_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Marcy Chilly Again

As we stowed gear and prepared for sea, Hanalei Bay displayed Hawaii at it's best. Attractive women in skimpy clothes fished nearby as colorful sailing canoes glided past.

Hanalei fishing

outrigger Hanalei

A catamaran anchored next to us. As we watched the athletic efforts of the crew putting on the mainsail cover – on a long and high boom – we resolved never to complain about the process on Marcy again.

main cover on cat

Squalls moved in as we left the bay and Marcy was saluted by a rainbow. We ghosted away from Kauai in very light winds.

Hanalei rainbow

Light winds continued. Our passage, although slow, was very comfortable. Conditions were ideal for spotting wildlife. Boobies were everywhere.

Bow boobies

alert boobie

radar boobie

At one dawn a week into the passage, a group of dolphins raced around Marcy hunting fish.

n pacific jumping pair

npac dawn dolphin

Our route was busy with commercial traffic. This big container ship appeared on the horizon headed directly for Marcy. It looked like we were exactly in their track as we sailed along at a slow 3 knots. The officer on watch answered Ginger's VHF call immediately and graciously offered to alter course. Ginger asked, “How shall we proceed?” and the reply came back “Why, mam, you are a sailing boat and you need do nothing! We will pass your stern by a wide margin.” It is a pleasure to encounter alert and responsive watchkeepers at sea. Too many times our calls go unanswered and we wonder if we were seen.

Maersk ship

As usual, small maintenance jobs kept us busy. Ginger re sewed some tabbing on the jib that had come loose. UV damage, chafe, and corrosion took their constant toll.

repair jib tab

The wind continued to be light, but sometimes the breeze increased a bit and Marcy would accelerate to fishing speed – about 5 or 6 knots. We'd put the line over (if we needed fish) and it seemed like minutes later we could pull dinner (usually 3 or 4 dinners) on board.





Comfortable though we were, the passage seemed to be taking forever. Instead of the usual 130 or 150 miles per day, we were sometimes sailing only 60 or 80 miles. So we welcomed the drop in temperature that signaled our approach to Alaska. We found ourselves sailing along silently in dense fog for a few days, peering at the radar screen because nothing else could be seen, then on our last day at sea the fog lifted and the wind finally filled in briskly. Icy cold spray was flung on deck and in the cockpit.

cold spray

A few miles from Sitka, we were greeted by enormous humpback whales breaching.

humpy 1

humpy 2

Passing small islands left and right we made our way into town. The water was gray and absolutely calm as the wind died. We motored the last quarter mile into a spacious marina, and were directed by the harbormaster to a spot among the fish boats.

sitka approach


Our friends Jim and Fran of Cape St James were on the dock to greet us. It was a fitting end to the last open ocean passage of our circumnavigation, as they were our neighbors at the dock in Shilshole when we were preparing to depart four years ago. Circumnavigators themselves, they were wonderful inspiration to us as we wrestled with the myriad of details that can bog down a departure. Now as we are returning, they are outbound on the next adventure - so goes the cycle.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Out of the fog with 200 miles to go

After three days and nights of sailing in fog we emerged from the fog last night and found ourselves in perfect visibility under a crystal clear sky with shooting stars. The price for clear skies was no wind and consequently, motor noise. As we motored the seas that had built during the day subsided. We'd been sailing close hauled all day with OK wind but the wind was coming straight from Sitka, so we were making good progress towards Kodiak Island, where we don't want to go. There is no moon at night this time of month so the only thing keeping us from seeing every star was the short night. At this latitude sunrise is officially at 4:52 by Marcy's clock. At 2AM the there was a rosy glow in the sky to the east. By 3AM the glow on the horizon had made most of the eastern stars disappear. The gentle dawn brought with it a light but favorable wind that was unexpected, but very welcome. The wind filled in by 3:30AM and we were sailing again headed at 4 knots directly toward Sitka. Now as we approach mid-day we have raised the spinnaker and are enjoying a comfortable sunny day. It is surprising that we have used the spinnaker so much and the storm staysail so little on this trip. We staged the hank on staysail on the foredeck before departing Hawaii and have only sailed with it for about 6 hours while we've enjoyed several days worth of spinnaker weather. With luck, we'll be tucked in at Sitka before the real wind starts to blow with a low that's expected to push through on Wednesday.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Light winds for Marcy

Marcy has been out 15 days on this passage. It has been a slow trip, bedeviled by huge high pressure systems and light airs, and we still have 700 miles to go to Sitka. The past few days were very pleasant, enough wind to keep steerage way, small waves, and lots of marine life to keep us interested. Marcy sailed silently and we could hear sounds normally lost in the roar of wind and sea. We learned that small seabirds make a pleasing peep peep sound at night as they circle us. We heard fish splashing and could carry on conversations in a normal voice. Fishing was great. Meals could be eaten from plates set at the table, even the glasses never tipped. Right now, though, the wind is still light but vicious swell from the NW (beam on to us) has arrived. We cringe at the slamming of the rig, which bangs with each swell even with the boom prevented three different ways. The battens invert and revert with a loud crack. A cup of water cannot be set down, and yet we're still only making a couple of knots! So needless to say we hope either the wind comes up or the swell dies down soon. The weather grib files show wind close to us, but not close enough. The days are getting longer - this morning the sun rose at 4:37 and sunset will be 7:12. It's also chilly at night now, and the saloon stove was fired up this morning for the first time since chilly Chile.


Monday, August 02, 2010

North Pacific High

Marcy is ghosting slowly north - instead of our usual winds of 15 to 25 kts, we experiencing the 2 to 10 knots typical of the "North Pacific High." Our plan, courtesy of Jimmy Cornell's excellent book "World Cruising Routes," was to head north from Hawaii until clear of the high, then angle northwest to Sitka. Unfortunately the high is huge right now and has enveloped our route. So progress is slow. It isn't all bad - the sky is sunny, the sunsets are gorgeous and the waves are small. We are passing thousands of beautiful jellyfish, Portuguese Men O' War, and have been visited by dolphins. Also we are lucky to be sailors from the Pacific Northwest where good ghosting skills are easy to aquire. About a dozen or so boats are heading back now to the mainland, on this route more or less, and some of them have resorted to motoring - at this latitude we're still concerned with heating up our cabin. Some sailors have a set speed to start motoring. Below that speed, say 3 knots, the motor comes on. On Marcy we usually will motor only if we can't maintain steerage or if the seas are too big to sail slowly. Much of this afternoon we were happy at a blistering 1.5 knots with the spinnaker.

Today is day 6 of the passage and so far we have been able to maintain an average speed of 5.9 knots. We have gone 865 nautical miles as of noon today and we have 1550 to go to our Sitka waypoint so we're about a third of the way there. Now that we are in lighter wind, all we can do is patiently plod on, hoping wind will fill in soon. Our average speed will drop, but life is comfortable and we will get there eventually!