Light Grey, Grey and Dark Grey

Position: 48 degrees, 09 minutes north; 140 degrees, 38 minutes west 134 nm day

Grey, grey, grey. That’s all we see. You have to look out for the dark grey though. No bueno.

You have to watch out for the dark grey bits!


Last night the “all grey” started with my watch at 0200 local. Ann had some stars and an early look at the moon before the clouds came in, but by my watch – grey. Not much to do until about 0400 when a squall came up that was bigger than the others we had all night and threatened to blow the jib, so I furled it. The rest of the morning and afternoon was 25 to 30 plus winds, rain and 9 foot waves. All we had up (thank goodness) was a double reefed main and at times that was too much but once you’re in it, going downwind there’s not much you can do. So, we chalked up some good miles. We were hitting 8 and 9 knots and topped out at 10.9. That’s pretty fast for just a double reefed main.

Our weather forecast led us to believe we would have moderating winds turning to the north by noon. But noon came and went and it seemed windier than ever. Sit, wait and hang on! Ann went to sleep at 1300 which started my afternoon watch. At about 1430 we sailed into the blackest, meanest looking squall we’d seen with heavy wind and rain. I thought we’d never come out when suddenly I sensed a wind shift. Sure enough the wind went from west the northwest in the blink of an eye. I tweaked the Monitor to make sure we didn’t start to go those big waves the wrong way and suddenly we emerged from the crap into sunshine! Phew, just in time – I was getting exhausted just worrying if the weather was getting worse.

So we’re in the new wind heading due east. We’ve got a day or so as the wind clocks to the north and then northeast at which point we’ll be in the center of a low with no wind at all and have to motor a while. We’re trying to beat another low that’s coming down from Alaska, so that’s OK, I’m all for getting in as fast as we can.

Stay tuned. We’re 630 miles from the entrance to Straight of Juan de Fuca which is the entrance to the San Juan Islands. Victoria is about 40 more miles from there.

More Grey, Nothing New

Position: 47 degrees, 32 minutes north; 143 degrees, 42 minutes west 118 nm day

Just clouds and up and down wind. One minute it looks promising at a solid 20 knots on our stern quarter, then the next it drops to 10. The waves are getting bigger though up to six or seven feet now no doubt being blown down from the system up north of us. They make things a bit chaotic when the wind drops and we get rolled around quite a bit. I wish the wind would just settle and fill.

Not much else to report except it’s getting even colder! Three layers and I even put gloves on last night. Oh, we caught a skipjack tuna, but then I lost him when I tied him on to drag him, he slipped the line. Bummer. We haven’t figured out how to cook them right – the meat turns quite dark and heavy – but as sashimi they are one of the best. Very much prized in many areas – tender and full flavored, not at all fishy or oily – and we were really looking forward to some. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.

(OK, one add now that it’s evening. There’s a little patch of clear sky above us and we can see the half moon and a few stars. First time in four nights we’re been able to see the moon. Doesn’t look like it will last long, but it’s the little things…)

Sharks For Lunch!

Position: 46 degrees, 46 minutes north; 146 degrees, 20 minutes west 109 nm day

We had just settled down for lunch in the cockpit when Ann stood up and said, “Look, look, look!” My first reaction was that we might be close to getting run down by a cargo ship, but when I turned around there was a great big shark cruising about 50 yards off Charisma. He must have smelled the very lovely and delicious pizza that Ann made on the stove (email her for the recipe – it’s made in a skillet, but tastes just like the real thing. Yum!)

Anyway, I’m guessing Mr. Shark was about 8-10 feet long. There might have been two, but we only caught a glimpse of another fin and it might have been his tail. Kind of eerie to see the fin slicing through the water. We’re seen a lot of sharks (smaller than this one) diving, but rarely have we seen one on the surface. He was just meandering along… Sorry, there was no leftovers to offer him.

That was today’s entertainment. Now on to reading our emails…Thank you to all who send them.

