REST, RECUPERATION AND TIDY UP IN OPUA

Today was dedicated to clean up and chores on board Truce and taking it easy.  In beautiful calm sunny weather, I set about tidying the boat.  Stowing all the bits and bobs that I had been using on passage and stashed in the quarter berth for convenience and ease of access from the cockpit.

On the passage from Tonga we used the engine far more than usual to get through the extensive calm patches.  All the running meant that the scheduled one-hundred-and-fifty-hour oil change became due sooner than expected.  Changing the oil isn’t a job I like, it’s always messy sucking the old oil out of the dipstick hole.  With a bag full of rags, the job was accomplished and Mr Yanmar now has clean oil and a new oil filter to keep him happy for a while.

Another session at the laundry means that we have fresh bed linen and towels on board.  The last laundry session was in Honolulu and the supply of clean sheets and towels had been exhausted – laundry was definitely due.

I don’t know where the day went, time flies when your having fun, but soon it was happy hour and time for some refreshment.  I got myself cleaned up and headed down to the Opua Yacht Club – just a short walk away.  Nice to sit out on the deck overlooking the harbour as the sun goes down.  The sand-flies also enjoyed dining out on my body.

I was back on-board Truce in the early evening as I plan to sail south tomorrow.  I checked the weather, tides and put a course on the chart, with a list of available stops and shelters on the way.  Not sure yet where I will go tomorrow.  I am heading south down the coast towards Auckland, first I need to get around Cape Brett and then have an idea I may stop in Whangarei.  We shall see tomorrow how it plays out.

FREE OF THE INTER TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE (ITCZ)

Yesterday afternoon I tacked east and after a few hours the wind started to back around and I could head south again.  We are close hauled on the port tack again with the wind from south of east.  The motion became quite violent on board as Truce was jumping off waves and crashing into the following one.  I have reduced sail to preserve body and boat.  We should still make Christmas Island in two days if the wind does not go any more south.

The sunrise this morning was magnificent.  Blue skies and high cloud.  No more ITCZ.  We spent four days in there and had two wonderful nights sailing, dining and watching movies in the cockpit.  We also had two not so good nights.

This morning I did my bread making workout.  Quite an effort when going to windward.  Hopefully this batch will last a couple of days.

The Truce movie appreciation society watched the first ‘Men in Black’ movie last night.  Jessica’s choice.  I have seen it a couple of times previously, it was a family favourite with the children – but still entertaining to watch again.

KIRITIMATI, Christmas Island. Photo Google Map
KIRITIMATI, Christmas Island. Photo Google Map

Talk is now turning to Christmas Island and what we will do when we get there.  Important items include go for a long walk (Jessica), fresh fruit, laundry and cold beer(me), snorkelling, fresh fish, fresh vegetables, sleep and hang out with the locals.  Christmas Island is on GMT plus fourteen hours, we will need to adjust a day before we get there as we are currently on GMT minus ten.  Voyage distance 1,026 miles.

FIVE HUNDRED MILES FROM KIRITIMATI

We are now five hundred miles from Kiritimati.  A large area of calms is showing up in front of us and appears to be growing by the day.  This is the ITCZ, an area of calms, thunderstorms and variable winds we need to cross before Christmas Island.  The current weather is overcast with rain, the winds are getting lighter as each hour passes.

The wind is still on the port bow, aa it has been since the first day out of Honolulu.  Truce is still moving along nicely as we continue to work our way to the south with an allowance to the east.  I think that by this evening the wind will be very light and the fun starts.

Once again the solar panels are not putting out enough charge to keep us topped up.  I have switched off some non-essential items to conserve power until we can get a nice sunny day.  The combination of short tropical days and continuous overcast skies is something I hadn’t counted on.

Last night’s fresh Dolphinfish Thai fish curry was excellent.  Jessica did a fantastic job of cooking in a galley that was jumping around – not chef friendly.  We decided not to have rice with the curry and cooked pasta instead.  Neither Jessica or I like cooking rice without a rice cooker (one of mans great inventions) – it always sticks to the pan and needs cleaning off.  I am sure the Thai’s and Italians wouldn’t approve the mix, but there are not here.  It was good.  Voyage distance 695 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.

