I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and I never thought about hurricanes. Tornadoes, yes. Hurricanes? I hardly even knew what they were.
Now we live on a boat and hurricanes are a determining factor in where we want to be at different times of the year and thus have a major influence on our lives. In 2020, we had planned to avoid the hurricane season by sailing to French Polynesia in March. The plan was to stay for a while in the Marquesas Islands where hurricanes are virtually unheard of.
But like every other person in the world, our 2020 plans have changed and we are spending this hurricane season in Hawaii.
Pretty views in Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Fortunately, Hawaii rarely suffers from hurricanes, but recently Hurricane Douglas developed and decided to head toward these beautiful islands.
Randy and Shellie pulling Frank on the foil board.
We were happily anchored in Hanalei Bay, Kauai when Douglas began swishing about in the Pacific and heading this direction. Between swims, foiling practice and visits with other boaters, we began exploring our hurricane options.
Most of the local boaters were taking the hurricane threat fairly lightly but since Frank and I experienced running away from Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit, and we saw friends who remained suffer severe damage, we tend to err on the side of caution.
That little green dot represents TTR in Hanalei Bay.
Folks who have permanent marina slips for their boats already know they are going to ride out any storm in the marina and thus go through some lengthy steps to prepare:
- remove sails and canvas
- remove any loose objects
- tie down anything that remains on deck
- tie, cross tie and reinforce all of the lines that keep the boat in the dock
Since we do not have a permanent marina home, our options vary depending on our location. Here in Hawaii, we had contacted a couple of marinas and they either did not have room for us or only had an end tie available. The issue with an end tie is that we can only secure TTR from one side so we have no way to secure her in the middle of a slip to prevent her from banging against the peer when winds push her in all directions. That was not a good option as we had visions of Ticket to Ride surging and smashing against the dock.
When we were in the Caribbean, it was possible to find mangrove holes where one could anchor and secure the boat and the roots and trunks of the mangroves absorbed much of the storm, thus offering a viable hiding place during a storm.
We are not aware of such places in Hawaii.
Much like when we were in Puerto Rico and sailed away from Hurricane Maria, we believed our best option was also to sail away and avoid the storm altogether. The difference this time was that we didn’t have a destination to sail to; instead we were just sailing out of harms way and would be bobbing about until it was safe to return to land.
There were a few other boats anchored in Hanalei Bay who had the same plan, so several of us left the Bay on Saturday, 48 hours ahead of when the storm was expected to reach Kauai.
When deciding where to run from Douglas, we originally considered sailing north because forecasts showed a chance of the hurricane passing Kauai on its’ south side. But as the storm tracks were updated, it became more likely that Douglas was going to pass over Hanalei Bay or on the northerly side.
After much discussion between us and with other sailors, we decided a better plan was to sail south, thus keeping the Hawaiian Islands between TTR and Hurricane Douglas. The plan was to sail our way south on the western side of the islands while Douglas stormed north on the eastern side of the islands.
TTR sailing w R1 in the main and the self-tacking jib.
Fortunately this plan worked well and TTR encountered very little of Hurricane Douglas’ effects. The highest true wind speeds we encountered was 31 knots and the highest seas we saw were probably 8-10 feet.
We saw no rain and the seas were reasonable.
Frank did an amazing job of reviewing the weather reports, analyzing the wind predictions and guiding us toward the lighter wind spots. In fact, after the storm passed us on Sunday, we saw a long stretch of very flat seas and only 6 knots of wind!
When we sailed out of Hanalei Bay, we had the genoa and self-tacking jib up as foresails. We did find we used the self-taker most often and we had one reef in the main at all times.
All told, we were only out sailing about 48 hours. We left Hanalei around 9 am Saturday and we dropped anchor off of Maui at 8 am Monday.
Things I learned:
- TTR is a sturdy, well designed and well fabricated sailboat. She can handle much more than I can. (Ok, I already knew that.)
- I love how quiet the rigging is on this HH55!
- Frank has a higher tolerance for speed and bumpiness than I do.
- Self-tackers are especially nice when short handing in rough seas.
