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Pacific Crossing – Mexico to The Marquesas!

**This is a REALLY long post! If you are only interested the sailing bits, please read the 4th paragraph, then skip to the table at the bottom of the blog.

Similar to the old joke that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, our trip from Mexico to The Marquesas in French Polynesia was accomplished one nautical mile at a time until Ticket To Ride had consumed 2,859 nautical miles.  

However, we broke up our consumption by making a stop at the Revillegedo Island of San Benedicto after leaving from La Ventana, MX.  With provisions topped off in La Paz, we took a few minutes to festoon TTR with roses at the stern steps and bow. This Hawaiian tradition for a safe journey calls for Ti leaves, but since those weren’t available, we used the powerful rose instead. 

On April 21st, we sailed to La Ventana where we dropped anchor and enjoyed a day on the hook to decompress from the city and the stress of provisioning and preparing. We spent the day relaxing, enjoying the water and settling in as a traveling group of four. Since Amelia and Erik passaged with us from Hawaii to Alaska, the process of settling in was really the fun of reuniting with friends who are excellent travel companions.

Four sailors sporting TTR hats and visors, ready to leave La Ventana.

La Ventana to San Benedicto was an easy 329 nautical miles.We departed La Ventana after the southern winds died and we hoped for some north winds. A leisurely departure around 9:30 am with only 6.5 k of wind speed, we motored a bit until the wind angle improved then we put up the mainsail, genoa and spinnaker staysail.  Day one we only covered 88nm between 9 am and midnight. The second day we had better winds and covered 188nm which set us up for a lovely 7:40 am arrival on April 25th.  Our trip to San Benedicto took a little over 46 hours with an average speed of 7.1k and a maximum speed of 14.8k.  This was a great warm up for the crossing to the Marquesas.

The Revillegedo Islands are sometimes called the Galapagos of Mexico because they are remote, rarely visited and have plenty of sea life.  We chose to stop here to scuba dive again (our third visit) and enjoy watching the giant manta rays and other wonders below. 

Frank lounging in our new Fat Boy chairs, enjoying a sunset cocktail in front of San Benedicto.

Above water, San Benedicto is desolate, without growth and covered in a loose ash that can infuse the air and dirty the decks on windy days. Under the water, San Benedicto is filled with colorful fish, huge rock pinnacles, deep canyons, giant manta rays, schools of fish and plenty of sharks. 

In the evening we turned on our underwater boat lights and watched the small fish gather. But soon larger fish and sharks arrived for some easy hunting. Then we were surprised that dolphins moved in and usurped the territory forcing the sharks to share the hunting ground….. We didn’t leave the lights on very long as we don’t want to alter the natural tendencies of the ocean dwellers. We did enjoy the show while the lights were shining though.

Amelia captured this photo of the shark swimming in our underwater lights!

The ocean is a marvel of life and we seem to observe new behaviors or new things regardless of how much time we live on the water.

While we enjoyed San Benedicto, there was a little looming reminder that we had a long passage before us and we were all excited to begin.  Our weather window arrived quickly and we departed on Thursday, April 28th at 11:20 am.  The first day of we had steady winds between 8 and 16 knots and very calm seas. We managed a bit over 106 nm with an average speed of 8.9k. I remember thinking this trip would be a cakewalk if we kept those conditions.

Our first surprise arrived in the form of a land bird who joined us as we were leaving San Benedicto. We tried hard to shoo him back to San Benedicto and off to Socorro when we were passing that island. Alas, “Lenny” had other plans and he chose to turn in his Ticket To Ride with us.

Initially, Lenny was very brave, perhaps in shock, and would land on us or near us. Once I was lying down in my room and felt something near my face….. it was Lenny sitting next to me on Frank’s pillow!  Cute as that sounds, Lenny was not house trained so we shooed him outside.  

As animal lovers, we couldn’t bear to leave Lenny in need, so we began feeding and watering him regularly. Ironically, this made Lenny less willing to come near us. Soon we had a knowledge of his food preferences (he loved corn chips and cashew clusters) and we had taught him not to enter the salon but to stick to the outer parts of TTR!

Training Lenny not to come inside TTR was very quick but also a little sad. The first evening, in an effort to train him, we closed the sliding doors while we ate dinner. Lenny kept flying up to the door to try to join us! Then he would walk along the sliding door peering in and making little flying hops to try to find an entrance. It was both comical and sad, but effective. Lenny rarely entered the salon after that evening even though we left the sliding doors open the remainder of the passage!

Lenny decided to study the fish ID book with Amelia!

Lenny was not a fan of winches and would fly to the front of the boat or hide in the dinghy and sometimes fly off the boat whenever major sail changes occurred. When the noises of sail change ramped up, Lenny would fly away, then return shortly later. One the night of day six from San Benedicto, we had several sail changes and there was a bit of rain and wind. Apparently Lenny was pretty unsettled by all the noise and flew a little further than usual from TTR.  But since he had disappeared and reappeared many times over the last days, we weren’t too worried.…

Until we didn’t hear any chirps all morning. On day seven, Lenny did not return. We were hoping he was just extra tired after a busy night of sail changes, but alas, Lenny never returned.  We kept Lenny’s spot stocked with his favorite food for a day or two, just hoping he would surprise us and reappear. We really hope Lenny found a different boat where he is happily ensconced and being well fed. I don’t like to think of our little feathered friend fatigued and lost at sea.

Days and nights on passage are a collidescope of skies, ocean, sunsets, sunrises, naps, food, podcasts, music, stars, stars and more stars! After a few days, a loose routine sets in where we rotate night watches of three hours each, unless there is a weather concern, then we have two people on deck for six hours and they take turns up and sleeping. During the daylight hours, with four souls on board, it is easy to grab naps as needed because somehow all of us end up wanting to sleep at different times.  This trip we changed watch hours so that we could have a variety of views; one person didn’t always have the sunrise or the deep dark hours around 2 am.

Planetary alignment in a beautiful evening sky.

