Sea Treasures

The sea gave us a gift yesterday, a crystal blue sky with glassy flat azure water that reflected the suns rays into the depths. We gathered on the front deck and gazed down expecting to catch a glimpse of some ancient sea creature gliding under Laysan. I have always heard of the mirrored sea days, but I had never experienced one until yesterday. Perhaps just as momentous, yesterday was our half way point, no turning back now. We celebrated by cooking vegetarian curry and rice and watched the sun sink into a stupendous orange horizon. That evening while I was on watch, I witnessed a second spectacular moment when a pale quarter moon rose out of a sea sparkling with bio-luminescence into a black sky filled with stars. All very poetic and lovely.

Lovely, calm Pacific Ocean.

Lovely, calm Pacific Ocean.

However, today is a different story. I awoke to a bad pounding rolling experience, the kind that makes me cling gibbon monkey like to my bed. A low pressure area was moving in from the west doing its level best to destroy the placid waters of yesterday. Grey clouds hung low, squalls lined up against us, the ocean took on a hue of prison drab, and the waves struck us a beam. For the first time on the trip, we had to deploy the paravanes in order to maintain some level of comfort from the incessant side to side rolling. The four of us sat glumly nursing our granola and tea wondering what happened to the nirvana of yesterday.

The radar shows approaching showers in yellow and red.

The radar shows approaching showers in yellow and red.

For the first time since we had reached the Ocean Cleanup zone, we did not send out the Mega Monster for its collection of plastic; too treacherous on the cockpit. While one might think we were relieved to be out of a chore, we actually missed the daily routine of the three trawls. Every afternoon, someone takes the wheel while the other three dress in life jackets and old salty clothes and convene on the cockpit. Everyone has their job, Naomi or John handle the 150′ rope that deploys and retrieves the Mega, Sarah clips and unclips the Mega from the pulley lines and makes sure the Mega is upright at deployment, I retrieve the netting and cod-end (the mesh net piece that collects the sample) and try to keep the Mega from bashing into the back of Laysan. Once the cod-end is brought aboard we all gather around to inspect our collection. Each trawl collects some marine life, small crabs, tiny fish, plankton, water bugs, squid but most astonishingly, each trawl collects plastic. Keep in mind we are 1,200 miles from Oahu and 900 miles from the west coast and the sea is full of plastic bits. Every single trawl, we collect a cod full of plastic fragments; the enormous amount of plastic that must be in the ocean is inconceivable and sobering. In addition to the small fragments, we witness a constant stream of debris floating by Laysan; buoys, netting, shoes, bottles, bags, crates, fenders, fishing floats….to realize that the sea is full of this garbage is disheartening. Check out the Ocean Cleanup website or Facebook page and show your support for this group’s Herculean effort to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. Also of interest is a link to the Mega Expedition which shows the location of all the boats participating in the research. Laysan was the first to reach the designated area and you should be able to see our path as we near the northern edge of the research area.

Well, the seas have lightened up, maybe we will have time for another trawl after all! Where are my salty clothes?


The cod chock full of plastic bits after a one hour trawl.

The cod chock full of plastic bits after a one hour trawl.

Examining the latest trawl collection.

Examining the latest trawl collection.

Big plastic as well as small plastic bits were caught in the trawl.

Big plastic as well as small plastic bits were caught in the trawl.

Saving a baby crab that was swept into the Mega net.

Saving a baby crab that was swept into the Mega net.

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Night Watch

imageHello everyone;

John here, at 0400 on the night watch. It’s not all hot chocolate, star gazing, and meaningful contemplation you know. Laysan has been gliding gracefully the last couple of days through the middle of the great Pacific high pressure system of summer, with calm seas and winds that make for speeds over 6 knots and smiles all around. This will not last for long but it feels timeless with the pleasant rumble of the diesel resonating through the boat. Until, something is not so pleasant about the rumble.

About an hour ago, the rpm dropped suddenly by 200 and the speed dropped below 5 knots, which could be the throttle slipping since it is held in place for days at a time by a simple friction screw. But it also felt like the water around Laysan got thicker, holding her back, and the rumble had a whine in it. More throttle and the rpm comes up, but the fuel flow is double, so normal is no longer in place. Idle, neutral, floodlights aft to check for debris, nothing. Reverse, back down, neutral, wait. Engine room check all ok. Forward, engage, throttle up to 1900, speed back up over 6 and fuel flow normal, engine room check ok, now breathe. Laysan is gliding again.

Possibly we have fouled the prop with some of the scattered line and net we see each day and avoid, but at night, well, it’s back to the original theory of small boat in a big ocean where untoward intersections of objects is unlikely. This theory has its flaws in a world of plastic, which is part of our ocean cleanup campaign. And it certainly becomes a more pressing reality when Laysan whines and slows in the night. Later today in the daylight, we will send GoPro over the side on a stick to examine the drive train for remnants of this night watch mystery.

The wind and the swell are now picking up from the west indicating we are possibly experiencing the edge of a cold front. At least it is pushing us in the right direction for a change. That’s the news from 37 34N and 142 28W. 1000 miles to go. All the best to our friends and family.


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Crisis of Three and a Spaceship

On the midnight shift, moving through the blending dark of the sky and the ocean, I feel like I am in a spaceship. Voyaging through a space, far from land, far from people, far from light. The reality is that we are a spaceship by circumstance; we are fully self-contained and we must be fully self reliant. Any problem that arises can only be resolved by our common sense, John’s bounty of spares, and creativity.

Yesterday, we had three mini crises. The first was signaled by an occasional quiet beep; we all heard the sound, but no one could pin point the source. The beep became more frequent, more insistent. Finally, we all confirmed that it was the lazarette bilge alarm, signaling that there was water in the bilge. However, the design of the boat is such that the only opening to the lazarette is a hatch on the floor of the back cockpit, a location awash in salt water with each roll of the boat. Hence a Catch-22; open the lazarette to check for water in the bilge and the source of our alarm but in the process, risk a wave of salt water washing into the lazarette creating a greater problem. What to do? We knew there wasn’t much water in the bilge, because the manual pump was only removing cupfuls of water. However, the source of the leak was important since we didn’t want it to increase…was it a leaking thru hull, a leaking rudder post shaft seal, a leaking hatch gasket? We marshaled the forces, slowed the boat, turned into the waves, outlined the hatch with rolled towels, stood guard for a sneaky wave, and John jumped down into the lazarette with tools and flashlight. Five minutes later, John concluded that the problem was the hatch gasket, tightened the dogs on the hatch, leaped back out, and we slammed the hatch shut. Success…no water in, no major problem, tiny issue resolved.

