Peg Leg’s Hawaiian Offshore Adventure – June 24 – Sept 4th, 1990


Pacific 30. Beam: 8’6″, LOA: 29’6″

Draft: 4’6″, Mast height: 40′. Disp: 10,000 lbs.

Description & History of yacht:

Pacific 30, fibreglass haul and deck construction, sloop rig, semi full keel with a skeg hung rudder. The hull and deck were laid up in Cobble Hill in 1976. My father Peter Gann finished the interior in a barn on Old West Saanich Road, Victoria, BC “Peg Leg” was launched on September 2nd, 1977 at Cattle Point. It was towed back to R.V.Y.C. by my grandfather, (Jack Gann)’s boat “Seatime”.

Our story started in the Canadian Arctic in 1989 while Haydn George and I were working as seamen for Beaudrill aboard the M.V. “Terry Fox”. After a cool watch on the deck, Haydn and I found ourselves in the warmth of the ship’s library thumbing through navigation books as we were aspiring to be ocean navigators. Our discussion quickly focused on the topic of celestial navigation, endless horizons and turquoise warm water. Sextant angles, warm blue-sky endless horizons combined with -40 or -50 temperatures fuelled ideas like sailing to the tropical islands of Hawaii (+80). The temperature and need for endless horizons to practise our celestial navigation was all we required at 20 years old to commit ourselves to sailing my thirty-foot sloop “Peg Leg” to Hawaii.

The decision was made: we would leave on June 24, 1990 @1430. We set about our planning and for the remainder of our time in the Arctic we imposed on Capt. Peter Kimberley to teach us how to navigate across the Pacific using a plastic Davis Mark II Sextant.

For the next six months, our plan included making use of our friend’s time and our family’s money, cars, homes (and rum!) to refit “Peg Leg” for our Hawaiian adventure.

Day 1 – June 24, 1990 at 1400 hrs

Somehow day 1 was suddenly upon us! It was a beautiful warm summer day in Cadboro Bay, Victoria, British Columbia, and we found ourselves surrounded by friends, family and onlookers. Haydn untied our lines and I passed our good friend Rick Todd the fenders and said “we will not be needed tonight.” Our adventure begins with smiles and tears as we said goodbye and sailed out into the bay. Unlike all the other times, this was not just an afternoon sail. We would not return to Cadboro Bay until 74 days later.

As we reached Race Rocks our warm summer afternoon turned into a brisk 35 knot westerly requiring us to reduce sail to a triple-reefed main and a 100% jib. Haydn and I decided to sail into the lee of Bentick Island to prepare “Peg” for the evening sail to Cape Flattery. Here we stowed away the wine bottles, cards, chili, cookies and flowers from my good friends Mugs & Peter Townshend and other loved ones. Yes, the boat was ready, reefed down, stowage complete! Haydn decided to go below to update the log as we charged through Race Passage with the ebb tide and westerly. While down in the cabin, Haydn decided to make his first meal. His intention was to prepare a can of something warm before evening sunset. Great idea, however, between cooking, and updating the log, he launched himself through the companionway to throw up all over the lee cloth in the cockpit. We were off to a rough start. After sailing 4 miles through Race Passage, Haydn was sick in the bulk for the rest of the evening, leaving me to enjoy the first cold, wet beat to Flattery alone.

Day 2 – June 25th, 1990 at 1020 hrs

The log reads “we are leaving Juan de Fuca strait and rounding Cape Flattery to begin south heading for Hawaii. The intended course now is to sail southwest to get off the continental shelf and offshore to avoid deep vessel traffic before nightfall. The conditions allow us to sail 190 degrees at 4.5 knots the entire day.”

The crew spent the rest of the day mounting the E.P.I.R.B. in the cockpit, preparing our hand fishing line and cleaning up the boat after last night’s strong westerly beat.

All day we dragged our fishing line without success. However, there was a backup plan for our first night offshore. Knowing very well that we would be tired and overwhelmed from our experience thus far, my Nan had prepared us a fresh pot of chilli, bread, and my favourite angel food cake to energize us after a long day.

