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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Finish line

At 22:30 Pacific Time October 24th 2015 I finally rounded south of Diamond Head on Oahu marking the end of my passage from San Francisco to Honolulu. My final destination is Ko-Olina Marina, just west of Honolulu and I should get there just before midnight Hawaiian time. For now, I'm just a regular boater as I pass by Waikiki Beach with its massive array of hotels. There are no more ocean swells, the area is littered with life. Passenger boats, coast guard helicopters and even planes coming out of HLN. I have cell phone coverage and Internet. This last day at sea surely had been amazing. I've seen three of the Hawaiian islands, had some great fun flying my spinnaker and watched a spectacular sunset as I was heading towards Diamond Head. The rest of the trip surely has been remarkable as well and is one that I'll never forget. 16 and a half days at sea with only myself and my vessel to keep me alive, moving towards my goal. I'll never look at the sea again without remembering
this trip. It's made a lasting impression on my soul.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Day 17: Land

I woke up this morning to the sight of land. Maui and Molokai barely visible in the distance. As the day progressed, the land became bigger. Today was a sunny day and I finally got to set my spinnaker shortly after Oahu and Diamond Head became visible in the far distance. Now I'm just racing towards the finish line, hoping to make it there before dark.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 16: More rain, more movies

Another day of rain, little wind and not much chance to play with the spinnaker. I spent most of my day inside a muggy boat watching movies. Good thing I brought my entire collection. On the plus side, motoring is a lot more predictable than wind and a lot more directional. My current speed of 6 knots should actually put me at my destination Saturday evening, several hours ahead of scheduled. Yeah for diesel. If I'm lucky, I'll just make it to Waikiki for sunset. After that, I'll still have another 5 hours to Ko-Olina Marina, but the entrance is pretty straight forward and shouldn't be a problem in the dark. So basically, I'll make landfall right around midnight.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 15: Shipspotting

Today was another day with multiple shower storms passing by. The trades also died. Well, not completely, but less than 10 knots of wind makes it hard to sail straight down wind. Especially, when the waves are kicking your boat around making it impossible for the sails to fill. It was a good day to look at the broken furler. Found the problem, thought I had fixed it and rolled the sail half way up, then problem wasn't quite fixed, so I had to finish wrapping the sail around manually. Either way, jib is rolled up and isn't coming back out.

I considered using the spinnaker, but decided to wait until tomorrow. Good call, since most of today has been very low winds. So, instead it's motoring time. I spent a large amount of fuel getting out of San Francisco, so I suppose it's only proper that I spend the rest getting into Honolulu. I've got less than 300 nautical miles left and assuming my gauges aren't misleading me, I should have enough to motor all the way.

I generally prefer sailing instead of motoring (why else have a sailboat), but when the weather is calm and water not quite so rough, motoring is a nice change. The steady noise of the engine makes it easier to sleep and I won't be woken up to make sail changes. I'm also getting extra power, which means filling up the water tank, taking a hot shower and watching movies on the big screen. Well, 26" is better than the iPad 10".

Then, for the first time since night of day 1, I spotted a ship. I've actually seen a couple already, but all by instruments never close enough to physically see it. This one was close enough to be visible and marks the first contact in 14 days. Also a reminder that I'm gonna have to start looking out for more, now that I'm so close to Honolulu.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 14: Coconut cookies

This morning I finally past the 500 nautical mile mark. In fact, I might even make it to the 400 mark by the end of the day. Either way, I'm celebrating by having my coconut cookies. In hindsight, I should have bought enough cookies to have them every day. Next trip I'll be a little wiser.

The wind was pushing me too far south, so yet again I got the pole back on and went wing-on-wing. Looking at my numbers for the last 6 hours, it's paid off if only I can keep the same average speed through the night. I'm hoping to arrive early Sunday. Keep in mind I also have to get half way around the island to get to port. My current "finish" line is a marker I set right off Diamond Head. Then technically, I could drop the sails, anchor outside Waikiki Beach and swim to the beach for a cocktail. In reality, once past Diamond Head, I'll fire up the engine and motor to my marina so I can pump out my nasty smelling holding tank and take a proper shower. But hey a guy can dream.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day 13: Night time sail change

At 3 am I woke up to loud banging in the rig. On the ocean, your boat rolls back and forth all the time. If there's no wind to fill your sails, your sail will flap back and forth creating hellishly loud noises in the rigging. Fortunately, I still had plenty wind. It had just changed dramatically on me during the night while I was sleeping. So, in the middle of the night, I got out on deck and took down my beloved pole and switched to a port tack. This was in my favor, and it was blowing 18-19 knots. For about an hour, I was heading straight for Hawaii with an extra knot of speed, but of course that didn't last. The rest of the night had lighter winds, but it is was good for catching up in that lost sleep.

