Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Hogfish Maximus sails to BC

Sitting on top of the bagged Genoa in the compact doghouse of the Hogfish Maximus finds me fully dressed for cold weather, rain, fog and a bit weary. It’s 4:30 am on our 31st day at sea. We are to be making landfall in the dawns light. Hogfish and crew are sailing close hauled in 12knts of dying wind making our course for the Straights of Juan De Fuca off of Washington state. Our fist anchorage is going to hopefully be Neah Bay right inside the Straight off Point Flattery.
I say hopefully because the wind is dying, it’s so foggy out I can see what I think is maybe 100 yards ahead, theres a cold misty rain coming in keeping my faded lexan doghouse windows clean enough to see out of. We are happy to have less than 20 miles to go.
The we is me, myself and I, the trusty and loyal Hogfish Maximus known personally as “Hoggy”. Next our ever dutiful Dinghy Minimus Prime, our old bronze Mark 4 Aires Windvane, Sinclair and last but not least our new crew that has proven his worth, Mr. Pelagic who helped drive and steer Sinclair to perfection Non-Stop for the past 31 days.
We departed July 24th from Hilo Hawaii with a good forecast for as far ahead as I needed to get clear of the Big Island. Rachel and I had taken 21 days to sail up from the Marquesas islands 90 days ago to the day. Our engines cutlass bearing was wearing out so the engine would shake and wobble so much beyond 1400 RPMs we decided to make the entire passage engineless like we used to sail.
We left our incredible anchorage under sail with ease as we were the only boat there.
 When reaching Hilo Bay in Hawaii Rachel flew to Florida to be with our oldest daughter as she was about to give birth to our first granddaughter.
We arrived in Hawaiian waters too early for me to carry on to BC because of the soon to be born baby. I found work right off as a project designer and builder to complete a 57’ Hawaiian sailing canoe.
Sailing in Hawaiian waters for long periods is not easy with all the restrictions and rules in place there. I would only have 90 days to stay in Hilo before I would have to leave. I could get lots of work done on the big Canoe though during this time. I also had several design commissions to complete.
I really enjoyed my time in Hilo. The people there are so friendly.
I will return to finish the sailing canoe project this coming winter, that is if the covid event is stable by then.
The voyage from Hilo to Neah Bay was going to be my longest singlehanded trip to date. I have done many shorter ones in the past of 12-1400 miles. I really enjoy being alone at sea. There’s only me and my vessel to worry about. It’s quiet, I can make all the noise I want and not have to think about others, all the meals I make are the best, no one complains. After 20 years and 38,000 miles together Hoggy and I know each other’s every move and noise. Hoggy has been very good to me over these years.
The trip was broken up into basically 3 sections.
Leg one was 23 days of beating hard on the wind in winds from very light to reefed down to 3 reefs. I sail conservatively when alone as I don’t want to break anything.
There were rain squalls at night mostly, beautiful days out, Booby birds sleeping on the stern at night and finally my first Albatross came swooping by for a look see.
The second leg of the passage was marked by the Pacific high. Flat calm, well still a bit of swell but no wind at all. Because there were no yacht services in Hilo I could not haul Hogfish out to replace the worn cutlass bearing. This meant I could only motor about 3-1/2 knots. I ended up motoring in bits and spurts for a total of 250 miles. 2 other friends on lighter vessels one being a Atlantic 42 cat ended up motoring 850 plus miles each. If I could have I would have.
During this part of the leg there was constant garbage floating about. Orange plastic bouys were always to be seen. My new friends the albatross were always coming right on up to see what was up.
The wind would come around aft, just like in all the old stories. But it would only last for a few hours. Virtually the whole trip to Leg 3 was spent beating to weather. Hogfish sails well to weather, but is not the fastest in real light winds. She does not pound going to weather as one would think having a flat bottom. Leaning over a bit she then has a vee bottom. She is very stiff though.
