I'm leaving Hawaii today and heading back to Seattle. Hawaii has been fun, but the path I've chosen to future warm waters is via Seattle where I plan to spend the fall, winter and spring.
I was asked a couple of days ago what my favorite spot has been on this trip and had a difficult time answering. Its hard for me to even pick a favorite stop in Hawaii, let alone the entire past 10 and a half months that I've been sailing since leaving Seattle last September. Hilo/Radio Bay was a pretty cool place to hang out - it was wet but the sun came out sometimes and the people were friendly and there was just a good vibe in town. Of course this may have been influenced by Hilo being my landfall location after "being at sea" for 19 days. The anchorages around the leeward side of the Big Island were awesome and I had my best experiences of remote, beautiful anchorages there. Skinny dipping, snorkeling, dolphins, sunsets - the leeward side was good. Lahina in Mau'i was an awesome stop, largely as a result of the hospitality expressed by the people in the Lahina Yacht Club - its a good bunch of folks. Lahina is a nice town - easy to walk around and everything I needed was close. I only saw Lana'i and Moloka'i very briefly and I don't really have an opinion on them either way. I spent most of my time on O'ahu in Kane'ohe Bay which was beautiful. I met with some friends there which was fun, and O'ahu has the best marine facilities (including a West Marine) in the state. Its also the most populated island by far and I was seeking a quieter experience. I've been at Hanalei on Kaua'i for almost three weeks now, and this is by far the most beautiful anchorage I've seen in Hawaii. Its a large bay with room for lots of boats, the holding for the anchor here is great, and anchoring is easy as there is no coral to worry about. Over the last couple of days its suddenly become much more social for me here due to the Single Handed Transpac which is finishing in the bay at the moment. But its still hard to pick favorites - my experience at one stop is influenced by my experiences at the others and I'm pretty happy with all of the stops I've made. Its been a good visit to the island chain.
Hawaii is not easy though. Cruising around Hawaii has a much different feel than cruising around Mexico. In my experience, in Mexico there were other people cruising everywhere you looked - lots and lots of sailboats around and people on them having a good time. There just don't seem to be that many people sailing around the Hawaiian islands, or through them. The larger stops along the way have often had lots of boats at anchor or on moorings, but many of them end up being local boats which do not go out. I had expected to be crossing paths with lots of people who were out cruising around the pacific here, but I just didn't bump into that many. I've met more cruisers in Hanalei than the rest of my trip, by far. This makes some sense as Hanalei is known as the premier summer anchorage in the Hawaiian islands and is a popular spot to leave the islands for the mainland. If I had the ability to change anything about the trip, I might stay a little longer in Mexico and have made my stay here a little shorter. Mexico left a very good impression on me. Hawaii is a little more complex. Hawaii is at a convenient place in the Pacific to break up some logical passages and I may well be back here. Being in Hawaii has been good, but cruising around Hawaii is not the slam-dunk cruising paradise that I think of Mexico as being. I hope to add new countries to this comparison list in future years...
I mentioned the single handed Transpac briefly above. This is a race held every two years composed of single handed sailors leaving San Francisco who sail to Hanalei Bay, here on Kaua'i. Two of the people organizing the race on this end are Rob and LaDonna. It turns out that some cruising buddies of mine, who I've written about before - Jim and Karen on Sockdolager, are friends with Rob and LaDonna. Rob and LaDonna have been kind enough to include me in the race festivities here and I've met some of the racers and local cruisers through them. Cool. One of the cruising boats which just came through was Nereida sailed by Jeanne Socrates. Jeanne is going to be starting her third non-stop single handed around the world attempt later this year. I had a chance to talk with her for a while at a get together and was further inspired in this cruising thing I'm doing. She's sailed her boat around the world, south of all five capes, single handed. Its very impressive stuff.
My sail back to Seattle will be quite a lot less impressive than what Jeanne has done. I'm expecting the trip to take between three and four weeks. The big challenge on this last leg of my first cruising year is dealing with the high pressure system in the north pacific. Wind in the high, of course, circulates clockwise. The high pressure system is constantly changing but typically, on average, hopefully, stays north and east of Hawaii. With the high in this location the typical sail back from where I am is to sail a little west of north leaving here until you get up to 40 degrees or so (I'm at 22 degrees now,) and then start to put some east into the direction until you're eventually above the high and you can sail for Neah Bay. The problem with this ideal scenario is that the high pressure system can move much faster than I can sail, and it doesn't always behave itself. I'll be leaving with a plan in mind, but will try to constantly adjust it for what the weather forecasters think the high will be doing two and four days into the future - but the weather system can move faster than I can adjust, so there is some luck involved. The problem is if the high gets too close to me, there will be little or no wind and I will be left bobbing around not going anywhere. Luckily I'll have lots of food, water and books to read so if this happens it will lengthen my journey, be annoying, but otherwise be ok.
A good link to see the ocean I'll be crossing, along with the weather in the north pacific is here. You can find other weather images for the north pacific at this site, it contains forecasts and other products. I have access to these products while I'm underway via radio fax.
I've been planning and preparing for this passage now for a few months. I've inspected the rig, found and fixed a few small things. The boat is in good shape, I can't think of anything that is remaining to do before I leave. It appears that the weather is cooperating as the high is forming nicely where it should be. The boat is ready to go. I'm in good shape - so its time to leave anchor here and start the passage back.
I'll try to update the blog as I go, every few days. If I should stop updating the blog, don't worry. Equipment failures at sea are not that unusual, and if my SSB should stop working I won't be able to send updates. Wish me luck. Next stop, Neah Bay and then Seattle soon afterwards!