This blog is photo intensive because we saw so many amazing things during this week. Perhaps the most amazing week of our Alaskan tour! Also, if you remember Amelia’s blog about Alaska’s Timeless Waterways, these pictures may give you insight into where she found her inspiration.
Just two days after Tommy flew out from Sitka, our eldest son, Hunter, flew in for a visit. Once again we wanted to cover a lot of territory so Hunter could see a bit of Alaska quickly. We had an incredible time and were able to discover a variety of Alaskan landscapes. Rather than bore you with details of our time, I will attempt to share many pictures and try to give you small descriptions of our days.
We left Sitka early to conquer a long 78 nm passage to Killinoo Harbor, but the day was filled with pretty scenery and plenty of time to catch up with Hunter as we motored. We had two surprises as we covered ground. The first was an opportunity to actually SAIL for a bit as we crossed the Chatham Strait. Although we only raised our head sail, it felt great to see TTR under wind power again for a little bit.
The second bit of luck was seeing whales feeding!! While in Hawaii, the whales do not eat so we never saw those epic scenes of whales surfacing with their mouths wide open. But the very first day Hunter was with us, the whales decided to show us how it was done. SO COOL:
We went to Killinoo Harbor to meet some people Erik knew from Hawaii. This family spends time in Hawaii and in Alaska and they were kind enough to show us the very functional and comfortable cabin they built on a remote part of a remote Alaskan island.
Following a magical tramp through the woods to reach their cabin, we took dinghies to a spit nearby and had a beach BBQ dinner of fresh halibut, salmon and crab! Welcome to Alaska, Hunter, where the sea provides an amazing bounty!
Just a small tidbit of information about Dungeness crabs; in Alaska we can only harvest male crabs that are 6.5” or larger. I had no idea how to tell the difference and maybe you don’t either, so below are photos of the underside of a male and female crab. Once you know what to look for, it is very easy to tell the difference between them.
The next day was pretty much a sunrise start with plenty on the agenda beginning with seeking out waterfalls along our path. Here is a picture of the most casual waterfall I have ever encountered. 🙂
Our first stop of the day was Warm Bath Springs. Natural warm springs creating pools of clear hot water in a climate much colder than we are accustomed to are not to be missed! Hunter, Amelia, Erik, Frank and I spent hours soaking in the hot springs. There was a raging river cascading just outside of the hot pools, so we would alternate between soaking in the hot water until our skin tingled with quick, breathtaking dips into the icy river pools formed in the rocky sides.
After turning into hot springs prunes, we hiked to a nearby lake and waded into the perfectly clear water…. guess Polar Plunges are sneaking into our daytime adventures too!
Red Bluff Bay, our anchorage that night after the hot springs, was the only place we stayed for two nights during Hunter’s visit. Initially we shared this popular spot with four boats but when we left there were 10 power boats sharing the anchorage. That is the most boats we have seen in any anchorages in Alaska.
The crowd must not disturb the crab population because we caught four Dungeness crabs in Red Bluff. Since we had already eaten a good bit of crab, we decided to give them to a neighboring boat. I think we might have been their favorite boat after that.
Gambier Bay was riddled with crab pots, so Erik and Frank thought they would score at least one crab, but we were skunked. Not a single crab to show for their efforts. We did find plenty of wild blueberries which Erik transformed into a delicious pie.
FUN ALASKAN FACTS: Throughout the Tongass National Forest, the Forest Service has built cabins available for use on a first come, first serve basis. The cabins are sturdy and basic, but provide excellent refuge for travelers. There are more than 160 Forest Service Cabins in the Tongass National Forest! That is a great use of our national parks dollars!
However, for perspective, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the US. Originally named the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve, this public land was created in 1902 under Theodore Roosevelt. In 1907, by presidential proclamation, Roosevelt renamed the area the Tongass National Forest and in 1908 two forests were combined to enlarge the Tongass. Finally in 1925 under Calvin Coolidge, the Tongass was expanded again to create the Tongass National Forest we have today. All together the Tongass National Forest encompasses 17 million acres!
In Gamier Bay we walked to one of the forest service cabins in the early evening. We built a campfire (why do most men love to build fires?), enjoyed toddies and ate s’mores as we exchanged stories and sang old songs. Frank and I won the oldest songs awards when we pulled out, “Little Rabbit FooFoo.” Who remembers that camp song??
Perhaps the most epic day of Hunter’s visit was our trip up Tracy Arm to the South Sawyer Glacier. Navigating up the passage, dodging floating ice while distracted by the amazing sights was a challenge. And well worth the effort!
We set up a schedule where we alternated helmsmen and bow watchers every 10 minutes because it was very cold and pretty demanding. The weather alternated between fog, mist, rain and clear skies, which only added to the drama of the scenery.
Of all the places we have visited so far, this area stands out as the most unique in its beauty and grandeur.
We were so enamored of our first glacier that after motoring back to Entrance Cove and anchoring TTR, we went out in the dinghy and lassoed one floating chunk of iceberg and tried to take it back to Ticket to Ride with us. However, sanity returned and we dropped “our iceberg” for fear it would float around the anchorage and damage a boat or two.
We did corral a few reasonable sized pieces of glacier which became our beverage cubes of choice.
That evening we anchored in Entrance Cove and met the folks on m/v Koda and m/v Sudden Inspiration. A guest on Sudden Inspiration shared several drone photos and this video he took of TTR while we were near the glacier. How awesome is that?!
We took over a bottle of wine and a few other items as thanks for the awesome video of Ticket to Ride. We also invited all on board Koda and Sudden Inspiration to join us in our daily Polar Plunge. Most thought we were nuts, but Barb and Liz changed into swim suits and joined us for a very chilly, but laughter filled PP.
Early the next morning we were up again and headed to Taku Harbor which is the site of an old cannery. We spent another excellent day exploring on shore and chatting with the folks who bought the old cannery workers housing lodge. The history of the lodge was interesting and the new owners were super nice.
Parts of Taku Harbor were easy to walk but at other times we were bushwhacking through undergrowth to find a trail. Taku was a fun mix of old ruins, old forest and new friends.
After Taku Harbor we dashed to Auke Bay in Juneau because Hunter had a flight out the next day. WOW, it was an amazing week with stellar sights and so many laughs. We had so many silly adventures, including assembling a Crystal Garden…. which is one of those stories that probably is only funny to the people involved. But I will show you two pictures:
Looking back at the pictures from the seven days Hunter was on board TTR, there are so many amazing photos I could share with you, but alas, this is already so long, I will refrain. I hope you have a tiny glimpse of just how remarkably pretty this part of Alaska is!
Polar Plunge Report: the daily plunge tradition continues!
Killinoo Harbor 54°F
Red Bluff 51°
Red BLuff 54°
Tracy Arm 54°
Thank you so much for stopping by to read our blog. This was a really long post because we packed a lot into one week. We hope to have more routine WIFI as we work our way back into the U.S. and hopefully we can share posts more routinely. If you want to hear from us more often, please follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
After tying up to the dock in Sitka we grabbed the Prosecco for a celebratory cork popping that was a bit anti-climatic as you can see in the video.
Although the Prosecco was less than effervescent, we were all in high spirits and immediately took a stroll through Sitka. We were anxious to stretch our legs, see the town, and find a spot to eat, drink and celebrate. French fries seemed to be tops on the list for several of us.
One interesting thing about being on passage is the lack of news. Sailing along in Ticket to Ride, we have virtually no news, unless a friend or family member contacts us. Of course we receive and study the weather, but that is the only real time information we seek. As a result, when we arrived in Sitka, we had had no news for almost two weeks.
As is usually the case, there were few news bites that had changed and we had missed very little without hearing the 24 hour news cycles. As we strolled the streets of Sitka, we did encounter one sign that we never saw in Hawaii.
The main street of Sitka was clean and inviting with plenty of windows to browse and bars or restaurants to try. We saw some rather unique apparel including this gem in the window of a fur company!