This morning was again overcast, but just like yesterday turned into a nice sunny day. I got to read a book, listen to some music and generally relax. I even did a little hand steering, just to enjoy a little actual sailing. My current course is taking me to the south tip of the islands. According to the weather download, the winds will get lighter in the NW, so I'm staying SE of my layline seeking out the stronger winds. At some point I'll have to gybe and head straight down wind to make it to Honolulu. I'm sure I'll need the pole again.

Tomorrow, I should be crossing my 500 nm mark. I've saved coconut cookies to celebrate. In the first 1000 nautical miles, I didn't pay too much attention to how far I was. Every so often I'd look back to see how far back the Golden Gate was, but I was mostly focused on keeping the boat afloat and staying out of harms way. Now, I'm constantly checking my distance left, my bearing to my mark, sail angle and trim. Not sure it helps, I think it might just be an indication that I'm a little restless and eager to arrive in port. Only 5 more days.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day 12: Rain???

Yep, I woke up to rain. On the ocean there's usually a wind change that occurs right before the rain, so if you're sailing, rain will wake you up. Especially, if you have Raymarine. :)

Free boat wash for 1 is always good, but I'm a little concerned about the lack of sun out here on the ocean. Having lived in Seattle, I've already gotten a lifetimes' worth of rain, but more importantly my solar panels need sun. They're my only renewable energy resource. They're also pretty awesome (when they have sun).

My energy equations is the following. My boat has a fridge and freezer, each taking about 50 amp hours (ah) each day. That's 100 ah. I need them on, otherwise my food would go bad and I would starve. Then I have navigation. Autopilot, Radar, AIS, VHF, GPS and chart plotter. I need these to navigate and steer. I'm not spending much time behind the helm, Auto takes care of that and is quite an essential component to single handling across an ocean. Not sure exactly how much energy each individual component is using, and there's also the occasional light and toilet flush, but my total consumption is around 250-300ah per day.

Let's assume it's 300. This is a lot. Any sailor will tell you it's too much. However, this is the bare minimum. My only unnecessary consumption of power is to charge my iPhone (music and blogging) and my iPad (so I can watch a movie or TV show or read a book). Neither one of these use large amounts of power. 1 ah to fully charge an iPhone and maybe 3 ah for the iPad.

My solar panel is second generation. In other words, I just ripped off my perfectly working panels before this trip, so I could get slightly bigger ones. I had 420 Watts, now I have 650 Watts. My wish would be to have 1000 Watt, but we can't always have what we want.

I didn't get to test out my panels before I left. There simply wasn't enough sunny days for a proper test, but in theory my panels could produce 210 ah in a single day. This based on the performance of my old panels (not taking 650 Watts multiplying by 24h).

So, I use 300 and my panels could give me 210. Obviously I have a problem, and lack of sun isn't helping. So, waking up to rain does not make me happy. Luckily, the rain didn't last very long and today turned out to be the third sunniest. This, of course, based in tracking amp hours my panels have made on a daily basis. Today was 146, best is only 161. I'll likely never get the perfect solar day sailing, as sail angle and sails themselves sometimes shadow the panels.

I make up the about 150 ah deficit by running my main main engine in neutral (unless I need a push). My 80 ah alternator gives me about 50 ah charge (don't you just hate it, when nothing ever outputs their theoretical max). So, I run my engine for about 3 hours every day, while I watch a move and rant about energy consumption.

So solar panels are a great source of energy. It's clean, quiet, renewable and requires almost no maintenance. However, you need a lot of panels and they won't do you much good unless it's sunny outside side.

One last thing. My panels are only 18% efficient. Just image a future, where solar is about 80% efficient. I could take half off, give it to you and we would both be able to survive an ocean passage.

The wind is just a tad lighter today and right now my ride is pretty smooth, so I'm hoping for a good night's sleep. As of this writing I have 675 nautical miles to go.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day 11: Sun day, fun day

Going downwind creates a rolling motion back and forth, plus a lot of loud squeaking wood noises. Didn't help that the auto pilot's wind change alarm was going off all night. Thanks, Raymarine, for building an alarm that not just wakes you up, but keeps you up.

By the time the sun rose, I was still super tired so I decided to sleep in. After all, it is Sunday. Around 11, I decided I wanted to have bacon for breakfast. I brought a package just for this occasion. But, the rolling. Not a safe way to cook bacon (I only have a Forman grill), so I guess that pack is going in the freezer.

