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"Dana Point to Hawaii"
Leg One of a voyage around the world
By Jim Leishman
April 2002 Sea


On November 3, 2001, a Nordhavn 40 began a six month, 23,000-plus-mile circumnavigation of the globe. At the helm was Jim Leishman, vice president and co-founder of Dana Point, California based Pacific Asian Enterprises Inc. (P.A.E.), builder of the Nordhavn line of expedition-capable trawler yachts.

In his own words, heres how the cruise began - and what lies ahead for the crew during this record-setting adventure.

The route had been planned, a departure date had been set and all the details and preparation had been completed. Our vessel was provisioned and the weather reports looked favorable. It was time to go - to begin the big trip.

Author Robert Beebe, in unpublished writings, once wrote of the excitement, anticipation and dread he felt at die beginning of a long ocean passage. The day of our departure, we all shared those same feelings.

After a wonderful send-off party in Dana Point - amid great fanfare and escorted to sea by a dozen friendly yachts - our voyage began at noon on November 3, under hazy skies and with a fresh breeze from the Northwest.

Aboard with me on the first leg of the cruise was writer and Trawler Fest organizer Georgs Kolesnikovs, Pacific Asian Enterprises' Dave Harlow and Eric Leishman (my 18-year-old son). One by one, our armada turned hack. After 45 minutes, the last escort sounded his air horn and waved us farewell. We were under way.

The first three or four days of any passage to Hawaii are always tough. Once you arc clear of the offshore islands, the full force of the Pacific is felt. Northwest winds of 20 to 25 knots and seas of S to 10 feet are common - and that is exactly what we encountered.

It takes time to adjust to the motion of the ship. During this time, queasy stomachs and fatigue are normal.

With overcast skies and cool November temperatures, we were happy to have a Hurricane diesel heater aboard and were able to use the engine's waste heat to keep the interior warm and dry. I had assured my son Erie that, on the fourth or fifth day, we'd begin to see the wind shift around to the north - then northeast - and our 55 degree temperatures would soar into the high 70s, giving us bathing suit weather.

On the fifth day, we entered the trade winds - a condition that, unfortunately, would not last for long. After only 24 hours (during our sixth day at sea), we began to notice a developing low to the north of us. This early-in-the-season storm would bring the winter's first significant moisture to the California coast and totally disrupt the northeast trade winds.

Instead of the favorable 15 to 20 knots of wind on our stem and 1.5 knots of west-setting current, we would have a southwesterly of 25 knots and an east-flowing surface current. That caused our speed to drop by 1.5 knots. A subsequent low would develop, further hampering our progress. On the entire voyage to Hawaii, we had only about 3 days of trade winds.

Long Time No Land
The 2,280 mile passage to Hawaii is generally regarded as the longest passage encountered in a circumnavigation of the world, using the most popular sailing routes. We had done extensive testing of our vessel to determine the exact fuel consumption at various rpm and the speed achieved - and with this information, we developed our strategy for the crossing.

We estimated that, at weight (burdened with full fuel, extensive equipment, spare parts and provisions), our Nordhavn 40 had a range of more than 3,000 miles. If necessary, we could run slower to extend that. I anticipated that once we cleared the California coast by a few hundred miles, we would enjoy the favorable currents that typically flow to the west, pushed along by northeasterly winds.

During our sea trials of a fully loaded vessel, we found that we could run at 1,400 rpm - averaging 6.3 knots and consuming about 1.9 gallons of fuel per hour - with our boat's 130 hp Lugger LP668 main engine. This is very good, considering that the boat weighs more than 50,000 pounds - with a bow thruster, a wing engine and 12 square feet of stabilizing fins.

Using the performance data for the vessel at its highest possible weight will give a "reserve" in itself, because weight reduction in depleted fuel alone will ensure better performance at the end of the voyage, adding to the true range of the vessel. Taking the great circle route to Honolulu, we calculated that we should have been able to arrive with reserve fuel of 233 gallons - an excess of 25 percent.

As it turned out, we experienced sea conditions that I would consider normal for the voyage. However, the wind that generated them was not the planned easterly, but a southwesterly wind - and that hampered our progress throughout almost the entire cruise to Hawaii.

The relatively rough conditions encountered offshore will slow any vessel significantly (by at least 6 to 10 percent) from its calm-water performance. However, the wind that creates the rougher sea, if consistent, will generate a surface current.

In the case of the California-to-Hawaii passage, that surface current is typically about one half knot in a westerly direction, being generated by 15 knot easterly winds. This normally would have offset or cancelled the anticipated roughwater speed reduction. We were slowed down, losing speed to the bumpy water - plus, we got hit with a surface current going the wrong way, as a result of sustained southwesterly winds.

The net result is that we burned the anticipated amount of fuel per day (48 gallons); however, our speed was reduced by over one half knot.

As we approached the Hawaiian Islands - with a good weather forecast and great confidence in both our fuel consumption and the amount remaining - we increased speed and made up most of our lost time. We arrived only about 15 hours later than planned, but with much of our reserve fuel consumed - clearly illustrating the need for carrying an adequate reserve fuel supply.

Essentially, the voyage from Dana Point to Hawaii was routine and uneventful, as a good cruise should be. We arrived in Honolulu - covering a total of 2,345 miles at an average speed of 6.04 knots - in slightly over 16 days. In tach time, that's 388.19 hours.

We had departed Dana Point at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on November 3 and arrived in Honolulu at 5:30 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on November 19. The total fuel burn - including about 20 hours of running time on our Northern Lights M753K generator - was 860 gallons.

Despite the westerly winds, we did enjoy some lovely tropical weather, great food (including plenty of fresh-caught dorado) and the comradeship and relaxation that a long ocean passage can generate.

In the first leg of the round-the-world cruise, our 40 foot Nordhavn proved to be a wonderful passage-maker. The success of the first and longest voyage of our circumnavigation confirmed this vessel's ability to safely and comfortably complete the challenging legs that lie ahead.

In the months ahead, Leishman will share his further adventures on the Nordhavn 40 round-the-world cruise with Sea readers.

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