2013: How Can It Be Gone?

I see that it is over a year since the last Laysan update; since the blog serves, in part, as a family travelogue, catchup is in order!

Rewind to early 2013 and reminisce of our many weekend trips along the south shore of Oahu; almost any day provides reasonable conditions for a run to the Diamond Head buoy, a favorite location for winter viewing of visiting humpback whales.  Celebrating Opening Day in February for the traditional blessing of the fleet for “fair winds and following seas”; Laysan flies all of her colors from the places we have visited passing in review by the Commodore’s boat with all our friends aboard.  We might have won best dressed boat, if some unnamed, overly excited crew member had not forgotten to pull up our dangling fenders in her exhilatration of the parade.  Oh well.

Opening day at the Waikiki Yacht Club

Opening day at the Waikiki Yacht Club

In the summer with the kids at home, we prepare Laysan for a short cruise to our favorite summer Hawaii destination, the Garden Isle of Kauai.  However, the 75 mile channel crossing always gets our attention, the channels of Hawaii are rarely easy.  In an effort to avoid an overnight passage, we stage ourselves at Koolina marina the first night and then make a 0400 departure for Lihue, hoping to make it all the way in daylight.  With a northwesterly course and strong trades blowing out of the northeast, a south swell mixing up the 10′ wind waves, it is a rock and roll ride all the way; testing our stomach stamina despite transdermal Scopalomine and sublingual Zofran. But as always, the closer we get to the destination, the better we feel.  With Kauai in sight, and right on cue, a bird fest on the water signals a fish frenzy and we troll straight through the school.  The reel spins and then sadly breaks its line, but the hand-line is tight and soon we haul in a 20# Aku tuna.  Awesome!

Sarah's aku.

Sarah’s aku.

We pull into Nawiliwili Harbor before sunset, tie up and shut down in minutes.  Then, as one might guess, hamburgers and fries for everyone, the arrival tradition. A few days in Lihue with good friends Joe and Sandie, and we are ready to circle the island to anchor in Hanalei Bay for a week.  Thirty or more boats anchor there on and off through the summer give it a lovely cruiser feel.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

The days are timeless with dinghy rides into town for shave ice and hamburgers, morning visits from the resident dolphins, kayaking up the river, and lounging lizard-like on the sandy beach.  M/Y Starr is anchored nearby with friends Don and Sharry, all is going well until tropical storm Flossie appears on the horizon. Originally forecast to pass south of the islands with Hanalei Bay sheltered by its north facing position, our plan to stay in place looks good until Flossie veers north less than 24 hours before arrival.  Of course, the storm, scheduled to pass the bay after midnight, requires a moonless all night anchor watch for the crew of Laysan, meaning me.

NOAA's warnings for Flossie

NOAA’s warnings for Flossie

After a day of lashing everything down, letting out all our anchor chain, and consuming copious amounts of coffee, I watch the winds veer around and swing us 180 in the small space between the other boats, only visible by their lights and my radar.  Oh, wouldn’t a night vision camera be another excellent toy? Fortunately, the whole storm turns rather tame, lacking the anticipated 30-40 winds, instead the max winds are a little breezy at 10-15.  Nonetheless, Flossie is good practice and provides substantial discussion with fellow boaters about storm preparation.  However, ultimately we discover that weather is a persnickity beast and defies our abundance of planning. 

To satisfy our curiosity and at Julia’s insistence, we depart for the Secret Isle of Niihau. Passing by the Na Pali coastline and after a quiet night at a road stead off Polihale, we cross the 24 mile Kaulakahi Channel between Kauai and Niihau.

Polihale

Polihale

The island owned by the Robinson family for over a hundred years has no power, no harbor, no airport, and about a hundred people living a subsistence Hawaiian lifestyle.  The owner stocks the island with exotic animals and arrives periodically in his Augusta turbine helicopter.  In an odd paradox, Robinson claims the shoreline is private, despite state law that declares the tidal high water mark as public everywhere else in Hawaii.  A point of view that makes for interesting contact with the locals.

Anchored off Niihau

Anchored off Niihau

We anchor Laysan offshore in two areas that are beautiful; no lights at night and incredible stars overhead give us the Milky Way in all its glory.  Kayaking in the afternoons along the shallows, we see monk seals cavorting at the shore and sleeping on the beach. Finally, duty calls and we start home from the southern end of Niihau, making a straight run of 140 miles to Honolulu. With the winds against us and the channel kicking up the waves, and the occasional south swell rolling us from the side, it is another grind of 28 hours to home harbor at Waikiki.  Niihau Crossing Video  Arriving on our 29th wedding anniversary, we hustle from the dock to the local hamburger joint to celebrate.  A great trip.

The last bit of news is Laysan’s haul out at Keehi Marine. After three and a half years, it is time for bottom paint, zincs, and best of all, a new prop.  Jim at PDF coatings handles all the painting and labor arrangements, and we get it all done in three days. Surprisingly, the prop removal is the most difficult, and requires hydraulic pullers and acetylene torch heating schemes until it pops loose on the second day.  Evidently, there were barbs on the shaft taper holding the prop back. The new prop is actually my spare that I sent to Kruger propeller in Seattle for re-pitching.  After much voodoo science and warnings about overloading the engine at wide open throttle, the experts all agree that increasing the pitch from 15″ to 18″ will give us the increase in cruising range we need to cross to Alaska in 2015.  Initially, we appear to gain one knot and a reduction in rpm, which means more miles to the gallon.  I had hoped to go waterskiing behind Laysan, but that is not to be.  Six knots at 1800 rpm at 1.5 gph, that will do nicely, thank you. So this is our update for 2013, all is well with the Douglas clan.  Laysan looks great with her new bottom; I snorkel underneath frequently to appreciate the maroon magnificence.  All the best.

Captain and crew off of Niihau

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3 Responses to 2013: How Can It Be Gone?

  1. Sybil Saito says:

    I can’t believe you’ve had Laysan for 3 years! Love the update – love you all.
    The Saitos

  2. Lyle Woerth says:

    I’m insanely jealous, but at the same time happy for and proud of you…it’s a complicated emotion.
    Go Team Douglas!

  3. David Sambell says:

    way to go!…David Sambell here in Gilbert Arizona living vicariously through your adventures.

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