I've been on the same tack all yesterday, day and night, so I decided to play around and see if I could squeeze a few fractions more knots out of the boat. Total waste of time, I was completely unsuccessful and had to change it back. So, now I'm back on the tack I started. Pole on the jib, wing-on-wing with 1 furl in the mainsail. I feel like I'm just along for the ride at this point. The boat's heading straight for Hawaii, and I'm just a passenger. Like a really long flight in turbulent weather.

So, the only thing to do is to count the time and miles left to the finish. As of noon today, I had 862 nautical miles left. That means I did 138 nm in 1 day. Each day will vary, but if I were to keep this speed, it would put me in Hawaii Saturday night. Sunday is probably more reasonable, can't expect this perfect tack all the way. Also, I might have to dodge a hurricane and that could easily add a few days. I'm hoping for Sunday, then maybe I can get to have some Sunday bacon.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Day 10: I'm on the other side

Finally crossed the 1000 nautical miles to go milestone. That's right, I've been to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, saw it, and now I'm on my way back (to Hawaii since it's the closest). If anyone wonders what the middle looks like: Overcast.

Looking at my grib files (thanks to Iridium satellites, my Mac and some software called Predict Wind Offshore), I've now got a 1000 nautical miles of mostly downwind sailing. Mostly dead down wind in fact. Bella Marina don't do downwind... Unless.... The Pole!!! Yes, people, by popular demand (mostly by me, the captain) the pole is back. I was worried I wouldn't need it again, but now it's a very important piece to get me to Hawaii as quick as possible.

Did I mention I fitted the pole just two days before I left? The pole is a hand-me down from another cruiser who forgot they had it when they sold their boat. Thank you Mark and Christine! Then I picked up a new end for it in Seattle on a long drive up there the weekend before leaving (doesn't seem so long now in comparison) and even got some hardware for it from West Marine (what? An all time first, although I did need to delicately tweak it to fit, using a hammer).

Anyway, my long rambling about just getting the pole was to point out that I never got to try it out. Good thing it worked, and today I got to build some skills using it. In the past, I've got plenty of experience using a spinnaker pole with spinnakers (and a crew to help you), but now it's more of a whisker pole being used with my jib. Works quite well, especially since it allows Bella Marina to spread her wings and go wing-on-wing! Yeah, baby! For those who don't know, wing-on-wing is when the main sail is pushed out one way and the head sail (jib in my case) is pushed out the other way. The pole is used to push the jib out. Without the pole, the jib would just collapse and flap around. Like a broken wing.

So, now I've got some practice and pretty god options for going down wind on most angles. Dead down, does create a lot of roll (boat moves violently side to side), but that's currently my tack going straight for Hawaii and after 10 days at sea I'm starting to look forward to wrapping this trip up. Still got about a week left, though, and downwind travel requires more wind. So, while I prefer no more than 15 knots upwind, I prefer at least 15 knots downwind. Still, no one needs more than 25 knots. Not my size boat, anyways. Grib files says I'm in luck.

To celebrate, not the pole, the 1000 nautical mile mark, I had a ginger beer and some coconut cookies, while watching Captain Ron on my iPad. Second time I watch a movie. Not sure if I'm bored or it's a sign I finally have time for some R&R instead of worrying about the next storm or when my fuel will run dry. My best guess to the fuel question is Waikiki Beach. I'll just drift it in from there.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Friday, October 16, 2015

Day 9: Nighttime squalls and daytime chores

Last night around 3 am I was rudely awaken by my radar alarm. A target only 3 nm out according to the fuzzy blip. Didn't look right, so I stepped out and immediately realized what it was. It was starting to rain and the radar had picked up a squall or small storm. I barely had time to get my foul weather gear on, before it was coming down hard. The wind piped up and the waves were equally nasty. I ended up riding this little storm for almost two hours. Think Volvo Ocean Racing with bow buried in the wave, spray coming over the bow etc. The movie Captain Ron has a similar scene in it. (but without sails). Afterwards I was absolutely exhausted, but the boat settled into some nice calm winds and I managed to get a few hours sleep.

I woke up to the exact opposite. Another prefect day of sailing. I've got my auto pilot pretty dialed in, so I let Auto steer the whole day. Instead, I got a few chores done. Cleaned up some loose things in the boat, dried my soaked clothes, made some essential water etc. Pretty productive day, especially after two long days of bad weather sailing. Feels like a Sunday, although it's only Friday. I topped it off with rewarding myself with steak for dinner, then a movie.

