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Back in the USA!

In May of 2014 we sailed from the Marquesas northward, once more across the equator and ITCZ, back to the Unites States. This journal entry begins with our passage from the Marquesas.

May 6 - Hawaii Bound

This morning Dave took the last of our Pacific Francs ashore and returned with 3 baguettes, a dozen eggs, several pamplemousse and 2 hands of green bananas. We finished stowing, then had a few moments of anxiety pulling our anchor, as a boat had arrived this morning and anchored on top of it. The crew headed ashore though they knew we were soon leaving. But no harm, we were able to come alongside and pull it up. We motored out of the bay into a squally day with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink weather - rounding the lee of Nuku Hiva, sometimes we were sailing so slow the dolphins got bored. Minutes later we were heeled on a beat in 25 knots. Once clear of the island, the winds settled and are light, as forecast. We are slowly sailing along under a partial moon, fairly comfortable motion, a few night squalls around. Dave altered course a bit to pass Eiao on our starboard. We considered stopping there because no one does (and because it sounds like the refrain to Old MacDonald Had a Farm), but will probably carry on.

May 7 - 07 49 S, 140 46 W - Ugly, then better

Last night we motored in ugly squally rain and flukey winds. Huge systems seemed to park over us, only very slowly moving NW. The boat was closed up like a sauna, but only one leak - in the main hatch. Not an at-sea repair, so I tied a cover over when the rains let up a bit. Last night Dave checked in on the Pacific Seafarers Net, which he did last in 2008 on our Pacific crossing. Gribs show more light NE winds for a couple days but are not showing the rain, and we are still way south of the ITCZ, where this stuff would be expected.

Midday update: the squalls are just behind us now. We passed Eiao, an uninviting grey lump under malevolent inky skies, so gave it a miss. Light NW winds, we are beating into small seas, fairly comfortable but making slooow under-3 knot progress. Makes me want to get out and push us along. At least the motor is off! All is well.

May 8 - 06 12 S, 141 20 W - slow progress

Baraka is sailing NNW in light single digit winds and easy seas, making only 3-4 knots, all sails full up, vane steering. We are sacrificing speed to pinch as high as we can. Dave ran a report that shows unfavorable currents just west of us at 142 W, so we are trying to head north as much as possible. Light winds, slightly stronger, forecast for next several days. Tagish just made landfall in Honolulu after a horrendous 25 day trip, squalls, a gale, torn sails. They were on exactly the same course we are taking. Hope our golden luck holds, though we know there is some nasty stuff ahead. Makes it easier to tolerate these days of slow easy progress. All is well.

May 9 - 04 15 S, 141 28 W - Rolling along

Got up this morning and Dave reported that I'd missed all the excitement. He is being facetious. Day after day we are on the same tack in easy seas and light winds, making 4-5 knots. More of the same forecast ahead. We left all sail up overnight which makes me anxious, but kept the radar on standby for early warning of squalls. Second night in a row of clear skies. Actually idyllic conditions. We are able to head almost due north, excellent. All is well.

May 10 - 01 30 S, 141 09 W

Very nice conditions. Dave put a reef in the main when winds approached 20. Winds almost on the beam, varying from 12-18, seas a bit larger but not bad. We are on course, making 6 knots much of the time, vane steering. We should get another day or two of this before things turn icky in the ITCZ, where gribs show light winds and squalls. Dave reported a blown fuse on the genset, easily reset, and mold on a baguette. The watermaker loses its prime when we lurch to leeward, so he will wait for calmer conditions to run it. The intake is well underwater, but must be getting bubbles. The triviality of these problems reflect how easy the trip is so far. Each day I spoon a delish pamplemousse into a container for the fridge. We have 16 left, should be enough to make landfall.

May 11 - 00 25 N, 141 06 W - Equator Day

Early this morning Baraka crossed the equator for the sixth time. Winds have gone light and we are ghosting along under Fat Albert, 3 knots in 6 of wind on the beam in flat seas under mostly clear skies. Gribs show very light winds for another day or two to the ITCZ, which we expect to find between 5 and 8 degrees north. A large pod of spouting whales just crossed our bow headed NE. All is well.

