We did it! After 27 days at sea and over 3,000 miles under the keel, we sailed Sugata back under the Golden Gate on August 1. This closed the loop on the journey we started back in October 2007. We felt an interesting mixture of emotions: joy, relief, a sense of accomplishment, sadness that our trip had ended, and perhaps foremost, an intense desire for a shower!
The passage from Hawaii to San Francisco, while not without its challenges, was a cake walk compared to our passage to Hawaii. Our experience runs counter to what popular opinion would have you believe about the two passages; everyone says that the trip to Hawaii is easy, and coming back is hard. It does seem true that the weather on the trip back to the mainland can vary greatly from week to week, and boats separated by just 100 miles can have really different winds.
We had great weather leaving Hawaii, with moderate winds and seas. While it made the passage slower, we really enjoyed being becalmed near the Pacific High, with nothing but flat seas stretching as far as the eye could see. Things got a little challenging psychologically when the Pacific High jumped over us and left us beating into headwinds, but other than a period of about 6 hours of gale force winds (which we could thankfully ignore just by closing the companionway and hanging out below), it never got really rough. So luckily, seasickness wasn’t a problem this time!
Some memorable things from the passage: The great sailing north of Hawaii, with sunshine, steady winds, mahi mahi in the water, boobies and albatross in the sky. The stars at night. Trying to identify the trash that floated by (the greatest concentration seemed to be around latitude 38, when we’d see something every 10 minutes or so). The storm petrels that gathered around the boat at night, their eerie cries in the fog, and the one that flew into our sink!
Dropping the sails at night, and one day, near the Pacific High. The large sei or Bryde’s whale that surprised us in the calm water. Ron catching 2 tuna, which fed us for days! The great entertainment of the evening radio net, when we talked with our fellow boating friends and shared stories, poems, songs, trivia, and encouragement. Our windvane giving out about one week from the coast, and lashing the helm to steer us. Listening to my iPod, Ron reading, and Capn Todd-quila mixing drinks, spilling drinks, and drinking drinks.
We had been looking forward to the euphoria of landfall that we’d felt after making it to Hilo, but after tying up at our old marina (Emery Cove), it was actually a bit strange. In a way it was like we’d never left. We felt conflicted about being back. It was great to see family and friends, and we love the Bay Area. But being home also means dealing with the stresses of life here: the traffic, the ‘noise’ that goes along with internet connectivity, the flood of non-news that passes for news, and that utmost of annoyances- needing to find jobs!
So maybe it was partly because the passage was so much easier this time, and maybe it was because we weren’t ‘on vacation’ with a new place to discover, but after a week back, Todd and I both felt like we could happily take off again. Now I can sort of understand those crazy folks who love passage-making. Quite a contrast to my feelings just after arriving in Hilo, when I would have eagerly pledged to sail nevermore.
But, Sequoia wants to go to a ‘real school’ (oh, foolish youth!) so we’re facing 5 years of a more settled lifestyle. This probably means that we’ll have to sell the boat, but that is such a painful prospect that we’re ignoring it for now.
See all of our passage photos here: