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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Pictures Uploaded

I've uploaded a few pictures from our current adventures in Hawaii. Take a look at http://picasaweb.google.com/svnakia

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Lost" on a rainy day

I've been telling everyone how lucky we've been with the weather here in Hilo because it's been day after day of sunshine and warm temps. This has made taking the bus for daily treks to town, and all the walking to the post office, library, laundry, grocery stores, shopping mall, and discount stores, very easy and comfortable. It's been nice not to worry about our backpacks and shopping bags getting wet, let alone ourselves. Tuesday evening we even walked from the harbor to a new restaurant called Ponds where we celebrated Glen's birthday with delicious meals of surf and turf, Italian meatballs, shrimp, and my generous plate of pasta in a macadamia nut pesto sauce with scallops. What a delicious splurge!

On Thursday the sky had an odd overcast look to it, and I overheard several people comment that we were having a bad "vog" day. Vog is short for volcanic smog caused by the activity at Kilauea volcano. It's become quite a problem for areas normally downwind (southwest) of the volcano, which are typically Ka'u and South Kona. But when the Kona winds blow the vog in the opposite direction, then Hilo is affected. According to the Lonely Planet guide book the high amounts of sulfur dioxide can affect residents with respiratory problems, but it's not much of a problem for short-term visitors.

I spent some time doing internet chores at the library and checked out several DVDs on Friday. We've never had the opportunity to watch the TV series "Lost" so I got the first season of that. We watched the first episode on Friday night, when it started raining. It rained hard all night, complete with thunder and lightning, keeping me awake wondering how I was going to get into town Saturday to pick up a few groceries.

When it was still pouring down Saturday morning, John said I was nuts to take the bus and I quickly realized he had a point. I spent part of the morning filing most of the mail delivery we'd recently received, and then we popped in the "Lost" DVD. We proceeded to watch three episodes back to back before taking a short break, and then we watched four more episodes! In between episodes we popped our heads out the hatch to see the rain turning the concrete wall behind us into a cascading waterfall, and the surf pounding over the breakwater way out in front of us. The waves over the breakwater sent enough water into our little bay to make the boats rock and roll for the first time since we arrived here. Just before sunset the wind came up enough to push Dorothy Marie uncomfortably close to the wall and Glen and Sally decided to let their stern lines go to re-anchor out in the middle of the bay for the night.

The local TV evening news reported flash flood warnings and 1.5-2 inches of rain falling per hour in the Hilo area, but the leeward side of the island (Kailua-Kona) wasn't affected at all. We also saw footage of the eight inches of snowfall on the east coast which made us feel pretty lucky to be getting nothing more than a good boat wash. It continued to rain all night, sometimes very hard with more thunder and lightning, sending Ziggy running for cover when one set came within three seconds of each other.

This morning we're trying to be a little more productive and John's already helped Dorothy Marie get tied back up to the wall. But it's still raining off and on, so we may be watching some more episodes of "Lost" this afternoon! We're making plans for a Christmas potluck BBQ with the two German boats, and we've been invited to Christmas Eve dinner with Glen and Sally. So while we will miss spending the holidays with our families back home, we'll enjoy sharing them with the new friends we've met here.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Volcanoes and lava

The highlight of the past week was a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Friday. We shared a rental car with the crews of Dorothy Marie (Glen and Sally) and Avalon (Rick) to make the short drive from Hilo up to Kilauea crater. With a big cruise ship in port we decided to see the Thurston lava tube before the crowds arrived and had the pleasure of sharing it with just a few other cars. Rick, John and I went deeper into the unlit portion of the tube, but I had forgotten to remind everyone to bring a good flashlight, and with only Rick's headlamp and my small LED key chain light we turned around before reaching the end (assuming there is an end!). It hadn't rained for a few days so there were only a few shallow puddles and a bit of dripping from the rock overhead, but I can imagine how wet it must get during normal rainfall. It was nice to have that part of the tube all to ourselves!