One interesting and slightly disconcerting aspect of this passage was time and time zones. As we traveled south and west, our location changed the timing of sunrise and sunset. Not very far into the passage, sunset was occurring around 8:45 instead of 7:15ish. And sunrise had become 5 am.  This alteration of the sun in comparison to the Mexico time zone on our clocks made it necessary to alter our shifts so we were actually covering the hours of darkness. We had to determine the correct time in Nuku Hiva so we could adjust our internal rhythms as well as our clocks and shift schedule. This passage, the change in time zone felt more drastic than when we sailed from Hawaii to Alaska.

Sunset in front of TTR’s starboard bow.

Turns out, Nuku Hiva time is actually 3.5 hours behind Mexico time. I didn’t even know there were places that altered their clocks by 30 minutes; I thought it was always by the hour. Though upon reflection, the need to adjust incrementally makes complete sense.

The one consistent event on TTR is dinner. We always make dinner a satisfying meal that all of us eat together at the table. The autopilot is on but we remain aware of conditions as we enjoy a meal together.  This is a great time to discuss concerns, recap the day and strategize based on weather information.  This is also a time for us to adjust sails in preparation for night watches before dark sets in. It is MUCH easier to adjust sails in the light and perhaps even be a bit conservative on our sail plan, rather than throw the dice and have to make major adjustments in the dark when conditions have become a little spicy.

As mentioned in the Hawaii to Alaska blog, we eat really well on Ticket To Ride! If you are interested, at the end of this post I have listed our dinners during this passage.

Fishing, or as I call it “dragging,” is definitely hit or miss on TTR. Often we are sailing so quickly our lures get frayed or we are too fast to hook up fish (9+ knots).  But we still try.  The first day we had our lures out, we sailed near a group of birds obviously diving into a fish-boil. Moments later one rod offered the “zing” of a fish on, though the pull was light and sporadic. We hopped into action, furling the headsail, heading to wind to slow the boat, etc. 

Our freed booby bird stayed on board for about 15 minutes. He is beautiful!

Imagine our dismay when we realized a Booby Bird had snagged our line! We brought the bird in as gently as we could and found he had tangled a wing in our line. Thankfully, he allowed Frank and Erik to carefully remove the line – he didn’t even become aggressive.  Really quickly the line was free but the bird chose to ride along with us for about 15 minutes while he was catching his breath. Perhaps Lenny gave him confidence that we were safe.

We spoke gently to the Booby and encouraged him to be well and fly back to his friends, which he did, without issue. Phew! Enough fishing for that day!!

Sunday as the sun was descending into the horizon, the starboard side fishing rod zinged to life. Amelia and I handled sail furling while Frank and Erik pretended to be participants in The Deadliest Catch! Actually, they didn’t pretend anything, but they did land a beautiful Mahi! Yum!

Calm passages are a good time to catch up on some “Boat Love,” as we refer to many boat jobs. The skies were clear, the seas were calm and we took a moment for some TTR maintenance. I polished a little bright work while Frank waxed some painted surfaces.  Not wanting his shoulders overexposed to the sun which was growing more powerful as our trajectory moved us closer to the equator, Frank donned a shirt for protection. However, the combination of sun and effort soon had our captain’s temperature rising; so in the best way possible, Frank made a costume adjustment and rocked his Britney Spears look!

Frank rocking the B. Spears look.

Erik received the award for strangest event during this passage. One night while on watch, he saw a huge object fly across the sky. He still can’t figure out if it was a meteor, a UFO, a comet or something else. Of course we couldn’t access the news to see if anything was reported but Erik did manage to snap this photo which he says doesn’t begin to do the event justice.

Unknown object Erik saw that lit up the sky for 20 seconds!

I find it truly amazing how vast and small the ocean can be. Days on end we will see no one, hear no chatter on the VHF and wonder if the world has disappeared while we were in no mans land. But sometimes it is crazy to actually see another boat come very close to you when there is so much space in the ocean that you could easily pass someone nearby but not within eyesight.

Our friends on s/v Migration, Bruce and Alene, had left a different Revelligedo Island than we did and upped anchor only 45 minutes before us. Bruce and Alene were about 200 nm further along than we were but we hoped to somehow meet in the middle of the Pacific and say hello.

While at sea, we all make a point of watching sunset.

We kept in touch via satellite messages and hoped we would catch them. Late one evening, the VHF sounded a familiar call, “Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride, Migration here.” We jumped for the radio, galvanized by the voice of our friends, only to realize that our VHF was not transmitting well, or maybe not at all! It was very frustrating to hear Migration call and not be able to respond. 

We were not within eyesight, but we could have been within earshot!

Frank and Erik addressed the VHF issue and learned that an essential component had failed. Luckily Frank attached our back up, handheld VHF directly to the mast antenna making it possible to use the radio. Our next visitor will get to bring us the part necessary to make our boat VHF operational.

Just a few days later we spotted a light on the horizon during the early morning darkness. As the run rose, we caught up to s/v Pablo, a monohull heading to Nuku Hiva with five souls on board.  Amelia grabbed the camera and took some lovely pictures which she shared with that family once we were all in Taiohae Bay.

I am not one for “Bucket Lists” but I really wanted to swim in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and I really, really wanted to swim at the equator. There is an area known as the ITCZ, Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, where the weather can be dicy or dead calm; stormy and squally or smooth as glass without a ripple of wind. The ITCZ is a moving area that expands and contracts based on weather, so it is a moving target that sailors try to move through at its most narrow point.

We were blessed with a calm passage through a narrow ITCZ which allowed us to SWIM on Wednesday, May 4th.  First we floated a long line off the stern of TTR as a grab line in case of a current or boat movement. Next, Frank and Amelia chose to jump from the helm station roof, while Erik and I donned our mask and fins. On the count of three, the team jumped into the Pacific Ocean!!

Rainbow spectrum sunset!

Erik was immediately approached by a HUGE marlin – we estimate he was 8-10 feet without his bill! The marlin approached to within about 12 feet of Erik. When I spotted the marlin, he had his mouth open and it looked like he was determining if we were all tasty nuggets dropped from above.  Thankfully he decided we weren’t chum and with one slight flick of his tale, the marlin disappeared into the depths.

