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3 (Pollywogs) + 1 (Initiation) = 4 Shellbacks

NOTE:  Per my agreement with Amelia, our ceremony began with a prayer to thank God for our safety and blessings. It was important to me that we acknowledge these celebrations as a playful tradition and not acceptance of any other god(s).

When Ticket To Ride exited Mexico and headed toward N 0° 00.000’, there were three pollywogs on board plus one shellback.  Any sailor who has not crossed the equator is considered a “dirty pollywog” or “slimy pollywog.” Those who have already crossed the equator and endured the requisite ceremony are hailed as “Trusty Shellbacks,” “Honorable Shellbacks” or “Sons of Neptune.” 

Seafaring tradition, both civilian and military, demands a celebration/initiation of sailors who cross the equator for the first time. Post ceremony, a sailor looses his status as a Pollywog and becomes a Shellback. 

Image taken from Wikipedia article.

At its essence, this means a person is no longer green or untried but rather has earned his stripes as a sailor. Celebrations and hazing are often hand in hand with the initiation and as the only shellback on board, Amelia had control of the initiation for Frank, Erik and me…. 

When researching the “Crossing the Line Ceremony,” I learned that this practice was originally created as welcome “folly” to boost morale on board ships. The pollywogs had to endure some pranks and prove they were capable of handling long and uncomfortable passages before being declared Shellback worthy. Even prominent guests on board ships were included in the initiation. Charles Darwin’s account from February 16, 1832 describes a bit of his initiation experience and concludes “at last, glad enough, I escaped.”

There are stories about the ceremony on board US Navy ships, including an account by Franklin D. Roosevelt in a letter to his wife, Eleanor. Roosevelt was on board the USS Indianapolis and his letter of November 26, 1936 refers to his “Jolly Companions” when describing his line crossing ceremony.

However, some very dark accounts about just how rough and wrong some of these ceremonies became were also found in my research. Since the 1980s, the US Navy has placed heavy restrictions against harassment during the ceremonies and today they are supposed to be well meaning, morale boosting events rather than an opportunity for hazing.

Fortunately for us, Amelia is very playful but doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, so I knew fun would be the sole purpose of our ceremony, with just a smidge of silly antics mixed in.

To fully appreciate the fun of this ceremony, please open this link to Amelia’s page where you will find the actual verbiage of our event. 

While in La Paz, Amelia and I had spent time shopping and finding some interesting items for her to use to create our initiation. I had an inkling of what was in her bag of tricks, but I had no idea how Amelia would put to use the items we had chosen. As we approached the equatorial line, Amelia brought forth her ever present pink, waterproof bag; a clear indication that the shenanigans were about to begin!

Our first ceremonial requirement was appropriate clothing. As Neptune’s designated representative, Amelia doled out neon green spandex shorts for Frank and Erik.  My shorts were equally stunning but in a flattering orange!

Three dirty pollywogs awaiting initiation instructions.

Once property attired, our first mandate was to individually demonstrate our gratitude to Neptune by getting our groove on. We had to show off our dance moves to the funky sounds of James Brown’s “Get Up Off Of That Thing.”  

I could have used some liquid courage for this particular part! Frank won the dance round as he threw down some break dancing moves! He went all out, hitting the rug and spinning about to show King Neptune how badly he wanted to become a Shellback. I cannot believe we didn’t take pictures of the dancing!!

Amelia reading an excerpt from the ceremony.

Remember that liquid courage I mentioned? Well, unbeknownst to me, that was exactly what was coming our way! 

Neptune’s mermaid helper had written a poem received an edict from Neptune’s Court which I have transcribed below:

Truth Serum

Truth be told

Honesty is gold 

Whereas lies get you shoaled

They’re shallow and prone to mold

In the realm of the sea 

Only truth comes to be

And so entertaining fallacy 

Is a zero tolerance policy

To test your integrity’s girth

And to ensure your worth

A serum of truth and mirth 

Shall purify your bodily berth 

Dose-e-doe

True colors will show

If your pollywog fellow 

Is friend or foe! 

Stand a beam’s length apart

Make eye contact to start

Like Cupid’s intoxicating dart

Broke da mouth, not the heart

We uninitiated pollywogs weren’t certain what this tale foretold, until Amelia decoded the instructions…. we were to take turns: one dirty pollywog would don swim goggles and stand in the middle of the trampoline while another slimy pollywog would shoot him in the mouth using a squirt gun filled with “truth serum.” 