Checking the lazarette, note the beach towel protective shield; towel v. ocean.

Checking the lazarette, note the beach towel protective shield; towel v. ocean.

Crisis two was a short time later; discovered when we tried to send our daily position report to our weather router. The satellite telephone informed us we didn’t have any more minutes, sorry. Whaaat? We had spent almost two weeks with the Inmarsat people working out our satellite communication, and included in those endless discussions was the instruction to automatically reload our satellite minutes if and when we went through the first $100. In other words, “here is my credit card, make sure we have access to the satellite”. At that bad moment in time, the Catch-22 is that we had no means of communicating with the people who could get us communicating again. In fact, we had no means to communicate with anyone other than via our VHF radio or SSB radio. The fortuitous resolution to this rather serious problem was Naomi, the infinitely prepared. Naomi had brought an InReach satellite messenger that allowed for short text messages to a telephone or email. We sent a series of terse, annoyed texts to the Inmarsat folks who, six hours later, deemed our problem serious enough to fix. Back in business again. In hindsight it is easy to say “we should have a second device, such as the InReach or the Spot”. I can only respond that crossing preparation is a constant balance between need – want – cost; sometimes you call it right, sometimes you don’t.

Our third mini crisis of the day involved Baby Huey, the 75 gallons of diesel lashed to the front of our deck in a large black bladder. Despite a certain amount of stress from our two previous crises, the day was relatively wave quiet so we decided to empty the bladder into our side fuel tank. John had devised and tested a diesel pump that should have made the whole job a 20 minute affair; one hose onto the Baby, one hose into the diesel tank, and a pump in between. All hands on deck with life jackets and the process began. However, within four or so minutes the pump stopped working, either battery failure, air suction failure, or gremlins. What to do? Try to fix the pump, try to do a gravity feed, try to create a straight suction with the hose… we opted for a gravity feed. However, various physics problems conspired against us and we spent two and a half hours on the rolling, salt encrusted front deck lifting, rolling, squeezing, stomping, hanging, roping, and cursing the Baby. Eventually, we prevailed and every last drop of diesel was drained from Baby. No disasters, no injuries, no loss.

The spaceship sails on and we have been lucky today that all we need has been aboard.


Lassoing Baby Huey.

Lassoing Baby Huey.

Adding 75 gallons of diesel at sea in the side tank.

Adding 75 gallons of diesel at sea in the side tank.

17:10 HST
33 13.293 N 147 15.574 W
Miles to go: 1370 nm

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What Would You Talk About in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean?

As our rolly, bumpy days flow past, our conversations focus predominately on two topics; food and math. Even though everyone still dons their daily scopolamine patch, our appetites have survived. I stocked our larders premised on a single idea; we are unlikely to want to cook. Laysan has a lovely kitchen with a microwave, gas range, oven, refrigerators, freezers, however, any cooking attempt must be made by wedging yourself against the cabinetry, feet planted firmly on the floor, and gripping the edge of the counter with one hand. If you need to get something out of the fridge, you take the wedge position open the door, keeping in mind that if the boat rolls at that precise moment, the refrigerator door could break off its hinges. Cushioning the door against such a fate, reach in and grab item, set it on the counter just as the boat does another roll, slams the fridge door and
the item slides or rolls down the counter to land in the sink. And so it goes for each item of a recipe. To circumvent this high wire act, I made multiple crock pot meals and froze them in a foursome serving container. Now all I have to do is pop it out of the freezer into a pan and heat it up. Perfect! We are dining on French cassoulet, beef chili, madras lentil soup, jalapeno cilantro pesto pasta, black bean and chicken tortilla soup, and udon noodles. The highlight of the week is, Friday, ice cream night!

This particular breakfast did not go so well, oatmeal on the floor.

This particular breakfast did not go so well, oatmeal on the floor.

Every evening around sunset, we discuss our meal options, contemplate possible sides and then bob and stumble our way to the galley. Once our choice is heated, we all sit up in the pilot house on the couch, lined up like birds, and enjoy our soup in the Japanese red bowls from Don Quijote. During our evening meal, we listen to the audio book of The Hobbit and watch as the sun drops into the ocean and the moon rises in the east. A fine moment in the day.

Our respective favorite dining positions.

Our respective favorite dining positions.

Frequently, our conversations turn to the meal we plan to have at Neah Bay, our first landfall. John’s dream of a meal is a hamburger, Sarah a cheeseburger, I want just the french fries, and Naomi, ever the out of the box thinker, desires sushi.

As for our second most popular topic, math, that will have to wait for another blog.

Sarah introduced Naomi to an island favorite, spam musubi. Naomi claimed she liked it!

Sarah introduced Naomi to an island favorite, spam musubi. Naomi claimed she liked it!


10:00 HST
31 19.56 N 149 07.73 W
Miles to go: 1518

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Mega (Big) Trawler and a Tiny Boat

Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s lesson concerns ocean pollution. A group called Ocean Cleanup headed up by a young Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat, is attempting the first of its kind cleanup of the world’s oceans. Apparently, Mr. Slat presented a Ted talk and outlined his idea for a floating ocean boom that would catch plastic bits as the sea currents passed; the collected plastic would then be taken to recycling plants for reuse. In order to get information about the Pacific gyre garbage patch, Mr. Slat organized the Mega Expedition, a plan consisting of 50 private boats traveling various paths between Hawaii and the mainland each conducting systematic trawls. The information collected wold be used to determine the location of the planned collection booms. A big idea.

Laysan volunteered to be on the expedition and we are the first boat departing Honolulu with the trawling equipment, or the Mega Monster as we like to call it. When we first volunteered for the mission, we each envisioned a small net daintily skating behind the boat collecting bits of plastic. What we were delivered was a 46 pound steel and plastic behemoth measuring 7 feet long and 4 feet tall; nothing dainty about it!

