Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 21: Arrived on land!

Today at about 3:00pm we arrived at Honokohau Harbor on the west side of the Big Island, Hawaii.   Our day sail from the anchorage 36 miles north was sweet and lovely.  Beautiful sky and seas, with enough wind to sail much of the way.  

Watching the landscape of this beautiful volcanic island unroll to our east made me want to get on land, to see the green fields and climb the mountains.  Now I am tucked into my dear friend Johanna's home halfway up Mauna Loa in the middle of Parker Ranch.   The view from up here shows me the very water we sailed across today. 

I am so happy to be here with an old friend and her family.  And I am so happy that I was able to share this time with the Nie's aboard their sailboat, to help them come closer to fulfilling their dreams and the mission that is so important to them.  The companionship and love that grew between us was palpable and permanent by the end.

So now, on solid ground and so far not swaying too badly, I say goodnight and end my blogging for a little while.  For the next few days Carmen and I will get our land legs, swim a little and catch up with old friends. Then we will board a plane for Alaska and reunite with our boys.  

What a journey!

2,820 nautical miles from Mexico, on the Big Island of Hawaii

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 20: Message In A Bottle, Land Ho! And a Hawaiian Sunset

Carmen awoke today and, as usual, spent a bunch of time "waking up" in
her bed while breakfast cooked. After an hour or so, she emerged with a tiny scroll of paper, tied with ribbon. She placed this message, plus a pencil, inside the empty wine bottle we had saved for this momentous occasion. 

We wanted to sing some sort of shanty or other commemorative song to wish the small glass vessel a fair voyage. Unable to come up with any such appropriate song, we lined the rail while she prepared to fling the bottle overboard. We hope that this little vessel has as much fun as we did on our journey, travels far and wide, and we hope that one day someone finds it and emails us! 

A few hours later, we found ourselves in 20 knots of wind, experiencing an exhilarating sail through the channel that separates the Big Island and Maui. Fast, fun, we worked hard cranking sails and steering through swells, and we grinned from ear to ear. Once around the top of the island, the swells subsided but the wind remained, giving us a sweet and
fast ride to our anchorage, a roadstead spot on the northwest shore of the island. We circled the anchorage and then let loose the anchor, relishing in the thump thump sound of chain rushing out of its holder in the bow. 

And then. We. Stopped. For the first time in 20 days, we ceased moving forward. 

We now gently sway at anchor, celebrating our accomplishment, making popcorn for dinner and taking photos of this spectacular sunset that Hawaii is painting in the sky for us. 

We are satisfied. Relieved. Satiated. Overwhelmed. Happy. Filled up. Released. Thankful. Appreciative. Silly. Smiling and breathing deeply, we laugh and settle in. Being at anchor provides a needed transition between our nomadic lifestyle and one on land. Still bobbing on the sea, but anchored securely to land, we adjust and relish in life. 

2,786 nm away from Mexico, 36 nm to our final destination in Kona, Hawaii.


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Friday, July 4, 2014

Day 19: Smooth Ride, Colorful Dorado, Comfortable Silence

Finally, in the final 24 hours of our 20-day voyage, we have settled
into the smooth downwind sailing we have heard so much about from others
who cruise west from the U.S. The larger swells that were knocking us
on our side subsided, leaving gentle swells that roll under us, giving
the boat a nice massage and peaceful back-to-front rocking motion. A
steady 15-20 knots of wind allows our sails to fill, lift the boat up
and pull us forward.

As an extra special treat on our last offshore day, we caught two
beautiful dorado (mahi-mahi). Carmen and I reeled one of them in this
time, and both Carmen and Nyki have taken over the task of hauling the
fish onboard and removing the hooks. These fish are so spectacular
looking, to me they will always remind me of this journey – their colors
capturing the myriad blues and greens of the sea and sky, and the way
they morph from blue to green to yellow to spotted to silver to gold
mimick the changeable weather and unpredictability of our course. They
have brought joy and camaraderie to us throughout the trip. Thank you,
Mother Earth, for providing us with this spectacular show and delicious

It's been quiet on board today. Not a lot of chit chat or discussion
of what is coming up. Instead, a comfortable silence has settled upon
us. I spent a lot of time on the bow, soaking up the sun, watching the
cloud shapes above, and most of all listening to the unique sounds of
sailing, making a mental recording (and an iphone recording) to tap into
when I am landlocked and in need of some inspired peace. The waves and
swell as they race underneath our hull, their gentle splash and
slapping, the wind through the rigging, even the hum of the wind
generator and the unmistakable whirr of a fishing pole with a Fish On!
These will always bring a smile to my face.

