nothing over 35 kts, so maybe we just got in the wind alley. Seems there was a Herrsheoff 30 that missing who was in the same alley about 6 days ahead of us with a 31 yr.old out of Bellingham whose gone missing. A friend of his and a member here asked me about whether we'd run across him in Hilo. I think he's still missing. As I understand it the CG has been notified. So perhaps he was in as heavy a wind or even worse where he was down at 19 deg. 40 min north, 145 west. We were getting 35-42 kts at about that time just above 20 deg lat. about 500 miles behind that track.

I find it difficult to read wave height from pics or take them for that matter that actually show their size. The wiki pics look sort of like what we had at 35-40, but we didn't have rain which those pics look like they might have.

Who knows, maybe what we got is within the general norm or perhaps the weather is getting more extreme in many locations. I haven't the long experience to know the answer to that.
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Old 17-05-2011, 22:10   #8
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

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Aloha,
Sorry I missed your visit here in Hilo.
Don't skip Hanalei on Kauai when the weather is right.
Scotty described the "white squall" he went through on that very same run a couple of years ago. Yes, the Pacific is not always calm.
You can still call the Ala Wai and perhaps tie up at one of the yacht clubs if you are a yacht club member from the mainland. Waikiki Yacht Club and Hawaii Yacht club are very nice people.
Happy sailing!
Well shoot! I didn't know you were in Hilo. I thought the only members we had were on the Kona coast. I may have seen your boat if you're moored on the right side of that little creek, looking from the bridge, just toward town from Radio Bay. I'm not going to get to see Hanalei, as I'm jetting out of here back to the mainland in a few weeks. New crew will be joining eKhaya for the north half of the circle back to Seattle. I will let Brian know your reco of a stop tho'. We do intend to rent a car and check out Ala Wai in a few days, but I don't think I can talk him into moving at this point, much as I would prefer to. On the other hand, we've met some nice folks here, the few liveaboard that are bunched on our dock. They all seem to be sailing ketches. Thanks, John.
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Old 17-05-2011, 23:56   #9
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Ko Olina is a long way out of town. There are usually visitor slips in Ala Wai although you might be obliged to med moor and rig up a passerelle. Ala Wai is plenty cheaper and has much better shopping over at Ala Moana which is a flat 15 minute walk or less if you get a slip at WYC. There are also plenty of restaurants + 2 yacht clubs + surf + all the tourist stuff in Waikiki which is only a 20 minute walk away.

The yacht club at Lahaina is cleverly disguised as a sleazy waterfront bar full of drunkards. Just my kind of place, but given the disguise, I can understand how you might have missed it. It is in the main street about 100 yards North of the fuel dock. The walls are decorated with all kinds of yachting history - Ticonderoga, Sorcery, Windward Passage etc.

You aren't the only one to cop it windy out there. Last time I did that passage I faced 20 foot waves with 6 foot breakers on top non stop for 9 days. A Kona blew in from the South - yup, worst direction possible. I couldn't point higher than 240. Not a single minute of NE breeze the whole way. The rest was NW. When we arrived in Lahaina the floor was wet, the walls were wet, the bunks were wet, the crew were wet, hell even the water was wet.

To top it all the coasties boarded the boat in Lahaina and wrote me a ticket for not having a bell. They had guns so I politely bowed deeply and thanked them.
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Old 18-05-2011, 08:44   #10
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

I just spent the past year,( well the boat did) at Kewalo Basin Harbor and highly recommend it. Ala Mona park separate it from Ala Wai, very low key, Charles( harbormaster) and his side-kick John, are great! We paid $700.00 per month for a 60' sloop and around 35 bucks a month for power. Some wi-fi but Starbucks is just across the street and is in walking distance to Sam's Club and the Chinese Outlet Center(Wal-Mart). Tuesday's across from Kewlao is a Farmer's Market, the Ward center(shops) and down the road is a major indoor mall with lots of shops and restaurants. Takes about 10 minutes or so to walk to Ala Wai and the yacht clubs. If you need boat work done, I found a guy named Mikey that saved my butt while I was there. From small projects to our re-power, to giving us lifts around town and a very, very good jack of all marine trades! 808-852-1435. West Marine is a tad far to walk but closer is P.O.P. supply and Home Depot. Feel free to drop me a line with any other questions. I am now back with the boat in Morro Bay, hey maybe you can get my old slip!!
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Old 20-05-2011, 12:14   #11
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Aloha from Klondike!

We were a week in front of Jon, and the most wind we saw was about 30k in a squall. Had a few days of rolly seas from the side as we transitioned from NNE to ENE winds, but it was a gentle trip up from Panama to Hilo. Only damage was to the capstan which pulls in the roller furling--the boys didn't let out enough sheet while they were furling, and stripped the gears.

We are now anchored off the park beach in Makena, Maui. Spent a week on the Kona side of the big island waiting for the captstan parts. Kailua is a rolly anchorage, but has a Walmart. Kealakekua is more protected and more scenic.

We are working our way northwest to Hanalei Bay for an early August departure, and really appreciate the Hawaii cruising advice on this thread. We welcome any recommendations for places to stop--both anchorages and places where we can leave the boat.
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Old 20-05-2011, 13:26   #12
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Re: Report: La Paz to Hilo - April / May 2011

Savoir, if I had had more than one day to poke around, looking for sleazy waterfront bars would have been high on my to do list.

Loco Gato, we bussed in to have lunch at the Waikiki Yacht Club with out departing crewmember, and even got admitted with our La Paz Club Cruzeiros membership cards. Brian had talked to the folks at Kewalo Basin in advance, but wouldn't even consider a marina with solid concrete docks. And I must say, I was astounded at the amount of garbage floating in the yacht clubs' basin, I even saw a good sized log. Doesn't anyone or layer of gov't take responsibility to clean up the harbor? Ko Olina it will be, also because he can walk out the gate across the parking lot to swim twice a day in the little resort lagoons.

Don! Great to see you here. I didn't know you were a CF member, and one of long standing at that. We ran into Lynne and Perry Olson, from the Hunter 46 that came into Hilo the same day we did, yesterday at the Waikiki Yacht Club, where they're docked having all sorts of repairs done, dink motor, chart plotter etc. We/they came to the conclusion that Mexican "manana attitude" was less than Hawaiian "island time" for getting work done. I'm heading back to the mainland at the beginning of June, but Brian will be in Ko Olina Marina here at Barbers Point until at least late June, on E dock, where all the liveaboards are berthed. Stop in a say hello. If you get here, before I leave, I'll give you a chance for revenge on the pool table, if we can find a quality sleazy bar around here somewhere.
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