I have never mentioned the Mega before this blog entry because the likelihood of it remaining on the dock at the Ala Wai was about 85%. However, Sarah, our marine scientist, persevered and we made a carpeted hammock for the monster and lashed it down securely to the swim step. The Mega Monster set out to sea.

Yesterday, Friday, we entered the edge of the ocean area of interest to the project. Dutifully we donned life jackets, shoes and gloves to try and wrestle the monster out of its hammock and into the Pacific. We were told that this is a one man or maybe two man operation. The reality is that it is a three woman, one man activity; lifting, wenching, fending off the boat, slowing the boat….Over the course of the afternoon, we managed to complete three hour long trawls. Curiously, while the ocean appears absolutely clear and blue and clean, in each trawl net we collected tiny blue and white plastic bits mixed with miscellaneous encrusted rope and fishing line. The results surprised us all. Assuming the ocean stays relatively calm, we will continue to make daily trawls. Our traverse of the garbage patch area will probably take us 10 days and we will keep you posted as we find interesting bits in the net.


More information on the expedition can be found at

Mega lived on the swim step and the crew stayed in the cock pit for deployment operations.

Mega lived on the swim step and the crew stayed in the cock pit for deployment operations.

Naomi hoisted the Mega while Sarah and Kathleen worked to get it up and over the back of the swim step.

Naomi hoisted the Mega while Sarah and Kathleen worked to get it up and over the back of the swim step.

With trial and error, we learned Mega didn't right itself if upside down.

With trial and error, we learned Mega didn’t right itself if upside down.

The Mega trawled behind Laysan on a 150' line for an hour a trawl, three times a day.

The Mega trawled behind Laysan on a 150′ line for an hour a trawl, three times a day.



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Out Through the Molokai Channel and Into the Pacific

Everyone's favorite seats in the pilot house.

Everyone’s favorite seats in the pilot house.

24 hours at sea and several of us look like its been a lifetime. Departure from Honolulu at 4:30 HST was idyllic, surfers on the big waves, crystal clear water, Diamond Head rising over the beehive of Waikiki, Sarah’s ti leaf and ilima lei attached proudly at the front of Laysan. As we motored out the channel, one of the large Waikiki Yacht Club power boats came roaring by, everyone waving a goodbye. Rounding Diamond Head, our friend Stefan called and told us he could see us from his house with some ginormous telescope. Sarah and I waved vaguely toward the mountains and a goodbye to Stefan.

Within the hour, idyllic gave way to short steep waves giving their best impression of a washing machine; needless to say, a very unpleasant feeling. Heading out through the Molokai Channel and into the dark, we began discussing watch rotations. Since watch becomes the center of life, the determination of watches is an essential task. Opting for a 2 1/2 hour watch rotation through the night and a 3 1/2 watch rotation through the day, we wrote down the various shifts, voted on our favorite, negotiated the ties …

8:00 pm to 10:30 pm and 6:00 am to 9:30 am Sarah
10:30 pm to 1:00 am and 9:30 am to 1:00 pm Kathleen
1:00 am to 3:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm Naomi
3:30 pm to 6:00 am and 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm John

A moon lit night made the watch a bit easier, but the boat was rolling, wave spray splashing the windows, white caps rolling by outside. 4-6′ seas with wind waves created boat motion such that sitting is the absolute best option since walking requires the spider dance, always holding on to some fixed surface as you lurch from point to point. To give some idea of the unpleasant conditions, I will confess I was ill last night, the first time on any crossing including the western Pacific and the Hawaiian channels. Not nice, not nice at all.

Today is a better day, sunny blue skies, seas of 4-5 feet, occasional birds on the water. As we approach the high pressure system, the seas should become calmer. Here, here to that idea.


22 47.9 north 156 30.9 west
16:30 HST
Heading 47


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Departure; Laysan, Port: HONOLULU

Laysan's favorite dock spot at the Waikiki Yacht Club.

Laysan’s favorite dock spot at the Waikiki Yacht Club.

Goodbye to the Ala Wai, the Waikiki Yacht Club, and our favorite boat neighbor, Brandon.

Goodbye to the Ala Wai, the Waikiki Yacht Club, and our favorite boat neighbor, Brandon.

Passing by Koko Head and out toward the Molokai Channel.

Passing by Koko Head and out toward the Molokai Channel.

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We Have A Go For Tuesday!

We spoke to our weather router today and he used phrases like “favorable conditions” and “near ideal”; I take this with a grain of salt but hope for the best. He said that a rhumb line from Makapuu Lighthouse to the Straits of Juan de Fuca will traverse 2275 nautical miles. If we manage to make our anticipated 5.5 knots, we will make the passage in 17 days and 6 hours. I hope for the best on that as well. At any rate, we plan to depart Tuesday by noon, out the Ala Wai Channel, turn east to Koko Head, take a turn around Makapuu Point, crash through the Molokai Channel and then turn on the auto pilot for a straight line to the mainland.

John, Sarah, Naomi, and I have been clocking in 14+ hour days running our lists and checking them off with glee; take charts to boat – check, fuel up with 1600 gallons of diesel – check, attach plexi glass windows over the salon windows – check, attach difficult rolly accessory 125 gallon fuel bladder to the front deck – check (we call it the “baby”; we have to keep it cool, burp it of air, and make sure it’s not going anywhere), tie down the anchor for rough seas – check, weather router report for a “go no go” – check……and so the lists progress.

This posting is also part of the checking process, it will be the first blog posted by email. If successful, I will start posting via our Inmarsat SAT phone; beamed from me to an orbiting satellite to you, amazing. I am attaching photos of our daily work; with luck I may get to post the occasional photo at sea as well. Until the satellite post, take care. Kathleen

Practicing with the sea anchor (a safety drill in case of ridiculously big seas (not expected)).

Working with the baby diesel fuel bladder, a kind of Baby Huey with gas.

Sarah doing a trapeze act without a net attaching the 20# plexi glass over the salon windows.

John in his quiet place, the lazarette.

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Departure Planned for Tuesday July 28, 2015

At the risk of actually committing to a hard date, we believe that Tuesday July 28th looks like a departure.  One of the local cruisers opined that one can never be truly ready for a passage and one need only shoot for 90% readiness.  Of course, a owner of one of the neighboring marine queens suggested that 8% was sufficient.

