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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Leg 5 - 2005 Hilo to Prince Rupert

Our Itinerary

August 29, 2005 0200, 22.00N, 155.07W, Log: 92,677
Beam reaching at 7.5 kts in 15 kt ESE winds and flat seas under a canopy of stars
Baro: 1013, Cockpit Temp: 77F


Our Leg 5 crew joined us at noon Friday and Amanda had the idea of immediately departing the tiny transient boat harbor in Hilo to anchor off town in Reed's Bay, something I haven't done since 1974. Instead of being surrounded by containers and forklifts, we had clean water, a breathtaking view of 13,500' Mauna Kea and the palm-lined waterfront of Hilo.

We took a break from safety orientation to go for a swim and scrub 1.5 weeks harbor bottom growth from Mahina Tiare. At 0400 Saturday morning our alarm clocks went off and shortly after we set sail along the fabulous Hamakua coast past numerous waterfalls, isolated beaches and valleys for tiny Mahukona Bay, 75 miles away, and just around the NW corner of the Island of Hawaii. We had light winds to start with, but ended up surfing along with a 34 knot following wind as we neared and rounded Upolu Point.

Crew enjoying our first day coastal sail

Waiopio Valley

paul and Rae Lun take a minute to enjoy a last view of land

Peter, an avid swimmer, volunteered to jump in the water to find us the clearest possible spot to anchor amid the coral and numerous large bits of metal and chain left over from the now-removed sugar mill. Since we had arrived in good light we all went on a snorkel tour around the small bay, amazed at the health and color of the coral, myriad of tropical fish and some of the largest chain and bits of iron you can imagine.

After enjoying a full night of sleep, four of us hit the shore before sunrise for a great run in this desert-dry area, so different than lush and tropical Hilo. I made a quick trip to the top of the mast and found the topping lift chafed, so Amanda showed our crew how to end-for-end it. After

Trade wind sailing
hoisting the dinghy aboard we set sail by 0900, eager to get past the the notorious Alenuihaha Channel before the typical 35 kt winds cranked up.

We made it! We close reached across the channel, passing Hana, Maui before steering a NNE course for Canada. Normally the trades blow NE at 20-25 kts, but we have been delighted to have a forecast for several days of ESE then E winds of less than 15 kts, resulting in very mellow sea conditions. No one has been seasick, we have been sailing at 7.5 to 8.3 kts since leaving and are really off to an excellent start!

So as not to induce seasickness, I switched marine weather class for inventorying our three abandon ship containers today.

These mellow conditions will give us the chance to cover a lot of teaching topics early on and we'll be sure to cover weather tomorrow.

Here's our Leg 5 crew:

Linda Thomas, 50, lives on a cool island in South Puget Sound with her partner where they sail a Catalina 22. She is a forensic psychologist in a state hospital and has a private practice on the side. This is her first ocean sailing experience and she is loving it!

Moe Carrick, 42 was an Outward Bound and NOLS (Nat'l Outdoor Leadership School) instructor. She now has a private consulting firm, which helps people do their best work through team and leadership development. Just after getting married, she and her husband Woody lived aboard a Baba 30 cutter for four years in Seattle. Now they and their three children: Ian (12), Cameron (10) and Hannah (4) live in Bend, OR. She really appreciates this opportunity to learn as much as she can preparing for a family cruise to Mexico and the South Pacific, with special thanks to her kids, husband and mom for holding down the fort while she is sailing now.

Tom Bauer, 40 lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he works for Sandia National Labs. He was bitten by the sailing bug while attending U of W in Seattle and learned to sail and race by joining the U of W Yacht Club. Tom is interested in cruising someday, but for now is different ocean learning experiences. He has already sailed from the USVI to Newport and from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas.

Peter Brudrette, 48 is working on Microsoft's new Vista program, he sails a Saga 35 out of Seattle and has a ten year old son, Julien, who is learning to sail at Moss Bay Camp on Seattle's Lake Union. He is also a keen swimmer and cyclist.

Frank Alvarez, 60 lives in Portland but he and Peggy (Leg 4-2005) keep their new Passport 456 in Blaine, very near Vancouver. Frank recently retired from 30 years in the semiconductor industry They have three grown children living in Portland and LA. Hey Peggy, thank for sending the fudge with Frank. It was a real treat after dinner last night! Don't worry, we won't forget Frank's birthday. Any excuse for a party!

