Fairly often we are asked why we sold our 44′ Fountaine Pajot catamaran, Let It Be, and bought our Hudson Hakes 55′ catamaran, Ticket to Ride. The follow up questions are usually “how different are the boats?” and “was the change worth it?”
Well the answers are pretty involved, but we must begin by saying that Frank and I would probably not have ordered an HH55 unless we were certain the cruising lifestyle worked for us. I have read that as few as 30 percent of couples who decide to live on a boat for an extended time actually complete their plan. That means about 70 percent of the partners who begin this journey do not enjoy it enough to continue as long as they planned. Before investing in Ticket to Ride, we had already learned that we enjoyed the cruising lifestyle and that it would be a long term choice for us.
Let It Be was a trustworthy boat and clearly capable of the circumnavigation recently completed on an FP 44′ by our friends Amy and David of s/v Out Chasing Stars. So obviously our decision was driven by other factors.
Rather, we were in search of three things: more space, more speed and more sailing. Plus there was a strong “why not?” factor.
Recently I read a well written blog about a couple who found cruising just wasn’t for them . The main complaints were that their boat was slow, they were the last to arrive at a destination and their motor use/sail use proportion was 73 motor/27 sail. That would be very frustrating.
The difference in how often we sail Ticket to Ride versus Let It Be is tremendous, especially because now we can sail well to windward. Clearly having dagger boards rather than mini keels is a huge advantage in sailing to windward. Combine the excellent design of our hull and dagger boards with the piercing bows and significant sail plan on TTR and we find that we sail much more than we motor. At wind angles that allow sailing, TTR usually sails faster than she can motor. Overall on TTR, I would estimate that we sail 70-80 percent of the time and here in Hawaii that percentage has risen to about 90.
I remember a particularly frustrating day when we were sailing Let It Be from Barbuda back to Antiqua. The day was beautiful but the sail was upwind and we had to tack and tack and tack because the best we could point on LIB was about 73 degrees true and 52 degrees apparent. At those angles we also suffered from side slipping so achieving our destination was time consuming and frustrating.
Later we bought some very nice North 3Di sails for Let It Be and we improved our apparent wind angle capability by about 5 degrees (68 true/47 apparent) but those angles still didn’t allow us to head to wind well and often we used our motor(s) to help.
The angles I’ve mentioned are probably pretty standard for production cats with mini-keels, so there is no shame in those numbers for Fountaine Pajot. We thoroughly enjoyed our Fountaine Pajot and are very glad LIB was our first sailboat.
Sailing Ticket to Ride is completely different because even in ocean waves we can sail at 47-50 degrees true wind angle with an apparent wind angle of about 29-30 degrees. Combine those tighter wind angles with the dagger boards which keep us from side slipping, and we actually sail where we are pointing.
Clearly pointing better allows us to sail much more directly to our destinations without using engines and that reduces frustration and improves our arrival time.
When we were route planning on LIB, we would hope to average 6 to 6.5 knots but on passage our average number of nautical miles per 24 hours tended to be about 140 or 5.8 knots of boats speed. I’m certain others with a FP Helia have better speed averages, but we were conservative about sailing a socked assymetric spinnaker at night, so that lowered our average speeds.
On Ticket to Ride, we route plan anticipating an average boat speed of 8.5 to 9 knots but we usually have better speeds than that and end up arriving earlier than expected. On TTR a 200 nm day (8.3 average) is casual and routine sailing and we have had several comfortable 250 nm days (10.42 average).
The really nice thing about the faster speeds of TTR is that what are overnight sails for many boats often become long day sails for us. This means we don’t hesitate to “pop over” to anchorages that on LIB would have required an overnight or partial night passage. Faster sailing brings more opportunities and willingness to explore additional anchorages.
The other obvious advantage of sailing faster in TTR is that our passage time is shorter so our exposure to weather is shorter. Although we do our best to avoid bad weather, if we encounter systems, we have a better chance of outrunning or avoiding storms on Ticket to Ride than we did on Let It Be.
In the article I referenced above, my take away was that two of the main frustrations were first how slow the boat sailed: “It’s pretty demoralizing to be passed by every boat on the sea, especially when it was rough out.” The second frustration was that they only sailed 20-27 percent of the time and the rest was spent motoring or motor sailing.
I completely understand how frustrating that would be and I think I would also want to throw in the towel or move to a motor cat if we were always using the motor and our speeds were slow.
The standard rigging on the HH55 is more sophisticated and precise than it was on our FP. One example is that the HH55 rigging uses Karver Hooks for reefing the main sail. Karver Hooks are fixed to the boom and attached to the mainsail through a designated loop. The benefit of the hook is that the reef is always in the same place and the reef in the sail is clean and properly aligned every time.**
On Let It Be, we had the standard 2:1 main halyard held in place with clutches and, while we could reef from the helm, our reef point varied depending on how tightly it was pulled and how well the line ran. Our reefs on LIB were not always clean and well aligned, especially at night when we could not see well.
Another example of more sophisticated rigging is the use of halyard locks for sail lines. Once we raise a sail, we make sure it is engaged in the halyard lock, then release all the pressure from the line. The sail is held aloft by the locking mechanism rather than by tension on a line. Learning to use the locks took very little practice and the benefits are; our lines are not under load when the sail is up, we have a shorter halyard because it is a 1:1 ratio instead of 2:1 length ratio, and the diameter of the line is much smaller. Removing the load from the halyards also lengthens the life of the lines and clutches.**
There are some performance sailboats that bring speed to the table but sacrifice interior space and amenities to make sure the boat remains light. We looked at a couple of performance cats that were longer overall than the HH55 but they had less interior space than our 44′ FP. The HH55 definitely has more room than our FP had.
The designer for this HH Catamaran, Morrelli and Melvin, has a long history of go fast boats including several Gunboats. The Gunboats I have seen are fast and modern, but somewhat spartan inside. Our HH is fast but also has all the luxuries we want for living aboard our boat. We think Morrelli and Melvin’s HH55 design is the perfect combination of speed and space still manageable for a couple.
When discussing the strengths of our HH, we must include the materials and manufacturing of the boat. This cat is made of carbon fiber which is strong and light. The boat has very little flex and is extremely quiet under sail – no creaking in the rigging. We have greater confidence in the strength of this boat than we did in our fiberglass sailboat. Every part manufactured at HH is cut using a CNC machine so the fit of the parts is excellent and we have confidence that each part is made to the proper specifications.
Finally, let’s talk about the “why not” factor. Frank worked very hard to provide excellent care for his patients and have a successful business. We were conservative stewards of his income and, while we lived well, we rarely spent our money on flashy cars or a lot of extremely high end items.
When considering a new sailboat, we definitely decided to let go of our circumspect mentality and buy the boat we wanted without regard to the statement it made. We sort of said, “why not” get what we want and not worry about how others perceive our choice. We decided the HH55 worked within our budget and we were going to go for it.
When looking for a new boat, we were at a point in our sailing where we could maintain our level of experience and buy a larger production boat; or we could step up the performance of the boat and our experience level by sailing a faster and slightly more sophisticated boat. We wanted to challenge ourselves and grow through the new boat.
I was more hesitant about the image of an expensive boat than Frank was, but we are extremely happy with our HH and wouldn’t change our decision. Although I was concerned the boat might put people off, she has actually increased the number of people we meet. TTR is rather eye catching and folks tend to paddle up, motor up, or approach us dockside to ask about TTR. We love meeting new people this way and sharing TTR with friends. With her ample space, Ticket to Ride is often the gathering place for sundowners or dinners and we like creating those memories and sharing our floating home.