I will never forget the beauty and power of the moment I saw that marlin. He was a shiny, sleek sliver-blue suspended in a perfectly clear, dark blue sea. The only thing I can reference to describe him would be a glass sphere, like one on a dest, that has a marlin suspended in translucent blue glass that reflects against his armor-like exterior.  

What an experience!

I am beginning to think Bucket Lists might be as powerful as positive thinking since I was also gifted with the opportunity to swim at the Equator!! Now that was icing on my wishes since my true hope had been to swim at the equator;  but often the weather isn’t cooperative or a boat crosses during darkness. 

Not TTR!   At 10:38 am on May 7th, the chart plotter showed 0 00.000’  We were ON THE EQUATOR! 

We pointed our bows to span the equator and allowed Jude, the auto pilot, the direct our course while we celebrated and swam!

Equator swim!

Tradition 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. 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…. 

Fortunately Amelia is very playful but doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, so I knew fun would be had with just a smidge of hazing. Having said that, our playtime becoming Shellbacks was so fun that it deserves its own blog.  Check back for our next piece with all the details and photos!

Part of our Shellback ceremony.

Many people told us they found a .5 to 2.0 knot favorable current beginning anywhere from 3 degrees N of the equator all the way to Taiohae Bay on Nuku Hiva. We knew Nuku Hiva was only a few days away yet we had only experienced unfavorable currents of up to 1.5 knots.  If we could find that positive current, our travel time could be reduced by at least one full day. 

Alas, no such luck! We only saw negative current or neutral current throughout our passage. Still, our arrival time was anticipated to be sometime on May 11th which would mean our total travel time since leaving La Ventana was only 16 days.  Complaining is completely unwarranted.

May 10th arrived bright and sunny with just a few wispy clouds – perfect for celebrating Erik’s 40th birthday! Amelia had masterminded a fun celebration and while in La Paz we had procured “things” to make this birthday a memorable one.  

Ironically, several times during the passage, Erik had bemoaned not buying a piñata before leaving Mexico. Unbeknownst to him, Amelia had squirreled one away and it was the first step in Erik’s birthday celebration and gift hunt!

Erik was thrilled with his birthday piñata.

We had a great time watching Erik unravel Amelia’s clues for where to find his gifts. New clues and fun surprises were dispersed in the freezer, the dinghy, the mast line bag and even the bilge.  Erik was a good sport and wore the piñata as a hat for much of the day. That evening we celebrated with burgers, homemade buns, yummy veggies and blondies for dessert dessert which we topped it with ice cream we had hidden in the freezer for this special occasion.

Throughout the trip, I tried to have some little special things to help keep the crew happy and make sure spirits were lifted if needed. At the equator crossing, Frank, Erik and Amelia received t-shirts from La Paz. At the 1/2 way point we had a pretty fancy dinner of pork tenderloin in a brown sauce with green beans and rice followed by brownies. When we reached 500 nm remaining, I brought out dark chocolate covered cherries straight from Michigan.

None of those things are really important, but they do make life aboard a bit more fun.

The day after Erik’s birthday we could clearly see Nuku Hiva in the dawn light. A small group of dolphins acknowledged us by swimming past us as we approached Taiohae Bay. The water washing against and away from the mighty elevation of Nuku Hiva was sharp and tumultuous as we jetted in under main and reacher.  By 10:20 am on May 11, 2022, 13 days and 23 hours after leaving San Benedicto, we had set our anchor in French Polynesia.  We had completed our passage to French Polynesia and achieved a milestone!  Without regard for the early hour, we broke out the bubbly to celebrate a successful and excellent trip across the Pacific Ocean.

It bears stating that our passage was truly a blessed one! We saw storms on the horizon that looked destined to inundate us with wind and rain, yet they all passed before or behind us or dissipated before we reached them. At times it felt like the Red Sea was parting before us! TTR felt like she was enclosed in a special space of protection as we encountered very few weather  or sea surprises. 

Our travel time was quick and our breakages nearly non-existent. The only problems we had were: 1. the VHF Box failed and needs to be replace, but Frank rigged up a temporary fix. 2. Our IridiumGo antenna was knocked by the leach of a sail when the wind flogged but while at the Rev’s, Frank went up the mast and installed a protective margarita mix bottle – hahaha, now our antenna is very happy. 3. When we arrived in Nuku Hiva, the anemometer at the top of the mast was loose and Erik took a ride to the top of the mast to tighten the loosened screws.

TTR sailing wing on wing with the “drifter” and genoa.

SAILING SYNOPSIS: This is a simplified table of our sailing, not a perfect representation of detailed sail changes and wind speeds or angles.

Rev Islands to Nuku Hiva, FP on Ticket To Ride TRUE WIND SPEEDTRUE WIND ANGLESAILS DEPLOYEDTOTAL 24 HOUR MILES
Day 113114Main R1, drifter106 (13 hours)
Day 214119Main R1, drifter212
Day 313170Drifter, genoa158
Day 410160Drifter at night, double headsails by day148
Day 511155Drifter only156
Day 613152Drifter only169
Day 74-1317-160Drifter 16 hours, 1 engine 8 hours145
Day 81665Main R2, genoa185
Day 918100Main R2, genoa231
Day 1014105Main R2, genoa 12 hours, Main R1 w Reacher – 12 hours195
Day 1112125Main R1 and reacher205
Day 1215100Main R2, genoa 12 hours, Main R2, reacher 12 hours243
Day 1318123Main R2 and reacher242
Day 1417130Main R2 and reacher





Dinner on TTR is a “thang”

~Mykronos Aubergine Stew – veggies, including eggplant – yum.