Hank Martin, 62 sails a Catalina 36 out of Richmond, east side of San Francisco bay with his wife Betsy who will be joining us on Leg 6 in a few weeks. Hank is an engineer rapidly approaching retirement this December. He and Betsy just placed a deposit on a newly designed Island Packett 440. They live in Auburn, CA and have a daughter Jennifer who lives in Seattle.

September 6, 2005 0700, 41.42N, 143.44W, Log: 93,953 Closehauled at 7kts in 12kt NNW Baro: 1029, Cockpit Temp: 63F, (burrrr!) Cabin: 67F


Monitoring in the high

John and Peter swimming

Peter practices freeing the prop from a tangled line

John, Peter and Linda reel in another mahi

Amanda demonstrates fish lure rigging

Moe and Tom do final check after rigging the storm staysail

Moe tosses out the towing warp

Storm Tactics: towing warp astern

Retrieving the storm drogue

John changes the engine oil

Frank and Peter are on watch and oohing and ahhhing about the huge pod of porpoises that are surrounding Mahina Tiare, zipping back and forth across her bow and gracefully leaping into the air. Let's hope some of their pictures turn out.

We have only 800 miles to Cape St. James, the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands, then another 150 or so miles to Prince Rupert, but we are still looking for the fabled westerly winds. As we have motored north for several days with very light winds and calm seas, the center of the high pressure has moved with us. Finally we are outpacing it, we hope, and perhaps the westerlies will fill in one of these days. Our daily runs have been: 175, 183, 168, 165, 154, 164, 158 and 148.

The calm seas have meant great conditions for teaching, fishing and swimming. Yesterday was the first day we missed swimming, but it may be too chilly to get anyone in the water now that we have fairly solid overcast. With the calm seas we practiced our storm tactics and hoisted the storm staysail, towing warp and launched the drogue. Nearly every day we've caught another mahimahi, and had a class where we over hauled old lures and dressed them up in new skirts. Moe and Linda chose some outrageous outfits for the new lures and Moe was all business in crimping up lures, excited that this would be a fun activity to share with her kids when they go cruising. The lines out today and with the colder water we're now hoping for a change in flavor, maybe we'll catch tuna!

September 16, 2005, 54.19N, 130.19W, Log: 94,944 miles
Side-tied at Prince Rupert Yacht Club, Canada
Baro: 1017, Cockpit Temp: 58F, foggy Cabin: 71F (the furnace is on!)

Not long after that last update the winds filled in. Slowly at first, dying off, then building. We got a little drizzle on the morning of September 7, saw and spoke with a bulk carrier on it's way from China to Vancouver, and managed to cover 155 miles that day.

Commanders Weather spoke of near-gale force northerlies ahead just before we would be making landfall at the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands, so we tightened up our course to between close-hauled and close-reaching. We had hoped to be easing sheets in the more typical NW winds, but knew that the further north we got before the winds turned north, the easier landfall would be in potentially rough sea conditions. We watched our bearing go from 020 magnetic to 035 degrees as we worked our way north in worsening conditions. With winds forward of the beam our daily runs were modest: 159, 154 and 165 on Saturday the 10th. Starting Friday the winds steadily increased, and we kept tucking in reefs and rolling in headsail until at 0600 on Saturday we had a solid 30 knots, gusting 33 out of the WNW and confused, crossed seas. With her substantial displacement (38,000 lbs in the slings), fine entry and long waterline Mahina Tiare really shines in these conditions, charging along at 7.5 knots. The motion below was challenging at times, but everyone managed to sleep and do an excellent job steering. Frank took funny movies of people trying to walk the length of the saloon as the boat pitched in the seas.

Moe and Frank keep a good lookout

Heavy weather sets in

In the middle of this, it was Frank's 60th birthday so we had a surprise birthday party for him, complete with silly noses, treats and coconut-banana tapioca pudding.

Frank's birthday celebrations
As we had enough northing at this stage, we were able to ease sheets and fall off on a beam reach and by 2200 Saturday winds had decreased to 24 knots so we were able to start shaking reefs out.