We were surprised by the warm weather and clear skies that welcomed us to Alaska. Exploring the town we shed our jackets and adopted a leisurely pace as we took in the influence of early Russians who settled Sitka during the heyday of fur trading. Sitka was the capital of Alaska until 1906.
The lushness of this country was unexpected and magical. Everywhere we saw flowers both wild and in hanging baskets or window boxes. Especially after days on end of blue water, the foliage was vibrant and captivating.
Erik, Tommy, Amelia, Frank and I enjoyed a protracted dinner overlooking the local library and a marina. We relished sitting still and having someone else do the cooking and the dishes. Even on a great passage, one is always looking and listening for changes in wind or sounds and this was the first time in many days we could simply sit and not be monitoring the elements around us, except in an appreciative way.
The following day, our first full one in Alaska, Erik chose to hang out with Katie and Kevin of s/v Kālewa to further explore Sitka and determine which establishments were the most fun and had the best beverages. Tommy decided he needed to catch up with family and friends after being without cell and internet during the passage. Frank, Amelia and I were in search of a hike to see the fauna up close.
The hike we chose was seven miles from town so we stuck out our thumbs and hitch-hiked our way. Within one minute we were picked up by a park ranger who gave us information about the hike we had chosen which turned out to be one of the most amazing hikes I have ever experienced!
The Herring Cove Trail is so well made it is almost beyond belief. Sometimes the surface is one stepping stone to another, or it meanders through moss covered greenery, or across bridges made from one huge tree trunk with planks on top.
It’s impossible to describe the muffled silence of the ground covered in hundreds of years of layered decomposition, broken only by birdsong, water cascading over rocks and our comments of delight and reverence.
The Herring Cove hike would not be complete without a visit to Beaver Lake and our efforts to get there were well rewarded. Walking the edge of the lake was like being in one of those ad campaigns that show the pristine waters for Coors beer or the mountain streams and lakes used for perfect drinking water.
On this, our first full day in Alaska, Frank, Amelia and I decided we had to jump into the icy lake and really commit ourselves to all Alaska has to offer. Three jumps and several shrieks later, we had all completed our first Polar Plunge! Afterwards, we sat like seals soaking up the heat from the sun warmed rocks and decided that a new TTR tradition had been born: The TTR Polar Plunge.
We only stayed in Sitka for two nights as we wanted Tommy to see a bit of Alaska before he left for his next adventure. With only a few nights to explore, we decided to stay one night in each anchorage to maximize the area Tommy was able to see.
Our first stop was Magoun Bay, a quick 28nm from Sitka. As soon as we were anchored, Erik, Tommy and Amelia made quick work of lowering the dinghy and finding a perfect spot to place the crab trap we had purchased in Sitka. We heard that catching crab is pretty easy in Alaska and we wanted to get our first taste of Dungeness crab! Sadly, no crabs climbed into our trap this time.
Our next stop was Deep Bay, a long glacier formed bay off of the Peril Strait. We anchored way in the back of the bay and spotted our first brown bear! Once again the crab trap was placed and our hopes were high.
We were up early the next morning for a 44 nm jump to Krestof Sound, but first the crab trap was picked up and we were rewarded with our first keepable Dungeness crab! Deep Bay gave us our first bear sighting and our first crab.
Krestof Sound can only accommodate one anchored boat and we were happy to capture that one spot. At Krestof, we walked through the moss covered forest and sat upon smooth boulders along the water edge enjoying the warmth captured from the sun despite the overcast skies.
We explored the shore and found clams numerous and large enough to eat, but thankfully Frank remembered that the clams have paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and were unsuitable for consumption! Dinner was a (small) feast of boiled crab with garlic butter for dipping. We felt like “real” Alaskans eating the dinner we had plucked from the sea!
Our final stop before returning to Sitka was DeGroff Bay. Although the weather this day was the most overcast we had experienced, DeGroff itself was very pretty. The Bay had tall wooded sides that showed several areas where landslides had occurred as shown in the drone photo.
The water itself was extremely calm and perfect for paddleboarding, which we now do sporting rubber boots! We are truly fashionistas!
The next morning we left DeGroff to return to Sitka but we found that DeGroff had gifted us two additional crabs in our trap. Since Tommy was scheduled to fly out of Sitka that afternoon, we cooked the crab and ate our fill for lunch as soon as we anchored in Sitka.
Tommy’s flight time quickly arrived and it was time to say Aloha. We created a ton of great memories with Tommy while in Hawaii, on the passage and in Alaska. We are sure we will see him again in the not too distant future. For now, Tommy is off to enjoy an east coast summer until he begins school in the fall. Best of luck, Tommy. We know you will excel in your schooling!
POLAR PLUNGE REPORT:
Magoun Bay: 57° F
Deep Bay: 49.1° F
DeGroff: 56° F
Thanks for stopping in to read our blog. It is impossible to capture the beauty of Alaska, but hopefully you can get a flavor of how pretty it is here. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Instagram or Facebook.
**At the end of this blog is a bit of information concerning sailing specifics.
More than a year ago we passaged west from Mexico to Hawaii, never expecting to experience Hawaii by sailboat. Recently we left the tropical warmth, turned northeast and once again crossed the Pacific Ocean to seek the less traveled shores of Alaska. Another destination that was not part of our original itinerary.
In addition to Frank and me, this voyage included Erik, Tommy and Amelia; our trustworthy crew/friends of Hawaiian residents whom we met during our year in the islands. Along side of Ticket to Ride were our friends Katie and Kevin on sv Kālewa. We met Katie and Kevin in 2019 on the Baja HaHa Rally which travels from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, MX.
This trip began from Hanalei Bay, Kauai on June 14th with a stunning sunrise and dolphins escorting us away from Hawaii. Amelia’s friends gifted her Ti leaves (pronounced like tea) to ward off evil and give us safe voyage. The Ti plant was brought to Hawaii by Polynesians who believed the plant had divine powers. Hawaiian tradition says that the God of Fertility, Lono, and the Goddess of Hulu, Laka, considered the Ti leaves sacred. Today Hawaiians say using these leaves wards off evil and brings good luck. Thus these leaves are used when making leis, in a grass skirt, or as a cheering noise maker to bring good luck to a favorite sports team. In our case, the Ti leaves were placed on TTR’s bow and each side of the transom to bring us safety and luck on our journey. We shared some of the Ti leaves with s/v Kālewa to insure their safe passage as well.
We experienced a beautiful goodbye after a magical year.
If I were to summarize the passage to Alaska, I think the overarching theme for me would be ease. We had an excellent, capable crew who chipped in with everything; sail changes, watches, weather routing, cooking, cleaning, etc. The five of us managed to work together well and because the wind and waves were predominantly aft, we were able to have individual watches and a unique night time watch schedule.
This trip we chose to have three hour evening shifts with one person on each shift. Since we had five people and four shifts, every night one crew member had the night completely off. This luxury of a full night of sleep made for a very well rested and happy crew!
Another unique aspect of this crossing was that the daylight hours were increasing as we traveled toward Alaska, so each evening the hours of actual darkness decreased. The additional light made “night watches” easier but there is mystical quality to the starry nights on passage that I missed. Sometimes on passage watch, when no other light is visible, the stars are so brilliant that they provide candescence to our path and we are actually guided by the starlight.
Earlier I alluded to the fact that this trip was an easy one and part of the reason is that I had SO much help with meals. Actually, I think I cooked very few of the meals on board with Erik doing the majority of the cooking and Amelia creating delicious salads and homemade dressings. Tommy stepped up to prepare some panko-crusted Hebi. The food we ate was amazing and it was interesting to see how different the meals were using the same ingredients I usually buy. We only repeated one meal in our 12 days of passaging!
None of us could decide which meal was best, so in the comments, let us know which one you think sounds most delicious.
I am limiting the list to our dinners:
Day 1: Beef and noodle soup that was so thick it was more of a stew
Day 2: Homemade chicken noodle soup with a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and homemade dressing.
Day 3: Pork tenderloin in a brown apricot/butter sauce with rice and grilled asperagus, topped off with a lovely latticed blueberry pie baked from scratch (anniversary dinner for Mary Grace and Frank)
Day 4: Split pea soup from scratch with homemade corn bread.