May 12 - 02 30 N, 141 33 W - Fat Albert RIP

Winds so light that last night we started up the engine. This morning we saw 8-10 knots so we flew Fat Albert, our beautiful asymmetrical spinnaker. This lasted only an hour, until a slight gust blew out the top half, folding it down in a big flap. I will repair it in Hawaii, but it is the ripstop fabric that tore, so it may be near the end of its lifespan, a causality of too much sun. I'll know more when I can lay it out. So we are sailing more slowly now, under full jib and single-reefed main. I repaired the monitor vane control line, nearly chafed through, and we are gliding N at about 4 knots under mostly clear skies. All is well.

May 13 - 04 20 N, 141 32 W - Doldrums

We are now motoring under overcast skies, with 10-14 knots of wind on the stern, which should be ok, but short NE swells coupled with S wind waves snap the boat over and slam the main. The preventers hold the boom fixed, but the battens slap from side to side, shuddering the hull. Dave spent a frustrating watch trying to quiet the boat, reef in, reef out, main on port, main on starboard wing-on-wing. Nothing worked. We finally gave up and started the motor, and tossed the second reef back in the main. The motion is not too awful, something like the whirl-and-hurl rides at county fairs, but it is harder on the boat and on us to have the main flog. Squalls are around but so far have not touched us. Hate to motor when we have wind, but we both want to get through this to the NE trades, which should arrive around 8 N. All is well.

May 14 - 06 16 N, 142 26 W - halfway mark

After the second day of motoring we were pretty happy to start seeing squall lines. One gave us almost 20 knots for an hour, so we shut the motor down and now seem to be getting 10-14 knots from the NE. Every so often another squall line rolls through, but so far only a few have given us rain, and winds are moderate. We are encouraged that we are on the cusp of the trade winds in another day or so. Gribs ahead show favorable conditions for the next week. All is well.

May 15 - 08 07 N, 143 56 W - NE Trades

Uncomfortable beat last night, heeled 40 degrees in lurchy seas and some squall lines as we escaped the clutches of the ITCZ. Someone pointed out at 45 degrees it's just as easy to walk on the walls as on the floor. By morning winds clocked a bit more NE, so now we are on a far more tolerable beam reach with reefed-down main and jib in 17-20 knots under mostly clear skies. Beam seas about 2 meters. Gribs show we are now in the NE trades, and can expect more of the same over the next days, going slightly lighter and continuing to clock just aft the beam. 950 miles to Hilo.

May 16 - 09 38 N, 145 37 W - gray skies

Dave's morning watch had him shortening sail for a long squall line that intersected with our course at a slight angle. As we sailed forward on our NW course, it slid NE to west, with the result that we were continuously in it for some hours. Interesting to see this on our radar. The squall line shows as a long trail of ominous hot red blotches. Winds gusted to 27, more often 25. Now wind is just before the beam, steady in high teens. Motion not too bad, and we are making good 6-7 knot speed even with double-reefed main, reefed jib and staysail. All is well.

May 17 - 11 27 N, 147 54 W - Too fast

Despite shortened sail, including a triple-reefed main, we made 165 miles over the last day on an uncomfortable beat. Winds to 27, we feel the boat working hard. We are being set a little west of our rhumbline by current, and hope to make that up now as winds go a bit lighter and more on the beam. I was in the cockpit when we took a green wave, drenching me. Dave, in the shelter of the dodger, thought this was funny. Sky is finally clearing. We should make Hilo on the 22nd or 23rd. We'll recuperate a few days, then move along fairly quickly to Honolulu to park for much of June if we can score a slip. All is well.