At any rate, we have been putting in 12 hour days and our lists are dwindling.  Our crew situation has improved dramatically; Sarah has emerged from the wilds of the Pacific Crest Trail and is putting in long hours and Naomi Tabata has also agreed to join the passage.  Naomi is the infinitely brave and talented soul who brought Laysan from Majuro to Honolulu.

Sea trials.

Sea trials.

To satisfy the techies in the audience, I asked John to put together a technical report of the preparations.  Enjoy….

Hi All,

I will try to quickly list my recent projects on Laysan in preparation for our crossing. Certainly it has been a busy substitution of directed energy after retirement, which I think aids the transition. By my recollection, I have spent 60 hours a week for over a month in, on, above and under Laysan wrenching, tightening, replacing, purging, filling, and thinking about systems I find interesting. Oh my, and the spending, best not to think about that too much. It is like being a hospital resident again, but having to pay for each encounter.

Laysan is now better than ever in some ways, and almost as good as new in others. My last two holdout problems are electronic, the sat phone email and an intermittent AIS, both of which are very important and I think solvable.

A professional rigger spent a day with me examining stays, shrouds, chainplates, sails, paravanes, and mast. We replaced the lines and blocks on the paravane poles, and replaced the pin atop the mast with a bolt and nylon nut for the back stays. The jib furler works better now that the snap shackle on the halyard was eliminated since it was hitting the top of the aluminum extrusion tube. The main furler is still a little undersized but left as is. Basically the rig is declared safe and sound. Deck gear has been all ok, although there is a drip from the windlass I don’t like. I tried to open the case, but it was so sealed with adhesive I was stymied until I get an opportunity to cut it open with piano wire or something. I’m worried a seal is bad in the windlass gear box.

The hull and house have shown very little wear and we’ve even started waxing the boat to shine her up before departure. A couple of rust spots are always on my to do list but that is part of the steel boat experience. I have started the clamp checks on all through hulls with one stain under the starboard black tank drain. In heavy rain, I still get one drip leak in the galley that I cannot trace, but I suspect it is around the junction of the fiberglass aft boat deck with the steel pilot house. In Seattle, I may have to have that joint re caulked and that may start a new deck paint job and that may start a new entire paint job, but that seemed cost prohibitive here in expensive Honolulu, but I digress.

The running gear has a new prop with an increased pitch from 15″ to 18″, done by Kruger propeller in Seattle. Roughly, we are getting 200 lower RPM and an extra knot of speed. I am seeing 6 knots at 1800 RPM with 1.8 gph in flat water. But we know how Laysan does not like headwinds. We can still get up to 2800 at WOT with no black smoke so we’re calling it a win. I replaced a clamp on the PSS shaft seal and the thrust bearing and jack shaft all look good and temps are normal. I will grease them all on grease day soon. Steering fluid was purged and replaced with new DEX III ATF after checking that our Capilano 1275 pumps were still ok with plain ATF. No leaks have been seen since the copper tubing flare leak in Palau. I replaced the autopilot Octopus pump and now have a spare. The second autopilot is operational but has a compass error I need to evaluate.

Engine is still purring at 1868 hours with no issues so far. Oil, filters, and coolant change have been done and belts are about a year old and another set of spares are on the boat. I thought about doing the valves but talked to the engine techs at the Iveco dealer in Seattle and he agreed with the manufacturer book that states first valve adjustment at 3000 hours. The exhaust story looks good now, but did involve replacing the stainless mixer above the muffler, fabricated beautifully in 316 stainless at Universal Metal for $1500, ouch. I may use the old one for a flower pot.

One is a $15,000 part, the other is the flower pot.

One is a $1500 part, the other is the flower pot.

A couple of pinhole leaks had developed along the raw water steel pipe from engine to mixer, and that is now done with flexible exhaust hose. The sea water impeller and hoses and clamps to the engine are also new. The heat exchanger tube stacks in the transmission and engine were inspected and looked clean and we are still running cool, so I did not remove them.

Laysan engine room.

Laysan engine room.

The Zurth transmission has had no abuse and I just changed the fluid and filter. The drip we experienced after the delivery trip turned out to be the o ring on the dip stick. The genset looks good with oil, filters, and impeller change. A little rust started down its back mount because the vented loop was spurting salt before I cleaned and tightened it.

An electrician came to load test the batteries and check the alternators. The house alternator was replaced after delivery a couple of years ago as was the genset alternator for not charging, all under warranty. The engine start batteries are one year old Lifelines, and the others are still original IBTs, all AGMs. The smart Balmar regulator has been replaced once after a reed switch failure, and I have a spare on the way. The Victron charger inverter is still original and working fine with only a float issue resolved by reprogramming once. The electrician pronounced charging and batteries all ok.

Navigation electronics have had a makeover with firmware updates and a new chart plotter CF card for the U.S. and Canada. My old cards ran out of data east of Hawaii because, well, that is as far as we needed to go from China. Now we are good all the way to Nova Scotia. VHF and SSB are transmitting and receiving clearly just in case somebody is out there listening. Hello?

Working in tight places.

Working in tight places.

Yesterday we did a sea trial and filled the aft tank with diesel. I have treated all the tanks with biocide regularly and changed the Racors with no problems, but I never used the aft tank after the delivery except to add 50 gallons to it once. I aspirated the tank and the fuel looked clean, and then I ran about 30 gallons of the old fuel out through the polishing system into the starboard tank with no real changes seen in the Racor bowl, so I think it’s ok. I will try to polish it out and then fill it again. I have 27 Racor 500 filters and 10 Racor 1000’s on board. We received the 125 gallon nitrile fuel bladder to lash onto the foredeck like a giant diesel bounce cushion, which brings our total fuel capacity to 1677 gallons of go. After that, we’re sailing in.

Safety list is almost complete with immersion suits and harness inflatable PFDs for all four, plus many, many other life jackets on board. Our floating debris field will be quite colorful, I am sure. Two jack lines and four lanyards are available, one Epirb and one PLB are both tested and registered, and the CSM 6 man life raft is still original. I wanted to get the raft tested but the only facility here will not test a raft they do not sell. That is a difficult one to decide.