~Grilled AK Halibut on a bed of mixed greens and avocado with sautéed poblano pepper, asperagus, onion, etc

~General Tsao’s Tofu with cilantro garnish

~Erik’s Chicken Noodle Soup for lunch on passage  

~Chicken Tacos with homemade salsa: creamy cashew cilantro sauce

~Grilled Pork Chops, salad, rice

~Pasta Bolignaise and sauteed green beans with mushrooms

~Honor-da-veg Day: mixed veggies in Mexican seasoning in flour tortillas

~Pizza Night – homemade pizzas

~One-Pot Chicken pesto pasta (using homegrown basil!), E’s vegetable soup, roasted green   beans with candies rosemary almonds

Caught the first fish – Mahi

~Cajun seared mahi, black coconut rice, salad

~Mahi mahi tostadas…. (Lenny’s last meal)

~Pork tenderloin, curried green beans, rice

~Cinco de Mayo! Chicken tostados

~Cold asian noodle salad with panko crusted tofu

~Equator Pasties (meat pies) and blueberry pie

~Mahi, salad, rice

~Breakfast for dinner – eggs and waffles

~Birthday burgers, buns and fried potatoes, blondies with ice cream as birthday dessert

Phew! This was a long blog. Thanks for reading ALL of that. I hope this gives you some insight into our passage and how our time is spent while at sea. Please send us a comment if you have questions, and keep an eye out for our really fun pollywog to shellback ceremony!

P.S. I didn’t have enough internet to preview this post, please forgive poor formatting or mistakes. 🙂

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.

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.

Dodging A Hurricane ~ Good Riddance Douglas!

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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:

  1. remove sails and canvas
  2. remove any loose objects
  3. tie down anything that remains on deck
  4. tie, cross tie and reinforce all of the lines that keep the boat in the dock
  5. pray

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.

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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:

  1.  TTR is a sturdy, well designed and well fabricated sailboat. She can handle much more than I can. (Ok, I already knew that.)
  2. I love how quiet the rigging is on this HH55!
  3. Frank has a higher tolerance for speed and bumpiness than I do.
  4. 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!!

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts using the comments below. If you want to hear from us more often, please look for us on FB or Instagram (hh55ttr).

Long Walks, Roaring Holes And Albatrosses On Our Anniversary.

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.

DSC07577View 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.)

P6160375Looking 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.

MonkSeal_1000Image 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:

P6160410The aptly name Starfish Cactus in bloom.

P6160405“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!”

P6160412Perfectly 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.

P6160427 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.

P6160422You 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.

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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.

P6160391Still 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.

  1. The Great Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The wings can span to over 11 feet!
  2. Albatrosses live long lives. The oldest known is a female, Laysan Albatross named “Wisdom” who is at least 66 years old!
  3. Albatrosses can fly up to 600 miles without flapping their wings!
  4. These birds can dance! Take a look at the first 15 seconds of this YouTube video and witness the Laysan Albatrosses courting through dance.
  5. Albatross take up to two years in the courting process and then they mate for life.
  6. 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.”
  7. Parents feed the fledglings until they fly and are so tired at the end that they often wait another two years before reproducing again.
  8. There are 22 species in the Albatross family.
  9. Albatrosses eat mostly squid and schooling fish.
  10. Although considered a good omen by sailors, in literature, the albatross is often used metaphorically to represent a psychological curse or burden.

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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?

Thanks for joining us and reading our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, visit our Facebook page. Stay well and be kind.

 

 

 

Floating In an Aquarium During COVID-19 Isolation.

This point can kick up great surf waves.

Honolua Bay, located on the northwest side of Maui, is a very popular stop for local day cruise boats. I have learned that four boats carrying 25-50 people each are often moored here for the day to allow their passengers to swim and snorkel.

“Our anchorageas seen from the road.

The Coronavirus has changed all of that. Instead TTR is sharing this beautiful bay with three other cruising boats who have also sailed to Hawaii for refuge during this pandemic. A local couple escapes here on their monohull as well.

A variety of fish anywhere we look.

Although our plan to sail to French Polynesia is on hold until boarders begin to reopen, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to spend our isolation in Honolua Bay.

A school of Convict Surgeonfish.

Nearly every day we snorkel or swim and every time it feels as if I have jumped into an aquarium. The water is chilly enough to warrant a rash guard or a light wet suit for longer water sessions.

I love those eyes! 

The visibility in the water depends on the surf but usually it is very clear.

A Wedgetail Triggerfish – love those lips!

I am amazed by the variety of fish we see and how wide the range of colors, markings, shapes and sizes.

A pretty Pinktail Triggerfish.

I wonder if there are more varieties of fish than any other species…. no, probably insects have even more varieties.

I’ve seen a trumpetfish as long as I am tall!

Still, each time I snorkel I realize how few fish I can name and that I will never know them all.

What kind of fish is this? Part bird? Part dolphin?

Here are a few more photos taken while swimming in our Honolua Bay aquarium.

The turtle is unfazed by Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance.

The brightly marked Moorish Idol.

Of course there are a few maintenance items we have to take care of because we do live on a boat! However, with so much time on our hands and restricted movement, these projects are pretty easy to accomplish – as long as we don’t need parts or supplies!

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Frank inspecting the anchor light on TTR.

They say timing is everything and that is proven true in the above picture. We have a few college friends who live on Maui and Dave and Nikki happened to drive by the bay while Frank was at the top of the mast. They snapped this photo and sent it to us. It’s fun to see this perspective, so thanks guys!

That’s a peak into life aboard TTR while we are restricted to one location. Hopefully the pictures will brighten your day and offer a slightly different view than one from land. If you are a cruiser who was caught away from his floating home when the pandemic hit, or someone hoping to become a live aboard, maybe these will remind you of what awaits.

We on TTR hope that anyone who reads this is staying well and safe during this crisis. Remember to be especially cautious when restrictions begin to lift. This pandemic has certainly proven that we all share this world, so let’s do our best to be patient and help one another. Wishing each person health, safety and comfort during this challenging time. 

 

2019 Baja HaHa Rally ~ Part 1

Hola from Mexico! It has been forever since I have found time (and WiFi) to sit down and actually write about our travels.

Frank and I were quite busy the last few weeks before the start of the Baja HaHa. We spent our last weeks in Long Beach, CA preparing to leave the country for an extended period of time which means we tried to buy some things we will need/want for the next year or two.  That means we have ordered a LOT of spare parts for TTR and stocked up on some routine things that we like to have and may not be able to find in another country (think favorite spices, shampoos, lotions or potions).

For anyone who owns Amazon stock, don’t be surprised when their monthly earnings drop after our departure! 😉

Our departure date was a firm one of November 4th with the 2019 Baja HaHa. The HaHa is a casual rally of boats that departs from San Diego and makes two or three stops on the way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  We joined the HaHa to meet other cruisers and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow sailors.

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This is where we are going!

We left Long Beach and headed south to San Diego where our dear friends, Ron and Mindy of s/v Follow Me flew in to join us for the 2019 Baja HaHa Rally.  Mindy and Ron left their boat in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala and joined us on TTR for the Rally.

The first official HaHa event for the four of us was the BBQ and Costume Party.  The parameters for our costume were: 1. it must be easy  2. it must be comfy  3. it must not take much time to assemble.

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Our costumes aren’t great, but they are met our criteria!

The result was our “Three sheets to the wind” attire. Happily, everyone knew what we were and assembly took less than 15 minutes.

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Perhaps our favorite costume was s/v Kalawa’s.  Kevin and Katie were Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.  I believe they were the funniest costume of the event.

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Another favorite was the buoy and anchor chain!

Big kudos to Richard Spindler, the HaHa Grand Poobah, who put on quite the start for the 2019 Baja HaHa Rally.

HaHa stert

We trailed the HaHa pack and had a great view at the start.

As the 153 HaHa boats left San Diego, we had a Coast Guard escort, a mariachi band playing from a boat and a fire boat to celebrate the HaHa kick off; thus establishing a festive atmosphere for the Rally.

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Love this fire boat!

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Serenaded as we motor sailed out of San Diego, CA.

The first leg of the Rally was the longest.  We had great conditions for sailing and immediately threw up the Doyle cable-less reacher and main sail.  The wind speed and direction were perfect for a spinnaker but we do not have one on TTR.  The spinnaker would be too large for Frank and me to handle along, so instead we use the Doyle cable-less reacher which we had cut deeper than usual. We can pull the reacher tack toward the windward bow and increase the wind angle range for this sail. 

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Pretty decent speeds for a cruiser boat and less than 11 knots of wind.

Also, Frank had a small stay sail made by Ulman Sails just before we left Long Beach. This sail helps funnel the wind between the main sail and the reacher.  It worked very well and added about a knot to our deeper angled sailing.

HaHa sailing-1

Pretty soon we were toward the head of the fleet and had a beautiful view of the kites.

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Neck and neck spinnakers.

Fishing on this first leg to Turtle Bay was excellent and the VHF was full of reports from HaHa fleet boats who were catching tuna, dorado, skip jack and more.

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Frank and Ron managed to land two tuna.

HaHa sunset to Turtle Bay

Sunset our first night out.

Mindy and I took the first watch and enjoyed seeing this colorful sunset. Ron and Frank took over at 1 a.m. so Mindy and I could sleep until 7 or so.

Our first HaHa stop at Turtle Bay was two nights. The first night we invited the four gentlemen from s/v Day Dream to join us for sundowners. Since they had no dinghy or ice, they eagerly accepted our offer for a ride and chilled drinks.

The next day we strolled around town admiring the unique flare the locals have for appointing their homes.

HaHa in Turtle Bay-1An interesting combination of beads and curios at this home.

After “walking up” and appetite, we found a local taco spot and indulged in lunch and cervezas. Frank was truly happy to reacquaint himself with food from the Baja!

HaHa in Turtle Bay-2

Cell towers trump pavement.

HaHa in Turtle Bay

Ambling toward the baseball field.

We also participated in the annual Baja HaHa Cruisers Against the Locals baseball game.  The baseball game was silly and fun without many rules.  I was amazed how often the cruiser first baseman “missed” a catch!  The game allowed the local kids to show off their prowess on the diamond and some of these kids were very talented!

HaHa baseball

Preparing to play ball!

Once the game was finished, the cruisers donated their baseball equipment and each of the kids was allowed to choose a piece of equipment to keep. I wonder if they agree to play just to get the new equipment? Not really though.  The kids were engaging and enthusiastic.  I think they had as much fun as the HaHa folks.

HaHa Turtle bay sunset

Sunset at Turtle Bay.

This was the extent of our brief first stop of the 2019 Baja HaHa.  I’ll share the remainder of the HaHa in our next blog.

In the mean time, thank you for stopping by. I am truly sorry for the lapse in posts, but travel plus preparations to leave California severely limited my opportunity to write. Hopefully things will settle a bit and I can catch up on some of the things I missed, like our hands-on safety at sea class in Rhode Island!

All the best from Mexico!

As always, thank you for stopping to read our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts and comments so feel free to contact us here. Or look for us on FB where we post more often.

One Foot On Shore And One Foot Aboard

So life aboard Ticket To Ride is great but the other day Frank and I were talking about how we feel like we aren’t really cruisers at the moment but we also aren’t land dwellers.  That old ‘not fish and not fowl’ situation.

We have truly enjoyed being in Long Beach and sailing to Catalina and Santa Barbara Islands. We have taken full advantage of on-line ordering and I’m pretty certain Amazon thinks we are the greatest customers ever.  We have taken advantage of the grocery nearby and cooked new recipes with foods we can’t find in more remote places.  We have gathered with friends to share land events and sailing events.

However, we don’t completely fit into land life since we live on a dock and we don’t have a car.  If we need to go somewhere, generally we ride our e-scooters or take the dinghy, until we accumulate a few errands that are further away, then we rent a car. Also, unlike those in stationary homes and very typical of cruisers, we scramble and scratch to find decent internet and are quite limited in our ability to stream anything. We do have a cell/data plan, but we go through it surprisingly fast if we have to use it for all of our research.

Jeff's visit-7

The first “internet cafe” we found in the Sea of Cortez 2 weeks after leaving La Paz.

In some ways we have the best of both the cruising and the land dwelling world; the conveniences of US good and services, but the option to leave the dock for short escapes from the city.