The truth serum was a mixture of tequila and piña colada flavored Tang. For anyone who travels in Mexico, Tang comes in a ton of flavors and they are surprisingly delicious. They also make excellent mixers for sundowners – or truth serum!

Honestly, we were laughing so hard just standing in the middle of the trampoline wearing ridiculous shorts and goggles, that we were choking on laughter before the truth serum was shot. Aiming a squirt gun is not a perfectly accurate endeavor, especially when combined with a moving boat and a springy trampoline! 

Soon our faces and chests were tie-dyed with truth serum.  When the alcohol actually hit the mark, it ricochetted with vigor into our mouths and we would all double over in laughter while the sprayed pollywog gasped to swallow before laugh-snorting truth serum through his nose!  

The final act of devotion required was signing a creed to Neptune. 

“Now, the third and final deed is a signing of our creed. However, as the rulers of ink are preoccupied with international peace treaties, the octopus clan has requested you sign by the hair of your chinny chin chin. And since none of y’all got hair on your chinny chin chin, a specimen must be procured from elsewhere on your shiny shaved pollywog skins. By offering a lock, you’ll unlock the secrets of the seas. And when cast upon the breeze, it shall be warmly received as a proclamation of your authentic presence here and now and eternal allegiance to living in right relations with the elemental forces of nature within and around you.”

Frank donates his hair offering.

Having plenty of hair upon my head, I offered a lock of hair. Amelia managed to secure a specimen from Frank’s head as well. Alas, Erik’s hair was deemed too short, so Amelia wrestled an offering from his armpit!

Amelia carefully cut away Erik’s offering.
Dropping our hair samples into the Pacific Ocean

Once harvested, our hair was cast upon the equatorial line along with libations of thanks for the initiation and requests for safe passages along our routes.

Popping the top of our offering for Neptune.

We toasted with Prosecco, shared our bubbles with Neptune, turned up the dance music and proceeded to celebrate and cavort on the back deck of TTR.

Tossing the empty to Neptune…. I wonder if the equator wears a belt make of bottles?

Post toast and dance, we flung the empty Prosecco bottle into the sea to remind Neptune’s Court of our exuberant celebration and create sea glass glitter in the depth of the equatorial sand.

Amelia slipped away and returned with our official Shellback Certificates which we now have prominently displayed in our room.

Our official Shellback certifications!

The final act of our celebrating our arrival at the equator was deploying the floating line behind TTR and all of us jumping into the water. Once again, we were swimming in the brilliant blue of the Pacific Ocean. This time at N 0° 00.000’!  Our location was further south and we were a ship full of honorable shellbacks; the dirty pollywogs were no more!

Frank and Mary Grace swimming at the equator.

This write up cannot capture the fun we had celebrating our first “Crossing the Line” and I am unable to truly share the elation and laughter on board. There was something joyous and elemental about reaching the equator that deserved recognition.  I am so glad we commemorated the accomplishment with a memorable celebration rather than simply sailing across the equator as if it were “just another day.”

Amelia created an event for our initiation into Shellbacks that was as memorable as it was fun! Thank you, Amelia. You are one very special person.

Amelia preparing to toss a bottle filled with special intentions brought from friends in Hawaii!

Thanks for reading our blog about Crossing the Line. I hope you enjoyed it and have a sense of the fun we shared. If you have questions, please let us know. If you want more information about this tradition, Wikipedia was a good resource and there are many blogs about both civilian and military ceremonies.

Alaskan Journal ~ July 20 through August 2, 2021 Part II

We were up early and the morning marine layer made for a spooky departure as we left Gut Bay. The day held two surprises…

Another view of departing Gut Bay

The first was that we actually sailed for three hours! We were leaving Baranof Island and crossing the Chatham Straight toward Tebenkof Bay and were able to put up our reacher sail in 9-12 knots of wind at a true wind angle of 135. 

FYI: these whales came toward us and we put the engines in neutral.

The second surprise was encountering pods of whales while we were traveling through the Chatham Straight! I tried to get photos of the tails so I could compare these whales to the ones from Hawaii because I wondered if we had traveled with some of these huge animals across the Pacific Ocean. Reminder: whale tails are unique, like fingerprints, and whales are identified by their tail markings.

This solo otter wasn’t the least bit concerned when we sailed past.