May 18 - 13 00 N, 149 31 W - Lurching along

Winds and seas should be laying down according to gribs, but it is not happening yet. We still have a steady 20-22 knots. By now we should be reaching, but the westward set of the current seems to keep us on a slight beat, taking the seas broadside with occasional sledgehammer blow on the beam. Dave thinks this passage is similar to the uber-challenging Indian Ocean. Dave and I are competing for high scores at Word Solitaire on the iPad, and have been watching the Sherlock Holmes BBC series from Joel. Too rowdy to cook, so we snack, though we do enjoy our daily pamplemousse. 500 miles to go, maybe landfall at Radio Bay on the 22nd. All is well.

May 19 - 14 52 N, 151 01 W - Reverie

Winds slightly down, we continue to make good 5+ knot speed with lively motion. If this keeps up we will make Hilo the morning of the 22nd. Today would have been my mother's 93rd birthday. I wonder what she would have made of our watery lives. I think she would have thought me crazy, but that would not have dampened her unflagging support. Her quiet confidence in us gave her children wings.

375 miles to go. All is well.

May 20 - 16 40 N, 152 23 W - Iron Wind

From too much wind to too little, coupled with a small counter-current, our speed dropped to 3 knots. Normally we'd still sail at that on passage, but now we can smell the frangipani, figuratively speaking. So we have started the engine. Dave reports 70 gallons still in the tanks. He maintains a fuel spreadsheet that shows the break-even where we have enough fuel to motor the remaining distance. It calculates engine and genset hours at their rates of consumption, quite accurately. 240 miles to go. All is well.

May 21 - 18 26 N, 153 44 W - Almost there

110 miles to go, which gives us a daylight arrival tomorrow, sweet. None too soon, we are tired of passagemaking. Winds have filled back in so we are reaching with full jib and single-reefed main. Bruse has arranged a welcoming flotilla celebrating our arrival! (and the sidebar departure of Hokule'a and the Hikianalia on a 3-year circumnavigation). All is well.

May 22 - Landfall, Radio Bay, Hilo

Baraka is back in the USA, first time since early 2007! As we approached Hawaii, an offshore breeze sprung up, bringing perfumed land smells. Between patches of drizzle we doused sails and prepared for landfall. Easy approach, we motored into Radio Bay, a tiny manmade cove tucked behind Hilo's great breakwater. After anchoring, Dave rowed ashore to clear in, while I used my cell phone to call family. With us in the cove is the Hokule'a, a celebrated double canoe and important symbol of Hawaiian tradition, slated to leave in a few days for a 3-year circumnavigation. We have a front row seat of the festivities, speeches and singing. When Dave got back from the easy clearance we moved Baraka to med-moor off the wall, where our hose will reach a faucet. Exquisite luxury!!! The moorage here at Radio Bay is a little odd - there is no shore access, so we will dinghy across the cove to the canoe club to access Hilo. We rigged a clothesline pulley system for the dinghy to get ashore to the showers. The boat is absolutely still, after weeks of lurching. Both Dave and I need to regain our landlegs. Our bodies are still doing the lurching.

Today we will put the boat back into shore mode, clean up a bit, and catch up with food and sleep. Tomorrow we will step ashore and explore.

All is more than well.

May 23 - The Land of Everything

This morning we walked to Hilo's iconic Ken's Pancake House for a gigantic breakfast, more food in a single meal than we've had for months! We thought we might rupture. Macadamia nut pancakes with maple syrup! Eggs and Portuguese sausage. Yum. There we met a Hawaiian couple who very kindly gave us mountain passion fruit from the volcano, fresh lychees, and a welcome ride to the huge mall inland from Hilo. We got a SIM cards for the iPad and modem, topped up cell phone accounts, got a money order to pay the Harbormaster, and then hit WalMart to gawk at the huge quantities of everything imaginable. We are no longer in provisioning mode, so we selected a handful of items, mostly goodies, and made the long walk home to the boat. Life seems so easy - we can phone anyone, speak English, and easily obtain anything we conceivably need. It is all very strange. Almost foreign.