Pictures of just a few of our guests over the last 21 months.
One final “why not” note; we both feel the importance of “loving your boat.” Big or small, mono or cat, white, pink or blue, when you approach your boat in the dinghy or welcome guests on your boat, we feel it is important to “love your boat.” We liked LIB for introducing us to the cruising lifestyle and taking us to many beautiful places. However, having the opportunity to build our own boat that meets our personal cruising needs and even have it painted the color of our choice all added to our “boat love” category.
Living on a sailboat is not all sunset cruises with umbrella drinks. Routine chores take much longer than on land and require more effort; like walking to the grocery and carrying your groceries on your walk home. Power and water must be monitored and carefully used; no more 20 minute showers with unlimited hot water. Moving from point A to point B takes a long time and if you don’t learn to enjoy the process of sailing to get to point B, you will probably not enjoy cruising. If you are a “type A” person you will need to learn to let go of the reins; a schedule is your enemy. Nature, not you, determines your timing.
Cruising is definitely more challenging than living on land and it takes some time to adjust to moving at a slower pace and expending great effort to do things that were so easy on land.
For Frank and me, sailing has worked very well. We have learned to enjoy the slower pace and embrace the rhythms of nature that guide our decisions. We have adjusted to spending all of our time together and we have become a team, focusing on the same goals.
I hope this offers a little understanding of why we chose to move from our Helia 44 to the HH55. If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments and we will do our best to respond.
**These features may not be included in the 55′ Ocean Series or the HH50 Catamarans.
Mary Grace and I try to keep our blog focused on the positive, explain some of the difficulties we encounter and try to give our readers a realistic view of our sailing lives. Our relationships with the vast majority of our suppliers and technical support have been positive and very helpful. For example, customer support for CZone / Mastervolt, Hudson Yacht, Northern Lights, Spectra, PYI, and Harken I would rate excellent; the support from B & G electronics I would rate average, and a few others such as Magma and Pochon Electronics score below average. Unfortunately, we had a long, difficult and very poor recent customer experience with our sail maker, Doyle New Zealand, which is the reason and the topic for this writing. I am truly sad that I feel compelled to write this article; however, the overwhelmingly negative experience will not let me rest.
Hudson Yacht encourages their HH55 clients to choose their own sailmaker and work directly with them. With HH55-01 and HH55-02 choosing Doyle Sails NZ, we decided Doyle would be a good choice for Ticket to Ride. Every sailor’s plan is different and we explained to our sales rep, Matt Bridge, that we were cruisers, only the two of us, and wanted one furling headsail that would cover the TWA of 130-160 and could be left hoisted on passages when not deployed. The solution introduced to us by Matt was Doyle’s new cableless reacher made from their Stratis laminate with a mid girth of 62% and on a continuous line bottom up furler. The reacher was contracted at an actual finished weight of 38kg and the contracted size was 150 sqm (square meters). Seemed to be the perfect solution. I asked Matt via email (July 12, 2018) this question,
“Will I be able to keep the main up and the Code 0 (reacher) full (not fluttering or falling against the rig) when the TWS is 12-20 and the TWA is 135-160?”
And I received this answer (July 15, 2018), “it all depends on apparent angle.”
Moving forward the sails were fabricated, delivered to HYM in time for sea trials, and with a few modifications the sails seemed to accommodate our boat.
Ten months after boat delivery and while sailing south in the Baja Haha, I noticed obvious problems in the leech of the reacher while sailing. After dropping anchor in Bahia Santa Maria and dropping the reacher, the deterioration on the trailing 18 inches and some areas further in were very obvious and serious. The sail material was toast! After finishing the HaHa, I shipped the entire reacher to Doyle Sails San Diego. After a month of discussion between myself, San Diego and New Zealand I was told that the problem was a product issue and the sail would be replaced under Doyle’s 3 year “material and any workmanship” warranty with no cost to us.
Multiple issues can be seen in the integrity of the leech of reacher #1.
A close up of the leech of reacher #1.
About 2 weeks later, I received the “hate to tell you the bad news” email from Doyle NZ. Matt stated that after examining the small samples sent to NZ from the San Diego loft, the problem with the reacher is 100% user error caused by UV because The Stiches had been furling the sail improperly. The painted-on UV strip is absolutely clear and was on one side only. The Stiches had been instructed by the Doyle rep at sea trials and others during commissioning to furl the reacher always using the windward line; so depending on the tack when the sail was furled this meant that one side or the other (about 50/50) would be exposed after furling. Mary Grace and I, along with other much more experienced people than us, questioned Doyle NZ about how such significant UV damage could occur to a sail that is hoisted only occasionally. Doyle NZ squashed any questions about load and design of the sail. Doyle NZ insisted the cause was 100 percent UV as evidenced by this email quote (March 1, 2020) from Matt Bridge to the yacht’s designer who also questioned the UV diagnosis:
“In the case of Frank’s reacher, it absolutely is a case of the sail being rolled backwards. Honestly, if you could see the sample I have on my desk right now it is blindingly obvious.”
Before any fabrication of a replacement sail was begun, Doyle now insisted that the Stiches contribute 30% of the sail retail cost ($18,835 x .30 = 5,650), and The Stiches paid an additional $725 dollars in shipping costs. Doyle made an identical sail, except now the UV strip was painted on both sides of the leech and foot. There was no owner’s manual, no 29 cent sticker stating “roll this side out,” and we were following the instructions given by a Doyle rep at sea trials. Mary Grace and I were not delighted; however, we needed this sail for our Pacific crossing so we swallowed the pill and moved on.
Ticket to Ride got her new reacher (Reacher #2) in March, the day before leaving on our passage to Hawaii. During the passage of 2900 miles and 16 days, the reacher was deployed for about 103 hours according to our log and at TWA typically from 120 to 160. Unfortunately, when the reacher was taken down after arrival in Hawaii, the exact same problems were occurring in the leech of the new sail. This time I had caught the problem earlier although it was still very obvious.
Damage on the leech of reacher #2 appears identical to that seen on reacher #1.
Another image of reacher #2.
After several emails with Matt at Doyle NZ, we agreed to find someone in Hawaii who could evaluate the sail and the way we were using our cableless reacher. Doyle had a representative on TTR for a short sail and Mary Grace and I hired our own expert to evaluate the cause. Doyle’s rep determined that there were no Stich sail handling problems and stated “the set up is just about right” (June 1, 2020). Doyle NZ’s conclusion of the cause of the problem is explained in the email quote below from Matt Bridge (June 1, 2020);
“the biggest issue is that the sail is definitely more suited to reaching angles, rather than deeper running ones and that the break down in the leech surfaces is caused by the leech being unstable at the lower angles. That sounds about right to me and I can say that laminate sails are not great at handling that collapsing and re-filling for extended periods. With hindsight, it is probably asking too much of that design to have a sail that can cope with that big a wind ranges for extended use on ocean passages.”
After no apologies for the incorrect reacher #1 UV diagnosis, no financial discussion response from Matt Bridge, and my less than cordial reply, Doyle NZ’s co-owner, Mike Sanderson, took over the conversation. Mike’s diagnosis of the problems with reacher #2, although showing identical symptoms to reacher #1, was our chosen style of sailing deeper wind angles and lower boat speeds. Mike stated we were using the sail improperly by deploying the reacher in wind angles for which it had not been designed. Mike insisted we were not sailing to polars and why “not put the bow up to 145 TWA and do 16, 18 knots?” (email June 3, 2020). Basically, Doyle had designed our reacher according to how Doyle thought we should be sailing our HH55 not how we expressed in writing we wanted and expected to sail.
Yes, Mary Grace and I were furious.