Shelter Cove was our destination in Tebenkof Bay. This anchorage had many sea otters so we didn’t bother putting out the crab pots. The otter population is quite large in Alaska and fisherman/lobstermen think they are out of control.  Since we don’t make our living chasing the same food the otters eat, we found them pretty cute, especially when they would float on their backs with one otter holding another.

Our next stop was a mere eight miles away at Gingerbread Bay. This anchorage was very large and the water absolutely flat. We took a dinghy tour of the anchorage and looked for a trail that was supposed to lead to the Afleck Canal, but we were unable to locate the trail. Frank and I think the hardest part of most hikes is finding the beginning of the trail since many places we visit are not well used. We had our first dinghy mishap in Gingerbread Bay…. the engine clipped a submerged rock that was impossible to see with the sun in our eyes. Bit of damage to the skeg but the engine still runs just fine, thankfully. 

This is actually night time in Gingerbread under a full moon!

The next day was another quick hop of only 9 miles to Exploration Basin. Although we read the SW corner was a good anchorage, we found it a bit tight, poorly charted and exposed to the north. So we anchored slightly north of that area and found an excellent, sandy spot in 40’ of water. 

The water was as clear as the skies!

Exploration Basin was a super fun place to play. We took turns SUPing, then decided a picnic lunch was in order since the day was exceptionally sunny and warm.  We packed some goodies and landed on a nearby island that had an outcropping of land that was connected to the bigger island by a gravel beach. We gathered wood and set up a campfire on the rocks, then sat and enjoyed lunch of wraps, chips and carrots. Of course lunch was ended with s’mores over the fire.  

Lunch was more delicious because the company and surroundings were great!

We spent some time splayed out like lizards on the sun heated rocks, enjoying the unusually warm day.  While compiling wood for the fire, we noticed wild blueberries so we all picked deeply colored, plump blueberries and bagged plenty to use for baking treats.

Stained hands, don’t care! The berries were yummy.

I could have stayed in Exploration Basin several days, but the weather was shaping up for a perfect rounding of Cape Decision, so we had to prepare to leave again the next morning.

Cape Decision with the American Flag fluttering proudly.

The trip from Exploration Basin to Warren Cove was six hours of motoring to cover 43 miles on a sunny day that brought us to a well protected spot and our first sand beach in Alaska! We anchored in 50’ of water, then went to shore to explore.

What a treat to walk barefoot on Alaskan sand, getting a natural pedicure while observing the “rubble” on the beach. Unlike Hawaii, this beach wasn’t scattered with seashells, but with huge logs and smooth boulders. We crossed fresh water rivulets escaping into the bay with starfish resting on the sandy floor.

Perhaps we have read too many detective novels, but guess what we saw!  For those who might be concerned….we did not find anything attached to this “finger.”

No one went missing from TTR and nobody is missing a finger either!

Our consensus was that Warren Cove warranted an extra night so we hung out and did a bit of fishing, SUPing and more beach walking.  Standing on the transom steps of TTR, we managed to catch enough halibut to top up the freezer. We kept two halibut that weighed between 8-10 pounds.Yum! 

Randy cleaning halibut and Frank showing a pre-cleaned halibut.

We also took turns in the dinghy fishing some deeper areas. Frank and I dropped our hooks and immediately caught rockfish which were apparently plentiful and hungry because they bit the minute our lures went deep in the water. However, not all rockfish were legal, and we weren’t sure which we could keep, so we released the two we hooked. 

This rockfish with an inflated swim bladder – he was returned using a weighted, releasing hook.

Interestingly, if you pull a rock fish from deep in the water, their bladder inflates and they are unable to release the air and descend again. Unaided, they will die on the surface. However, the fishing store in Sitka prepared us for this possibility. We had a special weighted hook that we quickly attached to the rockfish. Once the hook was attached, we dropped the fish and hook back into the water and the hook pulled the bloated fish to the bottom where he can expel the air. Once we could tell the weight had pulled the fish deep into the water, we reeled in the hook which is designed to flip and release the fish.  

Happily, this method worked and we didn’t see a dead rockfish surface! But, that was the end of our fishing in those deep waters.  There was no point in fishing and traumatizing the fish when we didn’t know which ones we could keep.

Warren Cove also delivered a fabulous whale experience! While out in the dinghy, we saw a whale near the shallow shoreline, so we went a little closer and were able to watch this whale feeding! It was very interesting to see the whale move in a circle, then a tighter circle. Next he sort of swept upward with his flipper, then up came his open mouth for a quick ton or two of food! It was truly fascinating to watch.  

