IN SAUDI ARABIA

I am in Saudi Arabia for a short job, inspecting a couple of ships.  Its quite warm and everything is covered in sand, not really my type of place but I should be able to top up the boat fund and carry on preparing for next summer.

Anyway, I went offshore yesterday and got marooned on a ship overnight.  With not much to do I started flicking back on the laptop through old photos.  I was surprised to see that I was in Pelican, Alaska on this date – TWO years ago!

Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Main Street Pelican. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Pelican was an interesting place, the sort of place not many people get to as it’s off the beaten track.  I remember interesting and friendly people, a library with good WiFi, fresh salmon and good beer.  Very enjoyable.

Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce
Fresh Salmon. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce

Flicking forward in time to one year ago I found a photo of the underside of the mast where it exits the coach roof, with bits of wood smashed up to make makeshift mast wedges.  At the time I was on my way from San Francisco to Hawaii, it was a bit disconcerting when some mast wedges dropped out and creaks started emanating from the mast.  I think the change of climate may have caused the wooden wedges to shrink a bit as we headed south.  I was happy to have fixed the problem and arrived in Hawaii where I made a more permanent fix once in port.

Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Makeshift Mast Wedge. Sailing Yacht Truce.

This year I find myself offshore Saudi Arabia.  I haven’t been in these waters since I was a young man working on a pioneering SBM project to service the super-tankers of the day.  We managed to achieve amazing things with very little equipment – maybe because we didn’t understand we could fail.  There are far more platforms, barges, rigs and workboats around than the old days – it’s a very busy place now.

Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.
Work Barge Offshore Saudi Arabia. Photo Ray Penson. Sailing Yacht Truce.

By this evening I should be back onshore and writing up my reports.  Then its back on the plane in a couple of days, back to New Zealand and the winter weather.

A NIP IN THE AIR

Last night was cool, for the first time since Hawaii I had track pants on with a long-sleeved fleece shirt.  We are certainly out of the tropics now and I can expect more cold weather when we hit the south westerly winds later this evening.  I will dig out my thermals tomorrow – just in case.

Its only seven hundred miles to Opua in New Zealand but I can’t sail there direct due to weather.  So, we continue our foray to the west.  The sailing weather had been light but pleasant after a bit of rolling last night and we have kept moving nicely in the light airs.

For the past couple of days I have been cutting bits off my stock of carrots.  There is some rot that is turning them black and wet.  Unfortunately, the carrots are now so far gone as to be unusable.  I ate what I could (should be seeing well in the dark tonight) and disposed of the remainder.  The bread I bought in Tonga has also gone mouldy.  In fact, all the fresh food I purchased in Tonga is deteriorating quickly.  I suppose that’s the price you pay for nice fresh food without preservatives or radiation sickness.  No doubt if I had bought the food from an American supermarket it would still be looking fresh a month from now.

This evening I am expecting to pass through a front and the current northerly wind will swing to the south and increase.  Already I can feel a difference in the sea so I suppose the action is only a couple of hours away.

A DAY OF TWO HALVES

As they say in football – today has been a day of two halves.  From midday to midnight we romped along, reefed down, in twenty knot winds doing a comfortable six knots.  At midnight, we had clocked seventy plus miles and all was good.  After midnight we ran into a rain squall (probably a front) and after a brief flurry the wind disappeared.

Since midnight we have been ghosting along and now have the jib poled out to port and doing three to four knots in glorious weather but not much breeze.  The forecasters wanted to give us twenty knots again today – oh how wrong they got it.

It looks like this light weather has blown our planned ETA for the 21st in Neiafu, we will most likely arrive on Tuesday now.  Just another day to wait for a cold beer – maybe I should drink an extra one to compensate.

Last night we watched ‘Men in Black 3’ in the cockpit.  Great movie – they don’t need to make any more MIB’s.  The weather is still hot but absolutely no complaints.  Two fishing boats turned up last night, the first vessels we have seen since leaving Christmas Island.

At lunch time today we used the last of our eggs.  One was a floater so went over the side to Davie Jones.  Fresh food is almost finished now, all that is remaining is a large onion from Honolulu.  It still looks in perfect condition so suspect it has a similar upbringing to the atomic (never go ripe) tomatoes I experienced in Alaska.  Total Voyage distance 1,130 miles.

CURSE OF THE CAMEMBERT

Last night Jessica and I dined on salad, crackers and camembert cheese in the cockpit under the stars.  An hour later I had stomach cramps, then Jessica got it.  We were both violently sick.  The Camembert was the culprit.  It left us both feeling a bit under the weather for a while.  No more camembert on board fortunately.

