Bora Bora - Big Island
Hawaii lies some 2’200 nm north of Bora Bora. Since there will be northeasterly trade winds north of the equator, it pays to get as much easting as possible early on. While we didn’t plan to leave so early in the morning, we get going despite a very heavy head from Moni’s birthday party yesterday, because of a southerly wind, which allows us to get some easting. Saying good-bye to our friends, we are seeing a tsunami alarm – first on the homepage of a Swiss newspaper, than in a mail of Wayne who has just been hit by it in Samoa and finally through the official channels. Most boats leave immediately. Some go outside the lagoon (the safest option), while Moni and I prepare to leave for Hawaii. I am asking Moni to go to make last minute shopping while I take Blue Bie behind a barriering island in the deep water of the lagoon. Arguably not the best tactics. While Blue Bie and I are in my humble opinion pretty safe, it has not been too clever to go shopping and to agree to meet after the tsunami has passed. Luckily, the tsunami wave is an unnoticeable 10cm, when it arrives. How different it could have been, shows Wayne’s account of his experience in Samoa.
We set sail early afternoon, leaving it open whether we want to stop over in Rangiroa or sail directly to Hawaii. The moderate southerly wind continues for 36 hours and we are sailing due east until the wind picks up to 25kn and turns east close to Rangiroa. We actually wanted to continue but the port engine stops a few hours later while charging the batteries and the autopilot fails at the same time. So we decide to turn back to Rangiroa and check everything out. Luckily the engine problem is only a choked up fuel line, which I can clear and I can get the autopilot to work again, too. We are waiting out the strong winds for a day in Rangiroa and then head off again. While still strong on the first day, the wind slowly drops over the next few days. We are spending the beginning of the passage mostly in the cabin, going out only to check the sails. But soon the spray stops and we can sit outside, watch the birds fishes, dolphins and a family of pilot whales. There are ideal conditions – while more on the nose than forecast, the winds are in the 12-18kn range and Blue Bie moves very comfortably on a close reach, doing 8-9kn constantly.
On my control round I see that a bulkhead in the starboard hull is broken and has delaminated from the hull. The hull is flexing 20cm in and out and I immediately stop the boat for an emergency repair. From the gangway and a floorboard I create a make-shift bulkhead, which fills out most of the hull-section and stabilizes the hull well enough to continue. After a day the work is finished and we continue sailing towards Hawaii. But that’s not the end of our small troubles: The fridge stops working and the starboard engine battery gets loose and falls on the engine, losing some battery acid and chafing the battery cable on the alternator fly-wheel. While I can fix the engine, I can’t do anything about the fridge and we continue without refrigeration – life without is not as bad as I thought!
After a week we are crossing the equator, which we are celebrating with a glass of champagne. Two days we are reaching the doldrums. While the wind doesn’t stop it turns further south allowing us to get the last easting we need and gets squallier. It is raining on and off and twice the wind stops for an hour after a big rain shower. But still we continue north, waiting to find the northeasterly trade winds. But no, we get in the influence of a low pressure system which shouldn’t be there at this time of the year and we have a calm for half a night. The autopilot can’t keep course and I roll the genoa and let Blue Bie drift until the wind returns. After 48 hours we reach the trade winds (or better, they reach us!) and we set sail towards Hawaii. It’s good timing: while we still have lots of food on board, we are slowly running out of fresh food: I am using the last potatoes to make Rösti. Our days are full with dolce far niente, small maintenance work, an hour on the computer to do navigation, write diary and send the daily blog. It’s a small world on passage, but I enjoy it very much. I never had a feeling that it’s too much and that I don’t want to do them anymore! The trades establish perfectly with 18-20kn and we can sail on a broad reach towards Hilo on Big Island. We cover the last 620nm in less than 3 days, averaging 9kn. We arrive after 15 days at sea, having covering 2’500nm. Since I left Cartagena in January, I have sailed more than 10’000nm, about half the circumference of the earth.
Arriving in Hilo, we have moored in a separate basin for transient yachts in Hilo with space for some 10 yachts on a pier and another 10 yachts on anchor. We are the only yacht in the harbor. Security is very tight – we are not allowed to walk around in the industrial harbor, but by now we know all security personnel, have gone to the cinema with them and always get a ride to the front gate. We are awoken in the morning by trucks moving containers no 20m from Blue Bie – a bit different to the South Pacific anchorages we have experienced in the last few months!
Downtown Hilo is a short bus or bike ride away, has eclectic buildings from the early 20th century and retains some of its charm from the old whaling times. We enjoy the fast internet connection, are browsing through shops and particularly through a huge Borders book shop. Outside downtown there are many other malls and shops so that we can get all we need. We only have to order boat equipment from the mainland, but shipping cost and time is short. In short: We are in consumer haven :)
Despite being the main settlement on Big Island, Hilo is very green. A large part of town, which has destroyed in the 1960 tsunami has not been rebuilt and is a huge park today, inviting to stroll and explore. Since kite surfing is quite difficult in Hawaii in the winter season, I follow through on my earlier decision to take up surfing, buy a board and throw myself in the waves around Hilo. After a few shaky attempts I finally manage to get up and surf down a wave. As a side effect of browsing through all the surf shop I fulfill myself a teenage dream and get myself a new skateboard – including off-road wheels for the South Pacific islands roads.
We are also exploring the attractions around Hilo. Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano from which 4’000 liters lava flow every second into the ocean, continuously expanding the island. We take a rental car to explore its crater, old and new lava flows. It’s quite impressive to stand in front of a lava flow, feeling its heat and seeing it burn the earth. We also drive up to Mauna Kea, with 4’200 meters above sea the highest mountain of Hawaii. Taken from the valley floor, 6’000 meters below sea level, it is actually the highest mountain in the world!
It is bitterly cold on top and the landscape devoid of any vegetation feels like mars. The air is incredibly clear and dry, which is the reason why there are so many observatories on top of Mauna Kea. After sunset we can look through some small telescopes at the visitor center and see the perfect full moon and Jupiter with its full moon.
We very much enjoy our time in Hilo and look forward to sail clockwise around Big Island to see more of this fantastic island.