At 0100 on Sunday Linda spotted the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights! At first she thought the light might have been from the moon, but within minutes the entire sky was lit up with pulsating and flashing white and green lights that kept changing over several hours. What a show!

Yet another ship

Linda and Moe accompany John on the daily rig check

Landfall was on Frank and Peter's watch Sunday morning, and for one of the first times ever when making landfall on the NW coast, it wasn't foggy! As we passed close by some of the rocks, we spotted sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks and saw a few puffins.

Linda and Moe are all smiles as we make landfall at Cape St. James
We had many choices on a route to sail the remaining 185 miles to Prince Rupert. With 30 knot northerlies forecast for the shallow and treacherous waters of Hecate Strait (60 miles wide between the Queen Charlotte Islands and the coastal mainland islands) we knew that a direct course would be impossible, so we laid out three courses for the crossing, depending on how close to the wind and seas we could point comfortably. We ended up motorsailing north along the east coast of the Charlottes for a few miles until the wind picked up. This gave us a more favorable angle across to Caamano Sound and the entrance to Grenville Channel.

Spectacular conditions prevailed all Sunday - brilliant sun, 25 knot winds and lots of white water with the northerly rollers in the relatively shallow water of Hecate Strait. I had thought that the winds would drop as it was getting late in the day and we were starting to get into the partial lee of Trutch Island, but the winds held and at sunset we were still rocketing along toward the narrow channel entrances.

At 2030 minutes after I had thought of slowing down with a third reef in the main, there was a shocking crunch, followed by a loud "CRASH, BUMP, BUMP, BANG, THUD, BUMP". I was instantly up from the chart table, checking the cockpit depth sounder. We had been very carefully plotting our position every 30 minutes but my first reaction was that we must have hit an uncharted rock. (The Canadian Coast Guard frequently broadcasts warnings of newly discovered rocks in the region) As we had 250' under the keel, I figured it was a log and dove to check the bilge, which was dry.

Back up to the cockpit, Moe, who was on the helm calmly said, "We've lost our steering" This is every sailors worst nightmare in this area; on a reef-strewn offshore lee shore with 25-30 knots, no one around, and dark.

Facing aft, I gently moved the wheel and discovered it would turn to starboard, but not to port. As I turned it to starboard, the boat turned, the main violently gybed across, I felt some clunks and thuds, and all the sudden the steering worked perfectly. We got back on course, tucked the third reef in and breathed a huge sigh of relief. We figure we must have hit a log perpendicular to our course, and it must have slid under to bow and keep, then popped up, wedging itself between the keel and skeg/rudder.

At that time the sky lit up with the wildest northern lights show we have ever seen. Now our crew who had earlier questioned my call for a deck watch at the mast were eagerly standing on top of the mast pulpit with our spotlight, eager to avoid another collision with a log.

At 0130 Monday we entered the 55 mile long and very narrow Grenville Channel. Unlike in 1999 when we transited the channel with 0 visability in thick fog and drizzle, we had a clear night, no wind and

Grenville Channel
very little traffic. By 1400 we were out into open water just south of Prince Rupert harbor and stopped to practice Lifesling overboard maneuvers in the sheltered waters.

Prince Rupert looked much quieter than in our last visit. No lines of fishing boats queuing up to unload salmon at the cannery, no freighters filling with wood chips and lumber since the mill had been closed. We were delighted to find a spot at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club dock, and after an extremely thorough Customs inspection we headed to Breakers Pub for a celebratory dinner, then to Amanda's favorite, Cowpaccino's for desert.

Apporaching Prince Rupert

Cow Bay Waterfront, Prince Rupert

Tuesday morning Amanda taught winch maintenance, sail spares, sail repair, we gave MT a thorough scrub and our expedition members took off exploring town (and the King Koin laundramat!). We enjoyed a superb sushi dinner at Ona Sushi, a little net repairing shed turned Japanese restaurant.

Wednesday Amanda taught double braid splicing and going aloft and yesterday Linda did a great job of getting us out of our tight little moorage area over to the fuel dock and back.

And that's it! A very successful (and fun!) Leg 5. Much shorter (250 miles, 3 days) than usual since we were able to sail nearly a straight course instead of the normal course of 1500 miles north from Hawaii.

Sail on to leg 6 or back to leg 4

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