Logs of S/V Bravo Charlie III


11/1/03 Noon Position: 
5 deg 53.2 min N, 162 deg 05.3 min W
Anchored in the lagoon at Palmyra

We are planning on hoisting anchor and heading for Honolulu / Ko Olina Marina tomorrow (Nov 2, 2003).  The stop at Palmyra has been the highlight of the trip north but schedules dictate the need to move on.  Depending whether the winds are favorable, we expect probably a six or seven day passage up to Hawaii.    According to Matt, we are the 13th yacht to call at Palmyra this year.  One of the reasons so few yachts come to Palmyra is that you need to make a bunch of  "easting" in order to get a comfortable wind angle once you enter the area of the northeast trades.  The east-setting Equatorial Counter Current that is encountered at about the latitude of Palmyra is a help in this matter but you need to undo a lot of going west. We plan on heading almost due east the first day out, even though Hawaii is almost due north.  After making some easting we will turn on a direct course for Ko Olina.

The night before we left Palmyra we stopped by the Palmyraians encampment to say goodbye and drop off some DVDs and Latitude 38 sailing magazines.   We got invited for dinner of  "Sooty Tern Game Hen".  Turns out that I was the only one who didn't get the joke when later I remarked that these birds had a lot more meat on them than you would think.  Everyone laughed and, it was in fact, Cornish game hen.  I guess I should have thought it would be strange eating protected birds in a nature sanctuary.


Raised anchor at 1120 HST, lagoon at Palmyra:
05 deg 53 min North, 162 deg 05 min West
950 miles to Honolulu

The next morning we got up early and went through the usual protracted process of stowing the dinghy, awning, etc and in general getting ready to go to sea.  We finally got out at 1120 local time, which was perfect from a lighting point of view.  The pass was easily visible with the sun overhead. On the way out we captured some GPS waypoints so that if we should ever return, the entrance will be much easier than the first time.  About an hour after we left the pass, the plane from Honolulu arrived and made a pass over Bravo Charlie.  This flight was apparently carrying some prospective donors as well as executives from the Nature Conservancy so everyone had been busy the past week getting things ready on the island.  We found out that it costs about $25,000 for the round-trip charter.   The plane, a twin turboprop Gulfstream G-1, and pilots remain on Palmyra while the guests are there.


11/3/03 Noon position:
08 deg 11 min North, 160 deg 25 min West
799 miles to Honolulu

The passage up to Hawaii has been uneventful so far.  The first day and night we motored through the ITCZ.   We had quite a few squalls with winds up to 25kts and a bunch of rain.   In the early afternoon of the second day, the wind turned to a steady east-north-east and we shut off the engine and were able to almost sail the direct course to Honolulu.   We could see that we were getting quite a bit of help from the Equatorial Countercurrent.

In the evening, the wind got stronger, up to about 22 kts, and the seas built to 8 to 10 feet.  It was a fairly uncomfortable night although we were at least sailing in the right direction. 

As is our usual practice we have been checking in with the Pacific Seafarers ham radio net on 14.313 Mhz at 0330Z (0530 HST).   We have been following the position of Sisutl, who left Fanning headed for Honolulu the same day we left for Palmyra.   They have been having a long and nasty time of it, particularly because their autopilot is broken.   They will probably get into Honolulu today.    We were also pleasantly surprised that we got a call from KD5SIT after giving our position report.   This was Emmy on Palmyra saying hello.   The Palmyrians, like many cruisers, apparently entertain themselves by keeping the ham radio on, listening for boats that they know. Those with access to the Internet can follow our progress at www.bitwrangler.com.  The actual page is a few clicks down from that page and can be found in two variants, "old" and "new".  The "old" presentation is superior in my opinion and includes tidbits like the wind, sea state, boat speed etc.


11/4/03 Noon position:
10 deg 49 min North, 160 deg 05 min West
days run 159 miles, 640 miles to Honolulu

On the morning of the third day the seas flattened out quite a bit and the wind diminished to the mid-teens. We suspect that at least some of the lessening of the seas was due to passing out of the Countercurrent and into the North Equatorial Current, which flows to the west, in the same direction as the wind.  Unfortunately, while making things more comfortable, we started to not be able to make the direct course to Honolulu anymore.

Fortunately (so far), the wind has continued to shift to the east and by mid-evening of the third night we again able to sail the direct course and even crack off the sheets a bit from close-hauled to a close reach.  The last 12 hours have actually been some of the more pleasant upwind trade wind sailing that I have done, with 7.5 kts boat speed and not too much heel or crash-bang-splash.

We shall see what the next 3 days hold as it is possible that the more usual stronger trades and bigger seas will be back.