Day 5: Fresh caught Ahi sashimi appetizer, followed by panko-crusted Hebi (spearfish) with rice and a spinach, walnut, goat cheese, dried cherry salad, with another homemade dressing.
Day 6: General Tso’a tofu (tofu, broccoli, quinoa, ginger, peppers, etc) with asian-style salad
Day 7: Homemade pizza (1. pepperoni and cheese 2. pesto, artichokes, goat cheese, capers, zucchini and 3. sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, onion, cheese)
Day 8: Ahi steaks, sautéed green beans & mushrooms, and baked panko parmesan crusted snap peas
Day 9: Fifteen bean ham soup with homemade bread
Day 10: Swedish Pasties (hand-crafted stuffed dumplings) with spinach, bell pepper, cheddar cheese salad
Day 11: Homemade chicken tortilla soup with cucumber, tomato, onion, feta salad
Day 12: Ahi steak with stir fried veggies and rice
I continue to be surprised by how busy we stay during passages, even with crew on board. This passage, weather took more planning than on most trips, so that consumed a lot of time. We also spent some time playing Cribbage, had some music/dance hours (ok, the guys weren’t into this), we soaked up the sun while the warm days lasted, fished and cleaned our catches, listened to pod casts, napped, cooked, cleaned, read and even watched Blue Planet once or twice.
We did encounter one incident when the Doyle reacher leach began showing unsettling wear half way into the passage. Quick to diagnose the issue, Frank and Erik removed the reacher and glued and sewed a repair strip to the leach. They made quick work of the repair and very soon had the reacher repaired and redeployed.
We left Hanalei with a very good weather window. The Pacific High appeared to be firming up and the forecast for the first several days looked positive for sailing. Once again we hired Bruce Buckley to read the weather and advise us along the trip. We ended up sailing between a low system to our west and a high system to our east. We were able to use these systems to our favor most of the time. Thankfully, we avoided any nasty storms and experienced only two minor squalls. Plus we had wind for most of the trip.
This passage was the first time we encountered deep fog which was a really different experience. I would estimate our visibility was 125 yards for 5 days of our trip. It was a little unnerving to sail along at 10 knots of boat speed while unable to clarify the path ahead. We relied heavily on radar and AIS to identify objects we were unable to see in the opaque gray wall and we were thankful each time it dissipated.
At the very end of the passage, a wind shift to the north was predicted so when the wind died, we fired up the engines to insure our arrival in Alaska before the wind was directly on our nose. The last 24 hours or so under motor were used to take care of end of passage clean up. Salt and dew always accumulate on a passage and wiping down the inside of the boat and cleaning the decks is a necessity.
Motoring at the end of a passage is a great time to address damage or breakage and begin repairs, but thankfully our only incident was the sail that Frank and Erik repaired while underway. We didn’t have any damage or breakage to address at the end of the passage. Go TTR!
Originally we planned to sail directly to Glacier Bay, but we allowed the wind to direct our path and that resulted in landing at Sitka, AK. We managed to snag the last open marina spot in Thomsen Marina and as soon as we tied up our freshly cleaned boat, we popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate a successful, safe, comfortable and fast passage.
Sitka felt like we had landed in the quintessential Alaskan movie set! Fishing boats with scores of hard working people on board, pine tree covered mountains wearing snow hats, skies of deep blue with wisps of white clouds and bald eagles soaring in the sky. Our landing in Alaska was a distinct contrast to our departure from Hawaii but it was equally beautiful in a completely different way.
Our buddy boat, Kālewa arrived just a few hours after we did. We really enjoyed keeping in touch with Kevin and Katie and discussing weather options during the passage using satellite communications. Though we weren’t within sight of Kālewa the whole trip, we were in contact and it was comforting to know we were within 80 miles of a friend.
Prior to departing for Alaska, I had heard some sailors say this was their best passage ever. I had also heard stories of pretty difficult trips including one monohull that was finishing a circumnavigation and had to abandon their sailboat 250nm from Seattle.
As always, I was slightly nervous prior to our departure from Hawaii, but thankfully this turned out to be one of our best passages to date.
****** Sailing Speak: ******
Our passage goal was to have a quick, safe, fun and comfortable trip: we weren’t trying to break any speed records.
We left Hawaii with one reef in the main sail and the genoa deployed. We completed the whole passage with R1 (one reef) in the main sail.
The first 2 days of our trip, we were close hauled with an average true wind angle of 55 degrees. Our average true wind speed was 15.67 knots with an average boat speed of 8.96 knots.
By the afternoon of our third day at sea, we recorded our first TWA over 100 degrees and for the remainder of the trip all of our true wind angles were above 100 degrees. We flew a variety of sail configurations including: main-R1 with genoa, main-R1 with reacher, reacher and genoa flying wing on wing, gennaker with genoa flying wing on wind, gennaker with spinnaker staysail, genoa only and reacher only.
This passage was our first long term experience of flying wing on wing head sails and it was an interesting and positive experience for us. We flew our reacher to leeward and our genoa to windward at wind angles deeper than 160. This configuration was comfortable and we could “reef” by rolling in the windward sail. We used this sail combination for 5 or 6 days and felt TTR was quick and comfortable.
Everyone on board enjoyed experimenting with a variety of sail plans while continuing to make good speed over ground.
Passage mileage: 2473 nm
Average speed: 8.6 knots
Max speed: 21.6 knots
Max daily miles: 234.5 nm
Travel time: 12 days – almost to the hour.
Seasickness Note: Tommy brought scopolamine patches and I tried the patch for the first time on this passage. The scopolamine worked very well for me and this is one of the few passages I can remember not being apprehensive about becoming seasick. Thank you, Tommy.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We would love to hear which meal sounds most delicious to you, so let us know in the comments. We are thankful to the Petersburg Alaska Library for the use of their internet. We hope to update you more often, but have to see what internet we find. Look for quick updates on Facebook or Instagram. Be safe and stay well.
P.S. Our next post is written by Amelia and offers her perspective for part of the passage to Alaska. Amelia is a beautiful writer capable of creating copy for companies or poetic descriptions of her experiences. I’m sure you will enjoy her contribution.
After spending an unexpected but excellent year cruising the Hawaiian Islands, it is time to seek new cruising grounds. Although our original intent when we left Mexico in March 2020 was to sail to French Polynesia, the decision to turn toward Hawaii proved one of our best. During the difficult times of a world pandemic, we were fairly isolated from risk because of our location, the precautions taken by Hawaii, and by our own actions which were guided by safety.
Cruising Hawaii during Covid 19, while restricted, also allowed us a glimpse into what Hawaii must have been like 30 or 40 years ago when tourism was not the mainstay of the economy and fewer people were exploring the trails and beaches. Certainly many attractions and restaurants were closed due to Covid, but the ability to walk trails that were almost devoid of people and have the natural beauty of places to ourselves was a unique gift that we will always treasure.
As lovely as Hawaii and its people have been, our original plan of traveling to French Polynesia is still our goal. We prefer to arrive in FP with a long stay visa in hand, which would allow us to stay for a year rather than three months. Long stay visas are not available at this time, so we have decided to point our bows in a northeast direction and “reset” our itinerary.
The plan is to leave Hawaii, sail north and east to Alaska and spend several weeks exploring the northern most state of the U.S. By the time weather forces us to seek a more southern location, we hope the Canadian borders will be open so we are allowed to stop in Canadian ports throughout the Inside Passage. From Canada we will sail to Seattle, then make a long jump to San Francisco, followed by stops in Long Beach and San Diego. Of course, all of these plans are “written in sand, at low tide” because we will be directed by the weather and border restrictions.
Unlike our east to west trip across the Pacific which was driven by the trade winds, this passage in the opposite direction will be influenced by the Pacific High weather system. We await its formation because once that high is in place, the low pressure systems are less numerous and our travel weather should be more stable and predictable.
But there is no guarantee that we will be able to avoid low pressure systems completely because the trip is expected to take 11-18 days and weather forecast predictions are not accurate that far in advance.
