**At the end of this blog is a bit of information concerning sailing specifics.
More than a year ago we passaged west from Mexico to Hawaii, never expecting to experience Hawaii by sailboat. Recently we left the tropical warmth, turned northeast and once again crossed the Pacific Ocean to seek the less traveled shores of Alaska. Another destination that was not part of our original itinerary.
In addition to Frank and me, this voyage included Erik, Tommy and Amelia; our trustworthy crew/friends of Hawaiian residents whom we met during our year in the islands. Along side of Ticket to Ride were our friends Katie and Kevin on sv Kālewa. We met Katie and Kevin in 2019 on the Baja HaHa Rally which travels from San Diego, CA to Cabo San Lucas, MX.
This trip began from Hanalei Bay, Kauai on June 14th with a stunning sunrise and dolphins escorting us away from Hawaii. Amelia’s friends gifted her Ti leaves (pronounced like tea) to ward off evil and give us safe voyage. The Ti plant was brought to Hawaii by Polynesians who believed the plant had divine powers. Hawaiian tradition says that the God of Fertility, Lono, and the Goddess of Hulu, Laka, considered the Ti leaves sacred. Today Hawaiians say using these leaves wards off evil and brings good luck. Thus these leaves are used when making leis, in a grass skirt, or as a cheering noise maker to bring good luck to a favorite sports team. In our case, the Ti leaves were placed on TTR’s bow and each side of the transom to bring us safety and luck on our journey. We shared some of the Ti leaves with s/v Kālewa to insure their safe passage as well.
We experienced a beautiful goodbye after a magical year.
If I were to summarize the passage to Alaska, I think the overarching theme for me would be ease. We had an excellent, capable crew who chipped in with everything; sail changes, watches, weather routing, cooking, cleaning, etc. The five of us managed to work together well and because the wind and waves were predominantly aft, we were able to have individual watches and a unique night time watch schedule.
This trip we chose to have three hour evening shifts with one person on each shift. Since we had five people and four shifts, every night one crew member had the night completely off. This luxury of a full night of sleep made for a very well rested and happy crew!
Another unique aspect of this crossing was that the daylight hours were increasing as we traveled toward Alaska, so each evening the hours of actual darkness decreased. The additional light made “night watches” easier but there is mystical quality to the starry nights on passage that I missed. Sometimes on passage watch, when no other light is visible, the stars are so brilliant that they provide candescence to our path and we are actually guided by the starlight.
Earlier I alluded to the fact that this trip was an easy one and part of the reason is that I had SO much help with meals. Actually, I think I cooked very few of the meals on board with Erik doing the majority of the cooking and Amelia creating delicious salads and homemade dressings. Tommy stepped up to prepare some panko-crusted Hebi. The food we ate was amazing and it was interesting to see how different the meals were using the same ingredients I usually buy. We only repeated one meal in our 12 days of passaging!
None of us could decide which meal was best, so in the comments, let us know which one you think sounds most delicious.
I am limiting the list to our dinners:
Day 1: Beef and noodle soup that was so thick it was more of a stew
Day 2: Homemade chicken noodle soup with a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and homemade dressing.
Day 3: Pork tenderloin in a brown apricot/butter sauce with rice and grilled asperagus, topped off with a lovely latticed blueberry pie baked from scratch (anniversary dinner for Mary Grace and Frank)
Day 4: Split pea soup from scratch with homemade corn bread.
Day 5: Fresh caught Ahi sashimi appetizer, followed by panko-crusted Hebi (spearfish) with rice and a spinach, walnut, goat cheese, dried cherry salad, with another homemade dressing.
Day 6: General Tso’a tofu (tofu, broccoli, quinoa, ginger, peppers, etc) with asian-style salad
Day 7: Homemade pizza (1. pepperoni and cheese 2. pesto, artichokes, goat cheese, capers, zucchini and 3. sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, onion, cheese)
Day 8: Ahi steaks, sautéed green beans & mushrooms, and baked panko parmesan crusted snap peas
Day 9: Fifteen bean ham soup with homemade bread
Day 10: Swedish Pasties (hand-crafted stuffed dumplings) with spinach, bell pepper, cheddar cheese salad
Day 11: Homemade chicken tortilla soup with cucumber, tomato, onion, feta salad
Day 12: Ahi steak with stir fried veggies and rice
I continue to be surprised by how busy we stay during passages, even with crew on board. This passage, weather took more planning than on most trips, so that consumed a lot of time. We also spent some time playing Cribbage, had some music/dance hours (ok, the guys weren’t into this), we soaked up the sun while the warm days lasted, fished and cleaned our catches, listened to pod casts, napped, cooked, cleaned, read and even watched Blue Planet once or twice.