Imagining that it would be very hot hiking on lava during the middle of the day, we opted to start our hike on the Kilauea Iki Crater trail at 10:15 before going to the Visitor's Center and the rest of Crater Rim drive. We should have just left our car right there in the Thurston lava tube parking lot and walked the mile to the trailhead parking lot because we ended up exiting the trail at the lava tube where the car could have been waiting for us. But not realizing this we drove the short distance to the next parking lot for our first view of the small crater in the foreground and the huge steam plume rising against a clear blue sky from Halema'uma'u Crater in the distance. Wow! We could see people already on the faint smudge of a trail on the lava and steam was venting from small cracks in the lava floor. We quickly descended through the forest of trees and ferns which ended abruptly above the edge of the crater floor. I was surprised to find there was a brisk breeze blowing the entire length of the crater floor portion of the hike keeping us cool and dry. It was very easy walking on the smooth lava and worn gravel trail marked by several rock cairns to keep us on track. We lacked the $2 map to tell us the significance of the numbered markers but we took pictures to remind us of what we had seen at each one and Sally bought a map at the Visitor's Center later. Several of the steam vents were easily accessible and we carefully reached our hands out to feel how scalding hot and wet they were. It was just amazing to imagine molten lava less than a football field length below us. We reached the opposite end of the crater edge and made the easy ascent through forest again up to the parking lot. John had sprinted ahead of everyone on the uphill trail and was nice enough to bring the car around to us for curbside service. The four mile hike took us just over the advertised two hours including lots of stops for pictures and refreshments.

We headed back towards the Visitor's Center but when we passed the turnoff for the Devastation Trail I insisted on making that stop first. I remembered it as being starkly beautiful from a previous visit over 30 years ago, but with limited time to see everything we should have skipped it. After hiking Kilauea Iki, this little trail was unimpressive.

We drove back to the Visito's Center and ate our lunch at one of three shady picnic tables between the Visitor's Center and the Volcano Art Center. The latter had a variety of beautiful and unique pieces in several mediums. It was all I could do to pass up a $32 Santa ornament with an Asian flair carved out of tagua nut and delicately dyed to give it a beautiful antique look. We regrouped for the 3 PM showing of a movie at the Visitor's Center. This had some footage of volcano eruptions but also covered flora and fauna. With better planning we might have been able to see the special 11:30 AM showing of Kilauea's eruptions.

It was 3:30 and getting late but we still hadn't seen the steam vents at steaming bluff or the sulfur banks, and we wanted to visit the Jaggar Museum for the closest possible view of the caldera. Crater Rim Drive is currently closed from Jaggar Museum counterclockwise all the way to Devastation Trail because of the steam plume emanating from Halema'uma'u Crater. The "steam" is actually full of Sulfur Dioxide and other harmful things that the park service doesn't want visitors exposed to. We quickly checked all of the above off our list and took photos of everything. I wish we'd had more time to spend at the Jaggar overlook because it was truly spectacular, but the sun was sinking and the breeze was freezing.

Not wanting to miss anything we took a quick drive down Chain of Craters road. Rick ended up getting the best out of this detour because he was the only one who opted to hike out to see the petroglyphs and got some great pictures. I was in my flip flops and didn't feel like taking the time to put my shoes back on for that short hike, so the rest of us drove out to the end of the road hoping to see the rock arch. But none of the people returning from the ocean end of the trail knew anything about a rock arch and we were pretty tired so we turned back to the car before walking out to the end of the pavement. John and Glen got out at an unmarked turnoff and clambered over lava to the ocean's edge. We picked Rick up on our way out of the park, and the race was on to get to the lava viewpoint before 8 PM.

We were all very tired and it felt like a slow drive back on Hwy 11 almost to Hilo, then to the end of Hwy 130, and finally along a sometimes one lane strip of rough pavement, with lots of pullouts to let oncoming traffic pass us. I was completely surprised by the jam-packed parking lot which had just emptied out enough to let us park right next to the entrepreneurs selling flashlights, photographs, shave ice, and crafts. We grabbed the flashlights we'd stopped to buy on the way, and picked our way carefully over the ankle twisting broken lava in the pitch dark. The county (because now we were outside the park) had thoughtfully painted yellow marks on the smoothest parts of the lava to guide us to the barricades at the viewpoint. Although we were still a good half mile from it we could clearly see the deep orange color of lava flowing into the ocean with steam clouds glowing orange above it. Shadows moving in the foreground of the lava appeared to be ocean waves breaking and receding. It would be worth another visit to arrive just before sunset to get a better perspective on the location of the lava. Glen and Sally passed a mile away from it at the end of their passage to Hilo from Fanning Island and got some great pictures, so John and I may time our passage to Kona for a closer look at it from Nakia. We were told that in October the lava broke out of the tube through which it's flowing and came within 50' of the current viewing area. Wow!

