On March 24, 1835h we left Tabuaeran, bidding farewell over a poorly transmitted radio signal, thanks to a feathered friend who had taken our antenna out at the masthead. The Bon Voyage Dolphin Committee did its thing as we motored into the light winds and darkening sky, and a lovely canopy of stars soon emerged; it was nice to be at sea again. We reached Teraina (aka Washington Island) the next day around 1100h, and wondered how long it would take for the islanders to notice we were there. We, or more accurately the medicines we brought, were eagerly anticipated. As it became obvious we were closing on the island a fellow began running away from us. We didn't have the Jolly Roger flying so concluded that he was going to tell someone about our arrival. (Jogging is not a usual activity in the islands – when Bjarne went running, people asked him where he was going.) While we found a place to anchor in an exposed and bouncy area near the reef, we scanned the shore for signs of activity, which seemed to come in fits and starts. A truck arrived with a runabout which was carried toward the water and then people disappeared again. A little later more activity ensued, an outboard engine materialized, and was attached. Another wait (for whomever was bringing the petrol?)... Soon a small group of folks were motoring out the treacherous pass. They stayed only long enough in the choppy conditions for us to pass over the two large boxes of medical supplies and spectacles, and to hand us a bag of moimoitos (drinking coconuts). We thought it was interesting that the boat hadn't been ready to go when we first arrived, but then again, we might not have shown up. All in all, the delivery went very smoothly.
Since we'd gone to the trouble of anchoring we decided to enjoy a leisurely lunch of potatoes, carrots and steak (!), all foods we hadn't seen in some time and so doubly appreciated. They were courtesy of our friend Bjørnar, who made sure we were well stocked before departure. Ironically, he unexpectedly gave us a pound of butter on the morning we had finally opened the last can that we had been hoarding for months. Feast or famine, and enjoy the moment. Well-fed, we resumed our journey toward Hawai'i after all of 4 hours at Teraina.
That night we encountered squalls, complete with driven rain and distant lightning. If you weren't trying to look right into the rain, the visibility was perhaps a ¼ mile. I was on watch but went below to use the heads. Bjarne decided to get up and perhaps I delayed a few moments to talk to him. Upon emerging I was startled to see a large cruise ship, quickly getting closer. I was a bit confused as to why our courses appeared to be converging the way they were, until I realized that the wind had drastically changed direction and we were now facing about 60 degrees away from where we were supposed to be. Did they know we were there? Nope. They did, however, answer a radio hail and were quite friendly. The thick rain interfered with detection by radar, but they were able to see the strobe light Bjarne had spent so many hours wiring up – I guess that was time well spent! We agreed to alter course, being both more maneuverable and having more motivation, but naturally the wind died right then leaving us with limited steerage and a few moments of, let's say, concern. With relief we bid the Norwegian Wind [Scandinavian Fart] well and asked them to convey our regards to those at Tabuaeran.
The dawn brought better weather, a pretty sunrise and a rainbow woven through the clouds. Over the next few days conditions steadily improved and we made great progress. The days were often sunny, although a few clouds came out at night when they could pounce on us more effectively. We were even able to get a few jobs done. That isn't to say the winds didn't try some of their fickle tricks, like dying just long enough to get us to put up more sail and then picking up again. I think some of our good progress was because we didn't want to change the sails yet again. We continued to have low waves and cooperative winds for a good portion of our journey. One could get to like this trade wind sailing – too bad it seems so hard to find.
Our very ripe bananas were falling off the stalk into Neptune's galley so some we squished into muffins, others into pancakes. We cooked up our very last batch of Kraft Dinner (carried since Canada). Guess what! This stuff doesn't keep forever: the cheese was a much darker orange and the flavour had changed. Nothing a little ketchup didn't fix. Our friend Carlton had given us some military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, (or Excrete as Bjarne says)) which made for some very easily prepared dinners. We also happily consumed the two large cookies that come with each package.
