Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore cruising seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Leg 4 - 1999, Kona, Hawaii to Prince Rupert, Canada

Aug. 17, 1999 1545 47.46N, 144.14W
Log 27,980 Baro: 1015 Cabin Air: 70F Water: 50F
Winds: WSW @ 14 kts Broad reaching @ 5.5 kts
570 miles to Queen Charlotte Islands, 720 to Prince Rupert, BC


For a passage that started out as a game of snap with straight daily runs of 172,164,165,snap 165 miles, weather competition all too soon became ruthless, turning our speed into a chess game against an ever-shifting North Pacific High Pressure System.

Leg 4 crew


Our eager Leg 4 crew joined us in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and we left at 0500 the following morning crossing the notorious Alenuihaha Channel, en route to Lanai. Mid channel, where mountains and undersea contours accelerate the tradewinds we were served 25-40 kts and washing-machine seas. Wind aft of the beam, Mahina Tiare took off surfing at 9 kts escorted by dolphins. Four out of six expedition members succumbed to seasickness, one so strongly that she decided to leave us on Lanai, concerned that she might not ever get over it for the 18 day passage.

Lanai is one of our favorite stops in Hawaii. Although tiny Manele Bay harbor is a challenge, the gorgeous white sand crescent beach nearby provides excellent snorkeling and body surfing. It was great to meet the crew at the upscale hotel above the beach for sunset drinks and Hawaiian poke after a dip in the surf.

Knowing that this would be our last time on land for 2.5 weeks, crew took off in the morning, for snorkeling, hiking and exploring tiny little Lanai City. Setting sail by 1400, we were able to clear the island of Molokai just before dusk. Once past we were confronted with gusts to 40 kts and were glad that we'd triple-reefed the main and headsail ahead of time. The following day the winds were in the mid-20's then high teens the next.

This is the passage for fishing! Three of our crew, Steve and Jim and Katie had brought custom tropical fishing lures, plus Amanda had made her annual visit to her favorite fishing shop in Kona, so it wasn't a surprise when we pulled as many as three fish per day! Before long the freezer was totally jammed and appetites for fish were less enthusiastic.

Jim and Katie clowning after catching their first of many mahimahi.

Marcel and Amanda greeting friendly albatross on our daily mid-ocean swim.

Let's have this eager-beaver crew introduce themselves!

Steve Gremminger, a 53yr old sailor originally from the Texas Gulf Coast, now living in Kirkland, WA and working on new business development for Boeing. Steve joined the expedition to develop ocean voyaging skills and to confirm that cruising meets his expectations and retirement dreams. Crossing an ocean under sail has been a lifelong dream of his.

Tania Hens, 44 is a geologist and artist from Holland. Her job with Shell has given her the opportunity to live and work in many countries, including Venezuela where she met her husband, Marcel Zeestraten, 38, a process engineer for Shell. For the past two years they have lived in Oman and planning a career break to go cruising. Once they leave us in Canada, they will be flying to Sweden they are considering ordering a Hallberg-Rassy 39 or 42. Tania has found that the ocean is not at all the frightening place she expected, but instead a place full of friendly creatures including whales, dolphins and seabirds that have visited us on the passage.

Katie and Jim Haack, 36 & 34 have left their 6 & 8 yr old sons with grandpa and joined us, "to remove the mystery and some of the fear about ocean passage making. Cruising is a dream we continue to nurture. In these weeks we have gained confidence and have often found profound joy in the simplest of events, the sunset, color of a curving wave, a whale's spouting. We remain unsure of our future cruising plans, but are sure this is an obtainable gift we can share with our children."

For Amanda and I this passage is one of transition. After 2.5 seasons in the tropics the grey, misty skies, fog and slate-colored water will take some getting used to! We must admit that leaving the warmth and beauty of the Big Island wasn't easy, but I have been telling Amanda about the bears and Northwest Indian culture. She claims she's always wanted to dance like a savage around a totem pole like in the movies she watched as a kid. I'm sure we will put her to rights on her misinformed childhood!

Next update: Landfall, Queen Charlotte Islands!
End of Leg 4, Prince Rupert, British Columbia

Tania smiling again, fully recovered from sea sickness.

Aug. 30, 1999 1130 54.19N, 130.19W Log: 28,732 Baro: 1018

At 0547 on Aug. 21 we had a spectacular sunrise with our landfall. The small offshore island of Cape St. James was visible and the SSW 20kt winds meant that we were reaching high seven's! As we approached the small islands, dolphins surrounded as far as we could see, zipping across our bow, surfing on our bow wave, and obviously having an exuberant time. Occasionally we saw comical puffins and inquisitive seals, Marcel felt compelled to jump in and join the critters like we'd been doing mid ocean with the albatross but burrrrr it was too cold!

Steve's mid-ocean glass ball treasure.

As tempted as we were to stop for a look in the southern Queen Charlottes, we knew that Prince Rupert was the first place we could clear customs, and we had a humongous 983 low and cold front chasing us with gale to storm force winds forecasted for Hecate Straits.

