How easily I forget that not talking, a favorite activity, fails to communicate what I am thinking. Example: I was surprised when, last week, my wife asked if she could be informed of my intention for the coming months of passage-making. How could she not know? Are we not married? Gently she reminded me that it is easier for her to hear what I am saying when I open my mouth.
So, having cleared that up, here’s the plan.
First off, the Figure 8 Voyage proper is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017, not 2016. This year is about learning to sail this boat and to prepare her, and me, for the much more arduous, coming adventure.
As to this year’s itinerary, consider the following a sketch rather than a blueprint, as where the boat and I find ourselves between now and home will depend on issues that crop up along the way, especially in this first month of cruising.
But, assuming all goes well:
-June: Depart Homer, Alaska at the beginning of the month and head SW into the islands. I’d love to make it as far as Dutch Harbor, but Dutch is some 650 miles off as the Raven flies, and one could easily spend the entire, brief northern summer exploring the intervening coast. So, if I only achieve Kodiak Island in the few weeks allotted for westing, that too will be success.
-Late June: Depart for first long passage. Most likely this will take me to the Straits of Juan de Fuca entrance (1000 miles, give or take) and the Seattle area.
-July: Depart for Hawaii, specifically Hanalie Bay on the North Shore of Kauai. Routing for this passage stays well offshore but on a line mostly SSW in the prevailing north westerlies until I enter the zone of the north east trades somewhere around 25 or 30N, at which point I can shape a more westerly course for the islands.
Why the loop rather than a straight shot?
In the middle of the Pacific is a large high pressure system and in the middle of that is not enough wind to shake a stick at. Think of high pressure systems as massive mountains of still air. For sailing ships, they have as much attraction as a lee shore.
Thus to sail the distance, some 2600 miles, the boat and I must go around the high.
Complications: hurricanes. The North East Pacific hurricane season starts in May and continues until November. Hurricanes in Hawaii are very rare, but my route, especially that part of the route east of 140W lays me at a 90 degree angle to the hurricane track. Early-season hurricanes tend to recurve back into Mexico or die-out in the still cool waters of the north, so the risk in July is much lower than in hotter August and September. Support: the famous Transpac race from Los Angeles to Hawaii is a July race.
-August/September: Depart for San Francisco. Again, the looping course is required by the North Pacific High, which, with some luck, will have shrunk and moved south a bit by that late in the season. No guarantee, of course. On my first passage home from Hawaii, this in early August of 2005, the high was still a whopper, requiring we sail all the way to the latitude of Seattle before making the turn east.
Complications: hurricanes, again. August and September are typically the more active hurricane months. The advantage for us is that we will be heading north and within a week’s sailing will have moved well out of reach of all but the most aggressive late-season boomer. As fall approaches, one’s chances of encountering a North Pacific low increase, but if boat and skipper are not ready for a low by that point, we might as well stay home.
In truth, all this still seems very far off. Priorities of the moment include learning which lines to haul first when the boat comes about and where on earth (in Homer) to find canned butter and quantities of full-fat powered milk.