- Did we not explain who we are and our downwind sailing intentions?
- Was the onus of responsibility not Doyle’s to ask The Stiches the right questions and therefore design sails to meet our plans?
- Why was this “sailing improperly” cause not explored in Reacher #1? Several knowledgeable people questioned the UV diagnosis and suggested load or material issues. Doyle could have saved all parties time, hassle and money if there had been a better analysis.
- Why didn’t we hear from Doyle NZ that the recommended wind angles for this sail were 38-105 AWA until after reacher #2 began showing issues?
- Quote from the Doyle warranty “… designed wind range, (as detailed in the user manual supplied at the time of commissioning).” Mike, we are still waiting to receive our user manual.
- Why would any sail, especially one designed for downwind angles, show these delamination problems after only 103 hours of use? Certainly, Stratis was not the proper material for our only downwind sail.
- Why was the cableless reacher specified in the final contract as 150 sqm made to be 177 sqm? I had consulted with the yacht’s designer and other owners to arrive at the 150 sqm size. The sail size was changed and I was not informed.
- Why is the actual reacher weight 65 kg versus the contracted and promised weight of 38kg? I would have cancelled my boat purchase if the final boat weight was 171% over contract. Mike’s statement from his June 4, 2020 email “it’s obviously a shame that if this (contracted weight) was an issue for you that we went ahead and made the replacement sail the same” almost made me blow a gasket. Who builds a carbon fiber performance cat and is not concerned about weight?
- And finally, since reacher #2 showed problems after a 20-day life, UV was certainly not the cause. Therefore, Doyle NZ should be returning to me, no questions asked, the $6375 spent on reacher #2. Furthermore, Doyle NZ should apologize for blaming The Stiches for the problems with reacher #1 which was accompanied by the accusation that the Stiches lack “basic knowledge” (email Feb. 26). Then we could have opened a customer friendly conversation
One of the most common questions we hear from guests on Ticket to Ride is “Can you and Mary Grace handle this boat?” My standard answer is an unwavering “yes, on our terms.” We don’t sail around with our hair on fire, the windward hull out of the water, or matching polars. Unfortunately, after 20 days of email discussions with Mike Sanderson, we actually started to wonder if we had bought too much boat, even though we already had 10,000 successful miles under TTR’s keels. It is very sad that the owners of any company would lead a customer to doubt his ability.
In the end, Doyle made no conciliation to our requests for monies to be returned and made only weak attempts to make us happy on Doyle’s terms. Doyle NZ’s entire point of view was summarized in this Mike Sanderson email quote (June 4), “the bottom line is that it is still the right sail for the boat.” There is no doubt that Doyle NZ had designed this sail and built it from a material according to how THEY think we should be sailing our boat.
In our opinion, Doyle had 3 chances to make this right: 1. Initial design, listen to the customer. 2. Proper diagnosis of the problems with reacher #1. 3. Evaluation and customer friendly plan after the problems with reacher #2.
After a month of confrontational emails, wasted money, and the delays to our cruising plans, Mary Grace and I had totally lost confidence in Doyle Sails NZ, both the people and the products. We wanted nothing to do with Doyle Sails.
Doyle did pay for the repair to the reacher done in the Hawaii North Sails Loft which involved cutting a deep hollow in the reacher leech, adding a wave strainer to the reacher leech and replacing the leech tape. Disturbingly, our Doyle Stratis Genoa was showing early signs of similar delamination on many spots along the leech. Doyle paid for a portion of the genoa repairs needed.
The Stiches paid in full for necessary additions and repairs made to the mainsail in the North Loft. Areas of the mainsail along the foot were chafing due to the inability to control the reefed portion of the main below the new foot. North Sails Hawaii carefully placed reinforced grommets in the mainsail to control the reefed portion of the sail. These mainsail reefing grommets were considered by Doyle to be owner preference. The Stiches considered the lack of grommets to be a Doyle oversight.
A rusty C-clamp and a few sail ties is not the proper way to control the reefed portion of our main.
The added grommets and bungee ties are a necessity, not an owner preference, to control the reefed portion of this main.
Essentially, our current, repaired reacher is too fat cut to fly properly in reaching wind angles and especially in light wind. At the same time, it is made of the wrong material to accept our downwind sailing style without damaging the sail. So where do we go from here to create a sail inventory for our cruising itinerary?
- We are working with North Sails Hawaii to design and build a sail for the deeper downwind VMG angles that we explained to Doyle in the beginning was our preference and intention. The design being considered is a woven polyester sail on a top down furler with the torque rope encased in the luff to help prevent some of the issues with top down furling.
- At some point in the near future, we will add to our inventory a sail properly designed and made from appropriate material for the purpose of reaching, especially in light winds.
- In the mean time, we will use the repaired reacher in limited situations. This reacher will not tolerate any fluttering so the sail can only be used below an AWA of 100 which for TTR means a TWA of probably 115-120 depending on the wind speed. This reacher was designed with a fat cut mid girth of 62% and does not fly well under TWA of 85, so we are left with a usable TWA range of about 85-115 for this sail.
Certainly, this entire experience with Doyle Sails NZ is unfortunate and not a part of life or cruising that Mary Grace and I enjoy. I would assume there are many Doyle Lofts who value customer satisfaction and would regret the manner in which this issue was handled. At the same time, I was dealing with the owners of Doyle Sails and their philosophy will be reflected in corporate policy.
Doyle Sails may have some excellent products; however, every company has occasional issues with a product or a decision. Our greatest surprise was the attitude of the Doyle NZ management, their lack of ownership of the problems, and especially their treatment of us as customers. Mike Sanderson went to great lengths using theoretical polars and VPP’s that are irrelevant to our stated sailing preferences to show us and prove to us and others that our choice of sailing style was faulty. I have never had a business owner communicate with me with as little respect as I received from Doyle NZ.
Based on Doyle NZ’s handling of this issue, our lack of confidence in Doyle products, and the attitude displayed by one of Doyle’s owners, we will never purchase or recommend Doyle products again.
Many people have followed this issue; I would invite those people or others to comment or express your thoughts. Thank you as always for reading.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We regret the negative vain of this particular blog, but we felt it should be written. If you would like to hear from us more often, please follow us on Facebook or Instagram.
The Nā Pali Coast, found on the northwest side of Kauai, stretches for 16 miles. Pali means cliffs in Hawaiian and with some cliffs rising 4,000 feet out of the water, the area is aptly named.
It is impossible to put into words how beautiful this coast line is with verdant cliffs rising dramatically from intensly blue water and waterfalls cascading periodically through the deep green foliage. Instead I will include photographs that only partially capture the beauty.
Early one morning we upped anchor in Hanalei Bay and chose a course close to the coastline. The wind was pretty light and the sea state calm so we motored at a casual pace which allowed us to enjoy the views.
Higher and higher cliffs.
In addition to the waterfalls and cliffs, the coast has several sea caves. After spotting a few interesting looking caves, we found a shallow spot to anchor Ticket to Ride and launched the dinghy for a closer look.
The caves were not particularly deep and certainly were not at all similar to Painted Cave in the Channel Islands of California, but it was still fun to pretend we were intrepid adventurers scouting out unexplored places.
After re-boarding TTR and traveling another 30 minutes, we arrived at the iconic Honopū Valley where we again dropped anchor.
TTR anchored off of Honopū Beach.
Stretching up to 90 feet, Honopū Arch is the largest natural arch in all of Hawaii. A must see in our opinion.
We swam from TTR to shore and were dazzled by the dark rock arch rising from the creamy white beach. Honopū Beach is isolated and no boats or aircraft are allowed to land in Honopū Valley which gives the area an unspoiled and somewhat sacred ambiance.
