• Heather Taylor

Turning Point To Go!


Hello Uncertainty, my new best friend


Like most of you the last month has been one of waiting to see what happens next. Being in a whirlpool that is largely outside of your control makes decisions difficult when everything is changing by the day.


One thing that I've had on my side is time. I had been aiming to leave mid-April which is earlier than most leave to make the trip to Hawaii, as the strong winter winds and storms can still come through. But given the time required for a solo rower to get across, I had back tracked from the hurricane season and thought April was looking good with similar weather stats to May. Thankfully, the overall weather window is still open until the start of June which has meant I've had breathing space. The deadline is the first week or so of June. By then it will be a solid no from a weather point of view.  


The first half of April was characterised by - yes, it's happening. Next day, no it's not :(  That said, I've actually had very few bad days mentally/emotionally. This daily flip-flop settled mid-month as I was slowly able to source supplies and then the turning point came on 21 April with an encouraging phone call.


It was Tuesday morning and I was planning to pick up a rental car that day in order to then get a pick-up truck in Santa Cruz (70 km north) the next day. The boat was ready for me to go pick it up in Oakland. While I didn't know if I'd be storing it away for year or using it, I still needed to go collect it. But before PJ and I left for the car rental, the harbourmaster in Santa Cruz phoned to say they were hoping to open up again at the start of May. This was the final critical piece to say, let's go for it!


Boat, food, fire and ocean

I'd written a list of essential things needed in order to make the trip happen this year: the boat arriving undamaged, food, critical supplies such as fuel and flares, and being able to leave California and arrive in Hawaii. I was up against news of ports closing and stories of sailors not finding havens, everyone in America becoming a doomsday prepper, stores being closed and shipping taking twice as long.  BOAT I'm pleased to say that the boat did arrive mostly undamaged. There are a few paint chips and a small scrape that I don't remember so the final exit from the container might not have come off as well as one would hope. But all systems look good and everything is still inside. 


FOOD  Gathering food has been quite a drawn out task. At the start of April I didn't know if I was going this year or next year, so I didn't want get all my food to then have it expire in a few months. I concentrated on the long life dehydrated food I'd been planning on for the main meals as they would last until next year. Unfortunately, so did the rest of the country.  Not quite sure how people's budgets held up to the expensive backpackers meals, but "out of stock" was the more common label on most websites. Some companies such as my former food sponsors chose to make the most of it and I lost the agreed discounts. Fortunately, other companies went the other way. A kind fellow ocean traveller in San Francisco, Cyril, passed along on his support and I was able to get some food at a discount from Sports Basement, who I am calling the unofficial sponsor of the trip. To keep the cash flowing, they put everything on 30% off and I was able to get as many meals as they had and powerbars. They also arranged curbside pick ups for the needed fuel cannisters which their website had said wouldn't happen.  With little of the ideal lightweight foods, I diversified, dehydrated at home and vacuumed packed. I've got enough for 120 days and tasty treats. Note for the next pandemic, powdered milk is also a hot commodity. I reckon I found the last stocks in California in a dollar store and a Walmart that was an hour's drive away. 



120 days of food. It's taken others 56 to 111 days to do the crossing. I've erred on the side of caution to not  make the end more painful by having to ration food



FIRE Thankfully just before I left Australia I did a few quick trip to the shops for items I would have otherwise bought in the US in case as stores were starting to close. There were however some items that I had to get here, the heavy ones and ones that can blow up on planes. There are the flares that came all the way from Connecticut.



I would say I spent most days in the end of March and first half of April online trying to find supplies. While not a huge supporter of big business, Amazon and Walmart were good to me. I averaged about 2 packages a day for the last month, hitting 5 or 6 on some days. Even still, PJ had to make the most of the early senior's hours at the grocery store in order to source the coveted toilet paper.


OCEAN One benefit of the route I've chosen is that it's in the same country. So I can technically get into Hawaii quite easily as I'm not crossing a border. At this point they're making everyone arriving by boat quarantine on arrival for two weeks. Hopefully, my 60-90 days of self-isolation will be considered, but it won't be the end of the world if not as I'll be quite exhausted. Arrival sorted (or we'll see in three months). Departure, well that's the current sticking point. Nearly everyday I get to run along what is probably one of the most beautiful seaside trails. The ocean is right there, but I can't get the boat into it!



I mentioned at the start that I had a call saying the Santa Cruz boat ramp was hopefully opening at the start of May. Monterey wasn't showing any signs of movement so this was promising. Unfortunately, it was linked to the shelter in place (ending May 3rd) which has been extended to May 31st now. So that hope faded away last weekend. I spend this past week scouring the coast for an open boat ramp. Eureka (6 hrs away) is open but not suitable. A few marinas in the San Francisco Bay are as well but they come with the downside of the significant tides in the Bay which make leaving quite tricky. Morro Bay (2.5 hr south) is the leading contender. There was great hope on Wednesday night that I would get an exception to launch in Monterey, but it was dashed the following morning. 



SO WHAT'S HAPPENING


The boat is pretty much packed. I've got a few errands to run, bit of organising to do with things I'll leave behind, three packages pending and some final technological things to do in the next two days.  


The plan is to get the boat into the water on Wednesday or Thursday this week. Ideally via the Monterey boat ramp; if not, by getting creative. Solo rowing is an approved activity :) Once the boat is in the water, I'll anchor and stay on it until I get a good weather window. There's one on Tuesday which I'll miss, so I'll be waiting for the next one. One side benefit is that I ought to get over seasickness before I go. If you haven't read the blog about my 10 days at sea in Australia, it features strongly. 


Basically, it's a go once the boat's in the water somewhere and the weather comes through!


If you're someone who prays, we're after an abnormally long stretch of low wind days along the coast. Going west is key to the make or break part of getting off the continental shelf. 


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