If I were to change anything about how we handled this sail, I would have put a second reef in the main after we were behind Oahu and had a little distance between where we started and where the eye was predicted to hit Kauai. While a second reef wasn’t necessary and we were completely safe, I would have been more comfortable since we didn’t exactly know how windy it might become; especially at night when I am alone on watch.
I would like to express our appreciation to the many friends who reached out to wish us well and who followed our track as we were avoiding the storm. I appreciated the prayers and the messages we received. It is comforting to know others are looking out for us when we are out of communication and guessing our best course.
Kuddos and big thanks to Frank for handling the lions share of the decision making. He is very good at analyzing the weather and I am often only able to listen as he tells me what is happening so I don’t get sea sick. I’m fortunate that he is so capable and that he doesn’t get sea sick!
This is a very simplified version of the decisions that must go into how to handle an upcoming hurricane. There are so many facets and it takes hours of weather watching and option assessment to come to a conclusion. Each boater must consider the capabilities of his own boat. How prepared is the boat and can it be moved right now? What does your insurance mandate? Have you filed a hurricane plan with your insurance company that must be followed or can it be changed? How much time is available to get into a safe zone before the weather affects sea conditions? How healthy and how capable is the crew? What “outs” are available if the plan isn’t working? Are communication systems up and functioning on the boat? Do you have people in place to communicate in case your weather information fails? Who knows where you are and can keep up with your location in case a problem arises? How much fuel, food and water are on board? These are a few of the factors that must be considered.
At this time, it is very important that we recognize and thank Tommy Henshaw for his incredible help during Hurricane Douglas. Tommy is the young man with whom we became friends in Kaneohe Bay. I think he is our living guardian angel. Tommy was in communication with us several times a day during our Hurricane Douglas sail. Tommy watched our tracks, looked at weather and sent us the latest information based on images we are unable to get while at sea. He sent us messages just to let us knowhe was keeping an eye out for us. Tommy has shared local knowledge and offered information and advice that has been invaluable! Many thanks, Tommy!!
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Exploring Oahu is not easy without a car, so after we finished our two week inter-island quarantine, we rented an auto and set out to explore several parts of this island. We are having some sail work done and will remain in Kaneohe until that is completed, so Kaneohe is our base of exploration for now.
View from the original road between the leeward and windward sides of Oahu ~ and a stop on the Shaka Tour.
Laura Morrelli told us about a self guided tour app called “Shaka Guide Oahu” which we downloaded and used to explore a bit of the island. In addition, we have driven the shores and checked out a few locations that might be nice to anchor in for a few nights once our sails are back on board.
One morning we set out for Ka’ena Point Reserve. Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance told us it was a great walk and that they saw some baby albatrosses there, so we decided to drive over and check it out. (Albatrosses are at the end of this post.)
Looking back toward our starting point at that white sand beach in the distance.
We chose to walk from the state park on the south side of Ka’ena Point, but due to COVID-19, the parking lot was closed which added an extra mile each way to our walk. The eight mile round trip hike was flat and hugged the coast line so there was plenty to see as we strolled along.
At one point Frank and I were startled to hear a growl coming from the rocks and we looked sharply thinking there was a monk seal nearby. But actually the noise was from a blow hole we nicknamed “Old Growler.”
Old Growler spraying mist.
Old Growler actually turned out to be two blow holes and Frank was almost sprayed while taking the second video.
Old Growler spitting at Frank
Ka’ena Point Reserve was established in 1983 to protect the natural dune ecosystem. This is one of the last unspoiled dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands and allows visitors to see what natural dune habitats found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands look like. In 2011, a large fence, enclosing 49 acres, was installed to prevent vehicular traffic and to keep predators like mongooses, rats, cats and dogs, out of the area. Within the Reserve are monk seals, Laysan Albatrosses and other birds and plants unique to Hawaii.
Monk seals are the only marine mammal that reside only within US Territorial waters and the majority of these endangered seals live in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Image from Hawaiian Ocean Project
We were lucky enough to see two monk seals; one at the beach at the start of our walk and the other on the rocks at the point. Both were sleeping in the sun and the only movement I saw was a very occasional flipper flick. Visitors are required to keep a distance of 150 feet so I couldn’t get a decent photo.