After a quick fast food stop we got back to the boats at 10:00. Since we'd left at 8:00 in the morning (with stops for snacks and beer before we really got going) it was a long day. But we packed a lot into a 24 hour car rental, and I think the Volcanoes Park is the highlight of any visit to the Big Island!


Sunday, December 06, 2009


It's great being back in a first world country! There's so much to marvel over and the variety of foods and products to choose from is breathtaking. We've been taking the free local bus every day to places like the shopping mall, the downtown Hilo area, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot. The bus doesn't run on Sundays but a cruise ship came in this morning and we'll probably hop on their Roberts Hawaii shuttle bus to take closer looks at Wal-Mart, Ross, and Office Max.

John already mentioned that we had too much motor sailing during our passage. A lot of it was spent getting through the area surrounding the ITCZ which seemed to go on forever instead of just a couple of days like our past crossings of it. The wind dropped significantly for the final two days of the trip and it was like a lake motoring into Hilo. The last several nights at sea were in the chilly mid-70s (Brrrr, break out the fleece!) and I had to put a bedspread back on the bed when we got here. The overcast cooler weather makes for a nice change but we're not looking forward to snorkeling in 76 degree water temps.

We had an easy entry into the small boat basin at Radio Bay where a Matson security guard was ready to catch our stern line after we set our bow anchor and backed to the concrete wall. We are actually located in the Matson port area and Homeland Security is very strict about access. So we are restricted to the area of the wall immediately behind the boat up to the restroom building. To walk out to the front gate we call security and wait for a guard to escort us, and they bring us back to the boat when we return. We know we are an added burden to their already busy days, and we really appreciate having the harbor kept open for transient boats like us. There's a water faucet and a coin operated electricity outlet if we need it, and the restroom with shower is basic but clean.

After tying up on Thursday we launched the dinghy and climbed a big ladder up the wall to go ashore. We checked in first with the port office (our first sight of Christmas decorations!) and then walked to Customs just outside the gate to fill out the usual things-to-declare form. No one came to the boat, and we were only asked to keep our left-over onions on board. We caught the hourly bus and rode it past the downtown terminal out to the Prince Kuhio Plaza shopping mall. The bus is great except that the last one back to the Port from the terminal is at 4 PM, and there's a big gap without service from the terminal between 10:30 and 1 PM. There are several other island buses that we'll check out later for sightseeing.

Our primary reason for visiting the mall was to get a SIM chip for our cell phone in order to make local calls. After inquiring at all the mall phone shops we ended up at T-Mobile in the nearby Wal-Mart shopping complex where we got a $10 chip with 140 minutes on it to start out with. I was impressed with how service oriented everyone we spoke to was. When shops couldn't help us with what we wanted we were twice nicely directed to a different business that might have it. After buying the chip we returned to the mall where we had enough time before catching the bus to eat DQ Blizzards - our first Stateside food treat!

We had pre-arranged to have a local vet visit us first thing Friday morning to issue Ziggy with a Health Certificate for Animal Quarantine. We chose Skip Pease of All Pets Mobile Veterinary Clinic because he advertised house calls and was listed as an approved vet with Hawaii Agriculture in case Ziggy had to go into quarantine for some reason. This was the first time we'd spoken with a U.S. vet since adopting Ziggy in Mexico so we had lots of questions about diet, shots, and medications. Skip spent an hour and a half with us and we even got off topic to talk about his experiences flying his RV-4 kit plane. Once we had the Health Certificate in hand we called Animal Quarantine to have an officer come out. He looked Ziggy over, used a wand to read the microchip number, filled out a form, and Ziggy is now free to stay in Hawaii if he wants!

With all our entry formalities completed we took the bus to downtown Hilo and explored that area a bit. We quickly found the library where for $10/pp you can get a visitor's card good in the entire state for three months. Our first priority there was internet, but I also found that you can check-out DVDs for $1 each! It's a lovely facility with an open air, central courtyard. You know you're in Hawaii when you're standing at one of the card catalog computer terminals and a bright green little lizard goes strolling by in the courtyard! We also visited a couple of grocery stores where we were shocked at $5.50 wheat bread, 14 lbs of cat litter for $14 (in Panama it was 28 lb for $14; now we're glad we over stocked), and higher prices for cat food, just for starters. We'll wait to visit the Costco in Kona to see what's available there before we finish out our pre-passage shopping here in March.