The current tack is taking me almost straight to Hawaii. Should last well into the night and by the time I gybe, I should be halfway between San Francisco and Honolulu. Looks like I could be there in 9 days or even less if the winds are on my extra good side.

Captain Petter from S/V Bella Marina

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day7: Offshore racer

You don't need another boat to race you just need some bad weather to beat. Last night was quite uncomfortable sailing in 15 knots of wind with full jib. In the morning I was better able to adjust, but it's still a fierce lean beating hard into waves and making a lot of noise. Luckily also speed, exactly what I needed to get past a weather front. I had a small victory and tacked back south before the next one. It's still blowing hard and naturally from the way I wanna go. Tomorrow we'll hopefully see a conclusion to the weather fronts. Tonight I'm lying on a bunk in full foul weather gear. Exhausted and feeling like it's back to my days of racing in Seattle.

Captain Petter from S/V Bell Marina

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 7: Sailing into the sunset

After all that joy with the spinnaker pole yesterday, I get an updated grib file this morning and realize I might never use my pole again. Well, at lest not on my passage. Of course, if the grib files can change once, they can change again.

I was able to successfully take the pole down at 3 am this morning without any hiccups and ever since I've been on a close reach. I've gotten some good speed and have continued towards Hawaii, but I'm now getting pushed up north, as the wind swings around. Tonight, Thursday and Friday will be challenging as I try to avoid the higher wind areas northeast of me, while I wait for the wind to clock all the way around. My next two tacks might be crucial to which path I will take for the rest of the trip. If this was a race, this would be exciting, but I haven't seen any boats out here for days.

Today was supposed to be a motoring day, but I was able to sail through. Call it 50-50 luck-skill. Still, my engine is running as I type this. My boat requires an awful lot of energy just to sail. Navigation, auto pilot and fridge and freezer don't run on wind. They do sometimes run on solar, but only during the day. When it's sunny. It better start being more sunny soon or I'll be running the engine for 5 hours a day, just to charge my batteries. I think it will be sunny tomorrow. It looked pretty clear in my direction right before sunset.

Now to endure a noisy night of pinching into the wind and bashing up waves. This might be the norm for the remainder of the passage, so might as well get used to it.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 6: Downwind sailing

This morning I was happy to find nothing else broken. Let's hope this is the new trend.

I've been heading north and it's been getting colder. Probably has more to do with current weather than my latitude, but I felt the urge to head towards Hawaii, not circling around it. This would require some downwind sailing. Normally, I would attempt this feat using my asymmetrical spinnaker. My sailboat rig is a B&R rig with swept back spreaders, so it doesn't want to sail downwind. If you don't know what a B&R rig is, just take my word for it. My boat goes neither upwind nor downwind. A spinnaker helps with this problem, but furler is broken, so can't roll up the headsail, which is a prerequisite for deploying a spinnaker.

Luckily before I departed, I installed a spinnaker pole on my boat. This was to be used with, you guessed it, the spinnaker, but can be also do the same with a headsail. Basically, it pushes out one corner of the sail so the sail can catch a lot of wind going dead downwind. Anyways, took me a lot of line work to get it setup, but it works like a charm. I'm heading straight for Hawaii!Even pulled a little main sail out to help with the speed, my headsail is only fractional. Breaking the furler is like breaking a leg, but crutches mitigates it.

Anyways, been running this setup all day long with pretty good success (less some uncomfortable rolling), and I'm pretty excited since this is the first time Bella Marina has been running a pole in her 10 years. Also, I don't have much else to be excited about. Today was overcast and pretty dull.

According to weather downloads, the winds will get really light tonight and I might even have to motor for a day. Then I'll be beating into it hardcore in 15-20 (hardcore because I can't furl my headsail) before a day of motoring almost for sure around Saturday. Gotta keeps those motoring days down to a minimum, I've got a limited supply of diesel. I'm gonna watch a movie on my phone now, while I wait for the inevitable post midnight sail change.

Captain Petter from S/V Bella Marina

Monday, October 12, 2015

Day 5: More breakage

As I woke up this morning and peaked my head out in the cockpit to check on things, I got slammed with more bad news. The rod kicker had broken loose from the mast and was hanging on by a single rivet (out of 16). After my initial shock passed, I got to properly asses the damage and also remind myself of what little importance the rod kicker is to my rig. It's essentially a sail trim I never use, especially since my boom is attached at the end to my arch. It can help shape the sail for a better trim, but I'm not racing and do very little trimming on this passage.