We walked to the nearby waterfall and Frank and I cooled off in its fresh water before walking back to salt water and swimming to Ticket to Ride.
One of the most spectacular caves along the coast is Open Ceiling Cave; just a short dinghy ride from Honopū Beach. Like other caves, we slowly dinghied into the arched opening. The unusual part is that once inside, the cave is filled with light because the ceiling fell down into the water.
Now sunlight streams into the circular cave and illuminates the walls as well as the fallen ceiling which can be seen underwater marking the center of the cave.
Open Ceiling Cave is a huge contrast to Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, CA. This one reveals all of its beauty and secrets in the sunlight while Painted Cave is deep and pitch black as you go blindly into its depths.
After returning to Ticket to Ride, we spent a bit more time motoring along the coast. Soon it was time to turn around and point TTR back to Hanalei Bay. Since the coast line is an exposed area, we preferred to spend the night back in Hanalei where we are in protected water.
On the trip back we raised the main sail and genoa, then threw out a couple of fishing lines to see what might bite. We managed to snag a skipjack tuna but chose to release him. Although the fishing wasn’t successful, the sail was very pleasant and exploring the beauty of the Nā Pali Coast was a wonderful way to spend the day.
Thanks for visiting our blog. We hope seeing the beauty of the Nā Pali coast brings a bright spot to your day. As the virus cases rise in Hawaii, we are doing our best to stay healthy and restrict our interaction with others. We hope all of you are staying healthy and sane too. All the best from us to you.
We have had several people send us photos and videos of Ticket to Ride and we are always very appreciative of the effort they make to reach out to us.
Recently, Tim sent us a video he had taken of TTR as we were sailing out of Kaneohe Bay. The video was great and we definitely wanted to share his excellent video, so we asked Mae and Tommy to help us. Fortunately they were willing to teach us about editing video and contribute some of their own shots.
The resulting video if a compilation of Tim’s video, Mae’s videos, Tommy’s videos and maybe just a tiny bit of our own.
I hope you enjoyed seeing this glimpse of life aboard TTR. Our normal, non-COVID travel locations limit our uploading ability so we rarely share video. We would like to hear what you think of this one.
Suppose you sailed to Maui to find a safe haven during the coronavirus and realized that four people you knew from college lived on Maui. Suppose the number of COVID cases in Maui was a total of six on the whole island. Suppose the restrictions for gatherings had been lifted and the restrictions for inter-island travel had been lifted.
Would you invite those friends to spend a week with you sailing around some of the Hawaiian Islands? Well, that is exactly what we did last week.
Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki agreed to pack a few clothes and hop on TTR at Mala Wharf in Lahina. We upped anchor around 10:00 a.m. and initially motor sailed toward Lanai because the wind was very light. Once we turned along the southern side of Lania, we had a bit of wind and finished with a downwind sail to Shark Fin Cove.
Fortunately Frank had the coordinates for a mooring ball at the cove and after a bit of hunting, we spotted the ball and were able to secure Ticket to Ride in a lovely place. Although the area doesn’t look protected, there was a rock outcropping to protect the boat from swells. Plus the weather was very mild.
Shark Fin is a rock that protrudes from the ocean and looks like a shark’s fin. It is an excellent place to snorkel with an interesting rock formation underwater that attracts marine life. Some of us swam from TTR to Shark Fin to get in some exercise as well as check out the fish. Others took the dinghy over to Shark Fin and snorkeled from it.
We spent two nights at Shark Fin Cove. TTR was moored in about 30 feet of extremely clear water and the fish were so plentiful it was like floating in an aquarium! There was a small sea cave within swimming distance and several rocks that made snorkeling entertaining as well as refreshing. Early mornings were calm enough to explore on the stand up paddle boards.
Cruisers know that sometimes there are maintenance items that require a quick off-shore motor to clear tanks. This is a picture of Frank enjoying morning java as he waits for us to return in TTR so he can retie us to the mooring ball. Not a bad way to while away some time.
Shark Fin Cove was pretty isolated and we only saw one sailboat that appeared to be doing some day snorkeling tours and one fishing boat. Well, except for the three rock climbers who repelled down the 60′ cliff face, then swam over to say hello…. that was definitely a first! I wish I had a picture of those folks but I was coming back from snorkeling when we saw the climbers.
Our next stop was Honolua Bay, back on Maui. We figured we should stop back at the home island in case Dave, Nikki, Dave or Gloria decided they wanted to jump ship. Happily, everyone wanted to remain for the whole week!
Honolua was our first stop on Maui when we arrived back in April and it remains one of my favorite spots. The bay is wonderfully protected from waves and it is a marine preserve so both above and under water it is beautiful!
One positive aspect of COVID is that the reduction of tourists to Hawaii has lessened the pressure on the reefs. Locals are saying that the coral and fish life is improving quickly in the absence of large numbers of snorkelers and divers. Even compared to when we were in Honolua Bay two months ago, we saw an increase in the number of fish and turtles around the reefs.
We spent a lot of time in the water while in Honolua Bay snorkeling, SUPing, lounging on floats and watching dolphins swim through the bay.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Honolua this time was swimming with the dolphins. We saw them playing in the bay and quickly jumped in the dinghy to get closer. Frank and I had grabbed our masks, but unfortunately not a camera. We took turns using the masks and jumping into the water from the dinghy to see the dolphins.
There were probably a dozen dolphins on the surface but underwater there were at least two dozen more. I SO wish I had a photo to share, but at least the memory remains.
Frank and I are very comfortable in the water and didn’t think twice about jumping in to swim with the dolphins, but our friends were slightly hesitant. The look of wonder and excitement on their faces after they did jump in and see the dolphins was priceless. What a joy to share this experience with friends!
After three nights in Honolua Bay, we awakened at first light and sailed to Kaneohe Bay. We sailed along the north side of Molokai Island because the views of the island are very pretty. The wind was lighter than expected and the direction wasn’t quite what was forecasted so we ended up further away from the island than we would have preferred.
The sail from Maui to Oahu took about eight hours in winds of 14-20 knots so it was a very relaxed sail. Unfortunately two of our friends battle sea sickness so they slept most of the way, which is a good way to avoid feeling ill.
Kaneohe Bay is very large and we spent our first night at the Sand Bar. Our time at the Sand Bar included SUPing, swimming, hiking and generally relaxing.
Chinaman’s Hat is a small, sharp rock close to the entrance to Kaneohe Bay which can be “hiked.” However, the hike is really more of a scramble up the side of this steep little island and Dave, Nikki, Frank and I decided to try it. The view was great, but the hike up volcanic rock and dirt is extremely steep and becomes very slippery when it rains.
After just one night at the Sand Bar, we moved TTR to the southwest portion of Kaneohe Bay near the Kaneohe Yacht Club and rented a car so we could take a driving tour of Oahu Island.
We managed to drive most of the island and made a few stops at beaches and scenic overlooks with a stop for lunch sandwiched in between. (See what I did there?)
After eating all of our meals on Ticket to Ride, it was a nice change to eat out while visiting Haleiwa on the North Shore. This week on Ticket to Ride, everyone helped with meal prep and clean up so providing meals on the boat was not difficult. In fact, I would wager the food we ate on board TTR was as good as anything we eat in restaurants; and the view from the boat is unbeatable!
Here are a few more pictures from our day spent driving around Oahu.
I was a little concerned that this lifestyle would be too restrictive or odd and that Dave, Dave, Gloria and Nikki would feel really confined, but happily I didn’t sense that and no one seemed too tired of boat life.