A whale moving in a circle and rising to feed.

Our departure from Warren Cove was marked by a thick fog which remained during our 32 mile trip to La Bouchere Bay. Alaskan waters are frequently sprinkled with huge logs that must be avoided so we never traveled in the dark and someone was always on watch while we traveled. During this foggy trip, we had to pay close attention to the water as the floating debris could come up quickly and we didn’t want to damage Ticket to Ride

Visibility like this requires close attention.

We were happy to drop anchor in La Bouchere and relinquish our log watch. The guide book mentioned a hike along a rarely traveled road that is a graveyard of abandoned cars. Although usually walking on a road dotted with rusting cars isn’t high on our list of enticing activities, we were all very ready to get off the boat and unwind by taking a casual walk. 

True to the description, there were many abandoned cars. We spent our time deciding which of the vehicles we would choose to restore…. does one of them call to you?

An interesting fishing camp we saw on our walk. I might want my house a bit higher above the water.

The following day we motored 40 miles to St John Harbour which was simply a place to stage our passage through the Wrangle Narrows which required us to time the currents to pass safely. We saw an interesting truck transport which looked like a homemade barge being guided across the water by two service boats.  

Our final stop with Shellie and Randy was Petersburg where we arrived the following day, August 2nd.  After two weeks of our own cooking, we chose to eat lunch out at Enge’s Deli which Shellie and Randy remembered from their visit to St. Petersburg. The food was great, so we understand why they remembered Enge’s Deli. Frank and I agree that the cinnamon rolls we bought one morning from Enge’s are the best we have ever eaten!

Shellie is definitely great at research and when all of us talked about how fun it would be to take a float plane tour of a glacier, Shellie kicked it into gear the moment we found cell service. Her first few calls netted nothing, but then Shellie received a return call while we were chowing down at Enge’s…. she had landed us a tour for that afternoon at 2 pm!

BIG KUDDOS to Shellie for setting up this tour. Our pilot, Scott, took us up in his 1953 DeHavailland Beaver for a one hour tour. The cost was $200 per person and worth the expense! Scott was an excellent pilot and he also is a hunting guide, so he could tell us a bit about the area we flew over.  

Seeing the glaciers from above was nothing short of spectacular. At times the glacier looked like a giant Baked Alaskan dessert after it had been flamed.  (I’m probably the only person who thinks that.) The undulating surface punctuated with spires and holes was stunning to see.

I could almost feel the movement of the water before it froze around this rock and although the environment is fierce, there is something compelling about it that made me wish I could walk on the glacier.

That is a 3-way glacier intersection, not a dirty highway.

Flying over the glacier allowed a much better perspective of how much area these ice masses currently encompass. With all of the atmospheric changes occurring and glaciers melting more rapidly now, we are very glad we were able to see them.

For the record, taking off and landing from the float plane was as cool as we anticipated. I would love to take another float plane tour. And how amazing is it that the plane and engine were built in 1953? That is even older than we are!

This was our final day with Shellie and Randy as they had flights out the next morning. We ate dinner at a local pizza joint and talked about the glacier tour and the two weeks we had spent traveling together. It was really hard to believe that our trip together was ending when we could still remember the night we were sitting on s/v Moondance and Randy with Shellie in Hawaii and they first mentioned visiting us in Alaska!

One thing is for certain; we packed a LOT into these two weeks and we were really happy that we had this time to spend with Moondance!

Polar Plunge Report:

Hawk Inlet: 57°

Pavlov Harbor: 54°

Pavlov Harbor: 54°

Takatz Bay: 51°

Gut Bay: 56°

Shelter Cove: 57°

Gingerbread Bay: 56°

Exploration Basin: 57°

Warren Cove: 57° and 60°

La Bouchere Bay 51°

Thank you for spending time reading our blog. Alaska was filled with so much beauty and constant movement that it is hard to whittle down the number of pictures and information in each journal. Looking through pictures, Alaska is even prettier than I sometimes remember. But the feeling of utter serenity I felt when walking through ancient forests: that memory I can recall clearly. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check our Facebook page or Instagram.

You’ll Never Guess What Our Biggest Surprise Was While Motoring in Canada

Perhaps one of the most surprising things we saw while traveling in Canada was when we were motoring along the Cordero Islands. Frank was busy in the cockpit and I was sitting inside at the helm station, on watch, scanning the water for logs and other debris as we travelled.