As expected, the escape from Hawaii is proving to be frustrating and tiring.  After a good start we ran into areas of calm and light airs interspaced with rain squalls.  All day we have been searching out wind, tacking, gybing, drifting becalmed, and motoring.  The torrential rain from the squalls has cleaned the Honolulu dust and grime off the boat nicely but its all very exasperating.

Hopefully tomorrow we can break free from the island effect and head south with the easterly trades.  Voyage distance 106 miles.

HAWAII TO KIRITIMATI

Last night was the Waikiki Yacht Club party.  Another great party and I am partied out and ready for sea.

Richard departed early this morning, back to the mainland.  Now its just Jessica and myself to undertake the final preparations for the voyage.  First was the US Immigration and Boarder Protection at Pier 1.  The clearing out formalities were straight forward and the cost reasonable at nineteen dollars.  We then bought the fresh provisions, fruit and vegetables.

Once back at the marina I topped off the fresh water tanks before we let go around one in the afternoon.  As we exited the entrance channel to Ala Wai marina the gentle lift of the swell under the keel felt good.   A stiff breeze was blowing and soon we had staysail and reefed jib up doing six plus knots in the right direction, south.

I expect the first couple of days out will be a bit frustrating until we clear the wind shadow of the big island.  Then we should have clear wind until we reach the doldrums before Kiritimati.  Only another eleven hundred miles to go.

MORE WANDERING IN HILO

My wish for an uninterrupted sleep didn’t materialise.  In the early hours of the morning the wind woke me and I found the yacht alongside was coming a bit close.  I checked the moorings and all was OK and an hour later the wind had subsided.

Hanging out in Reeds Bay, Hilo Photo Ray Penson
Hanging out in Reeds Bay, Hilo Photo Ray Penson

Later in the morning I finished the mast work and headed ashore in the Rubber Duck.  I caught the local bus into town and had a good scout around.  The market had shrunk in size from yesterday – they have big market days and small market days, today was a small market day.  I bought some nice Papaya and some veggies.

The town is quite run down.  A few tourist shops along the front street and then a lot of vacant buildings in the streets behind.  A couple of miles up the road is a big shopping centre with Sears, Macey’s, Walmart, Safeway, Target – all the big brand stores.  The shops in the town obviously can’t compete and are closing.  Sad because the old town has a nice quirky feel to it.

I didn’t get my Hawaiian shirt today – just didn’t see the killer design I am after.  No hurry.  Lunch of spicy fish curry was taken at Pineapple restaurant.  Nice fresh food washed down with draft Castaway IPA.

This evening the American couple Nick and Taylor came over for sundowners.  Then a British guy, Ben, turned up from nowhere on a paddle board.  He has a boat anchored out in the bay.  All up I had a nice relaxing day.

Thoughts are turning to moving on towards Honolulu.  The winds around Hawaii are notoriously strong. Particularly in the channels between the islands so good planning is needed for an easy passage.  Saturday seems like a good time to head off towards Maui according to the local forecast.  I must leave Radio Bay tomorrow as my mooring runs out.  I will probably anchor around the corner in Reeds Bay which is closer to town – and free.

WANDERING IN HILO

Last night I had a beautiful sleep.  The sleep you get when you are tired and the job has been done.  No interruptions, no wind shifts and secure in the knowledge that Truce was securely moored fore and aft.

I got off to a late start this morning, I must have switched to Island time during the night.  Anyway, I got the rig tensioned up properly as far as I can tell.  The mast wedges are also looking good but I want to put a bit more pressure on the starboard side.  As it was lunchtime I decided to go ashore and finish the mast off tomorrow. Besides a job like this always benefits from some more thinking time.

I caught the local bus, that rattled and shook its way into town.  One of the things I had to do was get a money order to pay for mooring.  The port does not accept cash or credit card, they only accept cheque or bank draft / money order thing.  I finally got what I needed from Pay Day Loans for a cost of eighty-eight cents.  With money order in hand in made it back to the port before they closed and handed my paper over to the clerk.  What a performance and waste of precious time to explore Hilo.

Hilo town is an interesting place and there is a great open-air market that I will explore further tomorrow and stock up on fresh fruit and veg.  The variety of colourful shirts on offer is almost too much to take in.  Real loud Hawaiian shirts in the worst possible taste – I want to buy them all.  Spoilt for choice, I ended up buying nothing.  Tomorrow is another day.

Just outside the port gate I found a bar having the vital combination of cold beer and Wi-Fi.  The local brew, Castaway IPA, is to be recommended.  So, after a day doing a lot but not seeming to achieve much I returned to Truce for sundowners and a chat with my French neighbours.  Early in the evening we had a rain shower, cooled things down nicely.  I am listening to Norah Jones greatest hits on the Bose, nice mood music that fits the night well.  Now I am looking forward to another peaceful night’s sleep.