Dolphins came by, although often at dusk; they were always welcome, even when we didn't get a really good look. We were especially thrilled when a pod came through with pink noses! One sunny day found us sailing for hours with fish (tuna mostly) leaping all around us. They enticed Bjarne to put out a hook and in a short time there was a fish on the line. As it neared the boat it did an extra bit of writhing and broke free, joining the prestigious “Freya Catch and Release” program. BJ put out a 2nd line to try one of Bruno's lures, made from cast lead with strips of fabric. Sure enough we soon had a bite, but this fish suddenly disappeared! The lead lure had been broken and the hook was gone – puzzling. The mystery was solved a few minutes later when BJ spotted a shark following us. Hey, get your own fish! Hope the hook gave it indigestion.
Bjarne turned 41 twice on this voyage. We celebrated the momentous occasion of his birth on Kiribati time and then Hawai'i time. He only got one cake though. In the wee hours of the morning we enjoyed a treat of jiffy-pop popcorn – some things you shouldn't outgrow – the best part is watching it pop. We also reached the half-way point on his (first) birthday. More celebration – Coke (one can, shared) and Pringles. BJ opened his presents, played with balloons, blew out candles, and ate sweet chocolaty stuff. It seems the birthday bases were covered. On his second birthday, he wrote that the day had been, “one of the most outstanding sailing days: 12-15 knots on or just forward of the beam, sun, some fluffy cumulus, and low seas.” Happy birthday, Bjarne.
Just in case anyone wonders what there is to do at sea, he then added:
Things seem to be breaking, but so far the number of fixes have about equaled the breakages. There's been the VHF antenna, bilge pump switch, halyard clamp silicone stopper, solar shower shutoff valve, laptop battery cable, fathometer instrument, chafe on the life-sling cover and today I noticed the laptop is complaining that its CMOS RAM has been scrambled and it has reset to default values. Last night it seemed the masthead nav light was flickering in brightness so we turned it off and used the anchor light instead. I cleaned the bilge and changed the oil absorbing pad, during which we noticed the manual bilge pump is not working well – time for an overhaul.
On April 2nd, our noon-noon run was 136 miles. Bjarne calculated that if we kept our speed at 6 kts we'd arrive in 2 days, much earlier than we'd expected. More sail went up giving us another day of 136 miles. For a while we averaged 6.8 kts, with speeds up to seven and a half. Awesome progress, but eventually it got too wild, particularly after dark. There was a bit of lightning off to the west and northwest during all this wind, just to add to the excitement. It didn't come near us, but you don't know that it won't. Later that day, we confirmed that the temporary VHF antenna was working when we got the Hawai'i marine weather report. Ignorance is bliss, however. We didn't really need to hear that there were water spouts in one of the Hawaiian channels (where all the lightning had been). They weren't actually that close to us but some crew members are more pessimistic than others. The wind was up and down quite drastically on that last day at sea. This is where our earlier decision to push the speed came back to bite us in the transom. We were now at a difficult distance where we were close enough to get in before dark, but only if we kept up a brisk speed. Slowing down would mean arriving at some awkward time, like 2 in the morning. Deciding that we wanted to arrive today, we were putting up more sail sooner than we normally would have in these variable conditions, which is part of the reason why we had 9 sail changes in 13 hours. Believe you me, I heard a lot of muttering about roller furling that day! As we neared O'ahu we could see whales breaching but they appeared to be only the size of a jelly bean at that distance. We also saw a submarine – fortunately just the above-water portion. The wind blasted up as we got closer, giving us a boisterous ride toward a large blot of civilization, aka Honolulu.
The winds between Tabuaeran and Hawaii are usually from a more northerly direction than we experienced, so we had been braced for a difficult upwind sail that I expected to take 2 weeks or longer. Thus, we were thrilled, relieved, and tired, when we pulled in to the Ala Wai Boat Harbour mid-afternoon on Monday April 3rd (April 4th Kiribati time), after 10 days and 20 hours at sea. Another leg of the long journey home had been completed and we now had a couple of months in the land of plenty for fun and games. But first, a bottle of ($4) wine and a very good sleep.