North to Alaska !


Where to start this tale is a quandary that has taken more than a week to figure out. As I start to write, we are near the end of day eight of our passage from Honokohau Harbor, Kona Hawaii to Sitka Alaska, 1188 miles along. We thrashed north from the harbor on the wrong day, against a close together washboard sea, Wednesday, June 27 early in the morning. It was a 40 knot noserly… noserly? That’s a breeze right on the nose. It was a rough, fresh start weeks after our first departure and more than a month after we planned.

Darkness is just falling on this Sunday. Holy Grail is hard on the wind reefed and going well against a NW wind of up to 22 knots in the rain squalls, and moving gently at 5 ½ to 6 knots in the 16 knot winds as the squalls pass. The Admiral has just crawled into the big aft cabin bunk alone while the Captain takes the first night watch, 7pm to 1am. The horizon ahead in the gloom is dotted with black squalls under the full cloud cover. As it becomes darker, the sky from the horizon to the cloud deck above is the lightest, so that squalls appear as black funnels touching the horizon, the blackest ones containing the most rain, and sometimes the most wind. But you never know if it will have lots of wind or none at all, especially at night. The strongest of them packed winds of 32 knots for about 15 minutes, while we just ran downwind until it blew itself out.

But this is not where I wanted to start. Let’s start before the beginning, back in November or Dec when we thought we had plenty of time to prepare the boat for a May passage to Alaska. We were making our lists, ordering new gear, shopping for odds and ends and still enjoying chartering several days a week. The boat was in pretty good shape as we had been chartering for about four years, keeping her fit and active. Boats are people too, you know – needing to keep moving for good health. There were a few jobs that needed attention for an ocean passage that were not important for the calm waters of Kona, mainly making sure all the hatches and ports were water tight when INUNDATED. It is a rare day sailing in Kona when even one drop of salt water contaminates our decks. Testing with a relentless high pressure hose released torrents into the boat – hatches, ports, prisms, and other corners too. Get to work, captain! Some must be removed and re-bedded. Some just needed new gaskets, and some needed complete reconstruction. Suddenly, it seemed, eight weeks disappeared.

Then there was the rigging… (to be continued)