One super exciting event for me was that one of my brothers, Jeff, came to visit. This is the first time he has visited us since we moved aboard in 2015.  We did our very best to make sure he had a good time and will come visit us again!

As soon as Jeff arrived from the airport, we tossed off the dock lines and sailed toward Catalina Island.  Since I live on a sailboat, it is hard to believe that this was the first time my brother has ever sailed! But he took to it like a duck on water and was soon manning the helm.

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It’s a far cry from a golf course but this pro had no problem.

Jeff has as much energy as Frank does so we keep him busy with hikes, exploring by dinghy, paddle boarding, sailing, etc.  Plus the Long Point Regatta was this weekend which was fun to watch.

The invitation only Long Point Regatta is organized by the Balboa Yacht Club and the Newport Yacht Club and includes three races; the first race was from Newport Beach to White’s Cove on Catalina Island, the second race was a return course from Long Point to Ship Rock and the third race was from White’s Cove to Newport Pier.

Jeff's visit-3

A few of the contestants preparing for race start.

The race start was especially fun to watch as all of the boats danced around the starting buoys waiting for their class to begin. The fact that we had an excellent view of the start while comfortably sitting on TTR’s bow in perfect weather added to the enjoyment of watching the second race.

Here are a few highlights from our weekend:

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We tramped through some overgrown areas to get to this peak – it’s taller than you think.

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We need some serious fishing advice – no bites, no nothin’

Jeff's visit-1

Surprisingly, Emerald Bay was quiet with very few boats.

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Gotta throw some rocks.

Jeff's visit

This great view is the reward for walking up the hills in Avalon .

Jeff's visit-4

Race starts are a little crazy!

When we learned that the final race for the sailboats would begin just outside White’s Cove and end at Newport Beach, we decided to leave a little before the racers, under mainsail alone, and watch the fleet approach. I managed to get a few pics of the sailboats and hopefully we didn’t interfere with their route or wind.

Jeff's visit-2

Grand Illusion was clipping right along.

Jeff's visit-4

I loved watching the boats deploy their spinnakers!

Jeff's visit-3

All the spinnakers made me think of hot air balloons.

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Back row seat for the races.

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Cheers to not racing!

Jeff's visit-6

Sunset dinghy around Naples Island.

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Checking out the houses, boats and greenery.

Jeff's visit-5

Sunrise over Long Beach.

Time on TTR is a far cry from life as a golf professional in Ft. Worth, Texas, but I’m pretty sure Jeff enjoyed the change of scenery and pace ~ for a little while.  Sea life certainly isn’t for everyone and I don’t think any of my siblings would be happy with this nomadic life, but it sure was fun to have my brother aboard. Thanks for making the effort, Jeffrey!

We hope to explore a few of the Channel Islands in mid-September but until then, we are stocking up on US life and making sure we understand TTR as well as possible before we head to Mexico with the Baja Ha-Ha in early November.

Thanks for stopping by to read our blog. We will be back to sea life soon and have more cruiser-like posts. But for now we won’t inundate you with our ‘everyday’ life. Please check out our FB page for more frequent posts.

 

 

 

 

New Boats Are Not Like New Cars. Do we have issues?

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TTR before her departure from Xiamen.

So let’s state the obvious first: cars are mass produced and before the first one appears on a showroom floor hundreds of prototypes have been well and truly tested.  Then a bajillion cars are made and 99% of the time, any problem you take to your local dealer will have been addressed in another car before you arrive.

Boat builds are significantly fewer in number.  The number of units of a “mass” production boat model built is still in the 100s after a couple of years.

Ticket to Ride is one of only four HH55s produced to date, and each boat is customized to the specifications of the buyer. Due to this customization, some of the issues we face on TTR are probably different from issues the other three HH55 catamarans have experienced.

In addition to the uniqueness of each boat, our catamaran is a little city unto itself that must safely carry us from one port to the next and provide all of our electrical, refrigeration, water, power and navigational needs.

Given these facts, it is unrealistic to think that every system on TTR, or any other new boat, would be functioning perfectly at the time of delivery.

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La Paz under a full moon taken from where we are anchored.

Knowing we would have issues that needed to be addressed, we decided long before Ticket to Ride was delivered that we would spend a season living on board to figure out what is working and what needs fixing.  That is the purpose of our trip to the Sea of Cortez.

First let us reiterate that we are very pleased with our boat.  The quality and precision of the interior spaces; cabinetry, tech spaces, painted or veneered surfaces, etc are excellent and we are very impressed.

Ticket to Ride sails like a dream and is more capable than we are. I’m not saying we aren’t decent sailors, but this boat has excellent performance rigging, sails and equipment and she is set up to goooo.

But TTR does have some issues and in the spirit of sometimes removing our rose colored glasses, we will share a few of our current concerns and what is driving us to return to the U.S. for warranty work.  To date we have had very good service and response from Hudson Yacht Group with our questions and concerns. 

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The nav desk on TTR.

Perhaps the most complicated and potentially problematic system on Ticket to Ride is CZone; the electronic control and monitoring system that is the brain of everything with an electron flow on TTR. CZone essentially is the replacement for the AC and DC switching panels seen on most boats plus a whole lot more. With this computer brain and the touch of a screen, through CZone we can program our electrical system to fit our current situation. For example, TTR’s CZone system has 6 programmable modes such as “day cruise” or “anchored home” that allow one to turn off and on all the systems used in those situations with the touch of only a single button.  So when we press “day cruise,” VHFs, navigation screens, winches, etc all turn on when we touch that one button. CZONE is a beautiful thing and yes, there is the potential for problems.  After many, many hours reading manuals and technical support phone time with CZone Tech Support of New Zealand, the CZone, Frank and Mary Grace are living in harmony.

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The company responsible for our electronics package is Pochon out of France.  At the time of writing our purchasing contract, we tried to convince HH to use a U.S. company for this pivotal installation. We knew the chances of having everything right from the start were slim because the system interactions and programming are complicated.  We lost that battle and now we are facing a few disadvantages because our resource for fixing the electronics is a French speaking group in France. Between the inconvenience of differing time zones and language barriers, even issues discovered during the delivery phase are still not fixed.