We have hired Bruce “The Weather Man,” a weather router located in Perth, Australia who studies the Pacific and will send us daily updates and course recommendations based on the information he has available. In addition to Bruce, we use the PredictWind weather application which gives us weather updates a few times each day.
Hopefully between Bruce and PredictWind, we will be able to find a comfortable and reasonably fast weather window. If you would like to follow our trip, here is a link which shows our location and speed.
Those who have sailed Alaska tell us the beauty of the area is amazing and that one season is simply not enough to adequately explore all Alaska has to offer. We are certain this statement will prove true and we will decide later if we want to extend our exploration beyond one short season.
We have also heard a wide range of reports about the weather in Alaska and I am certain those reports vary greatly depending on what weather each summer unleashes. Obviously the temperatures will be much different from the warmth of Hawaii. But we also anticipate encountering fog, ice, big winds, no wind, fishing boats, fish traps and perhaps a few cruise ships. To say the least, we expect our experience in Alaska will be about a 180 degree change from Hawaii.
We will trade the lush landscape and warm waters of Hawaii for the unknown and cold temperatures of Alaska.
We have mentioned often that the “aloha” we have received in Hawaii is amazing. If our saying so wasn’t enough proof of that, perhaps the fact that we have three crew members, all of whom we met in Hawaii, on board for this passage will cement our statement.
Our three crew are: Erik who we met in Maui in May 2020, Tommy who we met in Kaneohe Bay in June 2020, and Amelia who we met in Kauai in July 2020. Needless to say, we would not have asked these people to join us on a long passage unless we enjoy their company and they are capable hands on board Ticket to Ride. Inviting three Hawaiian residents to crew for us certainly proves that we have been well blessed to meet many excellent people while also enjoying the beauty of Hawaii.
So, when you see this post, know that we are somewhere along our course toward Juneau, Alaska. Hopefully the weather window we chose is a good one and we are enjoying a smooth, comfortable, safe and uneventful trip across 2700 nautical miles of Pacific Ocean.
Thanks for reading our blog. Take a peak at the link above to check our progress and perhaps add a little prayer for our safety. We have no idea how much internet/cell service we will have while in Alaska, but we will update our Facebook and Instagram pages more quickly than this blog page. See you soon from the chilly north!
No, we’re not talking about blondes; we are talking about that small vessel that most cruisers carry on their boat primarily to get them to and from shore. However, our dinghy, Day Tripper, serves many more functions than simply moving us to and from land.
For most cruisers who live on anchor and enjoy the water, the dinghy is a means for adventure, transportation, exploration, gatherings, rescue, towing, and the list goes on. In fact, the often neglected dinghy really is a “boat system” that needs research before the purchase as well as care and maintenance after the purchase. The dinghy is so important in my opinion, that its function and onboard management should be considered an integral system when purchasing one’s blue-water cruising boat.
Mary Grace and I have a limited perspective when it comes to blue-water cruising boats and their dinghies; we have had 2 catamarans and 2 inflatable rigid bottom dinghies. Therefore, much of the content of this blog will reflect our viewpoint and experiences; we hope you will share your thoughts in the comment section at the end of this writing.
Factors to consider: Certainly, the choice of dinghy will come down to some mix of the following:
- Intended purpose – this list is almost endless and driven by individual plans.
- Who and how many people will use the dinghy – A family of 6 obviously needs a larger dinghy and more powerful engine than a cruising couple.
- How will the dinghy be stored or carried aboard the big boat – If possible, please consider adopting a “never tow” attitude toward your dinghy. Many dinghies have been damaged or lost while being towed and dinghy lines often become entangled in propellers when helmsmen forget to shorten lines before reversing the main boat. Davits on the transom are an excellent investment that keeps your dinghy safe while underway and discourages theft.
- Budget – Reliability, especially in your dinghy engine, is absolutely critical. Dinghy and engine are probably not the place to go cheap. Find somewhere else in the cruising kitty to save dollars.
In the early days after buying our FP Helia 44, as I stepped out of our 11’6” dinghy with its 15 hp outboard, I had a giant case of “dinghy envy.” Tied up to the very well maintained dinghy dock and right next to my skiff was a beautiful, center console RIB with a brand new 60 hp Yamaha engine and a ski tow bar! In our limited experience, we thought the BVI dock maintenance was what we would experience in most of our travel, and that exotic RIB looked enviable.
After leaving the BVI for other islands in the Leeward and Windward Caribbean Chain, I quickly realized the wisdom and functionality of our very simple, small and practical dinghy! In most Caribbean cruising anchorages, IF there is something called a dinghy dock it is poorly maintained with boards missing, nails or rebar protruding, no cleats or mooring mechanism, and often shallow or surge prone water. All of these features are waiting to destroy any dinghy much less those expensive dinghies seen in the BVIs.
In addition, when out adventuring in the dinghy, we found ourselves pulling our dinghy up on the beach or over a rocky bottom onto the shore. That lovely center console dinghy would be too heavy for us to pull up on the beach and we would have to anchor it a bit off the shore out of the waves.
When the time came for us to buy a dinghy for Ticket to Ride, we already had 5 years of cruising experience to help us decide which dinghy would work best for our needs.
TTR Dingy and Engine:
- Boat: We purchased a new Hypalon Highfield 380 CL from Trade Wind Inflatables in Southern California. TTR’s tender is 12’ 6” short shaft transom weighing 183 lbs. and rated for up to a 30 HP engine. We liked the painted aluminum hull, factory installed hard rubber keel guard, forward locker for a 6 gallon gas can, flat double bottom floor, and oars with oarlocks. This Highfield 380 is the largest length dinghy we thought we could reasonably carry on Ticket to Ride.
- Engine: We purchased a new Yamaha Enduro 2 stroke 15 HP in Caracao and its first use was on TTR’s Highfield RIB. This is the same engine we had on Let It Be’s dinghy and we were incredibly pleased with the reliability and simplicity of this motor. Fuel economy and the amount of noise are not as good as a 4 stroke engine. Our second choice would have been a 20 HP 4 stroke Honda.
There are not many accessories or options available for a small, simple dinghy with tiller steering and pull start; however, there are a few additions we find important:
- Fuel filter: We installed an inline fuel filter which is bolted to the transom and designed for gasoline engines. Fuel problems are the primary reason for small engine problems; I do highly recommend a robust filter.
- Dinghy wheels: Our dependance on dinghy wheels in the Caribbean prompted us to insure TTR’s dinghy would allow installation of the same. We love our DaNard Marine Dinghy wheels for many, many reasons. Whether going up a boat ramp, beach or in shallow unknown water, our DaNard wheels have been invaluable. When deployed, they project 4 inches below the engine skeg tip; therefore, no need to tilt the motor when approaching the beach. The customer service from DaNard has been second to none.
- Anchor and anchor rode: Without getting into the never ending anchor discussions, the anchor we chose is a Box Anchor made by Slide Anchor. Folds easily, minimal or no need for chain, and holds our dinghy in almost any bottom surface. Would not be my choice for the big boat; excellent for the dinghy. We have 40 feet of 5/16 three strand nylon for anchor rode.
- Painter (line): The absolutely terrible condition of some cruiser’s painters is amazing to me. Knots in the middle, too short, totally frayed bitter end, and poorly secured to the dinghy itself. We would suggest a painter line such as 3 strand nylon, spliced to the bow eye (bowline knots come untied when not under pressure), long enough for towing if necessary, and easily tied to a dock, a cleat or your neighbor’s boat.
- Spare 1 gallon fuel tank: We have not YET (Not yet!) run out of fuel in the primary 6 gallon can but this spare is our ace in the hole.
- Cable and lock: Last but certainly not least, a cable and padlock are essential. I would suggest a cable that is at least 10 feet long and thick enough to be secure but not so thick to prevent it from passing through the base of a dock cleat or between two dock boards. The PVC covered lifeline SS cable with crimped looped ends makes up our dinghy cable. The lock: combination or key? We have gone from key to combination and now back to key.
