A Meet-up at Sea


Sept 20
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 10

Noon HST position: 38.57.05N by 153.31.40W
Miles since last noon: 143
Total miles of passage: 1243
Avg. Miles per Day: 124
Course: Tacking up to SOLACE, E after
Sail: Full main and #2 jib; Twin headsails poled all night and next day
Speed: 5-6
Wind: WSW10 -15
Sky: Mixed cloud cover
Waves: Small opposing swell; NE and SW
Bar: 1015
Air Temperature: 80 degrees
Sea Temperature: 72 degrees

Stats from Sept 19
Noon HST position: 38.36.38N by 155.42.44W
Miles since last noon: 132
Total miles of passage: 1100
Avg. Miles per Day: 122

All day MOLI climbed to SOLACE’s position (39.03.87N 155.27.59W), first close hauled NW in warm sloshy seas, and then NE, doing 7 knots under main alone.

By 5pm I had a visual, a tiny fleck of white on the horizon two points off starboard that did not melt like whitecaps, but instead held and grew slowly, so slowly. Relief. Nothing teaches the size of the ocean so much as trying to find something in it as small as oneself.

I slid under SOLACE stern just as the sun went down.

SOLACE is a San Diego boat, a fiberglass, double-cockpit, flush-deck sloop with a sweet, tear-drop hull; she’s 40 feet overall, built in South Africa in 1989. Owner Steve Harris and crew, daughter Kelsey and friend Kim, have made a cruise to and of the Hawaiian Islands this summer and are now headed home.

As reported earlier, MOLI and SOLACE departed Hanalei Bay together. Two days out the autopilot motor on SOLACE failed. Steve has attempted repairs to no avail. In the interim he and crew have been hand steering in watches of 2-on and 4-off. All was well until a couple days ago when steering failed. The quadrant cable parted. Steve rigged the emergency tiller and has been working on a permanent fix since then.

Over the last five days, our respective positions have been within 60 to 100 miles apart, and we’ve been communicating multiple times daily via the DELORME InReach.

“Special Delivery–please hold still,” yelled Steve as I maneuvered MOLI as close as I dared. Steve lobbed a small plastic bag that bullseyed Mo’s foredeck…and stuck. Amazing. I retrieved a bag of Kim’s fresh-baked peanut butter cookies. Double amazing!

“But you’re the yacht in distress,” I yelled back. “What can I lob in return?”

“Who said anything about distress? You made the trip to see us. A little conversation is all we ask.”

I doused the sails and drifted, and we talked on the radio for the next hour and a half.

While a fix to the parted cable is in the works, Steve and company have found steering SOLACE with the emergency tiller rough going, possible, but not for extended periods in even moderate seas. That said, Steve’s learned that balancing the boat under sail with emergency tiller lashed is doable, and he can now make way on most points of sail with a triple reefed main and a scratch of a jib.

A fix for the quadrant has been more of a long term project. The first attempt, braiding the wire rope back together, failed under load, and last Steve reported he and crew were disassembling the pedestal so as to reeve Dyneema line in place of the failed cable, a job similar in simplicity to performing arthroscopic surgery while riding a mechanical bull.

“Heck, we might not go back to hand steering even when the wheel’s repaired,” said Steve. “Otto Jr. (lashed tiller) is doing just fine, and I’m finding sail balancing to be fun.”

We reviewed what spares I had that might be useful.

“Thanks, but we’ll be fine. This is an exercise in self-sufficiency. We’ve got plenty of water, food and fuel. We can make way in nearly any direction, although slowly. We’re in good spirits. I’m very confident we’ll reach our goal, and we may rival your time yet. All we miss out here in this big place is someone to talk to other than ourselves.”

At 8pm Steve said, “Well, it’s been nice to hear your voice, but we best be getting on with our respective journeys.” And so I rigged MO’s genoa poles and made my way east toward moonrise while Steve balanced SOLACE on a course northeast. By4am his masthead light was bobbing green. By morning we were alone.


Steve, Kim and Kelsey…just before the cookie lob.


2 Comments on “A Meet-up at Sea

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