We did encounter one incident when the Doyle reacher leach began showing unsettling wear half way into the passage. Quick to diagnose the issue, Frank and Erik removed the reacher and glued and sewed a repair strip to the leach. They made quick work of the repair and very soon had the reacher repaired and redeployed.
We left Hanalei with a very good weather window. The Pacific High appeared to be firming up and the forecast for the first several days looked positive for sailing. Once again we hired Bruce Buckley to read the weather and advise us along the trip. We ended up sailing between a low system to our west and a high system to our east. We were able to use these systems to our favor most of the time. Thankfully, we avoided any nasty storms and experienced only two minor squalls. Plus we had wind for most of the trip.
This passage was the first time we encountered deep fog which was a really different experience. I would estimate our visibility was 125 yards for 5 days of our trip. It was a little unnerving to sail along at 10 knots of boat speed while unable to clarify the path ahead. We relied heavily on radar and AIS to identify objects we were unable to see in the opaque gray wall and we were thankful each time it dissipated.
At the very end of the passage, a wind shift to the north was predicted so when the wind died, we fired up the engines to insure our arrival in Alaska before the wind was directly on our nose. The last 24 hours or so under motor were used to take care of end of passage clean up. Salt and dew always accumulate on a passage and wiping down the inside of the boat and cleaning the decks is a necessity.
Motoring at the end of a passage is a great time to address damage or breakage and begin repairs, but thankfully our only incident was the sail that Frank and Erik repaired while underway. We didn’t have any damage or breakage to address at the end of the passage. Go TTR!
Originally we planned to sail directly to Glacier Bay, but we allowed the wind to direct our path and that resulted in landing at Sitka, AK. We managed to snag the last open marina spot in Thomsen Marina and as soon as we tied up our freshly cleaned boat, we popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate a successful, safe, comfortable and fast passage.
Sitka felt like we had landed in the quintessential Alaskan movie set! Fishing boats with scores of hard working people on board, pine tree covered mountains wearing snow hats, skies of deep blue with wisps of white clouds and bald eagles soaring in the sky. Our landing in Alaska was a distinct contrast to our departure from Hawaii but it was equally beautiful in a completely different way.
Our buddy boat, Kālewa arrived just a few hours after we did. We really enjoyed keeping in touch with Kevin and Katie and discussing weather options during the passage using satellite communications. Though we weren’t within sight of Kālewa the whole trip, we were in contact and it was comforting to know we were within 80 miles of a friend.
Prior to departing for Alaska, I had heard some sailors say this was their best passage ever. I had also heard stories of pretty difficult trips including one monohull that was finishing a circumnavigation and had to abandon their sailboat 250nm from Seattle.
As always, I was slightly nervous prior to our departure from Hawaii, but thankfully this turned out to be one of our best passages to date.
****** Sailing Speak: ******
Our passage goal was to have a quick, safe, fun and comfortable trip: we weren’t trying to break any speed records.
We left Hawaii with one reef in the main sail and the genoa deployed. We completed the whole passage with R1 (one reef) in the main sail.
The first 2 days of our trip, we were close hauled with an average true wind angle of 55 degrees. Our average true wind speed was 15.67 knots with an average boat speed of 8.96 knots.
By the afternoon of our third day at sea, we recorded our first TWA over 100 degrees and for the remainder of the trip all of our true wind angles were above 100 degrees. We flew a variety of sail configurations including: main-R1 with genoa, main-R1 with reacher, reacher and genoa flying wing on wing, gennaker with genoa flying wing on wind, gennaker with spinnaker staysail, genoa only and reacher only.
This passage was our first long term experience of flying wing on wing head sails and it was an interesting and positive experience for us. We flew our reacher to leeward and our genoa to windward at wind angles deeper than 160. This configuration was comfortable and we could “reef” by rolling in the windward sail. We used this sail combination for 5 or 6 days and felt TTR was quick and comfortable.
Everyone on board enjoyed experimenting with a variety of sail plans while continuing to make good speed over ground.
Passage mileage: 2473 nm
Average speed: 8.6 knots
Max speed: 21.6 knots
Max daily miles: 234.5 nm
Travel time: 12 days – almost to the hour.
Seasickness Note: Tommy brought scopolamine patches and I tried the patch for the first time on this passage. The scopolamine worked very well for me and this is one of the few passages I can remember not being apprehensive about becoming seasick. Thank you, Tommy.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. We would love to hear which meal sounds most delicious to you, so let us know in the comments. We are thankful to the Petersburg Alaska Library for the use of their internet. We hope to update you more often, but have to see what internet we find. Look for quick updates on Facebook or Instagram. Be safe and stay well.
P.S. Our next post is written by Amelia and offers her perspective for part of the passage to Alaska. Amelia is a beautiful writer capable of creating copy for companies or poetic descriptions of her experiences. I’m sure you will enjoy her contribution.