Now that we have discussed the dinghy, the engine and some simple add-ons, let’s talk dinghy best practices. I do not profess to be a US Sailing teacher or know everything on this topic; however, our experience will help in starting this list.
Basic Dinghy Best Practices/Courtesy:
- Boarding and de-boarding: Huge topic here with many variables due to the variety of boat configurations and dinghies. This is one of the many places I will tip my hat to the inflatable dinghies. The stability afforded by the inflatable tubes of a RIB provide an excellent step for boarding. Most experienced cruisers know how to get in and out of their dinghy; however, we have all had guests aboard who are far less comfortable. In general, a well positioned hand hold at or above waist level is incredibly helpful for balancing during boarding. Secondly, an uncluttered dinghy floor reduces the chance of twisting an ankle or falling. Lastly, this is no time to be modest; sometimes the best method is crawling between the dinghy and big boat.
- Be prepared: If Mary Grace and I are going anywhere other than a short trip to shore in daylight both ways, the items taken along are quite different. VHF Radio: anytime we go adventuring or into “open” water. Life jackets: anytime we go away from flat calm water. Lights: going to or from shore in dark we always have a light. We have the official Red/Green/White light attached magnetically to our engine cover; however, a bright dive light held over the side and panned back and forth is more effective. PLB: snatched from our ditch bag when we are really going adventuring. Fuel: check frequently
- Kill switch lanyard: stating the obvious – always wear the kill switch lanyard in case you are thrown from the boat.
- Be courteous: Speeding on a plane through a crowded anchorage is dangerous and lacks courtesy. Slow down and say hello to your neighbors. Don’t be “that guy.”
- Lift it or lose it: Lift your dinghy EVERY night. If you leave your dinghy in the water at night; assume that it will one day go adrift or be stolen.
- Mooring to a dock: Docks used for mooring a dinghy come in all shapes, sizes, and states of repair. Let’s assume a purpose built dinghy dock that is wood, low to the water, and possessing some mooring attachment. Accepted practice is to tie your dinghy painter long and leave the engine in the down position. Lock the dinghy without locking someone else’s to the dock and take your kill switch key. Purpose built well maintained dinghy docks are not the norm; so, a few tips. Absolutely do not take any chances on allowing your dinghy to get below a dock and become pinned – and take tidal changes into consideration. Use a stern anchor in this situation or if the water surges or the dock presents damage possibilities of any sort.
- Landing on a beach: My word of caution: landing a dinghy on a beach and getting off a beach can be VERY dangerous for people and property if there is ANY surf break. Mary Grace and I have done it, don’t like to do it, and half the time it does not go well. Patience, preparedness, and acceptance that you are going to get wet are my best words of wisdom. Using the kill lanyard is critical. With multiple people or less than agile people we skip beach landings.
- Getting in and out from the water: Mary Grace and I don’t teach or test all of our guest about getting back into our dinghy; however, we both are capable of reboarding from the water even when tired. Having a dinghy boarding ladder available for guests is helpful and we often add it to the dinghy when we have guests. We both know the backflip technique for reboarding, which is helpful when tired or without fins.
- Know the limits: Again, last but not least, know your personal limits and the limits of your dinghy. Stay on the main boat when boarding is hazardous, the open ocean is not a place for most dinghies, be very careful at night and when around surf. Use common sense and err on the side of caution.
Buying/replacing a dinghy in most typical cruising grounds such as the Bahamas, Windward Caribbean or the South Pacific is very close to impossible. The answer is to buy a good product up front and maintain it carefully. Let’s talk care and maintenance in particular for an inflatable RIB:
Long Live the Dinghy:
- Rid the sand: Sand is one of the primary killers of inflatables. Keep sand out of your dinghy! Wash feet, flip flops, and gear before loading into your dink. Don’t leave your dinghy half up the beach with waves and sand washing over the transom; another good reason for good wheels which raise the transom above water level. Finally wash your dinghy out often even if washing with salt water. Periodically, pull the boat out of the water, partially deflate the tubes, and thoroughly wash out the area between the tubes and the rigid bottom. Sand gets into this area and grinds away on both surfaces.
- Clean and protect: UV is the other big killers of inflatables. Some cruisers love their “chaps”; we have chosen against chaps for cost and simplicity. We clean our dinghy regularly with a degreasing solution and then treat the Hypalon tubes liberally with 303 Aerospace Protectant.
- Handy repair kit: Patching holes in a Hypalon tube in the field is challenging and often leads to a poor result; however, it will probably be a necessity for most people at some time. A complete dinghy repair kit is essential; we have found Inflatableboatparts.com to be very knowledgable and helpful, plus they carry great products.
- Engine maintenance: Do it like your life depends on that motor; some day it actually might. Sea water impellers, oil changes, lower unit lube, spark plugs, fuel filters, clean and inspect. Always keep a spare prop on board.
Your dinghy is the lifeline between your wonderful life on the big boat and the opportunities and necessities of shore. Purchase the correct product, don’t tow the dink long distances, take good care of the dinghy and this little boat will take good care of you.
We sincerely hope that our readers will contribute their tips and tricks to this post. Sharing information is what the cruising community is all about. Thank you for your read.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. If you are new to dinghies, we hope this gives you some good tips. Those with a lot of dinghy experience, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Facebook or Instagram.
No doubt cruisers around the world have faced challenges throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. While we consider ourselves fortunate to be in the immensely beautiful group of Hawaiian Islands, we too have faced some challenges during this last year. However, since our first introduction to the Kaneohe Yacht Club in June of 2020, this gem of a yacht club, its members and staff have been a haven of welcome and safety for us.
Way back in June we happened to meet Tommy Henshaw, a junior member at KYC, while we were anchored in the Bay. Upon learning that we needed to have some sail work done, Tommy introduced us to the KYC dock master who allowed us to spent a few nights on the KYC end dock so we could off load our sails. This was a huge relief as it allowed Jake, the North Sails rep, to come to TTR, help us remove sails and use a dock cart to get the sails to Jake’s truck. Much easier than trying to transport our sails via dinghy!
A week or two later, KYC kindly allowed us to once again tie to their dock when the repaired sails were returned to TTR. How awesome is that?
Fast forward a month or so…. we were doing some rudder work on Ticket to Ride and once again KYC allowed us to hang out at the end dock. This time we were able to stay for a two week period and we had the opportunity to meet the club members who would stroll down the dock to say hello. We also had many interactions with the KYC staff and every single person was a pleasure to work with!
Rarely have I met such a welcoming group of people!
Our two week visit was during high COVID time and the KYC was mostly closed due to state restrictions. None the less, those who were around the club would stop by for a chat, inquire about our plans and share stories about KYC and how much fun it is in “normal” times. Members shared information about favorite places to sail, things to do around Oahu and hikes that shouldn’t be missed.
Kaneohe Bay rests behind the only barrier reef in Hawaii and is a lovely place to anchor. So we spent several weeks in the Bay and watched the comings and goings of the Yacht Club from our anchor.
Fast forward to December 2020. After spending several weeks in Kauai, then running from Hurricane Douglas, hanging out in the roadstead anchorages of Maui, and spending weeks in Keehi Marine Center for boat work, we once again sought out the calm, protected waters of Kaneohe Bay.
When we returned to the Bay, we were again allowed to seek refuge for a week or two at KYC. This time the club was a bit more open and we were able to get a better sense of what KYC is like when completely operational.
During our December visit, I met a few KYC tennis players who invited me to join their round robin gatherings on the weekends. Because the days were short, the Friday night tennis was played under black lights! What’s not to love about such a free spirited type of tennis?
Members told us that New Year’s Eve in Kaneohe Bay was not to be missed as Hawaiian families go all out on fireworks and the bay would be lit up. Well, they were quite correct! At midnight the fireworks began all along the bay and must have lasted 30 minutes! I honestly believe this is the longest display of fireworks I have ever seen.
In January, Frank and I left Kaneohe Bay and sailed to Maui to seek out the annual humpback whale migration. We spent about seven weeks moving from spot to spot on Maui, watching whales and connecting with friends from our college days. The time in Maui was magical because of the marine life and the time with our friends. However, the rules in Hawaii require us to move locations often and the winds were tearing through the anchorages with gusts often in the 40 knot range.
