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British Columbia, Hawaii, Western Samoa

And

Passage-Making

 

 

 

 

 

The Gulf of Alaska can be a stormy patch of ocean.  Fortunately for us, it was in a benign mood for our ten-day passage to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We skirted the northeast Pacific high with its fair winds carrying us southeastwards. Both water and air temperatures slowly rose and the weather began to resemble August in the northern hemisphere as we sighted the crags of western Vancouver Island. We motored through the usual fog and calm of summer nights and early mornings in the Strait to find a glorious summer afternoon off Race Rocks Lighthouse and further on into the southern approaches to San Juan Island. As we wished to visit Tom’s school-mate, Nason Hamlin on the Island, we had decided to go direct to Friday Harbour to avoid having to check in to Canada and then again into the USA. The only hiccup in our approach to Friday Harbor came when we came across a small motor cruiser which had run out of fuel. It was their maiden cruising voyage and the two crew were in a bit of a panic. We took them in tow and delivered them to the fuel dock in Friday Harbor, running the gauntlet of the arriving ferry in the process.

 

 

 

 

The next day we made contact with Nason and his wife Erica. Quite apart from the pleasure of seeing them again after eight years, we did have an ulterior motive. We had decided when in Micronesia that our dinghy was reaching the end of its useful life. However, when we went on line to look for a replacement we found that Avon had stopped making soft-bottomed dinghies, specialising in RIBS. Further research turned up one remaining example of our current model Avon, which we immediately ordered. The US supplier would only ship within the USA, so Tom turned to Nason, who kindly offered to accept delivery, for future collection.

And so on a sunny evening in Friday Harbor, we gave Nason and Erica dinner aboard ‘Sunstone’ and took grateful delivery of our new dink – about 8,000 miles and nine months after we had bought it.

 

 

 

 

Seen on a stern in Friday Harbor. What a great name!

 

 

 

 

 

We made the short trip across to Sidney, BC, on Vancouver Island, a couple of days later, spotting a typical hazard of those waters on the way. A log lost from some raft of logs being towed or gathered for processing.

 

Sidney was in its summer, flowery finery, both on the streets and in the marina. There were two reasons we wanted to spend a few weeks there. Firstly to catch up with many of the friends we had made on our visit in 2002-03, like Bryan and Patti Scott-Moncrieff. Secondly we intended to haul out for a quick bottom job at Canoe Cove, plus a few other necessary jobs to prepare ‘Sunstone’ for the long trip back south to New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considering all the miles she had travelled in the 18 months since her last haul-out, ‘Sunstone’ was in good shape. A quick anti-fouling job, some replacement splines and work on two seacocks saw her in even better fettle for a few thousand more miles.

 

We had hoped to stay in Port Sidney, where we had berthed during our previous stay. The strength of the Canadian dollar and the move up-market of that marina, put its’ costs out of our reach. However, the kindness and contact of OCC members Hugh and Graciela Waller, on ‘Gypsy Dream’, and other friendly cruisers found us an alternative berth at the Sidney North Saanich Marina. Though the berths were narrow, we managed to manoeuvre ‘Sunstone’ variously to accomplish a full hull-varnish coat, protection she should definitely need to get through the tropics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Steve, Carol, Connie, T, Peter

 

Above: T, Sean, Penny, V

 

 

 

 

Having completed our mini-refit, we turned to catching up with cruising friends, including Steve and Carol (last seen in Mexico, 2004), Peter and Connie (whose boat, ‘Cookie Cutter’ is currently in Borneo), OCC members Sean and Penny Peck. We had last seen Campbell and Jen (Left) in Noumea, New Caledonia, while Norm Price (Right) had crewed with us in the Southern Straits Race and Swiftsure, helping us win class in both in 2003. We also caught up with Scott and Sonia of ‘Peregrinata’ who we last met in Ecuador in 2004.

 

 

 

 

After a final party, we left Sidney for a short trip across to Port Angeles to clear back into the USA. In the early hours of 1 September we headed out Juan de Fuca Strait bound for Hawaii. We were well ahead of our original schedule and it was just as well. We had a quiet, almost boring passage of gentle reaching winds, cool at first, but warming progressively until we finally picked up the trade winds well to the south. The north Pacific high was fading unusually early in the year. As it turned out, if we had left only a few days latter, we would have had to beat our way south to almost the latitude of Los Angeles before picking up fair winds. It pays to watch patterns developing when choosing the time for longer passages.

 

 

 

We settled to the routine of tropical passage-making, watch-standing on deck, occasional sail-changes and sometimes the welcome addition of a good sized catch of mahi-mahi to feed us for five or six meals. In the meantime we watched the weather on the GRIB files we download through Sailmail. Increasingly these showed deep lows crossing the Gulf of Alaska and pounding the coast of BC with gale and storm force winds. We were increasingly grateful for our timely escape.

 

 

 

All the downwind sailing gave us an opportunity to hone our rig set-up. With our over-long spin poles we can very effectively pole our roller-furled genoa to windward. Increasingly we also keep our No.4 set to leeward. On this passage, when running we set up an outboard sheet and poled this with our jockey pole. This seemed to allow the jib to draw even when you would expect it to be blanketed by the main. Because our inner forestay is so far forward, the two headsails seem to feed off each other. Not only does the jib draw better running, but the genoa can stay poled when the wind is nearly abeam. The combined area gives good pulling power and a well balanced rig.

 

 

 

We had several days on this passage of the purest tradewind sailing, with unvarying 15-18 knot winds, puffy fair-weather clouds, no squalls and star-lit skies at night. Appropriately it was just these conditions which prevailed on 16 September, on the 14th anniversary of our departure from Hamble, to start our world cruise.

 

In these conditions it was easy and even pleasurable to do our daily exercises and to indulge in bucket baths and hair-washing.

 

After 19 days we made landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, were welcomed by the buzzing of a US Navy Orion and made our way past Diamond Head and into Alawai Boat Harbor in Honolulu, under the towering Waikiki hotels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hawaii Yacht Club was as welcoming and accommodating as on our last visit and as it always is to cruisers. We had no sooner tied up than we found cruiser friends Charlie and Suni who we’d last seen in Ecuador. They and Club manager Chris helped make our stay a pleasant one while we restocked, refuelled and reflected on our passages of the northeast Pacific, their lines criss-crossing our chart.

 

We had a very pleasant week in Honolulu. We had anticipated no more than a pit stop, but stayed a week and even found time to take part in a club race, just as we did in 2002. It is understandable why so many people find it hard to leave Hawaii with its very pleasant climate and outdoor lifestyle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a boat full of fresh stores – as well as a few still from Japan, we set off for Western Samoa. For the first week or so, until we reached about 10 degrees North, we watched the development of hurricanes on the Mexican coast very carefully. They only venture as far west as Hawaii very occasionally and none did this time. We were also fortunate passing through the ITCZ, in only 18 hours, with none of the thunder and lightning that so often plagues the doldrums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued with a gentle, almost serene passage. The wind gradually came forward and occasionally freshened somewhat as we got into the southeast trades. However, the conditions were calm enough one day for Vicky to take a very brief swim – well attached to the boat – in the 3,000 metre deep end of the pool!

 

 

 

 

 

We had hoped to make a sufficiently quick passage to Apia to be in time for the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. We had suffered acute withdrawal during our time in Canada and the USA where the RWC received less than proper attention. We knew this would not be the case in Samoa, where we saw both semi-finals and the final with other enthusiastic spectators – and of course the right team (the All Blacks) won in the end, but only just!

 

We were glad to be able to spend nine days in Apia, which we had not visited previously. Though rather subject to surge the marina was pleasant and secure, the town was lively and the countryside when we got out into it with taxi-driver, Andy, was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

There were crystal clear cave pools, perfect waterfalls set against lush green jungle, as well as beautiful frangipani, pineapple plants and bird of paradise flowers. By way of percussion accompaniment Andy gave an impressive demonstration of Samoan drumming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy also showed us the process for making coconut milk. Using a scrapper he drew scraps of coconut meat from a split shell. The scraps were then placed on a mat of coconut fibre which was folded around the powdered coconut and this was wrung out to produce the coconut milk.

 

 

A Samoan dance specialty is the fire dance. This is a combination of break-dancing and baton swirling, but carried out with a baton alight at both ends. The resulting dance is an astonishing and impressive spectacle. What made it even more impressive in this case was that the troupe which performed was composed of young men and boys who were considered ‘delinquents’ by both the authorities and their families. They had been taken in hand by the adult troupe manager and given this opportunity to shine at something skilled and dangerous. Apparently most had grasped the chance with both hands, becoming skilled and entertaining performers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two required sights of Apia. One is the early morning march out of the police with its band. The other is a visit to Robert Louis Stevenson’s house in the hills, above the town, as well as his tomb, which is higher still on a hilltop above the house.

 

 

We had hoped to leave for the passage home to Auckland as soon as possible after the Rugby World Cup final. This proved to be the next day when a window opened. It meant beating for a day or two to get down to the top of a passing high, but this proved easy enough and we were soon past Tonga and into brisk reaching breezes which gave us a wonderfully fast passage of just over ten days, averaging a very respectable 6.5 knots. We arrived back at the Quarantine dock in Auckland just after the end of working hours on 3 November, but the officers kindly cleared us, on learning that it was Vicky’s birthday. As we motored into Westhaven Marina, we met the Stewart 34s coming in from their rum race and we were soon sitting with friends in Bill Miller’s cockpit catching up on gossip and supping rum and Coke. It was all thoroughly satisfactory!

 

 

 

 

 

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