It was an especially warm, calm, evening to eat on deck and watch the Washington coast slip away from us. During dinner we each spoke about waking up the following morning and not being able to see land. We were excited and concerned for this long awaited for experience. Day turned to night upon an endless horizon and we experienced our first offshore sunset and twilight. The sky turn into a blanket of brilliant stars, and the sea lit up with phosphorescence.

That night I officially began my first watch at the helm. Before Haydn could call it a night he had to break open the siciaflex and fix the starboard window from leaking inside. As for our watch schedule, we planned to rotate on and off duty throughout the nights for as long as we could stand the watch. Sometimes this resulted in 4 hr, sometimes 6 hrs watches. That night, Haydn bulked down at about 1930 and took over the helm at 0200 hrs.

Cape Flattery to Trades and a day at sea aboard Peg Leg

For the next 5 days at sea (June 26th – June 30th) Peg Leg made her way out to 130 degrees of Longitude averaging between 70 nm to 120 nm a day. These days seem to blend into each other as though you were in an extended Swiftsure. We lost sight of land. The ocean and horizon around us turned grey, cool, and sloppy. Life on board was new and exciting. Each day seemed to open a new door into another room of adventure and discovery. By now we were still hand steering as we had not learnt how to manage our autohelm 5000 wheel pilot. She was continuously over-steering, leaving us with only one option to hand steer. During the six months leading up to departure, maybe we should have taken “Peg Leg” off the dock and tested our systems. “Oh well, we will remember sea trails next time in our life when we decide to go offshore again!”

Other than having to hand-steer, sleep in wet wool pants and suffer from each other’s lack of cleanliness from not showering for the first ten days, things went remarkably well. Haydn and I shared making meals, watches and our daily routine of preventative maintenance of all systems. Daily, we ran the Yanmar 18 h.p. engine for an hour at noon to charge the battery bank, top up battery fluid levels, top up the kerosene stove and inspect the running rigging for wear.

It became part of our daily routine to sight deep sea vessels, pods of dolphins or beautiful albatross gliding along the waves. At night while I laid in the cockpit steering under the stars, I would pass my time tuning into the local west coast talk radio program and listen to people call in and talk about their problems. Wow, did that ever consume a watch.

Day 8 – July 1st, 1990
Our plan was to sail along the 130 degrees longitude allowing us to break away from the continent while always pinching up to the Pacific High on our starboard side. When we met the North East winds, this allowed us to sail west to 132 degrees West Longitude and approximately 35 degrees North Latitude.

Great Circle and Trade wind sailing to Maui
Day 12 – July 6th, 1990

The log reads “We have finally learnt that the button on the auto helm that controls the rudder yaw turns to accommodate small to large wheel rotation. Wow, Peg Leg can sail in a straight line. Auto’s promoted to Quartermaster and from that day she steers Peg Leg through the rolling trades right into Maui.”

Day 13

Goes something like this. It’s 0130 hrs in the morning when we are awakening by the thumping engine noise of a freighter, I run out on deck and I’ m amazed by this very large grey black silhouetted sheet of steel that passes us to our port side within 100 m. As she triumphantly powers by the freighter’s watch keeper turns on one of his million candle watts bridge lights to assist us with our vision. Yep, that was a freighter all right. Maybe Auto does not make a great helmsmen! Haydn and I proceed to call up the Japanese Quartermaster on watch and ask if he would mind advising us if there is any other traffic in the area as there was no need to ask for a range and bearing for a position update. That day we spotted two more deep sea vessels headed for Japan and we could not raise them on the VHF. Hopefully someone was in the bridge standing watch like the freighter we awoke to ten hours before.

So, we have Auto working now, have learnt a little about standing a watch and have reached the trade winds to start our great circle route to Maui 1470 NM bearing 230 degrees.

The Trade wind ride lasted for 11 days of down wind sailing at 230-degrees, wing on wing at 6 & 7 knots of boat speed surfing down 6 to 10 foot turquoise waves.

Day 17 – July 11th at 1740 hrs

The log reads “We have just launched Gary Nickel’s carved log into the ocean at the following position:

Lat 28 degrees 41 minutes N

Long 141 degrees 49 minutes W

922 NM from Maui

Our friend Gary presented us a log carving on our departure from the RVYC and asked us to cast it off to sea. The log contained a drawing and engraved description about our trip. The description included dates, names, contact info if found, and a summary of our adventure. The entire log was sealed in many coats of epoxy and floated quite nicely. To date the piece has not been returned.