That's All, Folks! Tomorrow evening we should be tied to a dock near
Kona, Hawaii.

2,637 nautical miles from Mexico, 185 nautical miles to go


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 18: Big Island Hawaii, Here We Come – A Bittersweet Ending

- Harbormaster called, slip assignment secured – CHECK
- Received local knowledge about rounding the top portion of the Big
Island of Hawaii - CHECK
- Customs officer called, made aware of our arrival – CHECK
- Fruits and veggies consumed – ALMOST, just enough left for the two
more days of transit we have before us
- Coffee creamer – OUT
- Crew adjusted to night watches – CHECK
- At least one book read – CHECK
- Plans for travel back to Alaska made – ALMOST
- Personal growth achieved - CHECK
If not for the clouds on the western horizon, we would probably be able
to see the top of Mauna Kea today. We are less than 300 miles offshore
from Hawaii and riding our large 30-ton sled down the swell to Honokohau
Harbor, near Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Now that land is (almost literally) in sight, I have mixed feelings
about this 2,822 nautical mile journey ending. It has taken us almost
this whole time to fall into a sweet rhythm of night watches, napping,
sharing kitchen duties, and maintaining the good ship S/V Sweet Dreams.
The kids do their daily check of fruits and vegetables without asking,
they all share the galley cleanup duties, they all know how to catch and
land fish. They can watch the helm for a few hours and answer questions
like "what is our lat and long?" or "what course are we on now?" We are
all comfortable spending time together and also taking some time alone.
Not only will this experience shared by only the six of us be over soon,
but our time together 24/7 will probably never occur again. I have
grown even fonder of my friends Gina, Jim, Colton and Niki as we get
used to each other's quirks and gifts. And I will miss them, as they
are continuing on a 3-year+ voyage to faraway lands and who knows when
our paths will meet again.
I thought I would list some of the discoveries I realized out here:
- The azure color of the deep sea is indescribably rich, intense, truly
awesome and I will never tire of looking at it.
- The force of the ocean's swell and waves can rock a 30-ton boat like a
- A pressure cooker is my new best friend in the kitchen.
- Carmen is an amazingly patient and careful baker, creating sweet
goodness for us throughout this trip, and her baked goods have an extra
dose of love thrown in.
- Days and hours stretched before me with no "agenda" or long to do list
STILL go by in the blink of an eye.
- Naps are fabulous remedies to any ailment and should be taken often by
everyone everywhere. Period.
- My daughter is an intelligent, gentle, outgoing, helpful, courageous,
exceptional person and I vow to remember that even when we are back in
the daily grind, doing the mundane and bickering about what clothes she
wants to wear to school.
- At 48 years old, I am still learning. Still discovering who I am.
And more and more, I kind of like who I am. Perhaps I can finally stop
trying to be something else.
From 2,486 nautical miles offshore from Mexico, 331 nm to get to Hawaii.


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 17: Creaks, Squeaks, and Groans

By CarmenTheCat (Jen's 11-year-old daughter)