Explaining the details of the electrical / electronic / navigational issues is complicated and more details than we think most of our readers would like to wade through. The summary is that we are having compatibility issues between CZone, B&G, Mastervolt and the Victron electronic components.  We would really like an expert to come on board to resolve the problems. We also need that expert to communicate clearly so we can become more efficient at modifying the system to meet our particular needs.

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Half of the solar panels on TTR.

The solar installation on TTR is excellent and our 1900 watts delivers so much power that we only run our generator once in a while to make sure it still works! The HH team did a first-rate job of adding the individual solar controllers Frank requested and as a result, our solar farm is producing about 80 percent of the energy we require! (The remainder is topped up by the engines when we motor.)

The wiring, neatness, detail and labeling of our boat electronics done at the HH Factory are amazing. Sailors who come on board and peek at our tech room are suitably impressed, as are we.  However, there are a few glitches in the wiring that need to be addressed.

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That is a pretty tech space!

There seems to be a multi-pronged issue with the wiring to our air conditioning units.  Anytime we try to run the port ACs (the side of the master berth), a relay fails, the inverter/generator reads overload and the ACs quit completely. Frank has spent a lot of time trying to trace the issue and with the consultation of Jessica, HH engineer extraordinaire, he has replaced the same relay switch twice.  Both of the new relays failed immediately. Our Northern Lights 9kw generator is powerful enough to run our ACs but the inverter isn’t recognizing the power coming from our generator and consistently shows “overload” and shuts down. 

Related to this problem is that the generator and inverter/charger aren’t talking well even for basic charging of the batteries.  If we try to charge the lithium batteries using the generator, the charger always shows “float” and never reads “bulk charge”  even when the batteries are low enough to accept bulk charge. Frank has spent a lot of time talking to Victron and MasterVolt (inverter/charger and batteries respectively) and neither is willing to work through the problem with us ie, there is some finger pointing going on. Somewhere there is a wiring issue or a setting issue or a communication error in these units.  This needs to be fixed as we won’t always be in sunny Mexico where solar power is an everyday full charge event.

We really like our B&G navigation/charting system but there are a few issues with it too.  Our AIS and VHF systems are not working consistently and when they do work, they only broadcast or receive information for a maximum of 2- 2.5 miles. Considering our air draft is 88 feet, we should easily transmit and receive for at least 8 miles.

(AIS is an automatic identification system used on vessels to identify traffic. Notices of ships nearby show on the electronic chart and information about that vessel’s size, speed and closest point of approach can be seen. This is a big help when sailing at night and very important because we want large container ships to know we are out on the ocean with them.)

Our B&G autopilot, aka Jude, is mostly excellent. Jude can hold to a wind setting or a heading very well.  She can follow a navigation route too. But sometimes Jude decides to change herself from navigating a route to just holding a heading… that would be like skipping a turn(s) when following directions. 

Speaking of autopilots, we intentionally outfitted TTR with a completely separate back up autopilot system. Our primary one is on the port side and is working. Our redundant system is supposed to be installed on the starboard side but we have absolutely no reading from it and do not think it has been completely installed.

Also, we have recalibrated our electronic compasses several times and there still seems to be some discrepancies between the true compass readings and the electronic readings.  We had our traditional compasses professionally swung before we left L.A. and we are confident that the error is in our electronic compasses.  This has a bit of a domino effect and can cause calculated electronic information to be wrong. Frank is confident this issue involves magnetic interference and relocation is the answer. The problem is finding a 6 meter NMEA 2000 cable in Mexico.

Small things still need to be addressed on TTR as well. Some of these include:

~ a light switch mix up where two unrelated lights turn on/off by the same switch.

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~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tight that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together. 

~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason.

~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. (HH is fabricating and sending us a replacement to fix this problem.)

This is not an exhaustive list of things that need to be corrected on Ticket to Ride, but it does give you an idea of the types of issues we need to resolve when we get back to the U.S.

We must make a very special mention of Thomas and Riccardo of the HH Team.  These two men have done an amazing job of e-mailing with us, trying to troubleshoot our issues from the other side of the world.  They have been extremely prompt and thorough in their responses and we are truly grateful.  It is their responsiveness that keeps us positive that these issues will get resolved.

We are currently achored in La Paz, Mexico, preparing to move south to Cabo San Lucas where we will wait for a good weather window to sail back north toward Ensenada, Mexico and eventually California. 

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Frank is trying to get a few things resolved on our Spectra water maker before we leave here.  Yes, there are a few bugs relating to the water maker, but so much progress has been made with it that I am not even listing it as a problem anymore.  However, kudos to Spectra WaterMaker support and Riccardo of HH.  They have been extremely responsive to Frank’s e-mails and phone calls and so far  we have been able to make water all along even with the problems!! (Everyone knock on wood, please!)

Phew, so there you have another “report” from TTR.  I promise, the next post will be full of pretty sights from the Sea of Cortez.

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Sunset from our anchorage in Isla Coronados.

Thank you for reading our blog. Our posts are pretty sporadic right now because our connectivity is hit or miss here in Mexico. I try to post to the FB page to at least share some of the beauty of this area but I am limited by access. Thank you for stopping by.

Four Months In ~ How Does Ticket To Ride Sail?

This post is long on sailing information and short on photos, but those who want to know about the HH55 Catamaran might find it interesting.

Ticket To Ride was offloaded from the container ship on January 14th and life has been busy since then…in a good way. 

The first two months were all about commissioning our HH55 and having people visit the boat.  TTR is one of only 4 HH55s on the water, and the first one on the West Coast of the U.S., therefore several people came to see the boat and sail on her.  We were happy to meet new people and help Hudson Yacht Group and Morrelli & Melvin show off their 55’ design.

On March 16th we left LA with the Newport Beach Yacht Club Race to Cabo and we arrived in Cabo San Lucas on March 22nd.

After our last guests departed on March 30th, it was time to settle into life on board Ticket To Ride and figure out just how we feel about her.

Hands down the answer is that we are pretty much in love with our new home.  We enjoyed sailing our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, Let It Be, but we wanted to find a catamaran that was faster, sailed upwind and had a tad more space.