Day 18 – July 12th at 0315 hrs

We made contact over the VHF with a motor vessel called Shirley Eye that was westbound for Oahu and to be used as a dive vessel.

Day 21 – July 15th at 1600 hrs

An afternoon jibe results in a rip to the chute. We manage to lower the sail and untangle the mess, however, we feel the rip is too large for us to fix. So, we sail on into the night wing on wing with the main and genoa.

Day 22 – July 16th

We make contact with the SV “Sabrina” on 16 VHF. “Sabrina” is a 34′ Pacific Cup vessel headed to Oahu. While in contact with Sabrina the female on board asks us why we are not using our chute. We explain that we ripped it and need sail repair. So, she gets on the radio and gives us a blast about not hand sewing it. With only 113 NM to the entrance to Maui we regroup and start sewing and two hours later the chute is up and “Peg” is eating up the miles.

Land in sight
Day 23 – July 17th at 1133 hrs

The log reads “Land in sight,” on the 23rd morning!

All through my early morning watch I could see a masthead and starboard light on my port quarter. And as the morning awoke I began to identify the cute as “Thomasine II” from R.V.Y.C. Peter Su, a good friend of ours, brought my family out to watch us sail off as Haydn and I left for Hawaii on June 24. “Thomasine II” was part of the Vic Maui race that left on July 1 from Victoria. So, Peter had managed to catch up to us and we sailed into the channel off Maui together that afternoon. We asked “Thomasine II” to radio ahead and ask if we could clear customs in Lahaina as a Vic Maui spectator boat. We receive a radio transmission advising us to proceed to Lahaina and call US customs from the finish line. However, as we sailed past Nakalele Point after having a shower and watching the people on the shore party to the sounds of Hawaiian music, we called customs again and they advised us to sail back around to Kuhului through Pailolo channel. By now the sun had gone down and the wind was up to 25 knots so we proceeded to anchor off Lahaina until daybreak. Boy, that was tough to sit at anchor off Lahaina and listen to all the partying.

Land fall at last!
Day 23 – July 17th, at 2240 hrs

The log reads “Landfall at last,” 23 days after leaving R.V.Y.C. That evening we would anchor offshore of Lahaina @ 2140. Peg Leg and crew reached our destination after sailing 2700 NM in 23 days 7 hours & 40 minutes.

After that lovely sleep at anchor off Lahina at 0600 hrs July 18th, Haydn and I lifted the hook and proceeded around to Kahululi under sail and entered into the harbour at 1115 hrs. As we powered into the harbour we passed the French steel SV “Rantoplan.” The couple invited us aboard but we had to decline and proceed immediately to the customs dock. After tying up the boat I ran up to the office to sign in. After a cold welcoming the clerk advised me to return to my vessel as she would send for the customs officials. Five minutes later, two very large Hawaiian men dressed in the causal Hawaii / Miami vice look drove up in a jeep, jumped out and immediately started asking questions. Was I the captain? who’s the other guy? He’s my crew, Haydn! The man in charge and his buddy instructed Haydn to stand at the bow of the vessel, while I went aboard with the skipper. The official acted very guarded and he wanted to see my chart showing our daily noon position since leaving Victoria. At this point, I tried to be friendly and accommodating. I offered the Customs officer the opportunity to go below first. Oh no, for your safety and mine I had to proceed first. Once inside the boat away from his partner and Haydn, he began asking me a number of questions about drugs, alcohol, firearms and our money situation. He advised me that we faced a $12,000 US dollar fine for not clearing into an official US port of entry. At that moment, knowing we had only $500.00 dollars between us, I explained why we entered at Lahina and spent the night on the anchor. He was not interested in that story and only reminded me how he had issued many fines before! After drilling me with the questions he then advised that “Peg” would be impounded and could not leave the dock until we attended at a hearing on Thursday morning, at his office, at 0900 hrs to discuss the fine. Once he had that message out of his system he looked at me and said, “Now go have a beer and enjoy!” Wow night and day! So, Haydn and I did just that. We walked up to the town’s bank, withdrew some money, and got a ride to the other side of the island to celebrate our adventure over some beer and a hamburger. As we walked through the doors at the Lahaina Yacht Club we met up with Peter Sou “Thomasine II” and had a few drinks at the pub and phoned family and friends at home.