We also saw some unique plants:
The aptly name Starfish Cactus in bloom.
“Sedeveria” or “Green Rose” grew with abandon throughout the Reserve.
Our friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally know that Frank and I love to stumble upon bubbly pools and when we do, we climb or trek energetically just to submerge ourselves in those waters.
There were several bubbly pool candidates as we walked to the Reserve and on our way back we just had to stop at the one we deemed “the best!”
Perfectly clear water inviting us to cool off.
We had to scramble down some rocks to get to this little pool, but the volcanic rock was rough and not slippery which was helpful. We lounged in the water, which was the perfect temperature, and Frank took pictures of plants and fish under the water.
Four little fishies in this picture.
Pretty quickly the waves grew as the tide came up, and this pool could clearly become rough and dangerous. We had to abandon our bubbly pool when the waves began crashing over the rocks, but it sure was fun and refreshing.
You can see the wave hitting the rocks behind us!
After our hike, we drove to Ko Olina Marina where our friends Dan and Susan of s/v Kini Pōpō and Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were meeting us to share dinner and celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Of course we stopped for a couple of bottles of bubbly to mark the occasion. It was really great to celebrate our anniversary with an excellent walk and time with special friends! Thank you Moondance for hosting and Kini Pōpō for staying awake after your overnight sail from Maui!
AND NOW, on to the Albatross…..
“At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.
It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!”
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)
Who remembers reading this poem in high school? The Rime is about an old mariner who relates his experiences to a man he happens to stop while walking along a road. I remembered little about this poem except that the sailor had to hang an albatross around his neck.
The albatross was considered an omen of good luck to sailors because it usually indicated the wind was coming up and the sails would soon be filled again. Plus birds were thought to be able to move between the spiritual world and the earthly realm so they were considered supernatural and natural. We could discuss this poem for hours, but it is through the Rime that the albatross became a more complex symbol because Coleridge related the bird to christianity and redemption.
Photo courtesy of All About Birds.
Anyway! Ka’ena Point Reserve is one of the few places where Laysan Albatrosses nest and we wanted to see these mythical birds. We saw many fledglings who still had their downy feathers and were not quite ready to fly away. In the distance we saw one grown bird feeding a fledgling. Parents feed their young a thick, concentrated oil extracted from their prey and regurgitate it into the mouth of the fledgling.
Still a lot of downy feathers on this fledgling.
Surprisingly, the birds were sitting in open areas on the sand, not well hidden and very vulnerable. As gusts of wind came through we watched a few fledglings stand and spread their winds, seemly to get a feeling for just how those wings were supposed to work. One or two took tiny hops with wings spread wide, but they quickly dropped back to a laying position as if a tad bit frightened by the test hop.
Seeing how the albatross was historically important for sailors, I thought I would share a few fun facts about them.
- The Great Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The wings can span to over 11 feet!
- Albatrosses live long lives. The oldest known is a female, Laysan Albatross named “Wisdom” who is at least 66 years old!
- Albatrosses can fly up to 600 miles without flapping their wings!
- These birds can dance! Take a look at the first 15 seconds of this YouTube video and witness the Laysan Albatrosses courting through dance.
- Albatross take up to two years in the courting process and then they mate for life.
- Depending on the species, Albatrosses fledglings take between 3 and 10 months to fly and once they take off, they “leave land behind for 5 to 10 years until they reach sexual maturity.”
- Parents feed the fledglings until they fly and are so tired at the end that they often wait another two years before reproducing again.
- There are 22 species in the Albatross family.
- Albatrosses eat mostly squid and schooling fish.
- Although considered a good omen by sailors, in literature, the albatross is often used metaphorically to represent a psychological curse or burden.
Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife.
This picture was taken at Midway Atoll, HI. You have to admit that the Laysan Albatross in this pic has really pretty markings.
So there you have it, a few fun facts about Albatrosses. Now I need to go dig out The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and see if I enjoy reading it now for pleasure more than I did as homework in high school.
Anybody want to join me?
