On The Ocean, Aboard the Mar Quesa

When we pushed off and put water between those of us on the boat and those on the land. I didn’t have any second thoughts, but it was more difficult than anticipated to say goodbye to my boyfriend and as it turned out, my mom. The five of us aboard included my Dad, my sister, two crewmen and myself. Mom stayed behind to take care of finding homes for our animals, ship my sister’s horse, finish the sale of the house and take care of all the many things entailed when moving from a large home on five acres to a boat with about 100 sq. ft. of actual living space. On board we had one little closet, two small hammock nets for keeping things like underwear, socks, books etc. and a cubbyhole for shorts, tops, a sundress or two and a jacket. Both my sister and I chose the longest books we could find so we didn’t have to take many. I chose Atlas Shrugged which as a country girl of 18  I didn’t really understand the underlying message until I was much older but it occupied many of my long hours.
We set up a watch schedule of four hours on and twenty hours off which was close enough for five us to manage with an hour lost or gained here and there. Without my mom I was called upon to cook. Now, you need to know the kind of household I grew up in. It was NOT the Hawaiian way where children are taught how to cook, clean, iron, etc. when they are growing up. I was taught none of this. My mother didn’t work outside the home so she felt it her job to do the cooking, cleaning, ironing and taking care of the family. When I look back I thought this was probably a disservice to us two kids.  I had no skills other than making my bed and keeping my room, if not clean, at least somewhat tidy. So, when I was called upon to do some of the cooking I was a raw novice to say the least. I certainly couldn’t feed grown men PB&J for dinner.  The first few days was not a problem because most of us were seasick and the thought of food wasn’t appealing. Mike, the only crew to get his sealegs immediately ate porkchops, steak, etc. while the rest of us hung over the back of the boat. By the third day my stomach was starting to calm down and I ate cold green beans, right out of the can. My sister ate a can of fruit cocktail and we never looked back. Even with what we in store for.

On that third day, the skies started to darken. We had no means of contact with the outside world so didn’t know what the weather would bring. It’s probably good that we didn’t know! By noon the seas had picked up. When sitting at the helm trying to stay on course you could look back and see waves 8 or 10 feet above you. We all had on our foul weather gear as the rain was pelting. The boat would keel over at such at angle that  everything that wasn’t nailed down was thrown across the cabin and decks. My Dad had reefed the sails, or lowered them, to small triangles, enough to keep the boat moving forward with the waves and not against them. Spray kept us wet and cold. It was nauseating down below so all of us stayed top side and just hung on. We had evidently sailed right into a good size storm and it took all day and all night before it finally abated. When we finally got a chance to check for damage we had issues that just about scuttled the trip. Not knowing the protocols for sailing in a storm, my dad didn’t know that he should have protected the exhaust ports to the engine. Because we failed to do this water had gone up the ports, into the engine and generator leaving us without power. At this point we now were left without refrigeration, without a water pump, without running lights or any kind. So, now we had to make a choice of whether to turn back for repairs or go on without amenities. Everyone knew what my vote would be. I would have swum to Hawaii. However, there was little discussion as everyone was ready to carry on. So, on we went thankful that we had an alcohol stove for cooking and salt water soap for bathing. My dad was by trade a diesel mechanic so he spent a good deal of his time taking the engine apart, cleaning and oiling every little part. Unfortunately, some parts were irreparably damaged, but it was good therapy. Another project, one my dad and I worked on together was to build from a HeathKit, a radio direction finder. My dad was color blind and all the little transistors were color coded so I was his eyes. He was much closer to my athletic sister than I so this gave me a sense of pride to be the one to help him.  It took us off an on several days to finish it.  We were still too far away from any land to pick up stations at this point even to find out if it worked.

We sailed on. Our other crewman, John, had a guitar and we would spend hours singing and listening to music. He was a very sweet young man on his way to seminary college. My 15 year old sister had a crush on him and would find ways  to be near him when he was on watch. She had never paid much attention to boys as she had such a love for her horses. Everything else came in a very far second so it was fun to watch her flirt.

By the second week, taking salt water baths, we had developed a salty grit to our skin and our hair was so stiff with hair oils, salt, etc. that we had contests on who could make the funniest hairstyle. Our hair was gummy! We could make mohawks and all kinds of crazy twists. It kept us all laughing for hours. Occasionally, we would go into doldrums where the boat just sat rocking. This gave us the opportunity to dive overboard and swim. In the open ocean I didn’t realize how clear the water would be. It seemed I could see for a mile. We didn’t have any snorkel equipment so we didn’t see any fish, but we did have a visitor.

One day we were sailing along at a pretty good clip. My sister was on the helm and all of a sudden she started yelling that she had seen a “Russian submarine” (obviously she had seen way too many movies). We all came running to see what the commotion was. It wasn’t a sub, but is was as long as our 40 ft. boat. It turned out to be a pilot whale and it stayed with us for the remainder of the trip. We looked forward to seeing it every time we were on deck. Sometimes it was close enough that we could’ve almost reached out and touched it.

We had been at sea for about 17 or 18 days when we started hearing little snippets on our radio direction finder. It worked! We picked up a station in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii. We honed in on the signal and set our course heading straight for the the island. Amazingly, we were not far off track.