After weeks of bumpy roadstead anchorages and changing locations every few days, we were ready for some calm water and we were looking for a refuge where we could recharge in a peaceful space.
With that in mind, we contacted KYC and made a proposal with these things in mind:
~KYC had less traffic and fewer visiting yachts than usual because of COVID
~the KYC end dock was not in use
~we were in need of a respite from constantly seeking new places to anchor
~we guessed that KYC revenue was down due to COVID
We proposed to the KYC Board that TTR be allowed to stay at the end tie for a month and in return, we would make a larger than usual guest fee. In addition, if any club member needed the end dock, we would leave the dock and anchor to allow the member to have first use of the dock.
Our hope was that this would be a positive arrangement for KYC because we knew it would be a great relief and fun rest for us. Happily, the board at KYC accepted our proposal.
We are SO thankful that the Board was able to think outside of the box during these crazy times and allow us an extended visit. We sailed back to Kaneohe as soon as a weather window allowed!
I did not realize how much I “needed” one place to call home for a few weeks until we tied up to KYC. The sense of relief at being on a safe dock, the knowledge that we didn’t have to move for a few weeks and the immediate welcome back from the members and staff nearly brought me to tears!
I do not think the KYC Board, members or staff have any idea how truly grateful we are for the time we had at their amazing club!
During our last visit to KYC, Oahu had raised the COVID level to Tier 3 and as a result KYC was beginning to come alive! Of course there were still restrictions and limitations, but wow, it was so fun to see the members enjoying their club again!
The minute we retied at KYC, we were welcomed with extreme generosity! Some members offered us the use of their cars for errands, others invited us out to dinner, we were invited into peoples homes, I was welcomed on the tennis court, we cheered on sailors sailing in the Beer Can Races, folks strolled down the dock to say hello, and as boats entered and left the dock, we called hello to folks by name and they knew our names in return. How incredible is that?!
KYC has a very active junior sailing program led by Jesse Andrews. Jesse and his crew teach dinghy sailing in a variety of boats like Optis and BICs. But in addition to these traditional junior dinghies, the KYC has a very active group of WASZP, 420 and 429 sailors. We loved watching the small dinghies tack in and out of the fairway and we were amazed watching the WASZPs zip down the lane – usually up on foils and moving silently through the water.
It is absolutely impossible to explain how much of a refuge KYC has been for us during the Pandemic. Cruising in Hawaii can be challenging because of wind, waves, storms and the ever present 3 day anchoring rules.
It is equally difficult to portray the warmth and fun of the yacht club members. There isn’t really a cruising community in Hawaii and I dare say the KYC members and staff became our cruising family.
If we were living on Oahu, we would definitely apply to join Kaneohe Yacht Club. In fact, we tried to join as “out of town” members, but that isn’t allowed unless one has already been a club member for two years. Although we cannot join KYC, this club will forever have a very special place in our hearts and in our memories.
KYC stands out as one of the most wonderful aspects of our year in Hawaii. Every person we met there absolutely exemplified the aloha spirit and we were blessed to have been recipients.
Thank you for stopping by to read our blog. We hope this story of the wonderful people of KYC brightens your day and fortifies your belief in the goodness of people. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see our Facebook page or Instagram.
Disclaimer: I am NOT video savvy and I can only hope the quality of these videos is half as beautiful and inspiring as the real life sightings were. Also, I have lost audio on my Sony A6500 (user error) which really stinks because the sounds emitted by the whales are so fun to hear. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these videos despite my amateur status.
Aboard Ticket to Ride, we were aware that in January humpback whales begin arriving in quantities following their annual migration route to Hawaii. We wanted to see these giants and all indications were that hanging out on Maui was the best place to insure plenty of sightings. So in mid January we left Oahu and sailed to Maui. We have been anchoring around Maui for over six weeks now and the thrill of seeing and hearing the humpback whales has not diminished!
Humpback whales are a subspecies of the baleen whale and one of the larger whales that has a streamlined body with pleated skin (scientific name for this body type is rorqual). The females grow larger than the males and can be 40 to 45 feet in length and weigh 25-35 tons!
Perhaps the most striking or recognizable feature of the humpback whale is their flippers which can be 15 feet long and are often stark white (or partially white) in contrast to their gray/black bodies. When the whales are close to us, it is easy to see the bright white of their pectoral fins under the clear Hawaiian water.
One day we spotted a few whales to starboard, with one breaching, and we were surprised by another whale that approached from our port side! TTR was drifting without engines and the big guy in the video above was so close we could easily see his white fin and the bubbles he left in his wake right in front of our bow! The protrusive bumps on the heads of humpback whales are also very recognizable. You can barely see them in this video.
Similar to a snowflake or a fingerprint, the tails of the humpbacks have unique markings which can be used to identify them individually! The photo below shows a few tales with unique fluke markings.
I didn’t know much about whales when we left Oahu to search them out near Maui, but I have read a bit now and the more I learn, the more interesting these mammals become.
Humpbacks are found near all continents and seem to migrate to specific locations every year, although occasionally a whale or two will migrate to a different area some years. In general:
-humpbacks that feed from Northern California to Vancouver Island in the summer will find breeding grounds in Mexican and Central American waters.
-those that feed from Vancouver Island to Alaska in summer are found in Hawaii in the winter, though some will migrate to Mexico.
-humpbacks that feed in the Bering Sea, along the western Aleutian Islands and along the Russian coast are likely to be found in the Asian breeding areas.
The whales in Maui travel about 2,700 miles from Alaska each way. That sounds like quite the distance but some whales travel as much as 5,000 miles to a breeding ground.
The females travel to Hawaii to give birth to their calves and the males follow the females in search of breeding. Humpbacks feast on krill and small fish in the summer but once they begin the migration, they do not eat again until they return to the north.
The female humpback whale has a gestation period of 11.5 months and they have live births. Once the calf is born, it nurses until they return to Alaska and it begins eating small fish and krill. This means that a female humpback stops eating when she begins the migration, she births her calf, nurses the calf until they return to the north and she does not eat during that whole period!
Only male humpback whales sing! The purpose of singing is not known but theories abound. Some say the whales sing to help with location/sonar. Others say the singing is a way of attracting females. But whatever the reason, whales from one area all sing the same song which lasts 10 to 20 minutes.
But guess what?! The song changes every season. So for all you whale listeners out there, the tune will change from one year to the next. We can even hear the whales while on board TTR. Every night when I prepare for bed, I can hear the whales through the hull of our boat!
Humpback whales are seen in many parts of Hawaii, but the channels between Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe have the largest number of whales.
Although humpbacks were hunted nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers have revived since the moratorium on whaling was put into effect. Rough estimates are that when whaling began in the early 1900’s, there were approximately 15,000 whales worldwide and by the time whaling stopped in the mid-1960s, only around 1,200 humpbacks still existed!
Two things happened to save these giant, graceful mammals. First, the whales became so difficult to find that the whalers turned to other species. Secondly, in 1966, after approximately 90% of the whale population had been eradicated, a moratorium was placed on whale hunting.
The IWC (International Whaling Commission) was created in1966 to educate people and raise awareness of whale endangerment. The IWC currently has 88 member countries around the world, though it does not have any enforcement power.
In the early 1970’s crude methods of estimating the number of humpbacks visiting Hawaii put their number at only a few hundred. A friend told us that at that time, during an eight hour whale watching tour, you were lucky to spot one or two whales.
In 2004-2006, a world wide survey estimated the humpback population at 20,000 with nearly half of those visiting the Hawaiian Islands during the breeding season. This is an encouraging recovery that gives hope for other endangered species!
I was surprised to learn that each whale only stays four to six weeks in Hawaii. So the whales I saw in mid-January will not be the same ones I see in March. The whales are continually changing as they cycle through the islands, then migrate back to their home feeding grounds.