On board I have a Garmin Enreach device that allows text messages and I can receive weather forecasts for a week on a chosen waypoint. The cost for unlimited texts is $72.00 a month and $.50 for each weather forecast postion chosen.
It’s been a really cool device contraption to have on this voyage. I can talk to my design clients to keep answering questions. The best part was to be in contact with my family and friends. My sailing friends that were ahead of me could tell me what they were experiencing.
The wether predicting was spot on. What I would do was choose 4-5 positions ahead from 100-250 miles spread out across my possible track. Because the weather in this part of the world changes continually I could see what was up today. The next morning I could update each of these and because I was doing all this on my IPad, I could photograph each forecast to be able to see how things had changed over the past 24 hours. After a bit of this I could see how accurate the forecast would be for 2-3 days out.
I also had my wife Rachel looking out at the overall ocean chart and she could tell me of big lows that might be coming my way.
Our good sailing friend Tim Evans on his sailboat WildBird in the Caribbean also was watching out for the lows.
I knew that because I could not use my motor to keep going through the calms of the high I would most likely get caught by one of the lows that were sure to pass over me before I could reach land.
On this last leg we had head winds which you can see with us beating to weather and tacking back and forth. A big low was coming my way. Rachel and Tim were give me daily updates. The predictions were 65 knots and 20’ seas.
The Hogfish is designed and built to not have any lockers open when at sea. She is pretty much watertight. I have never seen her sheer get near the sea. She responds to the helm extremely well in any sea.
My plan was because I was alone I would set a drogue on 600’ of 1” line. I would not want to have to take down sail from being hove to being alone because of what would then be very big seas.
I did not want to take the chance of the interval of dropping the mainsail and falling off.
Now if I had crew they would steer and I would drop sail and we could then fall off and steer away.
We could then set the drogue if needed.
My plan was to drag my feet in the ocean and let the low pass between me and the mainland. The problem was that  it kept changing. Now it’s coming right for me, now it’s moving away a bit.
In the end it passed just to the east of us and we ended up in 45 knot winds and seas to 18’ from 1:00 am till 11:00 am when the low passed by to the east of us. I did not feel the need to set the drogue. The vane autopilot setup worked till till the winds went past 35 knots. After that I was so rested I just hand steered downwind from the seas at a 30 degree angle. They were breaking and cresting. I had 2’ of jib pulled out and it was enough to keeps sailing along at 4-1/2-5 knots. The daggerboard was all the way down to give total steerage control. Hoggy just romped right along. We took one sea over from mid ships all the way to the bow. Completely underwater. She just kept on moving right along.
The best part of all this free wind was it was pushing us towards our landfall. The next several days were the best sailing of the trip with lots of reaching and running along. It was cold and the swells were quite large. Was great fun to watch Sinclair and Mr. Pelagic working together so well with Hoggy just scooting right along.
Now the forecast was for the wind to be dying at the mouth of the Straight Of Juan De Fuca.
Fog set in, lots of rain but still a fair wind. I was wearing 3 pairs of wool socks, long Jon’s, fleece on top, jeans, 4 layers of shirts, and Grudens full foul weather gear, along with wool gloves and overlay gloves. I was fine, except I had no AIS on board, no radar.
The morning of our landfall I could see 4 ships around me, lots of small fishing boats, huge beds of kelp and so many birds about. The fog lifted, the sky cleared to sunshine, the land was 5 miles off but I could not see it. It was still enshrouded in fog.
But then there it was. Trees, mountain, the point. I was out of the ship traffic. The wind was dying but the seas were flat. I turned on the motor and we motor sailed the last 5 miles with an In going current.
Life was great. Life is good. Hogfish Maximus and crew never failed.

At present Hogfish Maximus awaits our return from our winter adventures to be relaunched in June.
Rachel and I have sold our Bahamas land base and have bought a small place on Hornby Island off the coast of Vancouver island in BC. We will keep Hoggy moored in Fords Cove there.
Hope to see you out and about this summer.