Oh, forgot to mention last night was cold and rainy. There’s a low pressure system to the north of us and it’s throwing “crap” down our direction as well as slinging very cold air down from the arctic. Brrr! We wore three layers plus our foulies last night. Tonight doesn’t look a lot more promising. I just hope it doesn’t rain again. I was hoping for a nice downwind slide into BC, but the low has other ideas. Oh, well.


At 0800 I stood up to have a look around for traffic and noticed a funny “slick” on the water. Hmmm. I continued to scan and sure enough a pod of whales was about. They were different from ones we have seen for these past years. They had a fairly tall dorsal fin with a curved back side, were very large, color was a mottled grey, size in the 25 plus foot range and most distinctively a very tall blow – looked like about 15 feet.

As I was considering the pod of six or seven, two headed toward Charisma. OK, this might get interesting and just as I said that to myself a huge one going really fast surfaced 10 yards off the starboard side. That got my attention! Another one came up on the other side and as I went down to get the camera, poof, they disappeared back to their pod. I had one last look at the pod about 200 yards behind us, then all dove and I didn’t see them again.

In looking them up in our whale book, I believe them to be a fairly rarely sighted species called the Sei Whale. The coloring, dorsal and “tall blow/spout” were all consistent and the kicker was that one of the listed habitats is the Pacific Gyre – which is exactly where we are.

Fun to see a rare species. I have never seen one like this before. At first I thought it was an Orca because it was so fast and sleek, (although the coloring was all wrong) but then looking at all the detail I realized it’s almost surely the Sei.


Downwind Baby!

Position: 46 degrees, 26 minutes north; 148 degrees, 45 minutes west 131 nm day

We started motoring through the NW corner of the high yesterday early morning around 0300. After 27 hours we made it to the north side and are now sailing again with SW winds. So, we’ve turned the corner (the barometer has dropped 4 mb in the last 12 hours) and are headed east. We are going wing and wing in 15 to 20 knots.

Sailing toward the sunrise.



It’s not all “downhill” from here though. We’ve got a low pressure system to the north we need to avoid. It looks like it’s going to dissipate before getting to us, but it’s going to leave some “dumpy” weather in its wake including some adverse wind directions and maybe fog. Ugh. Oh well, welcome to passage-making. You take what you get and make the best of it.

The Fabled Pacific High (by Ann)

Position: 45 degrees, 29 minutes north; 151 degrees, 31 minutes west 127 nm day (motoring since 0230)

This is literally the corner of the Pacific High. The wind shifted, baro dropped and it got colder, all within a couple hours. You can see the clear definition of the clouds as well.

So...we had to commemorate it with a selfie!


Ah, the elusive, fabled Pacific High. What is it? A wind pattern that forms off the North American Continent that blocks a streamline passage from the tropics to the mainland. Like the gold of El Dorado you hear stories of it, but have you seen it? I learned the “speak” and was able to tell people about our route from Hawaii up over the Pacific High. It was just parroting on my part because I could not define it. It was the elephant in the middle of the North Pacific blocking our way. It created “analysis paralysis” as the crews of Orcinius and Charisma watched the gribs and to see where it was and how we would attack it. At that time, before our departure it was not forming into the round void of no air that we sailors had heard of. It was broken into several smaller sections that would each be an issue during passage…and so we waited.

This moving target that the Pacific High creates makes it hard to determine how long our passage will be. This last leg to North America…it should be easier to define but it is not. The plan is to sail due north from Hawaii (hear my “speak”) until you find the north west edge of the high and let it sling shot you around to the west and the North American continent. Guess what? I think we found that corner at about 2:30 am. The winds finally died and it was time to turn on the engine to go through “the corner” and get on the north side where the westerly winds are.