CONGRATULATIONS TEAM NEW ZEALAND

Well I did jinx my good fortune.  At daybreak this morning the wind went AWOL.  We have been left floundering around, sails slating, constantly trimming trying to get some motion in the right direction.  I should know better – when things are going well – keep quiet about it!

Congratulations Team New Zealand
Congratulations Team New Zealand

The Meteorologist in Hawaii said this unusual weather event will be finished tomorrow and the normal trade winds will set in again.  So, nothing for me to do.  Just sit tight and wait for wind sixty miles offshore Hawaii.  It doesn’t really matter when we arrive but I have an itch to get ashore and explore, rolling around out here is not good for crew morale.

I gave Hilo Port a call and let them know I was coming in.  They were friendly and said either anchor in the port or find a berth, then check with security what to do.  All very casual, sounds good.  They just want me to keep clear of a Holland America cruise ship they have arriving at seven thirty.

This morning I received the news that Team New Zealand had won the Americas Cup in Bermuda.  This news has made my day.  What a fantastic achievement.  All the other Oracle tag along contenders didn’t stand a chance, it was always NZ, the black boat, that was the boat to beat.  There is a lot of high tech, money, egos and prestige associated with the Americas Cup and for New Zealand to win is spectacular.  As for the Aussie Skipper, little Jimmy – make him eat Marmite!  I look forward to catching up the action replays later.  I suppose NZ will be in party mood today.  Voyage distance 2,036 miles.

STILL ON EASY STREET TO HILO

I don’t want to jinx my good fortune but we are still running with Jib poled out to port directly down the track to Hilo.  If the wind holds true we will be arriving early on Tuesday morning.

This morning I turned again to bread making.  I used a new method I thought up that’s easier when we are rocking and rolling at sea.  Turned out wonderful, nice fluffy bread with a crisp crust.  The galley gets pretty hot with the oven on, not a place to hang around in.

I had the first sign of outside human life for over week this morning.  On the VHF radio channel 16 part of a broadcast from US Coastguard in Honolulu came in.  Must be a rebroadcast from Hawaii I guess.  There are a few more seabirds around today but still no other ships to be seen, either visually or on AIS.

I checked out the local VHF radio and AM radio but stations coming in yet.  Maybe later I will pick up something after sunset.   Everybody on board Truce is willing Team NZ on in the Americas Cup, I would love to wake up and hear the news we had won on the radio from Hawaii.

When searching around for food at lunchtime I came across a tin of spam.  It looked alluring at me from the corner of the cupboard – it was saying ‘go on you know you want me’.  Yes! I want you and am going to have you I thought.  As soon as I stripped off the top of the tin I knew I had fallen into the spam trap again.  The sickening pale pink colour and the slight whiff of Pedigree Chum dog food reaffirmed my mistake.  I will split it 50:50 with the fishes.  Voyage distance 1,929 miles.

SAILING INTO THE TROPIC OF CANCER

Looking at the log book for last night I see I was having a hard time.  Sails up and down, in and out, tacking, gybing and engine on.  Sometimes reducing sail as going too fast and others just no wind.  I was surprised to find we had covered 109 miles noon to noon, a commendable effort in such trying conditions.  It must be good for you, good exercise in the fresh air.

Since midday it has been easy street.  Sailing with just the jib poled out to port, making a steady five plus knots in sparkling weather directly towards our destination.  Also, an opportunity to catch up on some sleep from the night before.

Waikiki beach, Hawaii. Photo Ngozi Penson
Waikiki beach, Hawaii. Photo Ngozi Penson

Today we crossed the imaginary line into the Tropic of Cancer.  This line marks the furthest point north the sun will get before heading back to the south again.  If you stood on the line at midday of the summer solstice the sun would be directly overhead at noon.  The word tropic is derived from a Greek word meaning to turn (that’s what we learned in navigation).

The Greeks were quite good at maths and figuring out what the planets were doing.  The ancient Brits were also up to speed on all that stuff – just that being illiterate they couldn’t write it down – they had to explain it in big stone circles

Entering the Tropics. Ray Penson jpg
Entering the Tropics. Ray Penson jpg

This time last year Truce and I were in Sitka Alaska.  Sitka was a really nice place, one of the best towns in Alaska.

What a contrast sailing into Hawaii.

I am getting quite excited by it all now and really looking forward to getting ashore in Hilo, only three more days to go.

A small rum and coke will be appropriate for sundowners today, we are in the tropics after all.

Voyage distance 1,816 miles.