Our 90 mile crossing of the notorious Hecate Straits was fast, we could have reefed to make steering easier, but by this stage in the expedition our crew were loving the surfing action and we had the goal of entering the narrow and twisting Grenville Channel before dark.

The cold front nailed us in Squally Channel, just before Grenville Chanel. We had been surfing along wing and wing in fog and poor visibility when 40 knots and driving rain caught up with us. We ended up dropping all sail just at dusk and motoring into Grenville Channel. The tides were with us all day, and we started out in Grenville with a 2kt. boost. As the channel got narrower and narrower we started to have very large tug boats with cargo barges passing us in the dark.

We overheard that they were on positive control from Prince Rupert Vessel Traffic Control on VHF Ch 11, so after a friendly tugboat skipper who was passing us gave us the briefing, telling us each point at which we should call Traffic Control with our ETA at the next point, we checked in. Traffic Control told us of all traffic we would be meeting or would be overtaking us, and we were very impressed with the added safety of using the control system.

At dawn we were out of the Grenville and in a series of channels that led us into Prince Rupert by 1000. Prince Rupert Yacht Club came back quickly to our call on channel 72 and directed us to an empty berth. In a short time we cleared customs and were headed to the hospital.

1.) Cleaning Steve's wound with sterile povidine - Iodine scrub from our medical sea pak.
2.) John using sterile medical stapler from Medical Sea Pak to re-attach Steve's severed end of thumb.
3.) Jim putting final touches on SAMsplint to immobilize Steve's severed thumb

The hospital, you ask? Yes! Steve had the end of his thumb severed nearly off when a hatch dropped on it, and nine days earlier I had carefully scrubbed and stapled it back on using a sterile medical 3M stapler from our excellent Medical Sea Pak. Jim did an excellent job immobilizing Steve's thumb and arm with a SAM splint, and I immediately put Steve on a wide-spectrum antibiotics, not risking any infection. Each time we cleaned it the wound looked better and Steve never lost feeling in the tip of his thumb.

This guy is tough! When the hatch hit his thumb, Steve just said,"Ohhh." He never flinched when I was stapling his thumb back on and we practically had to tie him down for two days to keep him off the helm and on his back where there wasn't any chance of knocking his thumb. The doctor in Prince Rupert said it looked very good, x-rayed it and said Steve should see a hand specialist ASAP, which he did upon returning to Seattle. Yesterday I spoke with Steve's wife Patsy, and she said the hand specialist in Seattle decided not to operate to install a pin in the thumb since it was healing so well.

I would like to thank Dr. Ethan Welch who designed the Medical Sea Pak (available from West Marine) and who consulted with us on treatment, and also Dr. Dion Martley, Amanda's doctor in Auckland whom we also consulted regarding treatment and Jim and Katie's friend and hand surgeon, Mike who advised us on how to dress and tend the wound.

A very important part of this scenario was the ability to communicate quickly and dependably with these doctors through COMSAT's INMARSAT-C e-mail service. We are totally sold on INMARSAT-C as a dependable communication system for ocean cruising yachts. If we were relying on SSB voice or data communications, we would not have had the instant, around the clock dependable communications, the only other option is communicate when radio propagation conditions are right.

I didn't mention this incident when it happened so as not to alarm Steve's family, but we sure are happy to hear that his thumb is healing so well!

Back to Prince Rupert - Sunday passed in a blur, in fact I fell asleep and totally missed dinner at Breaker's Pub above the marina, but woke up in time for desert at the neat Cowpuccino's Coffee House across the street. Monday morning crew took turns going to the top of the mast for rig inspection and learned how to rebuild a winch.

View from masthead of Prince Rupert, B.C.

We can always tell how much our crew's are into the expedition by when they start to pack their bags. This crew didn't start packing until 1130 Monday morning - and the expedition officially ended at noon, so they must have really enjoyed it! Tania and Marcel were flying to Sweden to tour the Hallberg-Rassy factory during their annual Open House and decide between ordering an HR 39 or 42 for their dream cruise.

Once again, Amanda and I felt honored to be teaching such a motivated, first-class group of sailors.

Our week off in Prince Rupert was made even more exciting by meeting Tom, Jenn and 2.5 yr old Sarah from the Ocean 71, Ocean Light II. This boat was previously Richard Spindler's (publisher of Latitude 38 magazine)' Big O, a boat that we considered buying instead of the Hallberg-Rassy 46. Tom has run bear expeditions in Northern B.C. for 25 years and he and Jenn are now on their third season with Ocean Light. They gave us great anchoring and wildlife tips for Alaska and the Queen Charlottes and we told them about shipyards in New Zealand that would do an excellent re-fit on Ocean Light. Amanda and little Sarah had a blast together and Jenn was a wealth of information with fantastic NW recipes for Amanda's book. We are planning to all meet again soon.


For more details on sailing and navigation experience check out Sailing Schedule or contact Tracy in our Mahina Expeditions office: or tel 360-378-6131.

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