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So we arrived in Mexico City on Monday and we have been running full tilt since – in a very good way. We had planned this trip with Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance who are also applying for a long stay visa (LSV) to French Polynesia. Shellie and Mary Grace have spent a lot of time together or via e-mail reviewing and preparing the paperwork for the LSV, and the four of us had appointments at the French Consulate on Wednesday morning.
Working together, Frank arranged for a private driver (thank you, Eduardo, for helping us!!) and Shellie and Randy arranged for a perfect VRBO.
Our first day was spent preparing the final pieces of our paperwork, getting the appropriate visa photos and checking against each other’s check lists one last time.
Oh the paperwork, the paperwork!
Wednesday we arrived at the consulate and had the first four appointments. We were all thrilled that we had every document required and now we only have to wait four weeks to (hopefully) receive our LSV.
Once the paperwork was submitted, we spent the remainder of our time in Mexico City celebrating and exploring some of the historical highlights. Tonight, Saturday, we are suffering from information overload so we are chilling at the VRBO and taking advantage of the excellent wifi.
Here is just a glimpse of what we toured. By the way I read somewhere Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world.
Right after a celebratory lunch we headed to Castillo De Chapultepec, which translates into “the hill of the grasshoppers.” This castle was a summer home for Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, who, for our Texas friends, also was instrumental in developing the port of Galveston. We hired a guide who inundated us with this and other information including how the castle became a military school which was once over thrown by the US Marines. For the “one minute” history of the castle, see this link.
Stairway entrance from the outside courtyard.
One of about eight stain glass windows of Greek goddesses.
A balcony view of the Promenade of the Empress, now Promenade of Reform.
Upstairs garden with and observatory building in the middle.
After visiting such high falutin digs , we had sundown celebration drinks at Sofitel, a brand new French hotel on the Promenade of Reform and right next door to the American Embassy.
Cheers to finished paperwork and exploring Mexico City.
Looking down the Promenade of Reform toward the castle.
Thursday was a BIG day. We started at the Teotihuacan Pyramids which are about an hour from our VRBO, then we had lunch in a darling town next to the pyramids and we finished the day with a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
At the pyramids, we again hired a guide and Joel was simply excellent! Plus his English was easier to understand than our guide at the castle.
A model of the Teotihuacan City uncovered so far. (Museum of Anthropology)
Honestly, the pyramids were amazing and extremely interesting. For instance, Joel said that if you cut a bag of sand and let it fall, the slope of the hill it forms will be 45 degrees.
Frank climbing up that 45% slope.
The pyramids were built at a 45 degree angle and the theory is that in the event of an earthquake, relatively little damage would occur. (Architects might disagree.)
View from the Temple of the Moon down the avenue of the dead; Sun Temple to the left.
Another interesting point, the steps, seats and walls of the colosseum were built with a 37.5 degree slant to make perfect acoustics! Joel would whistle facing one direction and the sound would carry counterclockwise all the way around the arena.
The huge colosseum with a sacrificial alter in the center.
Joel told us that a game was played on this colosseum field and the winner of the game was immediately sacrificed to the gods. This meant his heart was cut out and the heart and his blood were offered to the gods. YUCK
Perspective: one part of the colosseum and the alter wall to the left.
Joel quipped that in Mexico they say the reason they don’t win Olympic games is that all their best athletes were sacrificed. Macabre humor.
Walls of the homes where the upper class lived.
We saw remnants of some of the noble’s homes which had running water, baths and toilets, plus aqueducts, collecting pools, all kinds of interesting conveniences.
Inside were some beautiful colors and pictographs.
The Temple of the Sun behind us…. yes we did climb to the top.
The view from the Sun Temple required some time.
Another view from the Sun Temple looking toward the Colosseum.
So this is absolutely just a tiny bit of information about the pyramids which were supposedly built beginning in 100BCE and at its zenith had a population of 125,000. You can follow this Wikipedia link for a quick overview.
Tostadas, tacos and enchiladas – yum!
Walking the temples created an appetite so we went to a nearby town for some local food and we hit the jackpot! We sat at a local market and had delicious fare surrounded by locals eating and doing their shopping.
Colorful and clean, we walked the streets and poked about.