BACK IN THE WATER

This afternoon Truce went back into the water.  A big sigh of relief all around.  The last days have been cold wet and miserable trying to get the anti fouling completed and living on board when the boat is out of the water is not pleasant.

Truce back in her natural element.Photo, Ray Penson
Truce back in her natural element. Photo, Ray Penson

Once in the water I had a good check all around for leaks,  Happily nothing untoward found and the hull is nice and tight.  The engine started on the second try and burst into life in a large cloud of smoke.  Once the checks had been completed I motored around to the lay-by berth and noted that the dripless seal didn’t drip.  It’s doing what its supposed to and if this continues we will have a dry bilge – or at least dry from the water coming through the shaft packing.

Once secured on the berth I went up the road and jumped on a bus to Sidney for some groceries.  I had just about run out of food and drink.  When I got back to the boat I flashed up the Dickinson Diesel heater and ten minutes later the boat was getting warm.  Such luxury to have a warm boat.

Tomorrow I will start working on the rig and cleaning the boat up.  The salon is full of sail bags that I will have to re-stow somewhere.

I am looking forward to a good nights sleep as we gently rock at the dock.

READY FOR LAUNCHING

Not a drop of rain overnight and the morning was dry and sunny.  After a quick cup of tea I was back out rolling anti fouling paint.  The second coat was finished by ten in the morning, just in time for smoko.  Then it was back out to get a third coat on the high wear areas.  By three in the afternoon I was finished and a few minutes later the rain started again.

Antifouling finished, ready for launching. Yacht Truce
Antifouling finished, ready for launching. Yacht Truce

Getting the anti fouling completed has been a battle against the weather. It’s taken me days longer than anticipated but finally its done.  Truce is now ready to go back in the water and what a relief it will be to have running water again and all systems working.

Last night I flashed up the AIS to check it was working OK, it is.  This morning I received an email from marinetraffic.com informing me that I had departed Canoe Cove.  They are jumping the gun a bit – but interesting to know that there is someone out there tracking every ship, boat and canoe with AIS.

So a big day tomorrow, launching at noon then checking out the shaft seal and new through hulls for tightness.  Canoe Cove is so busy they can only give me a berth for two days.  That’s not enough as I need more time to get the boat ready and equipment installed.  I don’t really have a plan ‘B’ at the moment but will wait to get tomorrow over before thinking too hard about it.

LEAVING NZ – A NEW CHAPTER

I am on the way back to Truce in Canada and writing this on the plane.  Eleven hours from Auckland to San Francisco and then on to Victoria in Canada.  It’s going to be a long flight but an even longer journey when I return to New Zealand with Truce in a few weeks.

Leaving home is always an uneasy time, there is the anticipation of new adventures ahead tempered with the leaving of loved ones behind for a while.  I will also be leaving a nice soft bed, home cooking and the easy domesticated life.  I have been through this cycle many times but it never gets any easier.

Before leaving home I checked out the weather forecast for Canoe Cove, seems there will be a few days rain and temperatures struggling to get into double figures during the day.  I don’t like wet cold weather and it’s not the best to be getting the hull anti fouled.  I am hoping the winter has not been too harsh on Truce and that the BC green mould has not taken over.  Whatever, I expect that there will be a lot of cleaning up, airing out and warming through to be carried out.

My priority is to get the hull anti fouled and then launch Truce back into her natural environment.  Then I can really get going on the seemingly endless job list of commissioning for the trip back to New Zealand.