Several times Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki mentioned that seeing the islands from the water was a unique experience for them and gave them a new perspective for the islands. Frank and I enjoyed sharing our floating home and perhaps demonstrating that we aren’t completely crazy for choosing to live on a boat.
Even though it has been decades since we have spent time together, these friendships, forged at Texas Christian University, melded as if no time had passed. We never broke stride and everyone interacted as if we had been spending time together consistently for years. Thanks for a great week y’all! TTR seems a bit quiet today without you.
Side Note: Unfortunately, Hawaii is beginning to see a spike in COVID-19 cases and once again restrictions are being put in place to stem the spread. In just a few days, the 14 day quarantine for inter-island travel will be reinstated; at least for air traffic. Luckily, Dave, Nikki, Dave and Gloria returned home before these restrictions were reinstated. We sincerely hope the virus is curtailed in Hawaii before it becomes rampant. In the mean time, Frank and I will exercise greater caution in our social interactions.
Several of the photos in this post were taken by our friends, and Dave S. was especially good at capturing fun shots during the week. Thank you for the pictures.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts about the places we are visiting should you care to make comments below. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check out our FB page or our Instagram.
The current view from TTR in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, HI.
About a year ago we wrote a blog post about TTR and some of the issue we were experiencing. As we stated in that blog, we think issues on a new boat are to be expected. Today we review the problems we were having and how those were resolved.
Looking back, it is amazing how few issues we have had with Ticket to Ride. Fortunately all of the issues have been manageable and none of them are structural in any way!
Once again, we must be very clear and express our sincere appreciation to HH Catamarans for their excellent service and support of us and for our sailboat. Each time we reach out to HH, they are prompt, extremely helpful, and reimburse us for labor and materials. We are truly thankful for their continued support and guidance.
The electronics on sailboats have become increasingly important and more complex. CZone is a control system that allows boaters to replace traditional wiring with electrical switching controlled at a centralized computer screen. One cool feature of CZone is that you can program six different settings on your boat and with the touch of one button wanted systems are engaged. For example, one setting we have is “Day Cruise.” When we engage Day Cruise, the electronic charts and VHFs turn on, power is turned on to navigation lights, winch controls are turned on, etc.
Along the top are the six programs we have customized
Initially we had some issues with communication between CZone and our systems and we thought CZone was not working properly. However, the issues turned out to be programming issues not function problems. When CZone was installed and programmed at the factory in Xiamen, China, the programmers didn’t really understand how we would want to use CZone on Ticket to Ride.
Frank spent plenty of time on the phone and through emails with Jessica Li, overseer of the installation and programming of electronics on our HH55, and Kiel Moore of CZone in New Zealand. Frank gained a better understanding of CZone and he has worked to get it set up to function well for our purposes. The beauty of CZone is its’ flexibility among other features. CZone is now working beautifully and we are very happy to have it on TTR.
In our original post, we discussed problems we were having with the air conditioning units and the processing of power from the generator to our inverter / chargers and then passing that AC power on to the AC loads onboard. We spent a good deal of time communicating with Jessica and tried a few different fixes without success.
Mastervolt Inverter/Charger installed.
In the end, the underlying problem was a faulty Victron Inverter / charger. Hudson Yacht Group specified the Victron Inverter/Charger because it was the largest wattage inverter in a single unit on the market at the time. We ended up replacing the Victron Inverter/Charger with a Mastervolt Inverter/Charger and since then we have not had any issues with the ACs or the generator to inverter/charger power.
AIS/VHF issues. As offshore travelers, having the ability to talk to other boats or ships using the VHF is extremely important. The AIS allows us to transmit our location to nearby boats and ships and to receive information about nearby boats if they broadcast on AIS. This information is extremely helpful, especially at night when it is hard to determine distances from other ships. For a while our AIS/VHF were unreliable and when working, only transmitted 2 to 2.5 miles.
After a bit of diagnosing with the help of an excellent electrician, Will Immanse in LA Paz, Mexico, we determined that the cable spec’d by Pochon (electronics supplier based in France) that ran from our VHF/AIS to the top of our mast was not properly sized for the distance between the units and the antenna. As signals travel through wire, transmission signal diminishes as the distance traveled increases. Frank and I replaced our RX-8 cable with Ultraflex 400TM (Times Microwave) which has greater signal strength and carries the information between the antenna and our radios and chart plotters.
After changing the cable, our AIS signal reception changed from 2 or 2.5 miles to 6 – 8 miles and on VHF we can talk with ships that are sometimes as much as 15 miles away.
As for the other small issues we listed, happily, they are resolved:
~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tightly that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together. We had a small strip added to the enclosure and it now closes easily.
Now we are snug and dry inside this enclosure.
~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason. Easing the burner knobs out a little resolved this problem.
~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. Frank spent a bit of time replacing the hose with a longer hose allowing a large upward loop routed into the outer transom bulwark. The problem is solved.
Considering the complexity and performance of the HH55 catamarans, the issues we have had on Ticket to Ride are pretty minimal. Today we have over 10,000 nautical miles under TTR‘s keels and we are very pleased to say that her systems are running very well and we are living quite comfortably.
Thanks for stopping to read our blog. We will be finished with quarantine on Oahu very soon and we look forward to exploring this island soon.
Currently Ticket to Ride is anchored in Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, HI.
Choosing to anchor where we did was random, but we have found that sometimes random anchor spots allow us to stumble upon something. Similar to an unexpected find on Martinique way back when, we love it when we happen upon an interesting place that we probably would not have heard about in a guide book. It is sort of like cruising lagniappe! (Lagniappe: something given as a bonus or extra gift.)
Photo credit: Google Maps satellite images
Located on the windward (east) side of Oahu, Kaneohe is the largest estuary in Hawaii and covers about 11,000 acres. Although the opening of Kaneohe is more than 4.5 miles wide, outside of the bay lies the only barrier reef in Hawaii which breaks the ocean swell and provides protection in the bay. Even when the trade winds are blowing outside the bay, the anchorages are very calm, especially in the southern part of the bay. This is particularly nice for us on TTR because the breeze keeps us cool but the boat has very little motion at anchor.
It’s interesting to SUP along the coral that rings the sandy areas.
Meandering through the long channel to get to our anchor spot, we passed several shallow areas of sand and coral. These shallow areas are often right next to the channel and the depth on the reef is ankle deep at low tide, but where the outer coral ring ends the depth immediately drops to 30+ feet.
“The Sandbar” is very popular for family gatherings, kiting and fishing.
Boaters often motor right up onto this sandbar then lay a stern anchor. Unwilling to nose TTR onto the sandbar, we chose to drop anchor a bit off of the bar and SUP to get to the shallows. We were only able to stay at this spot for a night or two.
I read that the Kaneohe area was the most heavily populated part of Oahu during the “pre-contact” era of Hawaii. (Research indicates that pre-contact is considered to be prior to the arrival of Captain James Cook sometime around 1778.)
The fact that Kaneohe is an estuary, which means that one or more fresh water streams or rivers mix into the seawater, is important and was influential in the lives of these Hawaiians.
The mixing of fresh water and seawater creates a brackish water that is perfect for growing algae that nurtures fish. As many as 600 – 800 years ago, native Hawaiians recognized that value of this brackish water and put it to use for loko iʻa kuapā; walled coastal ponds. Below is a picture of the He’eia Fishpond that encloses 88 acres of brackish water.
Photo credit School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, HI
The He’eia Fishpond wall is about 1.3 miles long and has seven gates; four along the seaward wall and three along the He’eia stream, which allows for controlled mixing of the salt and fresh water to create this brackish enclosure.
One of the seaward gates.