We found exactly what we were looking for in the HH55.  The fit and finish of TTR is great and we are very comfortable. However, some boats are built to be very comfortable but they sail like dogs.  Happily, this boat can really sail!

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True wind angle: 134 degrees, true wind speed: 10.6k, SOG: 9.3k, boat speed: 9.6k

We have now had several experiences sailing Ticket To Ride at various wind angles and we love her performance.  TTR’s sharp reverse bows allow her to cut through the water cleanly and the dagger boards help maintain her course without much slippage at all. 

One afternoon we left Ensenada Grande to sail to Isla San Francisco (Sea of Cortez) which is about a 19 nm trip. The sea was choppy and the waves confused.  The wind was fluctuating around 15 knots.  Our destination required us to sail with a true wind angle of 50-53 degrees which translated into 30 degrees apparent wind.

We were flying the main and genoa and averaged well over 9 knots!  AND we sailed directly to our destination – without slipping.  We are definitely fans of the daggerboards.

Oh and not to show off, but we made lunch and sat in the salon to eat it while we sailed!!

Another day in the Sea of Cortez, we were sailing from San Evaristo to Los Gatos and we were tucked in fairly closely to the land, which turned out to be a good thing.  Here are the notes I made after that sail:

The early sail was quite mild with 8 knots of wind and we had the reacher and full main up. Not long into the trip, the wind kicked in and we furled the reacher, put one reef in the main and unfurled the jib. 

The wind continued to climb and soon we were seeing 25 knots of wind.

On Let It Be we used to be able to “reef” the jib by rolling in some canvas but that didn’t work at all on TTR.  When we rolled in a bit of the jib, it wobbled wildly and we quickly unfurled it again.  The winds were very strong so we spilled the main a bit to reduce pressure in the main sail.  We had to keep a close eye on the main and jib sheets and be prepared to release them as we didn’t want to fly a hull!

Our true wind angle varied between 100 and 65 because we altered our heading when we had lighter winds (20K) so we could make our course.  It was a very sporty day and we saw Ticket To Ride move along at 15+ knots for much of this trip! 

Frank was LOVING the sail! I was a little nervous at first but I enjoyed the speed once we were prepared to release the main or jib if we had too much power.

I am amazed at how quickly 20 knots of wind seemed mild after bursts of 30!

We reached Los Gatos quickly and had our choice of spots to anchor.

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The beautiful anchorage in Los Gatos.

Later in the day as boats we had passed while sailing set their anchors, several called us on the VHF and asked just how fast TTR was sailing. (Did I tell you we passed several boats as we sailed?)

Anyway, our AIS and VHF are only working intermittently (at the moment) and apparently the other boats were unable to contact us or see our speed through AIS.  They were very interested to hear how fast we were sailing because they “felt like they were standing still” in comparison to TTR

Yep, this boat can move!

FYI, in hindsight, although we had a reef in the main we should have hoisted the staysail and furled the jib.  But the winds were not in the forecasts and we had no idea they were coming along. 

Here in the Sea of Cortez, we have found that the winds vary often and suddenly. The boats that contacted us on VHF were in the center of the channel and saw winds up to 35 knots. They were also caught off guard by these unexpected winds.

The fastest we have sailed TTR is 24.7 knots when we had professionals on board and pretty perfect conditions in Long Beach, CA behind the breakwater.  We have not replicated this speed on our own and I’m not sure we will try to anytime soon.

In light air with true wind angles of 85-125 degrees, Ticket To Ride often sails very close to wind speed.  It is exciting to be able to put the sails up in 8 knots of wind and sail at 8 knots!

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True wind angle: 96 degrees, true wind speed: 8.3k, SOG: 8.3k, boat speed: 8.7k

TTR feels like a race horse that wants to take the bit and ruuuunnnnn! She gallops through the water and is capable of more than I am willing to do.  Probably Frank should go out with some guys and put her through her paces just because he wants to and I don’t. 

As I mentioned earlier, TTR easily moves through the water. I believe we have less motion on this boat than we did on our Helia and the cleaner motion makes the ride more enjoyable to me.

Ticket To Ride is very comfortable to sail deep downwind, but she isn’t as fast as she could be because we do not have a spinnaker.  We decided that handling such a large sail with just the two of us would be extremely taxing so instead we bought a Doyle Sails Cable-less Reacher which is cut deeper and is on a continuous line furler.  It is this sail that we use when sailing downwind and so far it has worked well. A spinnaker would sail faster, but the reacher is manageable for us.

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L-R: Boat speed: 10.6k, true wind angle: 149 degrees, true wind speed: 18.9k.

We made a long sail from San Juanico to Bahia Conception, about 58 nm, and the wind was deeper than forecast. As a result, we were sailing with a true wind angle of 155-165 in 8-11 knots of wind.  In these conditions, we averaged between 6 and 7 knots of boat speed.

At 150-160, our reacher stayed well filled and the ride of the boat was extremely comfortable.  Frank and I spent the day cleaning the decks, doing laundry, reorganizing a closet or two, etc.

The bottom line is that our HH55 Catamaran is an excellent sailing boat and sail handling is easy with just the two of us on board.  We have high speed winches that allow us to quickly raise sails and make the large sails easy to change or adjust. TTR moves so well in light air that we find ourselves sailing most of the time, even when other boats are motoring. In fact, often we sail much faster than we can motor. 

We sincerely appreciate the excellent design Morrelli and Melvin created and the few modifications they made at our request to make TTR an excellent sailing and cruising sailboat for our needs.  The design by M&M and the fabulous build quality by HH Catamarans has resulted in a boat home we can sail easily and live in comfortably.

Please understand that Frank and I still have a LOT to learn about our HH55. We have not made an overnight passage by ourselves on TTR and we have not faced adverse conditions.  Clearly these observations and comments are based on our current level of experience with our new catamaran.  We do not expect our opinion to change much, but we still consider ourselves inexperienced on this boat.

Thank you for reading our blog. Feel free to visit our FB page for more frequent posts. 

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