Oh, and we have TV again! Granted we can only tune into the Weather Channel, the Church Channel, and CBS but hey, it was our first chance to see Katie Couric anchor the news; we now get our fill of Tiger-all-the-time; who couldn't love a local news show with a shaky camera trying to find the anchor (and surf reports!); and best of all - we get to watch Survivor and Amazing Race. Woo hoo!

At 3 PM most days you'll find us at the local bar, Margarita Village, across from the gate next to a small local corner market. Yes, they have an especially good beer ($3.50) on tap there, but they also let us use their really fast wifi (24 podcasts downloaded in 15 minutes!). I uploaded some new pictures to our Picasa web albums last night. There are a few new ones of Ziggy in his album and here's a direct link to the first batch of Marquesas pictures (or you can use the normal link on our blog page):


The blog will probably be quiet for the next few months unless we do any special sightseeing or boat projects. We're also both on Facebook now so you might catch us online for a chat at the bar!

Linda and John

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Arrived in Hilo at 1100 local after motoring all but 5 of the last 30 hours in little or no wind. Not what we had planned for, especially after the Hilo locals we spoke to warned of strong Northerly winds near the island, but it's good enough for us.

Total distance traveled: 2294 miles
Total time: 19 days 4 hours
Engine hours logged: 81 (yuck!)

And that's that.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Day 18

A few things have happened worth note.

First; we ate our last Pamplemousse. Pretty good to have fresh fruit for over two weeks.

Next; the wind died. Last night around 1100 Linda got me up to help with some sail adjusting and by the time I was ready to go back to bed we needed to start the motor to keep moving. We've been motoring ever since.

Next; this morning the wind came up a little. You might think that's good, but its not because the direction its blowing from is exactly the direction we want to go. There's not much wind, but even 30 degrees either side and we'd be able to get some additional trust from it instead of it slowing us down.

Finally; it being our last day at sea its fishing day. Especially since we're motoring and its calm (I hate cleaning fish when its rough). Anyway, I put two lures out this morning (two new, un-tried lures) and in a couple hours caught two fish. My fish cleaning helper, Ziggy, was there the entire time to supervise and now we have 6 quart size freezer zip-locks full of Dorado for when we get in.

One more night, as long as this bloody wind doesn't increase.

115 miles to go to Hilo


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Day 17

When we started this passage I figured the hardest part was going to be crossing the ITCZ, because that is where we were most likely to encounter violent squalls. WRONG! It turns out this last 250 miles getting to Hilo is the squalliest zone. Last night we had a doozy. Linda got me up at 2200 telling me there was something bearing down on us. We were sailing with reefed main and reefed jib. No sooner had I rolled up the jib entirely then we were almost out of control doing over 7 knots under just the reefed main. Then when we started to put the second reef in the main it got really bad. Driving rain, seas breaking over the boat and a LOT of wind. It didn't last long, only about 20 minutes (just long enough to complete all the reefing activities). Then being shell-shock we refused to let out the second reef and we ended up motoring for three hours in light winds. Bah!

It remains cloudy and rainy today (not so much rain really, just a steady drip like there are a bunch of leaks in the sky).

240 miles to go to Hilo


Rain, rain, go away

Monday morning dawned almost completely clear for a change and I made the mistake of telling John what a good solar day it would be. By the time I woke up at 11 AM it was completely overcast, and by mid-afternoon it was raining (more like heavy dripping). It's now after 9 PM and the rain hasn't let up yet. Poor John struggled during his evening watch to keep us on course with the wind vane. By the time I came on watch he told me to just let it go where it wants to since the wind has been all over the place. So it's been about 5-10 degrees too high, but we'll fix that after he's had some rest.

I think we're beginning to find with these long passages that we tend to be grumpiest at the beginning when we're still getting used to the routine, and at the end when we're so close to being there but are still too far away for it to be over with.

Both water and cabin temps have been 79-80. We still see flying fish and the occasional petrel or shearwater, but that's about it. John has seen dolphins once at night and briefly during the day. Oh, and I'm happy to report that we've seen not a speck of plastic garbage during the entire trip so far.

This is our last Monday night at sea for this passage!