Limits, Weather, and “Maya the Swimming Cat”


We’ve had a few years of living aboard and traveling in our sailboat but we still occasionally chafe at the limitations imposed by our house. Recently we were discussing the employment opportunities in New Zealand versus the US, along with the difference in salaries and taxes. Looking at a two year ‘work’ break, we felt we’d be financially better off working in Seattle than New Zealand. The downside? A 5000 mile sail to get home. On the other hand, it isn’t that hard to get back to the South Pacific from Seattle, a quick jump to Southern California and then another puddle jump, this time 2400 miles to French Polynesia. Didn’t sound that bad. We’d be the only people in Seattle waiting to go cruising who’d have a boat that was actually ready!

Next step, can we personally do it? Neither of us were enthralled with a 2400 mile voyage to Hawaii, then another 2400 miles to Seattle. The Hawaii/Seattle leg would actually be much longer since we would travel in a large arc north. We decided we were still game.

Next step, will the weather allow it? Well, it was the last week of August. The Northern Pacific gets pretty nasty in the fall and winter, it didn’t have to work too hard to earn the moniker ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’. We would want to get to Washington in early October. Figure 30 days from Hawaii, better leave early September. Hmm, need to get to Hawaii.

Call me a name dropper, but the area between southern Mexico and Hawaii is “Hurricane Alley” and we’d have to cross it. A month ago a fellow Baba 40 left Bora Bora to return to San Diego via Hawaii, a much easier proposition than heading for Seattle. A month later they were still not to Hawaii yet, sitting on Christmas Island waiting for a break in the Hurricanes, tropical depressions, and troughs traveling across from Mexico. They just left Christmas for Hawaii a couple of days ago and will probably take two weeks. The best we’d have done is crossing with them, although we would have been hard pressed to get to Christmas in time so may have been waiting for the next weather window. Once in Hawaii it would have been late September. Rest, provision, fuel, and get ready for another long passage? Oh wait, need a short break in the weather to get far enough north of Hawaii to miss hurricanes. There were already two large lows in the Gulf of Alaska.

So now it wasn’t a voyage home, but a sail to Hawaii that may take until November, which is when sane people cross to Hawaii. Once there we’d have to re-evaluate and decide whether going further north was feasible. Odds would be we wouldn’t want to risk the weather so would either be stuck in Hawaii or would have to head back to somewhere around the equator to wait until next spring. When we found ourselves checking historic hurricane paths and water temp patterns we realized that maybe this idea had taken a life of its own, grabbed the wheel, and veered off into the giggly bushes. Sailboat routing had always told us you don’t go from the South Pacific to the Northern Pacific in late summer and fall, we knew better.

So it was a happy fantasy for a few days, fortunately reason kicked in, aided by a few emails from fellow sailors in response to Teresa’s email telling them we were looking into traveling back to Seattle. Most responses outlined many of the facts above. No one thought it was a good idea. One sailor here who has made the trip from the South Pacific to the west coast of the US three times simply looked at us and said, “Too Late”.

On to New Zealand.

And while we’re talking about the weather…

We know we won’t get a lot of sympathy from anyone when we whine “we’re tired of Bora Bora” but I’ll do it anyway, because we are. We just passed a month. The first two and a half weeks seemed consumed with the accident and repairs. Then we spent a week being tourists, biking and diving. We came back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club for another trip to the store prior to leaving. We’ve now been here another ten days watching horrid weather between here and the Cook Islands.

It’s hard when you are a cruiser and have sailed to the South Pacific to sit in one place this long because of weather. Most of what is forecast is max winds of 30 knots and 15-20 foot seas. It’s hard to sit, but harder to knowingly sail into that sort of forecast, especially when experience tells us the winds will be stronger than forecast, the seas higher. Last night someone mentioned a boat getting impatient and leaving an island in the Cooks for Tonga; they had a horrible passage and wished they’d waited. There are probably 20 boats sitting here waiting to leave. One left yesterday, a few are planning tomorrow. We’re thinking Tuesday might look good. We’re all looking at the same forecasts and websites, none of us are seeing conditions we like. If we sail a long way out of our way north we get better weather. At some point we’ll just have to go, it isn’t weather we haven’t seen before, just weather we know is an uncomfortable ride. One of the cruising guides calls this “The Dangerous Middle” of the South Pacific, I call it “The Frustrating Middle”.

And then there’s Maya…

Getting tired of the wait for weather, Maya decided to strike out for the Cooks on her own. This morning Teresa woke me up yelling from the deck. I arrived on deck to the sound of a cat howling. We discovered on our last trip to the vet that Maya can out yell a 15hp Merc running wide open and she wasn’t far off this morning. Arriving on deck I decide a quick swim sounded good so went in. While I was in I detached the cat from the bobstay (the wire rigging that goes from our bow sprit and the waterline) and handed her up to Teresa.

We’re not sure how she ended up in the water but it was clear she didn’t like it. She seems a little shaky but generally OK. Our fastidious cat now has a lot of cleaning to do, despite the freshwater rinse we gave her.

Once everyone was safe we realized we had no pictures. Rats. A ‘re-enactment’ was considered but rejected since it would be too hard on us. The cat still has her claws.

The biggest problem is we discovered Maya cannot climb the rope ladders we made and deployed specifically for this purpose. She tried but the rope ladder spun around and she gave up, swimming to the bow and grabbing on to the only thing she could.

Sounds like we need to re-design the cat saving gear, probably using some wood pieces for rigidity wrapped in rope for traction. Back to the hardware store.

It’ll give us something to do while we wait for the weather to get better, if it ever does.

Today on Yohelah we have cabin fever, or is it ‘island fever’?