Suddenly I saw something moving in the water pretty far ahead of TTR. It was some type of animal swimming in the water, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I grabbed the stabilizing binoculars for a closer look and I could not believe what I was seeing.

I quickly grabbed Frank and made him look too….. I didn’t even know this animal would swim, much less that it was such a fast swimmer! Too fast for me to get a picture.

BUT, I did some research and found a photo online:

This photo from Discover Vancouver Island Magazine looks exactly like the cougar we saw swimming across the channel.

According to the magazine article, cougars are territorial and their favorite food is blacktail deer. A cougar’s territory usually comprises an area of 30 to 100 square miles, but they will swim to smaller islands to hunt if they cannot find enough food in their own quarter. The cougar then returns to his usual grounds.

The Vancouver Island Magazine article said that sightings of cougars are very rare and that during their lifetime, many VI residents will never see a cougar.

Cougars have incredibly strong hind legs and can jump 20 to 40 feet horizontally and up to 18 feet vertically! They can run between 35-45 mph but are more suited to sprints than long distances. Cougars are solitary and only mothers and cubs are seen together. A female cougar reproduces once every two or three years. Her gestation is 90 days after which she births 2 or 3 cubs weighing between 1/2 and 1 pound each. The cubs stay with the mother for up to two years.

Image by Matthew Blake (link not working, sorry Mr. Blake)

Cougars will eat almost anything: elk, deer, bighorn sheep, domestic animals such as dogs, horses and sheep. But they will also eat small insects and rodents. Humans are the cougars only predator, though it isn’t considered an apex predator because it competes with other large animals like bears or wolves for food.

How lucky were we to see one and to see one swimming?!

Thank you for dropping by to read our blog. Hope you enjoyed this quick story about Cougars. We were really lucky to see one! If you would like to hear from us more often, please find us on Facebook or Instagram. All the best from us to you.

Passaging The North Pacific Seascapes

Written by Amelia Marjory

Amelia came into our lives last summer in Hanalei Bay. Her delight and joy in the world around her are contagious and we consider ourselves very fortunate to call Amelia our friend and to have had her on board TTR for our passage from Hawaii to Alaska. Amelia’s talents abound and she willingly shared her knowledge of the plants and creatures we encountered in Hawaii and Alaska. Amelia is a poetic writer whose imagery requires no photographs to support it, though I have added one short video to share Amelia’s zest for creating fun even in the middle of the ocean. Thank you for sharing your written vision from our passage, Amelia.

Amelia and Mary Grace on the bow of TTR.

After a sporty night of downwind surfing, Frank and Erik decided to furl in the reacher and fly the genoa around 0400. Suffering some tearing in the leech, the reacher needed relief. As did the crew. For, even from the cozy confines of our cabins, our senses had been on high alert— listening as the bows sliced through icy seas and silently stalled at top of each mounting wave before screaming down its vertical face. 

Even after fractioning our sail area, the relentless winds soared straight into our sole-flying genoa with verve. And while dawn disarmed the threat of darkness, the seas were still unsettled. Cross-hatched swells slapped the starboard hull and barreled beneath the bridge-deck, causing our floating carbon fiber earth to quake from the core.

I entered the salon just before 0500 to take my watch. As usual, Erik had gotten the rowdiest weather of the night, with roaring gusts that propelled us into surfs at 21+ knots. And, as usual, the seas, swells, and breeze began to noticeably calm as I took the helm. I can’t claim to know why, but there seems to be an unwritten night watch law that appoints one particular crew to “exciting” conditions, while another crew member is assigned to more relaxed circumstances. 

While Erik retreated to the cabin, I sat down at the navigation station to orient myself to our new angles, speeds, and weather conditions. My eyes jogged back and forth between the B&G screen and surrounding seas. In my foreground, digital numbers dropped and stabilized, while the seascape beyond expanded with each gentle heave of the respiring ocean. 