Even though it initially looked bad, it is a pretty simple fix. None of the hardware is broken, so all I need is to put some new rivets in. Wish I had a rivet gun. I don't even have the rivets. I thought about buying one, when setting up a spinnaker pole attachment, but for the size load I went with metal screws. In any case, the rod kicker isn't essential, so I decided to take it down before it could do any damage to the mast.

It was a pretty easy to pop out the last rivet, undo the attached lines and bring the whole rod kicker inside, put it in the v-birth and leave it be until a day when I own a rivet gun.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

The rest of the day was much better. Still sailing on a beam reach, like yesterday. Weather was partly overcast, my solar panel and especially my batteries were pretty unhappy about that. Only 1500 nautical miles to go. Only. Let's hope nothing else breaks tomorrow.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 4: A beautiful day of sailing

Yesterday wasn't the best of days. A broken headsail furler and the exhausting work that followed. Then during the night, the boom and other sail gear kept constantly slamming as waves were hitting the boat from the side. I had the get up multiple times during the night to make adjustments. Today made it all better.

I started out in the morning by pulling out all of the main sail. No more reefing. Then made some adjustments to get some good speed. By the time I had gotten my coffee and endured the 45 minute weather download, the clouds had started to lift and the sun broke through. From there on it was nothing but the best day ever.

I saw up to 30 amps on the solar charger (the boat was leaning and the panels were facing the sun). The only trimming I've made all day is with the auto pilot buttons. The boat is gently moving toward Hawaii at 6 ore more knots in only 10 knots of wind. I had time to start reading a book and I had steak for dinner. I had it in the cockpit in a t-shirt while enjoying the view of the beautifully dark blue colored ocean. Then after the sun set, I got a look at the most awesome star filled sky I've ever seen.

Yes, indeed it was the most perfect day of sailing.

Captain Petter on S/V Bella Marina

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Day 3: Broken furler

This morning, it was so calm it was time to roll up the headsail and set the spinnaker. My Furlex furler wouldn't budge and it looked like and override inside the drum. Not the first time this has happened, the Furlex has been on my bad side since it seized up in Mexico. Well, after taking almost an hour to unwind all the line, I find it's not an override. I end up taking down the headsail (not easy by yourself), then setting the spinnaker to keep some forward momentum, while working on finding out what's wrong with the Furlex. I end up taking some part of it off, the drum cover never seemed that essential, but I didn't want to dismantle the whole thing. After all, I'm bouncing around up on deck and can almost guarantee that something essential will fall overboard, if I start on such a project. Alas, I decided I need to put the headsail back up without a working furler. The spinnaker was doing great, but has a small tear and I was worried that the expected stronger evening
winds would make it worse. Of course, the evening winds had arrived early. Just by the time I started taking the spinnaker down. It took some serious effort, but not as much effort as it took to put the headsail back on the track and hoist it by myself. After about and hour, I finally got it done. It's now 16:00 and I'm back on my regular sail plan. Full headsail (not like I have much choice) and a single furled main. I've got about 15 knots from my aft starboard quarter and that keeps me tugging along at 6-7 knots. Now I'm exhausted and it's time for some food.

Captain Petter from the helm of Bella Marina

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 2: Fog, like its the Northwest

It's end of Day 2 of sailing to Hawaii and while conditions have been varied, it's overall been a fantastic two first days. Everyone says the first few days are the hardest. You have to break away from land and you generally don't get favorable conditions for doing so. The first day had more wind than expected and I was making good speed, but was also getting tossed around a bit by the short and sharp shore swells. Then came night and the wind died. Right after midnight, I started the engine, which I had running until about 4pm today. I carry a 100 gallons of fuel, so a little motoring is in my budget. With lack of wind there were also lack of waves and it was a very nice quiet night and day of motoring. Now I'm back to full sails. Getting more of an ocean swell now, which is pretty comfortable. Speeds were up to 7 knots for a while, but as I write this I can tell the wind is dying down. I suspect I might have to run the engine again tonight, but if the forecast is right,
the winds should finally kick in late tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My adventure starts

After two long days of getting the boat ready, I finally kicked off from the dock and am now on my way on my single handling adventure to Hawaii. Check out the map at the top of the blog to track my progress.

Captain Petter writing from the helm of Bella Marina

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

24 hours to departure

Less than 24 hours to finish up all my boat tasks and set sail for Hawaii.  Here's a boat selfie after installing a new antenna at the top of the mast.

Captain Petter blogging from S/V Bella Marina