AIS is now functioning but Sat phone issues persist. Texting works but email is limited. I guess if you can’t say it in 70 characters, maybe it doesn’t matter. Unlike this posting, precise is better than verbose. Anyway, that’s the news from the engine room in Honolulu. Take care, be well, and stay in touch.

John Douglas

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Goodbye to Hawaii

And so it begins, again….. Our plan has always been to continue the passage across the Pacific to the cool, grey blue islands of the Northwest.  We became enamored with the area after our first ever cruise with Brian and Jenny McCutcheon along Vancouver Island in 2003. The fascination with the Northwest continued in 2006 when we rented the Widgeon, a 35′ trawler, and soloed around the San Juan Islands with all our little kids hanging off the sides in their ill fitting life jackets.  The tale of the Laysan build in Zhuhai, China and the subsequent passage to Hawaii in 2011 is told in this blog. Now, after experiencing the roiling waters of the Hawaiian Islands for the past four years, I am ready for the quiet coves, the mirrored waters, the still reflection of pine covered mountains that I remember from all of those years ago….. Serenity.

Ahh, but now for the reality. Laysan is four years older than when we first came from China in the fall of 2011 and it goes without saying, John and I are now four years older too.  Since early June, we have been working everyday on the boat in anticipation of a July 25, 2015 departure to Washington.IMG_4783  I refer to it as a biblical experience because our first list begets the second list, which begets the third list and so on down the endless list generations.

Now that it is officially July, I am getting a bit nervous.  As it stands today, we have no dinghy since the original Dingers the Seapony literally came unglued; a new one is being shipped from California.  The Parsuns dinghy outboard is sputtering grey smoke so we sent it for a makeover in a neighborhood of Kailua.  Laysan is inoperable since the engine exhaust system is torn down with a large stainless steel part being fabricated in the depths of Kalihi.  IMG_4806We are missing our weather electronics; they are in shipment from Oregon.  We have no charts; they are in the post from Bellingham.  We have no fourth crewmember, no third for that matter, since the last we heard of Sarah, she was following Julia on a 63-mile journey into the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. On a positive note, the rigging man finally came around, spider-like in our shrouds giving our mast, stays, and sails a clean bill of health.IMG_4790

Despite our relentless commitment, we still have not touched the communications systems, the actual route planning, or the provisioning for the anticipated 21-day passage; there is even some question in my mind that I remember how to post this blog.IMG_4794

Yet following the advice of Woody Allen that “80% of success is just showing up”, we will be back at the boat tomorrow.

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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.



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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Summer Sojourn II

night ops

Evening on a Saturday, July 28, we are loaded with multiple Costco trips and ready to go for the night run to Kauai.  Sailing out the channel and turning west into the sunset is a calm beginning to our 15 hour trip across to Lihue.

The tugs working the offshore fuel transfer manifold for the refineries provide some excitement with floodlights and floating hoses we must give a half mile clearance.  After announcing our intentions to the tug captains, we move out to sea to cross the widest channel in Hawaii.  At 72 miles, the Kauai channel dissuades many boaters from making it over to the Garden Isle, but it is well worth the trip, as long as the trades are mild enough. They are blowing 15-20 kts with seas 6-8feet quartering behind us all night.  When the rolling got bothersome around 1am, we put out the paravane fish and slept a little better.  All the kids took a 2 hour watch so I could sleep(nap) in the pilothouse until dawn rose behind us and the mountains of Kauai came into view.

Approaching Lihue

Arriving at 11 am, paravane fish retrieval in the entrance to Nawiliwili harbor was challenging as it was still rolling in this east facing bay.  Once behind the breakwater, poles were up and we maneuvered into the marina for an end tie at only 16$ per day.  Hamburgers all around were the first order of business, and the next few days we spent with good friends Joe and Sandie.

Dinghy rides up the river to the rope swing used by Indiana Jones, hiking to Artist Point in Waimea Canyon, dinners on Joe’s deck overlooking the valley, Lihue is alright.

Arrived at Nawilwili, Connor greeted by Joe and Sandie

Harbor near Lihue, Kauai

Joe on watch, enroute to Hanalei

Joe accompanies us up to the north shore on a 6 hour trip to Hanalei Bay.  This magical place unfolds a long sand beach facing a tranquil  bay 1 mile wide.  Protected from the trades it is quiet and flat most of the summer with room for the many boats anchored here all season.  Once the north swell arrives in winter, however, it is a big wave shore break.

Entering Hanalei Bay

Hanalei reminds Kathleen and I of our reasons to move to Hawaii 30 years ago.  In the early 80’s, we rented the Avery beach house there for holidays with friends and family.  On the last trip, in 1984, I could not resist the temptation to change my internship match list for a year at Queens hospital in Honolulu.  That year evolved into a lifetime and we felt it all rushing back to us as we anchored in 30 feet of calm water right in front of the same beach house.  Our 28th anniversary was enjoyed at Roys restaurant overlooking the bay.  Sometimes in life there are orbital revolutions that harmoniously return to an earlier time.  As Kathleen and I can attest, this was one of those ecliptic events.  Awesome.

Many mornings the dolphins surrounded the boat so we could kayak and snorkel alongside. Dinghy rides up the Hanalei river for miles reminded me of the canoeing days back in Texas.  Lumahai beach was a short dinghy excursion, and of course, the usual dirt road runs in the rental car to secret beaches still exist on Kauai.  It really has not changed too much in our 30 year observation

John and Kathleen in front of the Avery House, Hanalei

Swimming with the dolphins

Anniversary #28.

Rainbows in Hanalei

Sarah & John taking the dinghy up the Hanalei River

We cruised along the Na Pali coast and dropped off the kids for a kayak camping night at Milolii.  They cooked hot dogs and marshmallows, drank a “found” beer at their campsite, and called on the VHF for a pickup the next day.  A very choppy lunch anchor was set for retrieval of the kayaks and kids, and while we prepared to leave the wind picked up to 20 kts and the waves were choppy 3 footers.  At the last 25′ of chain the boat was rocking and pulled the chain tight, shearing the hinge pin on the anchor roller and taking a notch off the gypsy.  Yikes.  Retrieval completed, we punched into it for a couple of hours back to peaceful Hanalei again.