May 24 - Hilo market day

Wednesdays and Saturdays Hilo has a small but bustling Farmers Market. We walked into town from Radio Bay to make up for too many idle days at sea, and perused the stalls, lovely variety and everything looking so fresh. We walked a bit further to visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum. This small jewel documents Mother Nature's urban renewal plan, when downtown buildings and communities were wiped out by tsunamis in 1946 and again in 1964, spawned by earthquakes in Chile and Alaska. It also offers graphic documentation of more recent events, the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 and Japan's 2011 disaster. Hawaii sits smack in the middle of the Pacific rim of fire, and will be hit again. Tsunamis wreck more destruction on Hawaii than do hurricanes.

We wandered back through the market to load up on lettuce, tomatoes, zuchinni, cukes, avocados and snow peas, then caught the dollar (for seniors) bus home to rest our feet.

May 27 - Passage to Lahaina

By Monday a plague of fruit flies had descended on Baraka, covering every inch of every surface and swarming in clouds. We can only think there must have been a great hatching inside a banana or pineapple container in the dockyard next to us. In looking at weather, Dave noticed that the channel between Hawaii and Maui was slated to kick up rough midweek, so with 2 incentives, we pulled anchor and departed Hilo. All day we sailed north past waterfalls and coastline eaten by the sea into steep cliffs. At dusk the wind piped up, to 10, 20, 30, 35! Yikes. We surfed through the channel for 6 hours, breaking seas roaring like a demented freight train at our heels, but were never pooped (another salty term for cousin Bob). We were carrying too much sail, but unwilling to reef on a moonless night in turbulent seas. A lightning storm added more spice. Rounding into the lee of Maui, the winds slowly moderated, then came in gusts, from calm to 30, blasting over the mountains. No wonder they installed wind farms on the hills above us! At Lahaina the yacht club advised moorings were under construction and unavailable, then kindly relented when Dave said we'd just completed a circumnavigation. They called us back and said we could stay 2 nights. We grabbed buoy #3, then tossed the dinghy over and went to town to check in, with the yacht club and with the harbormaster. We found the grocery, then returned to the friendly yacht club for gigantic plate-smothering slabs of prime rib, enough to feed an entire village in Indonesia! We did our best, then took the rest home. Fun day after a hellish night.

May 28 - Kaunakakai, Molokai

After just one short day in Lahaina, we felt ready to move along. The friendly yacht club is in the block between Cheeseburgers in Paradise and Bubba Gumps. That sort of paints the picture. The Front Street shops are packed with tourists buying t-shirts, jewelry, souvenirs, ice cream. We felt a bit like we've stepped through a space warp, into a land of conspicuous consumption. There is little we want, and even less we need. Having said that, we stepped into an art gallery that seemed a museum - intriguing works by Vladimir Kush, who seems a cross between Bosch and Escher, very weirdly wonderful.

This morning we enjoyed a nice sleep in, a fritatta breakfast, then decided to move along while the winds seemed quiet. We dropped our yacht club mooring and headed across the channel to Molokai. Soon the wind piped up to high 20s, but we were ready, flying only a reefed headsail. We made great time, coming along the south side of Molokai to Kaunakakai, where there is a small harbor hacked out of the coral, and a long causeway and protective pier. The wind is howling, but we are cozily tucked in, riding in flat water. Tomorrow morning we will go in to explore this far less touristy Hawaii.

May 29 - Molokai

Yesterday evening we sat in the cockpit and watched women paddling outrigger canoes. They are training for upcoming competitions, and pass close by. Very fun to watch. The Molokai/Lanai ferry comes and goes. Then, just after sunset, a tug pulled a huge barge in to the dock. For several hours a truck and two large forklifts moved containers and tanks from barge to shore in a synchronized foxtrot. We have a front row seat!

This morning we visited the harbormaster - very laid back registration. We'll pay 10 cents a foot per night for the boat plus $2 per person liveaboard fee, or $8.30 a day. We wandered into town, really a village, and found interesting shops, a couple groceries, and a bakery. We rented a car and toured part of the island today, and will see the other half tomorrow. Molokai has historical interest, as sugar plantation, pineapple and coffee farms, and its role as leper colony, originally established by King Kamehamha when leprosy was found to be contagious. Later it was successfully treated and is no longer contagious, but the residents of the colony can live out their lives here if they choose.