The number of whales today must be huge because we can see them in the channel from our anchorage at all times of the day. In fact, sometimes they are very close, moving slowly through the anchorage!
Whales within the anchorage are usually a mom and young calf. The females appear to seek out shallow water where they can rest with their calves and perhaps find protection from predators or persistent males who want to breed. Just the other day we heard an exhale and saw a puff of breath from a twosome between us and another boat anchored near us!
Young calves need to surface more often than the mothers who can stay beneath the water for 10 to 20 minutes. As seen in the video below, a calf will surface, swim in circles and take three or four breaths before returning to the mother.
Females usually give birth every other year, thus having a rest year, though some will reproduce every year.
My research tells me that females do not mingle with other females while in Hawaii and they keep their young separated. However, the females do interact when in their feeding grounds.
Humpback whales who travel to Hawaii have very different agendas. The females are focusing on giving birth or reproduction. However, the females seem to be interested in quality and will seek the whales they deem the strongest and most healthy.
Male humpback whales, have traveled thousands of miles to the breeding ground and have only reproduction on their brain. Researchers believe the males are all about quantity and will breed any available females.
Although the whole population of humpbacks is about 50/50 male to female, in breeding areas like Hawaii, there is a 2.5 or 3 to one ratio of males to females. This is true because not all females migrate every year.
Often several males are seen together following or searching for a female. A group of males chasing a female is called a ‘heat run.’ The males in a heat run are often very active on the surface of the water and can be seen vying for the attention of the female.
We happened to come across a heat run and caught it on videos. The video above shows what the heat run looked like from the bows of TTR.
Fortunately, Frank was able to launch the drone and he caught this amazing footage of a pod of 20+ whales. The largest one, toward the front is a female. Here is a video of the same group of whales taken from above.
Heat runs can last for hours as the males chase the female. The males inflate their bodies to appear larger, expel streams of bubbles and push each other around in an effort to secure the female’s interest.
The recovery of whales is truly encouraging and witnesses that with effort, endangered species can recover. Through education and conscious decision making, we can be better stewards of this Earth and the animals that inhabit it.
This post is full of videos, which I try to avoid because they require so much internet! But, the beauty of these whales is unique and hard to capture so I wanted to share some videos in an effort to more accurately reflect our experiences. Hopefully you have much better access to wifi than I do and this doesn’t take too long to load.
Thanks for stopping by to read our blog post. We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the humpback whales in Hawaii. We are so fortunate to see them! Please turn to our Instagram or Facebook pages to hear from us more often.
Like most people, our travels and interactions have been severely limited by COVID, and often we are just hanging out and doing routine activities like working out, maintaining Ticket to Ride and eating at home. But Frank and I wanted to make a trip from Oahu to Maui to see the whales that migrate there every year.
We have some college friends who live in Hawaii and they expressed a definite desire to sail with us, so we invited them to join us on our little jaunt.
Inter-island travel in Hawaii requires COVID-19 testing, so we found an accepted location and scheduled our first ever Coronavirus test to coincide with completion of provisioning and a good weather window. Happily the test wasn’t terrible and the results were negative!
Gloria, Dave, Frank and I set out to make a leisurely trip to Maui with a few stops along the way, assuming the weather predictions were accurate. The tentative plan was to stop first on the southwest side of Molokai in Lono Harbor for a night or two, next visit Needles or Shark Fin on Lanai depending on swell and wind. After Lanai we would explore a few spots on Maui and if the weather presented, we would take a day trip to Molokini.
We set off from Kaneohe Bay with one reef in the main sail plus the genoa. The wind was mild even though the channel between Oahu and Molokai (Ka’iwi Channel) can be quite sporty. It was a casual sail of 51nm and we arrived at Lono Harbor in late afternoon.
Lono is a man made harbor with a narrow opening that can close out if the waves build, so we were careful to choose a weather window that promised small swells for an easy entrance and exit. In the picture below, notice how flat the water is in the harbor and the entrance.
Although Molokai is referred to as The Friendly Island, we have heard that, especially during COVID, the locals want nothing to do with visitors to their island. We saw several individuals and a family fishing from the shore at Lono Harbor and we cheered for them from the boat whenever they landed a fish. There was plenty of waving and smiles and no feelings of ill will.
We were quite surprised to see this fellow swim from shore to the rocky pier at dusk. We aren’t sure what caused his flight but we heard a dog barking and thought perhaps the dog chased the deer into the water.
Sunset was an array of vivid colors that we enjoyed while sipping cocktails. We relished the quiet of nature that wreathed this harbor.
During the night Frank and I awakened to much greater motion on the boat, but attributed it to increased wind. However, in the morning, the harbor entrance had a little surprise for us….. the swell forecast must have been wrong or incorrectly timed because we had waves that were 8 to 10 feet instead of the 2-3 predicted. The entrance was by no means closed out, but we needed to time our exit carefully and we wanted to leave sooner than later before the anchorage became uncomfortable.
After studying the waves for quite a while, preparing TTR as if she were a monohull, and putting on lifejackets, we upped anchor and waited for a break in the waves to motor quickly out of the harbor.
Thankfully our timing worked well and our exit was uneventful. Frank and I were a bit too busy to get any pictures, but Dave caught some of the excitement on film. Though, as usual, film doesn’t capture the complete feeling.
Sailing from Lono to Lanai was easy enough and included a variety of wind but the sea state was mild. I think the shallow entrance at Lono significantly increased the swell at the entrance because the swell away from the shallows was insignificant.
Winter in Hawaii means the winds can come from any direction and as we moved toward Lanai, we were doubtful that either Needles or Shark Fin would be tenable for an overnight stay.
As we neared Needles, we knew conditions would prevent us from staying overnight, but we enjoyed seeing the unique rock formations. From a distance, the Needles blend with the black rock of the shore behind them, but up close the rock formations define themselves. Originally there were five spires, but today only three remain. Two are stubby protrusions of black rock but one looks like a large, tall tree stump with dormant grass on top.
Although it was a long shot, we sailed over to Shark Fin to see if somehow we could grab a mooring ball there to stay overnight. Once again the swell and wind were not in our favor so we pointed our bows toward Olowalu on Maui.
Olowalu has bunches of coral heads that are fun to snorkel. We don’t ever want to damage coral, so we hooked up to a mooring ball and enjoyed the steady breezes that flow between the mountains into the anchorage.
The next morning we awakened early, prepared coffee and breakfast burritos. Then we launched our dinghy, Day Tripper, and motored into the channel for breakfast in the dinghy while searching for whales. We saw many whales and had one incredible encounter. We turned off the engine and were floating near two or three kayaks when we spotted a whale and baby heading our way. Turns out it was four whales and soon they swam inside the loose circle we created with the kayaks. The whales came much closer than expected but we never felt threatened. Up close it is amazing how gently and gracefully these whales moved through us. Though we have seen some breaching that I wouldn’t want to be near!
We spent the remainder of the day in and out of the water, spying on the fish and looking at the coral.
Next we decided to find a mooring ball in a little spot called Coral Guardens. We had never been there, but we knew there were mooring balls and we wanted to explore the coral there. Since Coral Gardens is so close to Olowalu, we motored over and hooked up in less than an hour. After scouting the swing room from the mooring ball, we decided TTR would be safe there overnight and once again we spent the day relaxing and getting in and out of the water to look at the marine life. It was great to be back on Maui where the water was clear and warm enough for us to swim!
Fortuitously we had an excellent weather window to sail to Molokini, a small crescent shaped island about 10 miles southeast of Olowalu. Molokini is a favorite stop for day cruise boats but it is often too windy to stay there in the afternoons when the winds kick up. We had a pleasant sail to Molokini then spent most of a day tied to a mooring ball.
We snorkeled along the interior of the crescent and saw a nice variety of fish. Then we enjoyed lunch on the front of TTR and watched others snorkel the path we had already taken. It was a really nice change to see day cruises in operation and visitors enjoying the delights of Hawaii. Though the day charter boats are not carrying full capacity, they are making a go of things and showing a few visitors the beauty of Hawaii.