Trapping fish in this brackish enclosure allowed Hawaiians to supplement their food source in an area that naturally developed food for the fish and eliminated the need for a caregiver to feed the fish.
“Ocean fishing is dependent, to a great extent, upon conditions of the ocean and weather. High surf, storms, and other associated weather phenomenon influence and interrupt most fishing practices. Therefore, fishponds provided Hawaiians with a regular supply of fish when ocean fishing was not possible or did not yield sufficient supply (Kelly, 1976),” per the Paepae o Heeia website.
It is amazing to me that hundreds of years ago, these Hawaiians had a back up plan for days when traditional fishing methods did not provide enough food for their people.
A portion of the He’eia Fishpond wall.
As you can see in the picture above, this pond is not built with one wall but two. Each wall is constructed of basalt (volcanic) rock and they are 12 to 15 feet apart. The section between the two walls is filled mostly with coral but also with dirt. The purpose of the two walls is to slow the flow of water and create a base level of water in the pond so that even at low tide there is sufficient water for the fish.
Looking over the wall toward shore where early Hawaiians probably lived.
It is estimated that building this loko iʻa kuapā took two or three years of dedicated work by hundreds or even thousands of residents who passed and stacked rock and coral.
Another example of the seaward gates.
In May 1965 a flood ruined a 200 foot section of the He’eia Fishpond and it went unused until 1988 when Mark Brooks began repairing the wall. In 2001, Paepae o Heeia, a non-profit organization, was established with the express purpose of restoring and caring for the He’eia Fishpond.
Today this historic and innovative walled pond is fully restored and in excellent condition. TTR is anchored about 300 yards from the Fishpond and on calm days we can paddle along the wall and see the waters entering or leaving the gates depending on the tide.
Shallow sand and coral just off the Fishpond wall.
Kaneohe Bay is so large that there are many areas to explore, but until our two week, inter island quarantine is finished, we have to remain anchored here, so we haven’t had a chance to see as much as we would like.
But the Q will end soon and we have no complaints about our location. The views are stunning, the temperatures are very comfortable and in addition to learning about He’eia Fishpond, we are taking care of routine maintenance on TTR.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. I posted a video of the He’eia Fishpond on our FB page, so be sure to head over there if you want to see the video or hear from us more often.
This point can kick up great surf waves.
Honolua Bay, located on the northwest side of Maui, is a very popular stop for local day cruise boats. I have learned that four boats carrying 25-50 people each are often moored here for the day to allow their passengers to swim and snorkel.
“Our anchorage” as seen from the road.
The Coronavirus has changed all of that. Instead TTR is sharing this beautiful bay with three other cruising boats who have also sailed to Hawaii for refuge during this pandemic. A local couple escapes here on their monohull as well.
A variety of fish anywhere we look.
Although our plan to sail to French Polynesia is on hold until boarders begin to reopen, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to spend our isolation in Honolua Bay.
A school of Convict Surgeonfish.
Nearly every day we snorkel or swim and every time it feels as if I have jumped into an aquarium. The water is chilly enough to warrant a rash guard or a light wet suit for longer water sessions.
I love those eyes!
The visibility in the water depends on the surf but usually it is very clear.
A Wedgetail Triggerfish – love those lips!
I am amazed by the variety of fish we see and how wide the range of colors, markings, shapes and sizes.
A pretty Pinktail Triggerfish.
I wonder if there are more varieties of fish than any other species…. no, probably insects have even more varieties.
I’ve seen a trumpetfish as long as I am tall!
Still, each time I snorkel I realize how few fish I can name and that I will never know them all.
What kind of fish is this? Part bird? Part dolphin?
Here are a few more photos taken while swimming in our Honolua Bay aquarium.
The turtle is unfazed by Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance.
The brightly marked Moorish Idol.
Of course there are a few maintenance items we have to take care of because we do live on a boat! However, with so much time on our hands and restricted movement, these projects are pretty easy to accomplish – as long as we don’t need parts or supplies!
Frank inspecting the anchor light on TTR.
They say timing is everything and that is proven true in the above picture. We have a few college friends who live on Maui and Dave and Nikki happened to drive by the bay while Frank was at the top of the mast. They snapped this photo and sent it to us. It’s fun to see this perspective, so thanks guys!
That’s a peak into life aboard TTR while we are restricted to one location. Hopefully the pictures will brighten your day and offer a slightly different view than one from land. If you are a cruiser who was caught away from his floating home when the pandemic hit, or someone hoping to become a live aboard, maybe these will remind you of what awaits.
We on TTR hope that anyone who reads this is staying well and safe during this crisis. Remember to be especially cautious when restrictions begin to lift. This pandemic has certainly proven that we all share this world, so let’s do our best to be patient and help one another. Wishing each person health, safety and comfort during this challenging time.
Itemizing the ditch bag in case we have to abandon the boat while at sea.
Honestly, the preparation is a whole lot of work!
All aspects of the boat and sails must be in good working condition and spare parts for repairs need to be on board. Planning meals and buying enough food for the passage plus extras in case we encounter delays, or restricted land access (thank you Coronavirus) requires organization, many trips to the grocery and time finding and recording storage locations on the boat.
A pretty sunset prior to leaving the dock at Paradise Village.
However, the real answer to the actual passage experience depends on your vessel, the weather and sea conditions you encounter and the crew on board.
We were confident that our crew was excellent and experienced and that our HH55 Catamaran is strong, fast and comfortable. Our variable would be the weather.
The unique circumstances created by COVID-19 made us especially cautious about our health once we left mainland Mexico. As a precaution, we sailed from Puerto Vallarta to San Benedicto Island, part of the Revillagigedo Islands, about 320 nm off of mainland Mexico. We spent six days in this completely uninhabited marine park waiting for a good weather window and insuring that none of us had any symptoms of the virus.
Revillagigedo Island with buddy boat Kalewa at anchor. (Photo by C. Stich)
While anchored at San Benedicto, we once again enjoyed some excellent scuba diving and relished the opportunity to see the giant manta rays again. It was fun to share this special place with Clayton and Connor.
Mary Grace swimming with giant mantas. (Photo credit s/v Migration.)
This time we saw more sharks at San Benedicto and perhaps because there weren’t any dive boats, they seemed to hang around TTR more than the last time. Surprisingly the sharks swarmed when I dropped some lettuce off the back of the boat. Perhaps these were vegetarian sharks??
That’s close enough, Mr. Shark. (Photo by C. Stich)
Once we were confident we all felt well and we saw predictions for good weather and wind, we upped anchor and departed for the remainder of our 2660 nm adventure across the Pacific Ocean.
We are often asked if we stop at night during passages and the answer is no. We are always moving and we must have someone on watch 24 hours every day. We settled into a pattern of 3 hour watches per person when the weather was good. If we anticipated big seas, winds or storms, we had two people up for six hour watches with a ‘primary’ watch person at the helm for 3 hours while the alternate slept in the salon. For the last three hours, the twosome would switch roles.
All in all, the watch schedule worked well and the vast majority of the time we only needed one person awake. I had the easiest watch schedule of 7-10 am and pm. I think they gave me the easy watch because I planned the food and we ate very well.
Clayton cutting the dessert pizza.
Clayton and Connor made a dessert pizza with a layer of Nutella on the bottom, then half of it was topped with cinnamon-apple and half was blueberry pie topping. Delish!
We are also asked what we DO ALL DAY while “stuck” on a boat, but the days go surprisingly fast. One reason the days go quickly is that being constantly in motion is tiring physically and mentally and all of us rest, if not sleep, more while underway than when at anchor.
