The Captain’s Log
Aloha and Mahalo!
ESTELLE has been anchored in Hilo Bay for over a week now and the crew has four days left of the mandatory, 14-day, COVID-19 quarantine for all out-of-state visitors.
The process of clearing into Hawaii with Customs & Border Protection and the State authorities was easy, and everyone we’ve met has been friendly and welcoming. They made sure we understood the quarantine restrictions but put them in the proper context.
Everyone here recognizes the silliness of imposing a 14-day quarantine on people who’ve just spent 21 days crossing an ocean — and recorded their body temperatures everyday in the navigation log. We have more to fear from the local population than they do from us, as far as the contagion is concerned. Still, in the grand scheme of ocean cruising, a 14-day quarantine is nothing. After all, we are visitors and the nearest port outside of Hawaii is at least 2,000 miles away.
To ease the burden on a small boat, most of the crew went ashore to quarantine with newly-met family friends while I’ve stayed aboard ESTELLE. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Dan and Beth for their gracious hospitality and for opening their home to the crew. And shoutout thanks to Elena in Kona for the Costco run. Our local Hawaiian friends have been godsends!
There are many benefits to our current quarantine arrangement. For one, it provides ESTELLE with a 24-hour anchor watch while moored in a notoriously dicey anchorage. The holding ground here is not very good — it is shallow with a little bit of mud on top of volcanic rock. If you drag anchor during high winds there isn’t much room to recover. If your anchor does hold during a blow, it’s probably because it is jammed / wrapped / tangled around a submerged rock; and good luck when it comes time to raise it. Fortunately, we have lots of anchor chain and a good windlass; so far, so good.
ESTELLE also gets some TLC while in quarantine, with funky little projects being completed that otherwise might not get done with a full crew aboard. I’ve got a two-page list of them. For example, I’ve just installed straps on the galley and nav-table drawers to prevent them from opening in a strong seaway offshore. TWICE on the crossing from Mexico, the silverware drawer came flying out of the rack, scattering its contents all over the cabin. It’s an easily recognizable sound, usually accompanied by salty expletives, especially when you’re trying to sleep in the wee hours of darkness.
It will be nice to be able to move about more once our quarantine expires on Saturday. We are restricted to the Big Island, however, and IF we were to go to another island in Hawaii, then a new 14-day quarantine clock would start again. Still there is a lot to do and see here on The Big Island: volcanoes, snorkeling, Cook Cove, maybe even try an electric foil surfer …
The Next Leg
The plan right now is to wait for the weather to improve up north but hopefully set sail again sometime in May, before the tropical storm season begins. It is still early in the season for a passage north of 40-degrees latitude, above the east pacific high pressure system. The NOAA weather charts and synoptic forecasts show a series of low pressure systems heading west-to-east, producing gale force winds and dangerously high waves. A prudent mariner will avoid those, if possible.
As the spring wears on, however, the Pacific High will continue to develop, leading to more stable wind patterns further north. At the same time, the westerly-driven, low-pressure storm cells should diminish. All the while, however, the Tropical Pacific will be warming and the likelihood of cyclonic storms will increase. There has already been one named storm this year off Baja — in April, no less!
Once we leave Hawaii, our intended course is to head straight north, around the outside of the Pacific High; then turn east and ride the westerlies beyond 45-degrees latitude. That would put us on a good course toward either Cape Flattery (for a return to Friday Harbor) or Alaska.
There is still plenty of time to decide on whether to return to Friday Harbor directly or sail further north. We still hold out some hope of sailing as far north as Glacier Bay, then cruise down the Inside Passage, from Alaska through British Columbia. Our final decision will ultimately depend on weather, crew considerations, and both international and local COVID-19 restrictions. We’ll be patient and see how things develop.