After a three day spell of being socked in and sailing through sea-level clouds, the fog was finally dissipating. Relieved, I watched glistening grey waves roll into an effervescent horizon… 

… Though the veil was lifting, a brisk air of mystery still loomed. Thousands of miles of open ocean surrounded us. Leagues of deep sea swirled below us. And we were still riding the edge of a precarious North Pacific weather system…  

***

Between the navigation screen and the evasive horizon, there are infinite points of focus. Each sense is riddled with stimuli of the purest kind— that of unadulterated, elemental information. And, as easy as it is for daydreams to dance in the romance, it’s the ability to engage with this profound reality that is the most fulfilling. For, the sheer vulnerability of traversing some of the world’s most formidable seas is deserving of unceasing awareness— if not for the sake of safety, than at least for the acknowledgement of gracing the raw edge of existence. 

With s/v Ticket To Ride as the chariot that carries us forth, the vessel that harnesses the elements, we ebb and flow with her calculated reactions. I’ve learned to read her mannerisms like a language. She’s a translator, an instrument for the influencing forces of nature. Rarely does she lurch or halt or reel without a subtle forewarning. The stern of the boat always bucks before sliding down a mounting wave. And the bows almost always rear up before the rudders slide out. Based on the shape of her sail or the sound of her rigging or frequency of her quake, she indicates the reality of the wind, the swell, the overall sea state. 

Therein, she (Ticket to Ride) offers an invitation to engage, to adjust course or sheet the headsail or travel the main— take your pick, play, optimize the elemental interaction. Or, just enjoy the ride. 

***

The rest of my shift consisted of watching the barometer rise, the solar batteries fill, and the tea kettle boil. Squinting into the lemony expanse, I scanned for freights or logs or treasures, but the only signs of action were bubbles in our wake. No adjustments needed. We’d earned a champagne sunrise sail. While the crew caught up on some much needed sleep, I saturated in the moment of serene, smooth, North Pacific sailing. 

Secret in a bottle! Amelia spearheaded our 1/2 way ceremonial wine bottle toss.

Let’s Talk Dinghies ~ Tender Thoughts!

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. 

Exploring a cave in Day Tripper.

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:

  1. Intended purpose – this list is almost endless and driven by individual plans.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Day Tripper nestled in an open cave, resting comfortable on its wheels.

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.

Hunter and Clayton using Day Tripper to practice foiling.

TTR Dingy and Engine:

  1. 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
  2. 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:

Frank deploying wheels and pulling dinghy ashore. Engine in neutral and propeller is visible.

Dinghy Extras/Options:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Setting up the box anchor.

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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
  3. Kill switch lanyard: stating the obvious – always wear the kill switch lanyard in case you are thrown from the boat.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 
  9. 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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
A narrow river we explored aboard Day Tripper.

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.

Kaneohe Yacht Club ~ The Embodiment of the Aloha Spirit.

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.

KYC is beautiful and serene at night.

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?

During our early visits, KYC was pretty deserted due to COVID.

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.

One of the walks we took with Lori and Tony – both KYC members.

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. 

Players waiting for the next set to start.

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 

SO….

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.

Ticket to Ride comfortably tied to the end of the dock at KYC.

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!

Sunset beams highlighting the Thursday night beer can race.

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! 

KYC boats sporting their spinnakers.

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?!

A few juniors rigging their WASZPs before zinging away from the dock.

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.

Megaptera Novaeangliae ~ Humpback Whales ~ Even When We Can’t See Them, We Hear Them

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!

Upon arrival in Maui, Ticket to Ride was greeted by whales and rainbows.

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. 

Did you see the white pectoral fin that we saw from TTR?

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.

A page from a humpback whale fluke matching catalog.
(Photos by Jan Straley, NOAA Fisheries permit #14122)

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!

Slow moving female with nursing baby in the anchorage.

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.  

Watch these cute turtles and listen for the whale noise heard between my breaths.

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. 

Such a sweet drone picture of a a cow and calf near TTR.

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.

This whale swam her calf right next to this anchored boat.

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.

Calf circles and breathes while the mom watches from below.

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.

A humpback heat pack spotted from the bow of Ticket to Ride.

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 Run video Frank shot from a drone: males pursuing a female.

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.

A Circuitous Route To Maui In Search Of Humpback Whales

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!

Our route from Oahu to Maui.

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.

Leaving the calm, protected waters of Kaneohe Bay.

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.

A glimpse of the calm trip to Molokai.

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.

This gorgeous sunset also shows the narrow and very calm harbor 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.

Oh deer – you need to get our of 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.

Dave and Gloria toasting a beautiful sunset in Lono 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.

These waves were not predicted!

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.

Leaving Lono Harbor

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.

Approaching Needles.

