Independence Day

Far more time has elapsed since our last post than we originally intended, but such is life. As a result, we have that much more to share, so here goes.

Our course put us into the doldrums almost exactly as predicted. We had been extra careful to conserve energy since departing Hilo, and had not run the engine at all in over 10 days, either for battery charging or driving the boat. When we started it up, we had the presence of mind to check the primary fuel filter. To our dismay, there was a substantial amount of water in the filter. It is not unusual for water to find its way into fuel tanks, but this was a lot of water. Most likely water had entered through the vent hoses in rough conditions around Hawaii, and unfortunately we neglected to monitor the filter in our hurry to get in and out of Hilo. Purging the secondary filter showed that it had gotten in there as well. Could it have passed into the engine? Might it damage something in there beyond repair? Was it the reason we were hearing lower revs than we should have given the throttle position?

These worries came at a rather inopportune time. It was late afternoon on a Sunday, and the next day was Independence Day. The chances of getting a professional on the phone seemed slim for the next 36 hours. We decided to take a break for the night, and continue troubleshooting steps the next day. At this point we had to consider the possibility that our engine was damaged beyond our ability to repair, which would seriously impact our trip, or worse, end it altogether. Even though we faced that looming threat, at least one crewmember was stress free: Zara. For her 11th birthday she enjoyed a whole can of cat food and went to bed purring happily. The quiet wind and waves meant a night of drifting and relaxed watch schedule. It was refreshing to face the next day on more sleep than we usually saw in one chunk.

The morning’s procedures went so smoothly that we were motoring with no troubles before it was noon. The relief was so great that Paul decided to put out the hand line and go fishing in celebration. He hadn’t even finished letting all the line out before we had a strike! A 3-foot yellow fin tuna had been lurking behind us and was promptly processed into all our favorite fish dishes. For many days hence we enjoyed large quantities of sushi, sashimi, ceviche, grilled steaks, fried steaks, fish tacos, and tuna salad. Even Zara had lots of fish in her favorite style: boiled and shredded.

The time since then has been a mix of smaller ordeals and laid-back periods. When we suddenly came to the end of the first fuel tank, it was late enough in the day that we spent another night adrift before diving into a morning’s work of removing the water from the second tank. There was one night where it poured rain for hours on end. In between there were a few rough days of larger swells and stronger winds, and many days of light breezes. We even spotted several ships at night passing in the distance. The most interesting occurrence was one night where we removed more than 25 flying fish that became stranded on deck over the course of about 6 hours!

As we approach the end of this passage our thoughts are turning to islands and activities enjoyed near land. But the mindset of being out in the ocean on our own is still strong. Every problem that we face is a reminder of the independence inherent in this lifestyle. Even with the consolation that we can call for help, at the end of the day we’re the ones that must fix what breaks and live with the limits of our circumstances. The occasional trying times are a small price to pay for the unparalleled freedom we continue to relish.


It has been over a week since we were in sight of land. Progress goes as well as could be hoped, although that’s a little more complicated now than it was for the first leg to Hawaii. Our destination of Nuku Hiva lies southeast of the Hawaiian islands. The trade winds in the northern latitudes come from the east or northeast. Around 10 degrees north of the equator starts a section of light, variable wind and doldrums called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ. Trade winds to the south of the equator are generally lighter this time of year and generally blow from the southeast.

So what does this mean for us? For one thing, it’s a bit of a rougher passage. Easterly progress is easier in the stronger northeasterly trades than anywhere else, so we are sailing as close to the wind as possible. In order to stay out of the doldrums we even had to tack north for a bit. Once we get as far east as we can, we’ll turn due south and pass through the ITCZ as fast as possible. Besides the unpredictable winds, the area is known for squalls that sometimes blow through. The good news is that it has a current running east, which could help with any last easting we need. It will also be a good place to duck out of the way of the tropical depression that’s currently forming off the coast of Mexico and is forecast to head west.

For now we will continue bashing southeast. The wind is still pretty strong and the swell remains large. These conditions keep the boat heeled over and we slam into waves more, which slows us down. While both tacks have their disadvantages, on our current port tack the galley and head are uphill. Stayed tuned for our next post about day to day life and the trade-offs between comfort and progress.

Mal de Mer

Here’s a quick update on our journey this past week. We saw only light wind as forecast on the lee side of the island last Thursday. There was just enough time for a quick snorkel in Kealakekua Bay before dark. The quiet continued until we rounded the southern tip of the island and met with the strong trade winds and rolly seas. The rough conditions continued through that Friday and Saturday. Paul was never seasick but the rest of us had varying levels of illness and recovery time. For one of the crew it was too much, despite any treatments we tried. We hove to on Sunday evening for a rest but on the next afternoon she still wanted to go back to land. We turned around and sailed back to Hilo. The other crew member decided that the delay would leave her with too little time in the Marquesas and also chose to disembark. After a quick touch-and-go drop off on Wednesday we headed straight out again.

We are now making good progress in pretty favorable winds. Weather reports show that we might even stay on this tack the whole way there, or at least until we turn south to cross the equator. In the meanwhile, we are eating lots of fish thanks to the large skipjack tuna we caught on Tuesday. There were also three flying fish on deck yesterday morning, but they were too small to eat. Watch for more posts on the SV Serenity Facebook page as we make our way across the 2000 mile expanse of ocean.


The time has come to slip our cable, drop the mooring, and once more put out to sea. This is the big one, the one we’ve been working up to. With any luck, in a month’s time we will be arriving in French Polynesia. We have ignored the naysayers, and will continue to do so. We will take our journey as it comes and adapt with every tack.

Our time in Hawaii has been pleasant on the whole. It is true that in some ways Hawaii is a difficult place for cruisers. Our cat has had to sit in quarantine, the holding in the one anchorage we’ve managed to visit was a challenge, other anchorages we’ve tried have been too exposed or failed to offer appropriate sea bed for good holding (without damaging coral), the harbor masters here seem to rarely answer there phone and when they do they demonstrate their practiced art of discouragement and dissuasion. All of that said, however, we’ve had a great time. Reed’s Bay was a wonderful anchorage, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Hilo. Our excursions on shore have been a lot of fun and a well-needed break from life aboard. And even Kailua Bay surprised us. After reading that there were no moorings for transients and that the sea bed was a mix of rocky or coral and not good for anchoring (this I confirmed by donning mask and snorkel), we blithely picked up a vacant mooring after the harbor master proved unreachable. For a while this had me very nervous as the owner could show up and kick us off at any time. Luckily, as I was bringing one of our new crew members out to the boat I saw a commercial vessel picking up a mooring and stopped to ask them if they knew who owned the one I was on. It turns out they did, and *they* did! And after a brief conversation about our boat and our plans, they said it wasn’t in use and we could stay. They also told us there were at least two other moorings that were vacant, closer to the pier, and regularly used by transients. Who knew! Hawaii may be a challenge, but I believe it would be very rewarding to those with the wherewithal to learn its secrets.

But now it is time to move on. We have our new crew, we’ve got our cat back, and nothing remains between us and our dreams but the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Fair Winds!