So what is the Pacific High. I can tell you a few things it means. Since there is no wind in the center, it is motoring, not sailing which means less heeling over and I can now walk to the bathroom without hanging on for dear life. It is ships! Lots of them. 7 in the first 24 hours. We are crossing shipping lanes from Asia and Japan. It is cloud cover. 100%. Except for the very edge where the sunset sneaks in at the last moment with a spectacular green flash. This afternoon the clouds lifted for a few hours and it was a cauldron of clouds surrounding beautiful blue water (perhaps the swirling winds on the outside of the High created this). It is jellyfish exploding in light bubbles as we go through the night water. It is three small black birds twittering at me into the wee hours of the morning. It is whales …but Bob can share that story!

Most importantly the Pacific High, where we are…is the turn to the continent! No longer are we headed to Alaska. We are better than half way done! Turning points are important and easy to identify. From New Zealand it was when the winds separated us from the southern lows and headed us north to French Polynesia. As we passaged to Hawaii from Tahiti it was the ITCZ…an area of the Pacific we knew but had scary memories of.

Yes, we have found the fabled Pacific High and we are heading over the top! The weather is cooler, the continent is ahead of us!

Ann Converses With Eternal Grace

Position: 44 degrees, 07 minutes north; 154 degrees, 02 minutes west 120 nm day

That Ann. Kaila Vosa strikes again. Of course we’re talking about her speaking with the cargo vessel Eternal Grace. They were the second out of three ships sighted today on their way from Asia to the West Coast.

Even though we're thousands of miles from anywhere, you have to watch for the shipping lanes. In this case, looks like Asia to either SF or LA.


She decided it would be fun to call them out of the blue (literally) and chat. It turned out that “chatting” was not in the Indian bridge officer’s job description and the conversation was very short. More remarkable was the officer’s response when she identified where we were. It seems he had not yet noticed us. We were about 10 miles away, Yikes.

The real excitement was at 0600 during my watch when I spotted a large container ship on the horizon (which is about 12 or so miles right now). I checked the AIS to see its course and whether we would have an issue and found that we were on a collision course. On the open ocean a sailboat has right of way over a motor vessel since we are less maneuverable. Anyway, I called the ship at about 8 miles and got no answer. At this time its speed over ground info disappeared which also meant I no longer had the intercept info. I called again at 6 miles – no answer. Usually we call the ship and between us negotiate how we’re going to cross. And usually the ship is very happy to change course to avoid us. Not this guy. The other data on the AIS showed he was not changing course or speed and indeed my visual showed the same. Well, I may have right of way, but this vessel was 1200 feet long and had a 39 foot draft! It’s draft was deeper than Charisma is long! I’m not taking any chances there since “collision” has two meanings for each of us. For him it means “something went bump”. For us it would mean obliteration. So, I furled the jib and turned 20 degrees toward him. That worked and he went zooming by and I missed him by 1.3 miles. That could be about 7 of his boat lengths. Never heard a word, so I assume one of two things: either they were asleep on the bridge or being bullies by not answering the radio. The name of the vessel is MSC Ines. I have screen shots of the AIS also showing my track where I had to alter course to go behind him. I also kept the lat/lon. When we get back, I’m going to send these to the shipping company and ask them if the bridge even logged the encounter and whether it’s their policy to run down sailboats in the open ocean.

MSC Innes. You can see how I had to alter our course to avoid getting run over.



Other than that, it’s been a pretty nice day. The wind has moderated down to about 12 knots and the seas are almost flat. I think we’re on the west side of the high and soon to start rounding the top. I’m hoping we can start to head east in another 10 hours or so. It’s also nice to be able to sit and stand without hanging on to something for dear life.

OK, the even bigger news today is we turned all the cabin fans off for the first time in eight weeks! Yes, you heard right. Since a week or so before we got to Tahiti it started getting “tropical hot” and we turned on the fans. They have been on 24/7 since then, until today. Of course the flipside to that is we’re using blankets again and wearing layers, but it’s a nice change from the topical heat.