Falling asleep on a boat -especially a sailboat- is an adventure in and
of itself. Some of the most experienced sailors (the kind you hear about
that grew up sailing; born and raised on a sailboat, and the more modest
quiet type that started as city folk, and became well weathered masters
of the roiling waters of the trades and the blissful calm of the
doldrums) have passed years mastering the dark sorcery of earplugs lost
in beds, and the strange witchcraft of that perfect speed where the
droning of the engine drowns out the water maker and the slow creaking
of the walls, but at the same time is not so loud that you can't hear
yourself think.
I hold a great disdain for earplugs. My mother has -so far- gone
through about six pairs of the neon yellow rocket ship ones. But it's
not just the earplugs, oh! no. Mom has her whole system worked out. In
her own words; "When I get off watch at 2:00am, I have my yellow
earplugs. My head is on one pillow right, and then -like I said before-
I have my yellow earplugs in, and then I put another pillow on top.
And, after my watch I'm usually so tired, I just conk right out."I think
they are a lost cause. Literally.
The engine isn't turned on unless we're going less then four knots, so
I can't exactly count on that tactic. My "room" on the boat is a space
about three yards wide by three and a half yards long. A little bit more
than half of the three yards of width is taken up by an elevated bed,
and between the community garbage, and the un-refrigerated food shelves
that I share my room with, the total floorspace is about two and a half
by four feet. Most of which is taken up by a big black case that makes
it possible to get up to my bed without swell assistance (if I time it
right, I can run up, and have the swell pretty much rocket me onto my
bed. Except that it's more like a small hop), and my dirty cloths bin
that rests on top of it. On the more crammed side of the room with the
garbage and shelves, a cloth shower-curtain-like "wall" is the only
division between my room and the galley. One of the loudest, and busiest
places on the boat. So getting to sleep without help is not even an
option for me. Every night I listen to music until I nod off to sleep,
earbuds still in.
Yes, it's annoying, and for sure it's not practical, but hey-how can I
complain. I'm in the middle of an ocean on a sailboat with my mama, my
mommy#2, a substitute for a big brother, a trustworthy captain, and a
best friend who's close to being a sister.

2,320 nautical miles from Mexico, 497 nm from Hawaii


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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 16: Fish On!

Each day we set two fishing poles that drag behind the boat and
hopefully catch our dinner. In the 16 days since we departed Mexico we
have landed one Sierra, nine Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and watched a couple of
5-foot long Marlin snap our "like-steel" line in two with dramatic
sword-first leaps into the air. Many of the Dorado were too small to
eat, so we quickly released them. Two we kept for dinner.

Dorado (that's the Mexican name for this fish – the Hawaiian and more
common name is Mahi Mahi) are the most beautiful fish I have ever seen.
Their top is an incredible rich and brilliant blue that matches the
sea, and it changes from top to bottom, like a rainbow, blue then green
then yellow with blue spots, until the belly is whitish. If that isn't
enough to wonder at, when they come out of the water you can actually
watch the life leave them as they transform colors with each step closer
to death. I know, this is a lot of detail and may be hard to stomach,
especially for vegetarians, but it is fascinating, beautiful and sad to
watch and, I think, worth noting.

Over these weeks at sea, we have gotten better and better at catching,
landing, killing humanely and quickly, filleting and cooking these gifts
from the sea. Today was a quiet morning with on and off rain showers,
most of us reading or just resting, when we heard the call – "Fish On!!"
All hands run up on deck, some with cameras, others with gloves and
filleting knives, some manning the sails to slow the boat down as others
slowly reel them in.

Once the fish was landed, bled, and filleted I prepared Carmen's
favorite – "fish and chips" without the chips. Breaded fried fish. The
time from landing it on deck to this succulent meal landing in our
bellies was under two hours. How delicious was it? I really can't
explain in words. Not only was it delicious, though, it was a group
effort from beginning to end. There is something so satisfying about
this kind of hunting and gathering and teamwork.

It is now time to make peach blueberry raspberry cobbler, as I have
been promising this to Carmen for a few days. Oh, and also the ice
cream! Because who wants cobbler without ice cream on top? So the ice
cream ball will be prepared and rolled around while the cobbler is
cooked. Can we call this dinner? It's been a lot of work feeding this
crew today 

2,186 nautical miles from Mexico, about 642 more to Hawaii


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Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 15: Yoga On The Aft Deck

Today the sea and the wind aligned with our westward course. As a
result, a flatter boat led to a sweet yoga practice.

The first week we were out we had NW wind with a SE swell, sailed
upwind and heeled over so much that Down Dog was out of the question.

Then for the past week we have had NW to NE wind with a NNE swell,
sailing a reach and getting beat up with periodic steep waves on our
beam, making walking and standing nearly impossible. We have literally
been dancing through the cabin as the waves toss us from one side to the
other and a sort of do-see-do occurs.

Sometime during the night last night after a series of rainy squalls,
things changed. Now I honestly think we are in the infamous trades:
East wind and East swell, a gentle sled ride as we surf the waves and a
steady wind pushes us westward.

This allowed for my first yoga practice on the aft deck, and it was
heavenly. For 40 minutes I entered another world, I went deep inside
and breathed and found my namaste. Ahhhhh, bliss.

~2,050 nautical miles offshore, another 770 to go until landfall.


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