Hanakapiai Falls

Kalalau Trail

Sarah and Kathleen in the lava pools at Secret Beach

Julia kayaking up the streams of Hanalei

After a day of birthday celebration for Kathleen, forever 29, we realized that despite Hanalei being timeless, we would have to return to reality at some point.  Thus on a Thursday at noon we weighed anchor and motored out of the bay turning east for Honolulu, 120 miles away.

J and K in Hanalei

A long dark night passed through everyone’s watches and 24 hours later we idled up to our slip and shut down again.  Hamburgers and a quick swim in the club pool and we were alright again.

Now each one of us re-engages with the next phase. Sarah went back to Austin for her junior year studying marine biology.  Julia departs for Argentina for a year of WWOOFing, and Connor gets back into his junior year at Punahou with a full plate of biology, robotics and band.  Kathleen and I are in our offices again with faraway looks and occasional smiles of a great summer.  Thanks to everyone for reading along.  Wish you were here.

All the best,

Sunset in Hanalei

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Summer Sojourn 1

Dusting off the keys after a few months of silence, it is time to post about our summer cruises here in Hawaii. Laysan and crew are all well and have a few stories to tell since our Pacific crossing. Kathleen and I have restarted the work mode, Sarah returns to UT Austin, Julia ventures to Argentina as a WWOOFer, and Connor jumps back into Punahou for his Junior year. But this summer, we were out there, and that was just great.

After Julia’s graduation festivities in June, the lines were loosed and Laysan idled out for two weeks of exploring eastward.

First to Molokai at Hale o Lono for long beach walks, then to Kaunakakai harbor to do the night walk into town for fresh bread.

Molokai Hot Bread

Hale o Lono

Beach Walk

On a seemingly mild day, we crossed south to Lanai.  However, building wind and seas on the beam followed us until we rounded the lee side of the island where the wind picked up to 40 knot gusts. Like a giant Bernoulli effect the smooth island was accelerating the wind enough that I think the entire land mass may just elevate magically someday. After ripping the main sail in furtive furling attempts, we hunkered into Kamalapau harbor as the wind eased.

Kamalapau, Lanai

The old barge harbor had a nice reef and a flotsam beach complete with a lava tube that belched vapor with a roar. Everyone squealed when we stood on the dragon’s upper lip as the big Mo’o went off.

A small cruising sail boat, Altair, arrived later with a father and son that became good friends with stories to share over dinner. Christian is a solo sailor on a few year Pacific loop, and his father, Ralph was visiting during the Hawaii phase. We would see Altair again and again over the summer and hope to visit them in Washington someday.


We mosey over to Manele Bay, and set up in the small marina with a five star resort nearby, including 20$ hamburgers. The buzz was all about the Oracle CEO buying the island, but the marina depth of 6′ won’t hold his America’s Cup yacht. That may change.

Manele Bay Boat Harbor

Penny, Steve, and Ryan

With a dolphin escort, we crossed over to Maui to visit our friends Penny and Steve. Multiple failed anchoring attempts in the mooring field off Lahaina led us to the Mala wharf area for sand and good holding. Connor made multiple night runs in the dinghy through the anchorage, ferrying folks back and forth, until it was time to head off again.

Lahaina, Maui

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay on the west end of Maui is a quiet beautiful bay in the summer, and we stayed for days swinging on the hook. Everyone went scuba diving along the reef edge and hiking up the green valley. A few tourist catamarans would bring in snorkelers during the afternoon, but the evenings were dark and quiet, with just another cruising boat from France as company.

Shore Party for Tubing

Molokai “Fish On!”


Eventually it is always time to head home, so  we cross the Pailolo channel and cruise along the north shore of Molokai.  En route,  we trolled until we caught a good 10 lb skipjack tuna near Kalaupapa. Nice views of the magnificent 1500′ sea cliffs and the old Hansens colony I worked at years ago. If we had more time, I would stop and see a few of the old patients still living there. Much different trolling by at 6 knots, than when I would roar out of their short airstrip in our Baron. Different days, for sure.

By late evening, we had tied up again at Waikiki Yacht Club and another good cruise was behind us. Sunset rituals were accomplished and gradually the family dispersed into a month of home duties before our next outing in August.Diamond Head

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Testing the Waters

Entering Lono Harbor

M/Y Laysan and S/Y Firewater

JP and Julia observing sunset ritual

Kathleen and Connor on the jetty

Kaunakakai, Molokai

Kaneohe Bay Anchorage

Laysan in K bay

The sandbar

Connor and Julia heading to town for his robotics competition

On the way home past Diamond Head

Intrepid cruisers back at the dock

Spring Break arrives and we are bound for an inter island trip in Hawaii. After a couple of months at the dock cleaning and making minor repairs from our delivery journey, it is time to do the cruising thing in our home state. With only one week to spare from the schedules of work, life, school and all that, we manage a Venn diagram of multiple priorities until finally we have the family of four, minus Sarah in Austin, ready to go on an early Saturday morning.

Lines loose at 7am, we press east into the trade winds gusting to 25 knots. A small craft advisory is out for the Molokai Channel and soon we appreciate the reason with combined seas of 10 feet against us again. Aargh, easting is hard work. Paravanes out, power back and we are making 3 knots for 10 hours until we turn into Hale o Lono harbor on the south shore of Molokai. An abandoned barge harbor used in the 60’s to load sand for the development of Waikiki, it has rock jetties on three sides, an old airstrip, and absolutely nobody around on shore for miles. A few cruisers are anchored in the tight basin but we fit and settle into a sunset and a beer, nice. Inevitably, as it goes in this realm, we make good friends in a day with the crew of S/Y Firewater on their 19th cruise between Alaska and Tahiti.

A few days of snorkeling and beach walks later, we move up the coast to Kaunakakai, the only town on the island. They have successfully resisted much tourism and have a time warp friendly town with faded colorful storefronts named for the family shops therein, all within walking distance of the commercial dock and public anchorage. The famous Molokai bread is available hot from the bakery in the late night hours if you know to walk down the dark alley festooned with a few Xmas lights. Then the lady appears at a window as if this is all perfectly natural and asks if you want your entire loaf of bread sliced in half and smeared with cream cheese and blueberries. Well, duh, yes I do, and better give us another one for the morning because the first one might not make it back to the dock, much less all the way to the boat.