There are duties that must be accomplished often:
- enter the log: lat/long position, boat speed, wind speed, wind direction, state of battery charge, water levels, etc (every two hours)
- check the bilges of the boat and make sure they are all dry
- run new weather reports (think slower than dial up data speeds)
- manage water levels
- manage boat energy levels
- take watch
- prepare meals
- watch the skies and seas in case unusual weather develops
- check the sails, lines and attachments
But what do we do for fun? In addition to reading, watching movies, playing games, listening to books or podcasts, how about a little fishing?
Connor has something on that line.
A small Mahi but enough for dinner and sashimi.
Connor created a pistachio crusted Mahi! YUM
He who catches, gets to cook the fish and Connor did an amazing job after Frank expertly filleted it! Many thanks to those back home who helped with the recipe because it was fab. I told you we ate well! Farm to table right there.
When surrounded by water with no land in sight, watching the nature that surfaces or flies into view is interesting.
Clayton caught this Booby as it dove for a fish!
Dolphins always bring a smile and everyone awake goes outside to watch them.
This pod of about 10 dolphins stayed with us for 20 minutes. (Photo by C. Stich)
This trip we were absolutely blessed with excellent conditions. We had manageable winds with only one night of rain with winds gusting up in the high 20s. For the majority of our passage, the wind was between 11 and 22 knots. We did have several days of cloud cover which made for cool days. At night it was cold enough to require long pants and a jacket and that was excellent for sleeping when off watch.
The moon was waxing and became full during our passage.
I seemed to have the luck of catching some spikes in the wind during my evening shift and at one point as we surfed down a wave and I saw 17.9 knots of boat speed! You’ll have to trust me on that as everyone else was asleep. (25k wind, R1 main, genoa)
Interesting shot of TTR blazing along. (Photo by C. Stich.)
We had engaged the services of Bruce, a weather router, for our planned trip to French Polynesia, so instead he helped us with the trip to Hawaii. We think having Bruce advise us was helpful to anticipate weather troughs that were not predicted through our PredictWind weather service.
Based on Bruce’s forecast of squalls and unstable, increasing winds, we had our main sail reefed for about 30% of our trip. In actuality, we missed the unstable weather and in hindsight the reefs were mostly unnecessary. But better to be prepared than caught overpowered.
Sunrise is welcome and beautiful when on watch. (Photo by C. Stich)
Even with our conservative sail plan, the whole trip took a total of 14 days and we averaged 8.2 knots. Pretty impressive considering we want for nothing and were able to cook meals every night.
Since Hawaii was an unexpected destination, I was trying to read a book our friends Katie and Kevin of s/v Kalewa had lent us when we were at the Rev Islands. Trying to figure out where to go on each island was slightly overwhelming. Also, we were concerned we might be restricted to one island once we arrived and we wanted to choose a good place to hang out for an extended stay.
Frank studying sunset from the galley. (Photo by C. Stich)
I suggested we each take a Hawaiian Island and give a presentation on that island. This idea quickly became a competition of who could best “sell” his island to the others on board.
Clayton and Connor delved into their personal skills. Clayton drummed up some long forgotten high school expertise and made a power point presentation about O’Ahu. Connor was very secretive about his presentation for Molokai and I knew I needed to step up my game…. I have NO computer skills, so I thought I would draw pictures of rainbows, waterfalls and unicorns to demonstrate how wonderful Kauai is. BUT I have no drawing skills either, so I quit after drawing the rainbow and instead tried to paint with words! Frank was the straight man and his presentation about Maui was filled with facts and persuasive reasons to make Maui our island of choice.
Clayton hammed up his PowerPoint presentation!
Turns out Connor had written a poem about Molokai which I have copied and put at the end of this blog post. I’m sure a compendium of Connor’s poetry will soon be available on Amazon!
Lest you think life on a passage is all rainbows and unicorns, like on Kauai, I will tell you we did have one rather interesting event. Prior to leaving, we had tried to determine why our steering system was making a noise that was continuing to grow louder.
Frank testing and retesting the steering system.
Frank was in touch with the maker of the steering system and several other experts. After trouble shooting and trying the suggestions, the noise remained, but thankfully no one thought this would create an issue…. other than making it hard to sleep on the port side where the master cabin bed is. Imagine having Chewbacca mouthing off every 5 seconds behind your headboard while trying to sleep and you will understand what we heard when resting. Thank goodness for earplugs to dampen the sound!
One clear afternoon about 10 days into our trip, Frank was on watch and Clayton and I were chatting when the boat suddenly rounded up toward the wind. Clayton looked up and said, “Where ya going dad?” Frank’s unhappy response was, “I don’t know!”
We had lost all steering!
Talk about all hands on deck! We quickly rolled in the genoa and centered the main. I took the helm, started the engines and kept us into the wind. Clayton opened the port engine compartment and Frank and Connor took the starboard, all trying to diagnose the issue. Somehow the bolt of the steering rod on the starboard side had completely backed out and we had no steering!
Frank and Connor after replacing the steering bolt.
Fortunately the bolt, washers and nut were found in the engine compartment and within 15 minutes we had steering again! At least now I know what happens when we loose our steering while under sail!
This issue was completely independent of the Chewbacca noise which stayed with us the whole trip. (Now we think this is an issue with the roller bearings but we probably need to have TTR out of the water to attempt this fix.)
Frank on the foredeck at sunset. (Photo by C. Stich)
We expected to have unstable conditions as we approached Hawaii, but instead the wind died, the sea flattened out and we had enough of a rain shower to wash the topside of Ticket to Ride! Except for when we were fixing the steering, we only used the engines for the last portion of our trip – about 16 hours of our 2600 nm trip.
The verdant hillside of Hawaii was a welcome sight.
Even though we had a great trip, land was a welcome sight. Knowing we would be back on U.S. soil during these turbulent COVID-19 times was an added benefit.
A quiet and relaxing view in Radio Bay, Hilo.
This trip was exceptionally easy especially for two weeks of ocean travel. We could not have asked for better weather, wind or sea conditions. The crew was pretty special too!
When we arrived at the seawall in Radio Bay, s/v Moondance and s/v Kalewa were there to grab our lines and secure Ticket to Ride to her check in space. While we couldn’t greet our friends with hugs or touch of any kind, seeing their smiling faces was joyous.
Surprisingly, what I most enjoyed about coming to rest was not the lack of motion, but the quiet. My ears tend to be sensitive and two weeks of noise from the rushing of water and the wake created by TTR was very tiring for me. I ended up wearing noise cancelling headphones at times during the passage to give my senses a rest. The hush of Hilo was magical.
During our trip, several friends reached out via IridiumGo to say hello and let us know they were watching our progress. I found great pleasure in these short messages and looked forward to the little “pings” announcing a new message. Thank you so much for keeping me company as we traveled and for having us in your thoughts and prayers. Your messages warmed my heart and added a lift to my days! A special thank you to Laura who made a concerted effort to contact me every other day with newsy notes that were entertaining and more welcome than she realizes.
- Banderas Bay, MX to San Benedicto: 320 nm, average speed: 9.2 knots or 10.6 mph
- Total time from Banderas Bay to San Benedicto: 1 day 10 hours
- San Benedicto to Hilo, HI: 2500 nm, average speed: 8.2 knots or 9.4 mph
- Total time from San Benedicto to Hilo: 13 days, 2 hours
- Total distance Banderas Bay to Hilo, HI: 2820 nm or 3,245 miles
- Total under engine for both segments: 16 hours
- Highest SOG to Hawaii: 17.9 knots or 20.6 mph
A special thank you to Clayton Stich for most of these great photos!
By Connor Jackson
*This poem includes some inside TTR passage jokes and might be confusing.
