Hawaii, Quick Stop

10 Jun

Day 168/47

Noon Position: 17 43N 153 07W

Course/Speed: NNW7

Wind: ENE19

Bar: 1019, steady

Sea: E7

Sky: Overcast, squally

Cabin Temperature: 82

Water Temperature: 80

Sail: Working sail, one reef, close reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 170 (169.5…but I’m taking the half mile. Our best day’s run of this leg!)

Miles this leg: 6,098

Avg. Miles this leg: 130

Miles since departure: 23,202

Some may be wondering why our course has been beelining towards Hawaii since Mo and I entered the NE trades. The answer is that while the wind angle of the trades would not have allowed another course for northing, I do plan a quick stop in Honolulu…if I can get there.

I have an opportunity to participate in a science project on the leg home.

Back in 2012, I sailed solo from Kauai, the most northerly Hawaiian island, to Sitka, Alaska, and during that run I collected ocean debris for research scientists at the International Pacific Research Center and the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean & Earth, Science & Technology. The year before, a large tsunami had mutilated the shores of western Japan and pulled into the ocean an estimated 1.5 trillion tons of debris. These scientists were tasked with creating computer models that would predict the course of the debris that remained afloat as it slowly made its way across the Pacific and when and where it would impact US shores.

To that end, the University put out an APB among local yachties. The scientists were desk bound, or at least weren’t keen on ocean crossings, and they needed outside corroboration that their models were accurate. I decided to help.

Between 35N and 45N I photographed and collected a tremendous amount of stuff: plastic tables, plastic chairs, plastic rugs, plastic filing cabinets, plastic rice bags, buckets, balls, hard hats, shoes, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and more. My greatest lesson from that exercise was that what we call debris, marine life forms call home. Every single item I pulled from the water had been colonized. On one afternoon, I found a lone packing peanut. On its underside was a crab hanging on for dear life.

About two weeks ago, and as Mo and I were passing the Cook Islands, I received a message from Professor Nikolai Maximenko, lead researcher for the 2012 project and my contact. He had another request.

In recent years, the amount of tsunami debris washing up on US shores has slowed to a trickle; however, since the first debris arrived, a steady stream of Japanese marine life has been showing up in US reefs. And this stream continues even though debris impacts have dwindled. How is this possible? The working hypothesis is that these life forms have colonized the debris inside the North Pacific Gyre (aka the “garbage patch”), the large area of calm in the North Pacific high that eventually traps much North Pacific drift.

Professor Maximenko’s organization has partnered with Mary Crowley’s Ocean Voyages Institute in San Francisco that will, next year, launch a large debris collection operation with a large vessel. But given the vastness of the area in question (some estimate the gyre to be the size of Texas), one ship needs a head start in locating debris.

Again, enter local yachties. Maximenko asked if I planned to sail between Hawaii and San Francisco any time soon, and if so, would I carry a small collection of radio satellite devices to be placed on any large debris deposits I might pass.

Clearly the answer is, yes and yes. I’m a sucker for citizen science.

So, I’ve been working toward the windward side of the Hawaiian Islands these last weeks in order to enable a fast approach to Honolulu and to avoid the volcanic smoke emanating from the Big Island this last month.

And it all comes to a head tonight. Will the wind cooperate?

For the last three nights, squalls have filled in after sundown, making life difficult for Mo and for me. I’ve been up every half hour to an hour to adjust Monte’s course, as the winds accelerate from 10 to 25 and yaw from NE to E. Over and over. I’m worn out.

Today same, except today the wind is decidedly NE. Now or close reach is a tight one, and hanging onto our rhumb line for a waypoint well off The Big Island’s Kapoho Point is a struggle.

As I write, we’re within a hundred miles of that turn. We’ll know by morning if we’ve made it.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage

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