Next we cruise back west towards Kaneohe, 30 miles up and across the channel, but with the wind behind us now we see 8 and 9 knots! Into Kaneohe Bay and anchor for the night near the Heia Kea small boat harbor, I am awakened at 2 am by the wind and watch it hit 35 knots as we slide across the anchor watch screen, not good.  Anchor drill, everybody is on deck with lights ablaze and motoring from the flybridge in the squall.  It’s back up with the chain until we can drop our 55kg Delta anchor again and set it really hard this time on 250′ chain in 35′ of water. That feels good, in a masochistic way.  Everyone goes back to bed, except for me, of course.

A few windy days are spent in K bay, enjoying the reefs and the famous huge 6″ deep sandbar, burgers at the dock, kayaking to the state park, and finally sending the kids home on the city bus that stops right there and goes to Honolulu in an hour. It is like our own Tahiti with a bus ticket home. Connor makes it to his state competition for robotics; his team places second, and Kathleen and I even get to watch the finals while Julia does anchor watch alone. I did get a few texts from her noting “winds to 32 and we are swinging”, but the anchor holds and she gains confidence, while I gain a few more gray hairs.

Kathleen and I take the boat home alone watching the island landmarks we have known all these years from shore now slip by our beam in a totally new light. Docking back at the club for sunset, we are happy. Laysan handles it all in stride and after a day of cleanup, looks ready to go again. Alas, it will be another month before summer vacation to venture inter-island once more.

All is well, my friends.

Wish you were here,


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The Year Of Living Nautically

One year ago to the day since leaving the factory in Zhuhai, China in a cool breeze on the Pearl River, now on January 21, 2012, we prepared in the dark for the dawn arrival of Laysan in Honolulu. VHF radio contact with John and Naomi was reassuring as they held offshore overnight waiting for first light to make the approach to Ala Wai harbor and our slip at the Waikiki Yacht Club. Our daughter Julia paddled out in the kayak to share the water with Laysan, to hear the rumble of the engine, and give the first wave of the homecoming. Connor positioned his deck chair on the finger dock to give them the signal, while simultaneously munching a donut. Kathleen and I watched the channel with our friend Stefan, and as the sun rose, the unmistakeable profile of a Seahorse Diesel Duck 462 Sedan trundled into Honolulu with John and Naomi waving from the flybridge. Incredible.

Tied up and shut down, the impassable gulf of one foot of water lay between us as we waited for the official formalities of Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine to finish. Quickly enough the kind officials were done and we rejoiced together in the end of our delivery across the Pacific.

One year to the day, 6000 miles across the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, and Pacific Ocean, all done with aplomb and grace, in a boat built by Bill and Stella, and dreamed by Kathleen and I. Thank you one and all.

And now starts the age of Laysan in Honolulu.


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Nearing The Half Way Point

John and Naomi have been hard at work aboard Laysan for the past 10 days. Headwinds of up to 35 knots and wave heights ranging up to 4 meters have conspired to slow their progress. The La Nina year is translating into a challenge. Despite less than expected speed, reports of day-to-day life on the open sea have been encouraging. “The ride is comfortable, we’re doing great, and all is well aboard.” “Beautiful full moon last night…hopefully again tonight.”

In order to check the prop and determine if it is fouled, Laysan is likely to stop at Johnston Atoll for a brief respite. The weather forecaster anticipates improving conditions in the next week which will hopefully translate into increased speed for the second half of the voyage. The latest ETA puts Laysan into Honolulu in 13 days and 15 hours.

For daily position reports, check out the link for Laysan (V73TN) at Yotreps.

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Laysan Is On The Move

Laysan’s sojourn in Majuro has come to an end. We have received word today that our delivery crew, John and Naomi of Campbell River, BC of the S/V Renova, have departed Majuro bound for Honolulu. Through the magic of “the tubes”, we hope to have daily updates of their progress. For now, I will provide lat/long coordinate as available. Perhaps when I find the time, I will try some map renditions of the route. Our weatherman is predicting a transit of 18 days and 12 hours.

For more information on John and Naomi’s voyages, checkout Renova’s website.

Good luck and smooth sailing to John, Naomi, and Laysan.

December 31, 2011
0500 UTC
7 22.44 N 171 42.97 E

John and Naomi Aboard Laysan

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Is this really the end?

It is now a few days into the new reality, and aside from culture shock, jet lag, Christmas, strange sensory distortions of constantly hearing the engine, recurrent spontaneous 2:am awakenings for my night watch that isn’t anymore, and an odd smile that keeps reappearing on my face, all is moving along relatively smoothly. To paraphrase Don Juan: sometimes life turns it’s headlights on, sometimes it turns them off. You never quite know what is coming.

We all left the boat a few days ago, Brian and Jenny first on Monday, then Kathleen and I flew out of Majuro on Wednesday. After consideration of the situation, we just could not extend our time further and therefore ended our cruise in Majuro. Arriving at home in the dark early morning to find our kids asleep in the living room so they would greet us as soon as we walked in the door was absolutely priceless.

Laysan is in excellent hands with a delivery couple, John and Naomi, from Campbell River, BC. They have been cruising aboard S/Y Renova in the South Pacific a couple of years, and are completely capable and willing to take care of Laysan a few weeks and then begin the final leg delivery trip to Honolulu. We will be awaiting them on the dock in January.

Gearhead summary: October 22, Subic Bay, PI to December 4, Majuro, RMI, 44 days, 3383 miles, engine hours 749.6, engine fuel totalizer 1635.6 gallons, 2.18 gph, 2.06 mpg, 4.5 kts. Mechanical issues: 2 oil changes, 2 Racor 500 changes, transmission fluid changed, hydraulic steering leak repaired, AIS antenna repositioned, Maretron WSO 100 replaced, fresh water accumulator tank leaked and removed, water maker air lock leak repaired, genset fuse terminal broken and replaced, 2 led and one halogen light replaced. Weather was benign in the Philippines, deteriorating east of Palau with headwinds 20 kts and gusts over 40, seas 2-3 meters with occasional 4-5 meter white toothed combers, but no green water over the bow, just impressive spray up and over the pilothouse. Paravanes deployed all the time at sea with observed change of -0.5 kts; sails were great on a broad reach from San Bernadino to Palau with + 1kt, but sails furled all other legs due to headwind. All together, a safe and sound passage.