11/5/03 Noon position:
13 deg 30 min North, 159 deg 37 min West
days run 163 miles, 477 miles to Honolulu

We continued to have favorable, slightly east-south-east, winds for most of Nov. 5th.  On the evening of the 5th we encountered a bunch of squalls with gusts to near 30kts, a little lightning, and bigger seas.  Dave had some concerns about one of the port lower shrouds being very loose when the winds were strong on the starboard tack.  However it just needed one turn taken up on the turnbuckle because this particular shroud had not been tightened after our rigging replacement last spring.  This trip up from French Polynesia was the first time we had sailed on the starboard tack for more than a few minutes since the replacement and there is always a little stretch in new rigging.  Greg managed to do the tightening without getting too wet or loosing the cotter pins overboard despite the seas.  Dave and Ane are particularly sensitive to rigging failures as they had a defective "stem-ball" fitting break on their boat Cabezon's head stay a day out of Hawaii in 1998.  The mast almost came down on them but they managed to secure the broken roller furler to the deck and motor back to Honolulu.  We didn't want similar things happening to us!

11/7/03 Noon position 11/6:
16 deg 06 min North, 159 deg 11 min West
days run 158 miles, 319 miles to Honolulu

Noon position 11/7:
18 deg 56 min North, 158 deg 36 min West
days run 173 miles, 146 miles to Honolulu

The 6th and 7th continued as more windy rock and roll waves hit us but we did make good time and kept up our "easting".  There was some "discussion" between the crew and captain about whether there was so much "Need For Speed!"  The crew even got out Steve & Linda Dashews' "Bluewater Handbook" to emphasize that comfort rather than speed has its benefits.

Later on the 7th, however, the wind started to die and we started up the motor.   Unfortunately, it exhibited a behavior of gradually losing RPMs after a few hours.  At first I thought that this was the slipping throttle linkage become worse.  But then Dave suggested checking the fuel filters and to my dismay the vacuum gauge read extremely high, indicating clogging.  We had switched fuel filters in Palmyra but hadn't changed out the dirty one (mistake!) so there was no alternate to immediately switch to.   As it turned out this wouldn't have done any good because the problem appeared to be not the filters themselves, which were quite dirty, but the pickup in the bottom of the fuel tank.  We drained several cups of yucky gunk from the tank sump drain and tried a bunch of things to clear the blockage.  No joy! Then, to top off matters, the genset died too with the same symptoms of bad fuel.

This was becoming serious, as we needed the genset to charge the batteries each day.  All of the furling and autopilot are electric and are ferocious consumers of juice.  And it is very hard to sail Bravo Charlie with manual furling as one has to insert a special tiny winch handle at the mast or head stay and rotate it literally hundreds of times in order to reef or unreef the sail.  Not something that you want to do when you need to reef.  So we instituted an energy saving program, turning off the big energy consumers like the fridge, freezer and radar.   I calculated that this would leave enough power in the batteries until late on the 8th.   If it looked like we were not going to get in by then we would hand steer instead of using the autopilot.  This would preserve the batteries for operating the furlers. (In fact, with the solar panels, they would charge up).


11/8/03 Noon position:
21 deg 19.6 min North, 158 deg 07.2 min West
Tied to fuel dock at Ko Olina Marina, Hawaii


However, the weather gods were smiling.  We were rewarded with a steady 15-20kt wind from the east-north-east and had fast but bumpy sailing all the way up to the entrance buoy at Ko Olina Marina.  This last 140 miles, when you pass through the lee of the various other Hawaiian Islands, was notoriously flukey the last two times we had done this trip.   But this time the wind was rock steady.

We called Ko Olina on the VHF about 1 hour out and told them of the situation and they generously offered a free tow!  We arrived at the outer buoys and sailed around for a few minutes until Denny, from the marina office, came out in the towboat "Kokua" (meaning "caregiver" in Hawaiian).  After securing the towrope to the bow cleat he towed us in.  It was clear that he had lots of practice doing this because he swung wide to the upwind side on all of the turns and released the tow a few boat lengths from the fuel dock, leaving us with enough momentum to coast to the dock where there were two other cruisers waiting for us to throw us their lines.    I haven't seen many dockings where we did have an engine that were this smooth!

US Immigration showed up 30 minutes later and quickly cleared us to be able to get off the boat.  US Customs took our report over the phone but I need to go downtown on Monday to fill out some paperwork.  Unfortunately, US Agriculture is coming Monday morning and we have to keep all of our garbage on the boat and not take it ashore and instead give to them.  It's now all stuffed in the anchor locker!

Glad to be back, we did some minimal cleanup and walked to the hotel where we had the obligatory drinks, cheeseburgers, etc.     That evening, back at the Marina, the Hawaii Yacht club had a big party because they had a weekend race from Honolulu to Ko Olina and back.  While the drinks were supposed to cost money, they were giving them away after 7 PM and they had a lot of beer!  All in all, a great welcome home.

P.S.  Dave and Ane are flying home on Nov. 11th.

-        Greg, Ane, Dave
-        S/V Bravo Charlie III

P.S.  Stay tuned next year - probably we will journey back to French Polynesia and then on to Fiji and Tonga