A day or two later we started seeing birds and we knew we were close. However, we were now in the shipping lanes and without any navigational lights we were a little concerned about not being seen. We were in danger of being hit by a huge tanker or container ship. One the 19th morning, we woke to see dark forms in the distance. We had made it! Well, almost. There we were again in doldrums, no engine to get us out of it with the islands looming on the near horizon. It was two of the longest days EVER before the trades picked up and we started to move again.

Our closest brush with danger happened right in the channel when a Matson container ship left Hilo through the channel where we were waiting for light to go into the harbor. We were shaken by the sound of an air horn blasting. We immediately grabbed every flashlight we had and shined them on the sails so that they would hopefully see us.

It came incredibly close and we heard some pretty raw language, but we were left intact and in the morning light sailed into the harbor of Hilo.

Back to Hawai’i

Back to Hawai’i.

 

I wish I had had a digital camera back in 1963, but alas I have very few pictures of my trip across the Pacific Ocean from San Diego to Hilo, Hawai’i. So, I will try and paint a picture with my words…

My family had never even been on a boat before selling our beautiful home, which we had lived in for only two years, and purchasing a 40 ft. Newporter ketch sailboat. Before taking off, my Dad thought maybe it would be a good idea to take a course given by the local Coast Guard in rules of the road, sailing courtesy and a few sailing tips like TWA–true west add. I have no idea what that means today, but at that time I aced the course! I still remember things like “red right returning” which helps you remember on what side the buoy should be when going into port. But, that little information wasn’t needed until we put 2500 miles behind us. We did a little shake-down cruise to the Baja Peninsula which wasn’t terribly challenging.

Stocking the boat for such a long trip WAS challenging. There were four of us aboard and we had to have enough food to last a month, just in case. So, we entered the local Piggly Wiggly with a long long list. We started out with four wagons and ended up standing in line with nine! We had other customers in the store taking bets on how much it would all cost–cheering us on (I’m from a small town and we take our entertainment where we can find it).

Now the boat was packed to the gills. We had to give up a lot of our own personal things to make room for sustainability, but I gladly gave up things like my Martin guitar, which in hindsight I probably should’ve hung on to. My mom gave up her collection of beautiful antique American cut glass. We had to sell a couple of our prized horses. However, my sister was a championship rider so her horse was to join us in Hawai’i via Matson. So, with the boat stocked, we stood on the dock waiting to push off while my Dad took an impromptu lesson is how to use a sextant. Next thing was waving to friends on the pier while we navigated out of the harbor on our way.

Back to Hawai’i

I wish I had had a digital camera back in 1963, but alas I have very few pictures of my trip across the Pacific Ocean from San Diego to Hilo, Hawai’i. So, I will try and paint a picture with my words…

My family had never even been on a boat before selling our beautiful home, which we had lived in for only two years, and purchasing a 40 ft. Newporter ketch sailboat. Before taking off, my Dad thought maybe it would be a good idea to take a course given by the local Coast Guard in rules of the road, sailing courtesy and a few sailing tips like TWA–true west add. I have no idea what that means today, but at that time I aced the course! I still remember things like “red right returning” which helps you remember on what side the buoy should be when going into port. But, that little information wasn’t needed until we put 2500 miles behind us. We did a little shake-down cruise to the Baja Peninsula which wasn’t terribly challenging.

Stocking the boat for such a long trip WAS challenging. There were four of us aboard and we had to have enough food to last a month, just in case. So, we entered the local Piggly Wiggly with a long long list. We started out with four wagons and ended up standing in line with nine! We had other customers in the store taking bets on how much it would all cost–cheering us on (I’m from a small town and we take our entertainment where we can find it).

Now the boat was packed to the gills. We had to give up a lot of our own personal things to make room for sustainability, but I gladly gave up things like my Martin guitar, which in hindsight I probably should’ve hung on to. My mom gave up her collection of beautiful antique American cut glass. We had to sell a couple of our prized horses. However, my sister was a championship gymkhana rider so her horse was to join us in Hawai’i via Matson. So, with the boat stocked, we stood on the dock waiting to push off while my Dad took an impromptu lesson is how to use a sextant. Next thing we knew we were  waving to friends on the pier while we navigated out of the harbor on our way.

Since I mention…

Since I mentioned learning to play the ukulele (and I use the term learn loosely) I thought I would share about a class I recently took for making my own ukulele. How fun it was! There were about sixty of us all gluing, sanding, varnishing. I’m thankful the ukulele came in a kit. I didn’t want to have to cut, soak my wood and try to Image form it. That was all done for me. But, as before, I did have glue the neck and fret board, install the keys and fretboard, add the little dots on the board. I had to do a couple of bouts of sanding with different grades of paper and get it varnished. It is a lovely mahogany which has a really nice grain. When the varnish was applied the grain came shining through. It is a standard size just perfect for a beginner.

I did already own a beautiful ukulele which was made for me by a direct descendent of our last king, King Kalakaua. The makers name was J. Kaohokalole which was the last name of King Kalakaua’s mother. With this connection, I feel a connection to the past. This ukulele is made of Mango wood, is a concert size.Image

 

I play it at church. I belong to a Hawaiian church and we have a little band…a couple of ukulele, a 12-string guitar, a bass guitar, a six string guitar and a piano. I do not have an ear for ascertaining what key everyone is playing in, but if told, I can usually keep up at times! The congregation has so much aloha they don’t chastise me for my inabilities. I am thankful and feel blessed! We fill the pews with a joyful noise.Image