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.

Even the texture of this formation resembles tree bark.

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. 

Frank and Dave enjoying a breakfast burrito while watching for whales.

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!

Whales from our dinghy.

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.

Clear weather allowed us to see the details of Maui’s mountains from far away.

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.

FIRE on the beach – Christmas Tree Burning

**UPDATE: I have received a message from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources explaining that fires of any type on the sandbar are illegal. In addition, the message states that most of the trees are shipped in from the mainland and they have pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Please look at the full response from DLNR in the comments on this blog to understand the extent of law concerning this event.**

Once a year, in January, on an evening when the tide gets particularly low, an unofficial event takes place at The Sandbar in Kaneoha Bay. Quite by accident we were able to witness this event because we had decided to anchor at the sandbar and enjoy a quiet evening or two on the hook.

Saturdays are often crowded at this local hangout, but this time there were quite a few boats and people making the trek to the edges of the shallows.

Walking to the burn site as the tide continues to fall.

Well, it turns out that every year, after Christmas, an underground communication takes place and discarded Christmas trees are gathered for a huge bonfire. I don’t know how many years this has taken place, but the news travels quickly and quietly. Friends, families neighbors and pets gather early in the day and play in the water until dusk begins to settle and the tide has rolled most of the water off of the sand.

Tommy and Frank stake claim to their “islands.” Apparently Frank needs more land than Tommy.

It is in the twilight, just before dusk truly begins that one or two pontoon boats, piled high with discarded Christmas trees, arrives at the sandbar. With jovial hellos, folks grab the trees and one by one carry them to a dry spot on the sandbar. Volunteers toss the trees haphazardly in a pile, as others form a loose circle around the trees.

Circling the trees before the lighting.

As we approached the the pile and saw groups of people were gathering in the circle, Dr. Seuss’ song, “Welcome Christmas” which the Who people sing on Christmas morning, was playing in my head as I watched the smiling people. (The lyrics are quite nice if you take a listen.)

Can you see TTR way in the background far from any possible ashes?

One minute before the lighting of the tree, a single Roman Candle firecracker was shot into the air.

Sending up the one minute warning firecracker.

One quick flame to the tree pile sparked a huge bonfire. It literally took only moments for the trees to become a heatwave of fire. The speed of the combustion made me realize how Christmas tree fires cause such destruction in homes!

The trees have been lit!
Just minutes after the trees were set on fire.

In this contained and safe environment, the fire was beautiful and enchanting as it danced and devoured the branches. Though we were standing in only ankle deep water, the night air was chilly and the blaze dispersed warmth and light that were welcome.

The fire was itself was pretty and created beautiful reflections on the water.

I was truly amazed by how quickly the fire burned through the trees! I would estimate that an hour after the fire started, the majority of the trees were gone. The remaining debris was washed away as the tide rose and today there is no evidence that the secret burning ever occurred.

Flames created controversy.

In the days after the tree burning, there were complaints on-line about the event as some believe the fire creates mess and debris in the water. For myself, I thought the event was very safe and I saw no mess created. We walked the sandbar the next day and found no trace of the trees. Plus, if any branches do drift off, they are natural and can decompose in the water.

What does surprise me is that people were complaining about the mess of the Christmas Tree burning while not complaining about the mess created by the fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve. I posted a video of midnight fireworks in Kaneohe Bay which were beautiful and more abundant than I have ever seen! I absolutely cannot imagine all the bits of trash left on the streets from that event!

But everyone has his own “hot” button. (See what I did there? hehe) I’m a visitor in Hawaii and we are simply fortunate to see both the New Year’s celebratory fireworks and the Christmas Tree burn.

FYI, those of us on TTR tried to keep a 6′ distance from the others on the sandbar. Even though we were outside and standing upwind most of the time, we did our best to keep distances. We also had our face masks with us if needed.

Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope 2021 has begun in a positive way for all of you. If you have comments or questions, we would love to hear from you. Be sure to visit us on Instagram or Facebook if you want to hear from us more often.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou ~ Happy New Year!

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.

TTR resting comfortably at the beautiful Kaneohe Yacht Club.

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.

Nighttime view while docked at KYC.

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.

Kilauea Volcano, image from volcanodiscovery.com site.

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!

TTR anchored off the Revillagigedo Islands, MX before sailing to Hawaii.

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!

Just another beautiful sight while driving in Hawaii

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.

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