On the 16th of March we nosed out of Newport Beach harbour and pointed Pelon’s bow toward Hilo in Hawaii, which as usual was directly into the wind where it stayed for the next three days. Pelon has a 12 volt auto pilot that steers a compass course and unfortunately on day 4 it started to play up and was at best unreliable. We considered turning around but the trade winds had kicked in and we were like a fart coming out of a bottle, we had to continue.
During the first few days we saw a few ships including a coastal trader that just lunged out of the dark at us and missed by about 50 meters on my duty watch. It scared the hell out of me so I didn’t tell Kym for a few days. In good weather on a bright day if a ship is travelling at normal cruise speed of 25 knots and you are doing 6 knots it will take 12 minutes before a collision occurs from the time that the ship is first visible on the horizon. In dark stormy poor visibility this will be reduced considerably, as it was the night that we were nearly hit. A yacht under sail at sea always has right of way over a ship under power however that is a bit redundant when your boat has been smashed to smitherines and the first time that the ships crew are aware that a collision has occurred is when a wharfy at their next port points up to a yacht mast hanging from the ships anchor and nobody can explain how or when it got there.
By day 7 the autopilot was dead and we started to hand steer 2 hours on and 2 hours off during the day and 1 hour on and 1 hour off at night. 1 hour at night was all we could manage as it was still very cold at night and the numbers on the compass card would blur into the unreadable. If you weren’t steering you were asleep or doing one of the thousand chores that need to be done each day on a yacht at sea. On a few occasions during stormy weather or when becalmed we shut the boat down so that we could catch up on a bit of rest. There was always a watch keeper on duty but that person could just poke their head out of the hatch every 5 minutes and make themselves a hot drink while the other slept.
On day 18 I finally beat my evil nemises - the Autohelm ST7000 was battered, bruised and working. Kym put it down to being an Easter miracle as it was Good Friday. The final three days to Hilo were fairly fast and relaxing now that we no longer had to hand steer. Entering Hilo Bay we saw the best whale show that either of us had ever seen, with 50 foot, 40 tonne monsters breaching and slapping their fins and tails 100 meters from the boat. It was a relief after 21 days at sea to pull into Radio Bay and step ashore - our world was finally still again. In no time other cruisers were introducing themselves and the driver of the Pilot boat offered to take us out to meet a ship so 5 hours after stepping ashore we were travelling back to sea at 40 knots and watching the crazy pilot jump from the pilot boat to a rope ladder dangling 25 foot down the side of the ship in a 3 meter swell.
We will spend the next few days at Hilo before heading to Maui and then Honolulu (on Oahu)before our next long leg to Fanning Island - about a 1000nm away.