Back aboard we watched more paddling, including the in-water relay of paddlers. Two people are in the water as the canoe approaches at full speed. The helms(woman) calls out the positions to be swapped. When the canoe is alongside, two paddlers dive over the starboard side. At the same moment, the two women in the water on the port side pull themselves aboard, and grab the paddle to make the next stroke. Smooth!

May 30 - Windy at Molokai

Drove east in the rental car to the end of the island. After mile marker 25 the steep and twisty road is single lane, through nice scenery, ending at a small beach park. All day we could see frothy whitecaps in the strait between Molokai and Lanai, and were happy to not be out in it. Back in town we found the laundromat and bakery and returned the car, then had a small adventure rowing home. The gusty winds blew us quickly to the boat, and we had to grab on as we zoomed by. I hung the laundry, which seemed to dry in minutes. Thank goodness I have high-wind Reva clothespins from Australia! We added "Minorodo snubbers" when the winds in the anchorage peaked at 35. We last used this technique in Madagascar, inserting spectra loops through the anchor chain, then tying mooring lines to those and running them back to midship cleats to distribute the load. We are not really worried. Even with the gusty wind, the waters here in the anchorage are flat calm. Winds are slated to moderate on Sunday, so we plan to head on Monday to Kewalo Basin Marina in Honolulu where we have arranged a slip.

June 2 - Aloha Honolulu!

We were alarmed awake at 4am to get an early start from Moloka'i to O'ahu. We motored to mid-afternoon, in lumpy seas but no wind, an easy trip. We passed Diamond Head and Waikiki. The Kewalo Basin entrance is marked by buoys. Immediately outside the buoys on both sides surfers are riding the waves, but the entrance between was calm. Ashore, we were met by Jan's brother Bruse, sister Nancy bearing beautiful leis, and Komani with his daughter and nephew, a lovely welcome. We are tied up to a fixed pier, with water and electricity, and will park here a whole month for family visits and R&R. Nice to be here!!

June 7 - Diamond Head

We got a chance to catch up with Active Transport and Tagish, boats we have known several years. They are headed out soon, a month ahead of us, and will give us a sneak preview of conditions on our next passage, around the Pacific High. My (Jan's) brother Bruse has come by daily, first with a most welcome trip to Costco, then a long walking tour of Honolulu, followed today by an even longer bicycle tour, along the beachfront, through Waikiki, Kapiolani Park, and around Diamond Head to the tunnel entrance. There we parked our bikes and climbed to the rim. By then both of our bikes were falling apart - Dave's chain broke, my back tire rotted apart, and handlebars fell off! We had not used them since 2010 or 11, so they need a bit of TCL. Our sealegs are getting a workout! In a beautiful place. Fun days.

June 11 - Island Tour

My sister and bro-in-law loaned "mother", a superior vehicle, and offered to host us in their Kailua home for several days, so we packed up and left Baraka at the dock, taking along Fat Albert. Nancy had agreed to let me use her dining area to sew our spinnaker back together.

To reach Kailua we enjoyed the scenic drive up the west coast of O'hau. It seems every mile or two there is a public park, packed with locals enjoying their gorgeous beaches. We had a great family visit, a chance to catch up, then wound our way home along the north shore. At He'eia State Park, Dave noticed a shelter where traditional dugout canoes were being repaired, including one that had exploded to splinters in the surf. We met Uncle Bobby Puakea who is dedicating his time and energies to restoring lovely koa wood canoes, and passing along his skills to trainees. He took the time to show us a bit of his tools and techniques. After seeing the Hokule'a in Hilo, we are gaining an appreciation for how important canoes are to Hawaiian culture.

Wandering further we came to North Shore Taco where we stuffed ourselves, before rolling home across the island, past rolling fields prickly with Dole pineapples.