Arriving an hour late for the customs hearing!
After a few beers and a late night partying on the other side of the island we did not make it back to our boat that night. So, when morning came we found ourselves stranded on the wrong side of the island with no form of transportation to get to the meeting with customs. We decided to find Peter, who was resting peacefully that morning in a beautiful hotel in Lahaina. After getting him out of bed, we asked him if he could take us to the Kuhului for our hearing. Peter agreed, smiled, and brought his camera to film the experience for others back home in Victoria to witness.

Picture this: we arrived very late, hung over and accompanied by Peter our photographer! The front desk officials were not impressed. We walked into a room, with the ceiling fan going around, the bright lights and this large man that sat behind a his desk wearing, you guessed it, the Hawaiian shirt! “You are late! Have a sit,” and not a second after we sat, he began giving us a lecture on how one is to clear into a US port of entry. By the end of the session we could have recited the section from the customs book. He again raised the point about the $12,000 US fine and told us how he had fined others for that amount recently. Finally the officer started questioning our cruising plans for our time in Hawaii. It was very clear that we had not done our homework and he was very willing to lay out our terms and conditions while cruising through the Hawaiian Islands. In the end we got our cruising permit and it cost us $200.00 US dollars for the lecture and cruising permit.

OK, Haydn, lets go offshore again! We have been on land for 24hrs.

Day 25 – Thursday July 19th

The log reads “1217 hrs Peg Leg leaves Kuhului Harbour Maui for Honolulu, Oahu. We enjoyed a 50 nm reach along the North shore of Molokai Island past the prominent Kalaupapa peninsula and Kahiu point.

This village, now a national historical park, is on Makanalua Peninsula on Molokai Island’s north coast. A low tongue of lava separated from the rest of the coast, the remote area is where a band of lepers were forced ashore in 1866.

Hugging the nearly perpendicular cliffs, the trail is over three miles (5km) long and descends 1,600 feet (488m) to the peninsula. Along its course are 26 switchbacks that corkscrew in and out of canyons and ravines.

In 1873, Father Damien, a Belgian priest, came to visit and stayed the rest of his life ministering to the victims of Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. He caught the disease and died of it in 1889, becoming the “‘Martyr of Molokai Island”.

Day 26 – Friday July 20th at 0200 hrs

14 hours after leaving Kuhului the log reads “Peg” Secured Hawaii Yacht Club; time for a rum and our first running water shower in 26 days!” Early Friday morning Haydn and I made arrangements to spend 7 days at the Waikiki Yacht Club and 7 days at the Hawaii Yacht Club.

Three in the afternoon we headed up to the airport to meet Kim, Michelle, and Ryan after their trip from Victoria. We spend the next seven days sharing stories, swimming, and exploring the island.

Haydn had planned to continue sailing south by picking up a crew position on board a yacht and I had planned to have Michelle join me in Hawaii and sail back with me to Victoria. However, with news of Kim’s arrival and the combination of her presence in Hawaii, Haydn’s plans turned North. Yes, Haydn and Kim were now looking for a ride North back to Victoria. As this was a Vic Maui year, they had no problem confirming a ride on board SV “Crissa.”

So on July 27th 1990, after spending 8 days on land in Hawaii, Kim and Haydn are off again for Victoria via the island of Kauai aboard Crissa. That day we watched Kim and Haydn sail off into the distance and my brother Ryan fly off into the sky.

Michelle and I spent the next week relaxing, shopping for supplies, and working on Peg Leg in preparation for our trip to Kauai. We met the commodore of the Hawaii Yacht Club and explained to him how we had towed a fishing line 2700 NM without a bite. Being a power boater with a coloured past for the sport of Marlin fishing, our commodore friend passed on a few ideas and he began to make us two lines as we discussed the finer aspects of fishing over a couple of rums.

Well after spending 7 full days of meeting new friends, eating together on different boats and sharing stories while watching the nightly sunsets from the spot where they made the movie “South Pacific,” the time had come for us to say goodbye and begin our voyage home to Caddy Bay, Victoria, BC!” For more bluewater offshore sailing stories visit http://www.isealife.com


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