The Albatross

Position: 42 degrees, 21 minutes north; 154 degrees, 55 minutes west 127 nm day

Waves, rolling down from somewhere beyond. Once set in motion, now unstoppable. One, then another, then the next times thousands rolling under us, hour after hour, day after day. In the distance something breaks this symmetry.

The albatross.

At once recognizable for its soaring grace. Great, narrow wings sculptured by nature seeking perfection through the generations. Toward us it sails. Great sweeping tracks as it soars down into the valleys between waves, gaining energy from wind and water. Then with a tilt of its head it flows to the top of a crest and with an imperceptible command instantly tips astonishingly on its side – wings now vertical – one delicately poised at the wave top, feathers caressing the rippled water, the other reaching to the sky. A pirouette! A bridge between sea and sky! Then as seamlessly as before, perhaps laughing with the joy of such pure flight, the albatross effortlessly levels its huge wings and soars off down the next wave and is gone as suddenly as it appeared.

The ocean rolls on.

And, in other news today…we saw a spectacular “green flash” at sunset. Possibly the best and most distinct one either of us has ever seen. The sun had fully set when back up came the flash of bright green. Most spectacular.

More Of The Same

Position: 40 degrees, 22 minutes north; 155 degrees, 57 minutes west 130 nm day

Nothing’s changed. We’re still double reefed main with the stays’l, doing 5.5 to 6 knots going almost due north. Squalls come and go. Sometimes it’s nice, blue sky or at night, stars and sometimes it’s raining, but Charisma is in Day 10 of heading the same direction, on the same tack, heeling over at the same 35-45 degrees and bounding over 4-6 foot waves. Any movement about the boat is treacherous. It you don’t time your move just right you get slammed against ribs, butt, etc. I have not touched the sails or the wind vane for at least three days. Looking forward to some change which looks like we might see in another day or so. As we approach the high, the wind will go behind us somewhat, which will also be our signal to start angling NE to climb over the top of the high – at which point we can start heading due east for Victoria.

It's a great day when Ann makes her wonderful stove top pizza.



It’s been too rough for fishing today, so we didn’t, but Orcinius, who are 295 nm ahead said they caught a couple skipjack tuna. We don’t much like cooked skipjack, but they make incredibly good sashimi, so that’s some incentive to get the line back out.

We’ve started our list of “Broken Boat Stuff”. Hope it doesn’t get too long. Going on one tack with no changes for so long takes its toll in chafe and assymetric wear. For now, we’ve got; Wind vane paddle spring broke. Paddle won’t stay down so I had to jury-rig something until I can take it off, Shortwave radio mic cable has a break. Taped it carefully, hope it lasts the rest of the trip. Stays’l hank “line” (don’t know what to call it) frayed and broke. It’s been jury-rigged, but we’ll need a new one when we’re done. Hopefully it will hold until then. My fix on the hydro-generator when we were in Honolulu is working, so unlike the trip up from Tahiti where we had to run the engine every day to help the solar panels (too many clouds in the trade winds), we haven’t had the engine on except for three hours a week ago to outrun a squall. Nice and peaceful.

And how are WE you might ask. Actually a bit bored. It gets monotonous going the same direction for these 10 days, essentially pounding our way upwind to get above the high. We’re reading a lot of books to beat the boredom. Can’t wait to get up to where we turn the corner.

A Nice Day

Position: 38 degrees, 18 minutes north; 156 degrees, 42 minutes west 135 nm day

Not much to report today, just a nice day. Wind was 20-22 on the beam, so we’re still just heading north. As the wind shifts more south – probably in a couple days – that will be our sign that we’re entering the influence of the Pacific High and we’ll start to ease our way to the northeast. But in the mean-time, we’re just enjoying a nice sail.

Red sky at night..,

...sailor's delight.



By the way, we waved at San Francisco a while ago. We’re passing through SF’s latitude although you may not have seen us since we’re about 1600 miles out.