WOW, if you made it through this looong blog, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to share our journey. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out or add them to the comments below. Stay safe out there!
Suppose you were going to take a three week trip and while you were on that trip, you were going to be completely self sufficient. You wouldn’t stop for any reason: not for any supplies or for directions, regardless of the weather or how tired you were or even if you were sick. On this trip you do not expect to see any people other than those with you and your path is unmarked and without signage. Oh, and if you have any problems, you must fix them yourself using only the supplies you have on hand.
Welcome to sailing across the Pacific Ocean!
This description sounds really dramatic but it is actually pretty accurate.
Of course, we do have electronic charts on board Ticket to Ride to help with directions. We do have a satellite phone system (IridiumGo) that allows us to get weather updates or place emergency phone calls. We have safety equipment and emergency medical supplies. We are well informed and have taken classes to improve our knowledge (100 ton Captain’s licenses and Safety at Sea courses). We will have two extra crew members on board to help us with this trip.
We have done our best to prepare but the truth is, once we shove off, we are on our own for 3000 nautical miles until we reach Nuka Hiva, Marquesas.
So, although we have been having a fabulous time here in Mexico, much of our time and energy is being invested in preparing to leave Puerto Vallarta and sail to the Marquesas Islands.
The trip of about 3000 nm is probably the longest passage we will complete as sailors. TTR is a pretty fast boat and, if the weather cooperates, we hope to complete our trip in just 16 days!
On average, most sailboats take three weeks or more to complete this crossing. When considering passage time, we are fortunate!
We are not alone in our preparations as many other sailors are planning to sail to French Polynesia right now as spring is the best weather window for the trip. Unlike a road trip, we cannot stop along the way if the weather gets bad, so departure timing is important.
Drama aside, this is a big passage and preparation is essential. Fortunately I married an eagle scout who truly embraces the “Be Prepared” motto. Together we are tackling our To Do Lists and getting Ticket to Ride in prime condition.
If you are interested, here are a few of the items we have been and continue to address:
Long Stay Visas for French Polynesia. As non EU citizens, we are allowed to enter FP and stay for 90 days. However, we would like to be able to stay longer, so we have applied to the French Consulate for a LSV which would allow us to stay for one year. Applying for the LSV meant gathering a mound of paperwork, including a police report stating that we are citizens of good standing, financial information, proof of health and boat insurance… well just a bunch of things. Then we had to travel to Mexico City to visit the French Consulate and apply in person. We completed that appointment on January 29, 2020 and anticipate the response this coming week – about a six weeks processing period.
Crew: although Frank and I originally planned on making this passage alone, we decided that having crew would make the passage safer, faster and more fun. To our delight, our youngest son, Clayton, is joining us for this passage! Clayton has plenty of sailing and water experience, plus he is a mechanical engineer and will be very helpful in case of any issues. Our second crew member is Connor Jackson. Connor is a friend of Clayton’s and a very experienced sailor who crossed the Pacific two years ago in his 31’ Hunter sailboat. Connor’s experience and knowledge are valuable additions.
By adding Clayton and Connor to the crew, we have lowered that average age on board TTR by 1/3 and I imaging the energy level will increase by an equal amount.
Every sailboat is like a tiny city that must produce its own power, refrigeration, water etc, so it is essential that all parts are working consistently and reliably for our passage.
For example, we have a water-maker aboard TTR and we rely on this for our drinking water. Frank has checked and triple checked the system to make certain it is working well and we won’t be thirsty while offshore. (We will bring some bottled water in case of a system breakdown.)
Rigging/sail inspection: inspecting our rigging and sails is very important since we are relying on them to propel us across the ocean. In addition to making sure the sails are holding up well, Frank has cleaned and waxed the mast, inspected the rigging and connections, oiled the sail tracks, greased winches, inspected blocks and made adjustments to lines and sheets. (I just had to hoist him up and down the mast.)
Spare parts: Walmart cannot be reached! TTR is full of spare parts and tools to insure (hopefully) that we can repair any issues we find.
Reviewing and changing boat insurance to cover us while in the South Pacific. Because insurance companies suffered huge losses during hurricanes these last few years, obtaining insurance is more difficult than one would expect.
Reviewing medical insurance: international travel requires special insurance and our LSV requires us to have coverage in place for the duration of our visas.
Route Planning: gathering information about the best route to take, where it is best to cross the ITCZ, weather patterns on both sides of the equator, determining how/if we can stay in touch with other boats who are crossing, etc.
Navigating in French Polynesia: more and more sailors are relying on electronic chats and imaging as aids to navigation, especially in areas where the charts are not current and where Google images can be overlaid on charts. Fortunately, Connor has used many of the electronic charts and has graciously shared his knowledge with us and friends who are also heading across the Pacific Ocean.
Food Planning: so this could take a whole post unto itself. But the short story is that we have to have enough food on board for 1.5X our planned passage time. In addition to planning and buying the food, I need to have several precooked, frozen meals available in case we aren’t feeling well or the conditions are rough and cooking from scratch is not possible. Three meals a day, plus snacks and considering that at least one person is up and on watch 24 hours a day…. a lot of food and snacks are required.
Favorite foods: traveling to other countries means we get to try foods that are unique to those countries and are unfamiliar to us. That is a fun aspect of travel. However, when this is your full time lifestyle, you begin to miss foods you cannot find away from home. So, we are trying to stock up on a few special items that probably won’t be available after leaving Mexico.
Expensive/hard to find supplies: along the same lines of favorite foods, there are some items that are reasonably priced and easy to find in one place but cost and arm and a leg or can’t be found in other places. We are trying to flush out this information and stock up on some of those items. This can be as varied as motor oil and canned tomatoes or self-rising flour and alcohol.
Storage: once buying food and spares and tools is complete, we have to find places to store all of our extras. We are very fortunate that TTR has many convenient storage areas, but for long term trips like this one, we have to get creative. Often this means opening up the beds, the floors and the seating areas to store things below them. Pretty much wherever we can find safe and open spaces could be used for storage.
PPJ Meetings: Puerto Vallarta is a popular jumping off spot for sailboats making the Pacific Puddle Jump. As a result, there are many formal meetings where speakers present topics of interest: reading weather files, how to avoid storms, provisioning for long passages, medical emergencies, communication at sea, etc. Frank and I have attended several meetings and enjoy the information and getting to know others who are in the throws of preparing to jump.
Clean your bottom: boat bottom that is! Sailboats routinely need to have the bottom cleaned to prevent soft and hard growth from accumulating. Not only is the growth unsightly, it slows the boat’s progress through the water. Although we have an excellent bottom paint on TTR, growth still occurs and we will make certain her bottom is clean and smooth before we leave for the Marquesas.
Corona Virus: A unique aspect to our trip in 2020 is the unexpected and very fluid requirements and restrictions pertaining to the Corona Virus. In the past week the requirements for entering French Polynesia have changed depending on how you are arriving. Needless to say, we are staying informed about this and we are preparing to get additional health certificates as the requirements change.
So there you have it, a glimpse into our preparation for sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, good preparation is essential and we are doing our best to be very well prepared. Frank and I are thankful that Ticket to Ride is a strong, fast and reliable sailboat. We look forward to completing the preparations and actually beginning this voyage since it has been part of our distant plans for years!
Our goal is to depart within the next two weeks depending on finalizing some last items, completing our provisioning and finding the proper weather window.
If you would like to follow our progress, you can look for our location on this blog page: look on the right hand column for our location.
Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any comments, we would love to hear from you. We will try to figure out how to send an update or two as we are crossing the Pacific, but no promises at this point.