June 23 - Family visits

Siblings from both of our families arrived in Honolulu last week for a very fun week packed with activities including the King Kamehameha parade, Aloha Stadium swap meet, Missouri and Arizona memorials, Mikado at the opera house, Doris Duke's Shangri-La and Honolulu Museum, Punchbowl Memorial, dim sum, and fantastic dinners, beach walks and scenic drives... Best of all was sharing all this with our much-loved families, a terrific chance to catch up after our long absences voyaging. They have flown home now, so our focus is once again turning to the boat, and preparations for the final leg home. We plan to stay here in Honolulu 2 more weeks, then move along.

June 24 - Ala Moana Park

Kewalo Basin Marina adjoins the fabulous Ala Moana Park, a 2 mile stretch of Honolulu waterfront. On the eastern end is the huge Ala Moana shopping mall including a Foodland grocery, Longs Drugs, and closeby, a Walmart. With the bikes out, all is easily reached.

Each morning before breakfast I walk the length of the park, people-gawking in the gorgeous setting. The tourists pack Waikiki beaches, a bit further east. The locals enjoy Ala Moana. By 7 am the trail is dotted with joggers, and small groups train on the beach. Young men string bungee equipment from trees for a workout. A large group of Asian ladies do water aerobics, while novice stand-up board paddlers get lessons. Lap swimmers stroke by. A barrier reef creates a lake-calm lagoon. Near Magic Island, really a peninsula, Japanese wedding couples are photographed in their bridal finery, while steps away a homeless man snoozes in his pile of bags. I watch surfers returning to shore, timing the waves to make it up the rocks on the point, and wished I had my camera when a young man buried his bride in sand, on her back with enormous pointy breasts, Diamond Head in the background. A group of old men meet daily for gossip and ukulele. Huge tents are installed for family parties, special occasions like first-year birthday celebrations. A Samoan family walks sadly down the dock to board a boat, carrying a large photo of a departed member and his ashes. In the afternoons hunky men and bouncy girls play volleyball. This morning I followed two policemen on Segways, who ticketed a couple with a small dog in a baby carriage, ignoring the homeless man passed out on the next bench. The park is endlessly entertaining, and my morning walk is a huge bonus to our Honolulu sojourn.

July 4 - Hawaii style

This morning we walked along Ala Moana park, past Ali Wai marina, and into Waikiki. On the way, thousands of locals had set up tents, barbeques, inflatable beds, hammocks, camp cots, playpens, and beach toys of every kind. Meat was searing on hundreds of grills. Generators hummed to power music and lights. The park was packed solid. Many had moved in the day before to stake out a claim, in anticipation of the fireworks display. It was an excuse to party as only the Hawaiians know how.

At Waikiki we watched dozens of outrigger paddling races, cheered on by an enthusiastic beach crowd, again locals. Tiny kids plunged into the surf, rolling in the waves. Between Ala Moana and the paddlers was a stretch of Waikiki lined by umbrellas and loungers ($20 per hour!) peopled by pale or pink-skinned visitors. Clearly the locals were having a lot more fun than the tourists.

Nancy, Denny and Bruse joined us for a cockpit dinner, then walked a few steps to the beach for a terrific fireworks show. Fun fourth! Dad sent a timely email reminding us why we celebrate this day.

July 8 - Homeward Bound

This morning we tied down the dinghy and ran preventer and jacklines. Family and friends came by for alohas and bon voyage wishes. Bruse accompanied us to Keehi where we topped up fuel tanks. Our Honolulu sojourn has been great - fun family times in a great setting.

We sailed up the west side of Oahu in flat water, a good transition back to sea. It is night now, with 20+ knots just ahead of the beam, and we are making good progress on a north bound course. Out plotter says we will hold this course for 1080 miles, then turn right for another 1580. This is intended to take us around the Pacific High. Dave will run daily gribs so we can see where it is. Feels very odd - this is our "last" passage, and our next landfall will be familiar rather than foreign. Time to head home.

Previous: Our Marquesas 2014 journal.

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