A 2 month cruise with friends and a great boat makes for lifetime memories. I have been to the next life, brother, and it is good. May we all get to delve into our dream.

Thanks again to everyone who helped along and followed along.
All the best for the holidays,

John Douglas
M/Y Laysan
December, 2011

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Arrive Majuro

Anchored in North Field, Majuro

Happy to report that crew and boat are safely tied to a mooring ball in the lagoon of Majuro. Even though it is Sunday, we are planning to clear into Immigration so that we can seek out the biggest, juiciest hamburger and largest, crispiest mound of french fries available. All is well.

In concluding this portion of our voyage, I attach this most excellent passage (provided by Julia) from The Wind In The Willows.

Water Rat says to Mole… “Believe me, young friend, there is nothing half so much
worth doing as simply messing about in boats…In or out of ’em, it doesn’t
matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you
get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or
whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all,
you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when
you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if
you like, but you’d much better not.”


December 4, 2011
Local time 9:40 am
07 06.45 N 171 22.11 E

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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Answering the question, “do you like cruising?”, is not a simple yes or no.

The “good” of the cruising life is extraordinary. For instance, our Thanksgiving day on Pohnpei is priceless. We leave Laysan anchored in a picture postcard lagoon and dinghy to catch a taxi for our 9:30 excursion to Nan Madol. Brian and Jenny go separately, hoping for one last bargaining session on a hand carved whale. Our taxi is already occupied by two diminutive, elderly Pohnpeians who look at us quizzically as we load our gear and jam our bodies into the small, unairconditioned car. The old man politely asks us if we are “visitors” and they listen with much interest as we tell our story. Dropping them off at a simple house in the jungle, they positively beam when we say their home is very cute, very nice. They stand and wave good bye as the driver whips the car around to head to our destination. On the six mile drive to The Village, our driver talks and gestures with much enthusiasm. However, we understand essentially nothing since his mouth is full of dripping, red beetle nut, an organic sedative that “calms” him. He spits occasionally into his Coke can and continues his indecipherable monologue.

At The Village, we meet our Pohnpeian guides for the day, Jay and Bernard, as well as our fellow passengers, Brian and Jenny, a Japanese couple, and newlyweds from San Francisco. The vehicle for the day is a 25’ foot flat bottomed skiff powered by twin 60 hp outboards. Jay, a handsome local boy that Jenny and I have a few girly giggles over, literally sits astride the two twin outboards like a mariner cowboy screaming over the coral shoals at 30 knots. First stop is Manta Ray Alley. Jay spots a ray at the surface, a big fellow at least 5’ across. We all drop over into water that is so deep, we cannot see the bottom. John grabs me and points out a reef shark gliding immediately below me. Eerie. The rays are harder to find, but we see schools of large fish and a fine coral cliff with loads of tropical fish. As we are about to leave, Jay finds us the elusive ray, and we see it flying through the deep water below.

As we hold on for another roaring ride through a driving rain squall, we slow to pass mere feet from a low coral atoll inhabited by a sole old man, brown as shoe leather, standing on his shore watching our passing. The atoll is only about 10’ wide by 50’ with one thatch lean to; a real life castaway scene. Jay takes us to a deserted island for our lunch, unloading our chairs so that have a comfortable respite, sitting with our feet in the lapping water. No time for lounging, we load up and head to Nan Madol.

Nan Madol, a future World Heritage site, is comprised of 92 small rectangular man-made islets joined by a system of Venice-like canals. Constructed on a reef in the eleventh century, the sites most impressive structure is Nan Douwas, a double walled fortress protecting stone burial vaults. The walls are over twenty five feet high, made of stacked basalt columns, and stone pathways lead around the perimeter. Jay, stands solemnly in front of our group and tells us tales of the brothers who sailed to Pohnpei to oversee the two hundred year construction of Nan Madol, “Places in Between”. His story is that the two ton basalt pillars were moved by levitation from Sokehs Rock, 25 miles away. Wandering through Nan Douwas, light rain misting down on the black basalt, magic feels like a fine explanation for the existence of the massive walls. Scrambling into kayaks, we set off along the ancient canals, marveling at the remnants of the lost civilization. A spotted ray about four feet across glides under the kayaks, mangrove forests hang over the waterways, and the waves pound against the outer walls of the ruin. Reassembling in the long skiff, Jay guns the twin engines and we embark on a hair raising ride through mangrove tunnels and then out through the coral reef. Our final stop is Kepirohi Waterfall, a 100’ cascade of fresh water that refreshes and chills us all. After such a day, the answer to a cruising life is a resounding “yes”.

However, with “the good”, there is also “the bad”. Our passage from Pohnpei to Majuro is a grueling endurance test with challenges of 15’ waves, 40 knot winds, and grey rain. The constant rumbling of the diesel Iveco, on one hand comforting on the other an incessant drone, fills every waking and sleeping hour. Constant motion makes for an exciting ride, “like at Disney”, Brian says; only I can’t get off for eight days. No energy to make food or eat food, no power to do anything other than the most essential tasks. We spend our hours at watch, chatting, sleeping, reading, and playing solitaire. I cannot say that I like the passage making.

And with “the bad” comes “the ugly”. Not naming names but in our days at sea, I have identified one familiar blue striped shirt worn day in and day out for the past eight days. Someone has not brushed their hair in a very, very long time. Yet another is committing a fashion faux pas combining a blue dolphin print skirt with a mismatched aqua floral top. A good day is getting teeth brushed by noon. Beds haven’t been made since Subic Bay. Hairy legs, sweaty backs, vomiting out the window, yikes we need a Glamour magazine makeover!

Yet, when all is said and done, cruising is a journey, an experience, moments of time to be cherished and re-lived with a smile and a laugh.


December 2, 2011
UTC 05:08
Local time 17:08
07 04.97 N 169 10.34 E
One day from Majuro

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