About 3 pm we released the mooring ball and had a truly delightful sail to Mala Wharf on Maui. Of these five days of sailing, this one was the best one. The winds were consistently 12-15 knots at a 120 degree true wind angle. We enjoyed champagne sailing at 8-10 knots as we moved along and searched for whales. We spotted many whale spouts as we sailed but we didn’t get close to any of them.
It was fun just to see the whales surface and watch the clouds created by their exhales.
Bouncy weather was predicted so we dropped anchor near Mala Wharf and enjoyed a final dinner with Dave and Gloria aboard TTR.
The forecast showed we were in for a day of rain and wind, so we dropped our friends off early, spent a quiet, rainy day on Ticket to Ride and planned our next move to Honolua Bay, just a few miles up the Maui coast.
****Special thanks to Dave and Gloria for allowing me to use some of their photos!
Thanks so much for stopping by to visit our blog. We hope you are staying well and sane as this pandemic continues to test all of us. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.
Well things on Ticket to Ride are unusually quiet and we don’t see that changing even after we ring in the New Year.
Thanks to COVID, this is the first time in 29 years that we have not spent Christmas with our kids. Well, there was one year when Hunter was in Spain, but Clayton was with us on Let It Be in Florida…. that’s a pretty amazing record that I was sorry to see broken. But, as stated earlier, we think staying home was the wiser decision.
Once again we are enjoying the delightful hospitality of the Kaneohe Yacht Club. We have taken advantage of the dock time with spa days for Ticket to Ride, or as Frank calls it, “boat love” days. This includes cleaning up stainless steel, waxing the topsides, which is all of the outdoor white surfaces that are smooth and not non-skid. Well, I guess this is just our equivalent of spring cleaning. But TTR is looking quite sparkly and fresh.
Soon after the new year, we will sail to Maui to see the whales that come each winter. We want to explore Maui and perhaps Lanai for a few weeks, assuming the weather cooperates. The sail to Maui is upwind, but at least we won’t be avoiding a hurricane like we were the last time we made that trip!
We are also thinking about sailing to the Big Island and taking a look at the recently active Kilauea Volcano in Volcanoes National Park.
Halema’uma’u crater, part of Kilauea, erupted on December 21st. Apparently there was interaction between a pool of water inside the crater and a new lava flow which caused a huge steam cloud to shoot up 30,000 feet for about an hour. Later it was reported that lava was shooting up about 165 feet inside Halema’uma’u Crater and the water had been replaced by a lava pool. About an hour after the eruption, a 4.4 earthquake was felt by some people on the the Big Island, although no damage was reported.
So we hope to go visit Volcanoes National Park if the air quality is good enough. It should be interesting to see if we can get anywhere close to the site. My guess is that the web cams are better than trying to actually go to Kilauea, but we haven’t explored the Big Island, so it might be an adventure.
Wow, just when we think 2020 is heading into the rearview mirror, Halema’uma’u crater begins rumbling so we see yet another phenomenon occurring nearby. Everyone is saying we look forward to having 2020 in hindsight…. I hope we don’t look back at 2020 and think it was an easy year!! (Ohhh, no, get that pessimist off this blog post!!)
It is almost impossible to believe that in March we sailed to Hawaii instead of French Polynesia and that we were thinking we would be here for a couple of weeks until this “little issue” of COVID was contained!
Looking back it is interesting to see how few nautical miles we have accumulated in 2020 compared to how many miles we traveled in 2019 even though we crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2020. I estimate that in 2019 we logged about 7,500 miles in California and Mexico. In 2020, our Pacific crossing was about 2,300 nm, yet we have only logged a total of about 4,000 miles this year in Mexico and Hawaii.
Ironically, we never even considered Hawaii as a cruising ground and now it is the longest we have stayed in any one place. Although technically it is a group of islands rather than just one place.
We certainly hope that 2021 will allow us to better accomplish our longer term travel goals!
Our current plan is to hang around Hawaii until we are able to have a COVID vaccine and we are free to travel internationally. We truly hope we will have the “all clear” by April. If we are really lucky we will even have the opportunity to apply for and receive another Long Stay Visa for French Polynesia before we leave Hawaii. That very desirable LSV is obtained from the French Embassies which are currently closed. But we remain hopeful!
As we say goodbye to 2020, we remain thankful that we have the opportunity to enjoy Hawaii, see many pretty places, meet a myriad of wonderful people and remain healthy. We can hope that the worldwide forced isolation has created in us a little more appreciation for our fellow man. And maybe we have a glimpse into some changes we can make to help restore our planet.
As we welcome 2021, we are hopeful that the we really are overcoming COVID-19 and that healing from this pandemic has begun all around the world.
From Ticket to Ride, we wish each of you a healthy, healing and happy 2021.
In response to COVID, Hawaii shut down or restricted access to many State Parks. The iconic Diamond Head State Park has been closed since late March – the whole time we have been in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian name for the crater is Lē’ahí but the common moniker of Diamond Head dates back to the late 1700’s when Western explorers mistook the calcite crystals in the rocky slopes for diamonds.
On Thursday, December 17th, I saw that the park was reopened and the very next day Frank and I went to hike this famous landmark…. no moss growing under these feet! Plus we wanted to go immediately just in case Diamond Head is closed again.
Geologists believe Lē’ahi was created in a brief, single eruption about 300,000 years ago. The crater is wider than it is tall and includes about 350 acres.
The extraordinary view from Diamond Head’s summit makes it the perfect place for coastal defense of Oahu. The Federal government bought Diamond Head in 1904 for this purpose. In 1908 construction was begun for the Kapahulu Tunnel through the north wall of the crater as was construction of gun emplacements. Four artillery batteries were built at Diamond Head between 1910 and 1916 and a fifth was built in 1943. Long range guns were installed along the outer walls of the crater, but no guns have ever been fired from Diamond Head during a war.
The hike to the summit was shorter than I thought it would be; less than one mile from the start to the top of the crater, and it took us to an elevation of 761 feet. That certainly isn’t like hiking a fourteener mountain, but the the top was high enough to allow us to see much of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean.
Looking toward “town” we could see boats anchored off Waikiki Beach where we had been anchored just a couple of weeks ago. When anchored off Waikiki Beach we had a unique view of looking at the skyline from the water. Now we could see that gorgeous blue water from Diamond Head.
The park had strict rules about wearing a mask even though we were outside hiking. The trail was more crowded than I expected it to be, but compared to pictures of the trail in non-covid times, there was no one there. I thought the sheer number of visitors was the reason for the mask mandate until we arrived at the tunnel.
As you can see from the picture above, the tunnel is quite narrow . The tunnel is so narrow that it is necessary to turn sideways to pass anyone. The passage is less well lit than this picture portrays or perhaps it just feels darker when entering from bright daylight. Regardless of the lighting, this narrow throughway is probably why everyone was required to wear a mask!
The hiking surface to the summit of Diamond Head is combination of old lava flow, concrete paths, concrete steps and a tunnel. This isn’t a difficult walk, but it is an interesting one and the views are worth the time and effort.
My pictures failed to convey the perfect circle of the Diamond Head crater, but Tim (#kitesurfingspud) posted an amazing picture he took of the crater the same day we were there hiking it. When I reached out to Tim, he very graciously allowed me to use his picture so you can see what a truly spectacular formation Diamond Head is. Thank you, Tim!!!
If the Instagram name #kitesurfingspud seems familiar, it might be because Tim is the person who captured the awesome footage of TTR sailing in Kaneohe Bay! Check out his Instagram as Tim has an excellent eye and his photos are stunning!
From the summit we were able to see the Diamond Head Lighthouse. It is so hard to believe that we toured that lighthouse back in June! When we set sail for Hawaii from Mexico in March 2020, we never expected we would be in Hawaii 9 months later. But we are very lucky to be where we are and we know there is much more of Hawaii for us to explore. We are surprised, but we have not complaints and we are very grateful for the new friends here who have made us feel so welcome.
As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog! Your comments are always welcome. We wish you a Mele Kelikimaka (Merry Christmas) and we pray you have a happy and healthy 2021!