After all that pagan imagery, I was happy to stop at the Basilica de Guadeloupe. On this site, Our Lady of Guadeloupe appeared to a poor Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, who had converted to Catholicism a few years earlier. Long story short, on December 9, 1531 Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and asked him to build an alter on the hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego asked permission of the local Bishop who refused until Juan Diego received a miracle. A few days later, Our Lady again appeared to Juan Diego and told him to climb the hill and pick the flowers.
This was December and the hill usually sported cactus and little else. But Juan Diego found a bounty of beautiful red flowers he had never seen before. He gathered the flowers in his tilma (Aztec robe of sorts) and returned to Our Lady who arranged the flowers in Juan Diego’s tilma.
Juan Diego immediately went to the Bishop and dropped the flowers from his tilma at the feet of the Bishop. When the flowers fell out, an image of Our Lady Of Guadeloupe was imprinted on the tilma.
Juan Diego’s tilma: I was stunned by the beauty of this image.
Since 1531, the tilma has been on display and we saw it in person. Honestly, I was stunned by the detail and vibrance of Our Lady! A miracle indeed!!
And by the way, the Bishop recognized those red flowers as Castilian roses which were not grown in Mexico.
On December 26, 1531 an alter was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
One of the older churches erected on Tepeyac hill.
The interior of the oldest church.
Unfortunately I can’t find the reference but one article I read stated that after Our Lady’s appearance to Juan Diego, 9 million people converted to Catholicism!
Currently there are four churches on Tepeyac hill and I didn’t understand enough Spanish to determine which was built when but this appears to be the oldest, though it cannot be the original alter.
A statue depicting Juan Diego’s delivery of the roses and the image.
Sooo, that was our long and very gratifying third day in Mexico City.
Today we spent most of the morning at the Anthropological Museum which was recommended by no less than five different people.
The museum was beautifully done and filled with spectacular artifacts. However, my brain was overwhelmed from the prior days and the fact that all the information was in Spanish and I had to use a translator for every piece. In the end I just looked for things that caught my eye. Here are a few highlights:
A picture from our visit to the pyramid colosseum and…
A restored version at the Anthropology Museum showing how they looked long ago,
Perhaps the most fascinating city to me was the one built on muddy edges of Lake Texcono where the people built “chinampas” which are little artificial rectangular islands. The chinampas were made by planting aheujotes trees that were resistant to dampness at the corners. Then the edges were marked by logs and the plot created was filled with alternating layers of water lilies and mud which provided a fertile base for corn and other crops the Indians farmed.
A depiction of the city built on Lake Texcoco.
This city had canals connecting the chinampas making this a waterway city similar to Venice, Italy. Today the lake no longer exists and Mexico City has grown up all around it.
Most of us have seen the beautiful embroidery and bead work of some traditional Mexican clothing and the Anthropology Museum had displays of old looms and the clothing created.
Such detail and bright color.
This work is all tiny beads individually sewn in place!
I read a few surprising things about the Aztec culture. The upper class would adorn themselves with jewels and precious metals but if a lower class person was found wearing them, the crime was punishable by death! I guess jewelry isn’t always a girl’s best friend!
I thought COSTCO on Saturdays was bad, but 30K?!
Also, I thought this display of an Aztec market was interesting especially since I could see it closely and see the variety of wares on display. But what really surprised me was that the information stated that as many as 30,000 people would visit this market daily!
After a few hours of brain saturation at this museum, we walked back to the Polanco area which is filled with high end shops and sidewalk cafes.
Ahh, the view from a sidewalk cafe!
Today’s lunch was upscale, fat-filled and very tasty!
So we have another half day tomorrow before we fly back to Ticket to Ride. It has been a whirlwind trip and we are ready to get home. But we will miss Randy and Shellie. I cannot imagine two people easier or more fun to travel with and explore this fascinating, extremely large and diverse city!
If you have made it this far into this blog post, you are a champ! This really only covers a portion of our time in Mexico City. Hopefully I can share snippets on the Facebook or Instagram so you can see the lighter side of our trip.
Thanks for digging in and sharing this land adventure. We will let you know if/when we receive our long stay visa for French Polynesia. In the mean time, let us know if you have any comments. All the best from TTR.