I am flying on United Airlines from Auckland to San Francisco.  What a useless airline, I am very unimpressed.  The inflight food is just awful, service is aggressive and inflight entertainment is like something out of the seventies and the touch screen doesn’t. Then came the bizarre ice cream snatch.  I was given Ice Cream with my meal and just getting into it when a cabin attendant snatched it from me!  Why?  Because someone on the plane had a nut allergy!  Just Bonkers.  To cap it all my seat won’t recline, the cabin attendant informed me it’s broken and nothing can be done – but I could try complaining.  Clearly the Cabin Staff don’t anticipate any result from complaining and as there is no free seat I can move to – looks like I will just have to suck it, sit upright for 11 hours up and make a note never to fly United again.  I suppose the equipment on the flight deck works better than my seat.

Working on the theory that everything happens for a reason and that every action has an opposite and equal reaction – I am expecting a stroke of good luck to come my way soon.

REFLECTIONS ON ALASKA TRIP

The trip was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the boat and the systems on board.  In the early days of the trip I had to undertake a lot of maintenance as the boat hadn’t been in use full time.  During the trip I suffered no major failures and am confident the boat is strongly built, sturdy and a capable offshore cruiser.

The Dickenson cabin heater was wonderful on cold nights as were the two oil lamps in the salon, without their warmth it would have been tough on cold wet days.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get in any really consistent sailing for prolonged periods of time that is essential to really get a feel for the boat under sail.  But the sailing I did showed the boat to be well balanced and able to steer with the wind vane self-steering quite easily.  Not having a fridge on board was no problem in Alaska and BC, but I do worry how I will keep the beer cold when I venture into warmer climes.

A couple of people have asked me if I would do the Alaska trip again.  The answer is a qualified no.  I really enjoyed the experience, Alaska is an awesome place, wild rugged, scenic and spectacular and populated with some very interesting people.  The people I met along the way were predominantly American and Canadian with a few other nationalities thrown in.  The Alaskan people are very friendly, but there are quite a few who don’t really conform to mainstream America, characters, odd balls, eccentrics, or miss fits – call them what you will, but all were welcoming, generous and good fun.

An experience and adventure not to be missed and without the interaction of the local people the trip would have been merely a scenic cruise.  Alaska is also a place that can be wet, windy, foggy and cold, it’s not a soft place for single handing a sail boat.  As for wind, it tends to run up and down the channels and straits, a sailing boat usually has the wind on the nose according to sods law.  Significant motoring is required to make any significant headway.

To get the most out of a trip by boat to Alaska a motorboat is preferable, many people use heavier displacement trawler type motor yachts where they can be sheltered from the elements and still have a good view of the outside world.  It’s interesting to note that the people I met on motor boats reported more bear sightings than people on yachts.  I think this was due to the fact that the motorboats had good views from protected environment when at anchor.  A motor boat with a decent speed of around nine knots also makes passages between anchorages possible in a small weather window and allows strong tidal flows to be handled easier.  So Alaska is a place not to me missed.  Now there are so many other places calling and so little time.

Some facts and figures from the Alaska Voyages: –

Total distance – 2,753.7 miles (4,432Km)

Ports and anchorages – 97

Sailing time – 134 hours (non motor sailing)

Engine Hours – 563

Fuel Consumption – 764 Ltr (202 gals.)

Oil Changes – 3

Costs of living – NZ$35 per day

I will continue to post occasional blogs and updates throughout the year until I take off again in March on the next leg of the journey, south and west.

BAMFIELD, AN EASY DAY.

Easy day in Bamfield.  A great little place and very laid back.  It’s a holiday town but there is no rush or bustle, everything is neat and tidy and well laid out.  There are some nice houses lining the inlet with their private docks and well-tended gardens.  I like the look of the place.

Well I did a bit of housekeeping today and rested my ribs which are hurting less now, but I am still frightened to sneeze.

Tomorrow I will continue on down the coast to Victoria which is only a couple of days away now.  I am looking forward to sailing down the Juan de Fuca Strait, I have done it many times before in bigger ships than Truce.  I hope I get lucky with the weather and the notorious fog stays away.

I can’t remember going through the Juan de Fuca Strait in daylight.  This is because the arrival is usually timed to pick up the pilot early morning for the trip up to Vancouver, likewise coming out from Vancouver the pilot is usually dropped off late afternoon.  Total voyage distance 1,001.2 miles.