Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 5 update #2 Bikar atoll

July 1 2014 1:35PM local (July 1, 2014 0135UTC)

Bikar Atoll, Marshall Islands

Anchorage position: 12 14.70N 170 07.94E (Jabwelo Island)

We arrived at the Bikar pass at low water and I took the dinghy through to check depths and access currents. The initial straight portion of the channel boils with alternating currents of 3-4 knots and at the 'Y' where the higher volume flow rushed in a deeper channel there was a wicked eddy line. In the dinghy it was all fun and games, in LightSpeed it would feel pretty tight.

Back on the boat we had a quick discussion and then hoisted the dinghy back on the davits. We decided to go for it and head in on low water as depth wasn't an issue for us with only a 3 foot maximum draft. LightSpeed is loaded for the passage and the steering felt more sluggish as the first swirling and boiling currents alternately grabbed at the hulls pushing and pulling in the narrow channel with jagged overhanging coral edges. At the 'Y' I hit full power and the steering required extremely large rapid corrections as one hull entered the stream while the other was still in the eddy line. Whew, I sighed with relief as we charged over the shallowest spot leaving only 4' beneath the keels while nearby bommies protruded from the fast flowing stream. The hulk of a wrecked Japanese fishing boat a visible reminder that any mistakes or mechanical issues would have dire consequences.

Once safely inside the lagoon, I began to worry about going back out as the wind and current will be pushing and I'll need 3-4 knots of headway to maintain decent steering. That means on the way out I'll be going 7-10 knots relative to the adjacent coral edges vs 3-4 on the way in. Not looking forward to that.

We've only been at Bikar for a short time, but we've seen turtles swimming, turtle nests ashore, seas birds in every stage of life form eggs in a nest to fledgling chicks to hundreds and hundreds of birds aloft and in the bush. The lagoon floor is wilderness with vibrant coral gardens, huge wrasse, giant groupers, fearless schools of fish of every description and clams o plenty. One surprise was the abundance of obviously planted, non indigenous Palau clams many of which are as big as 24" across. These Palau clams look out of place, some in the sand and some grouped together in on coral outcrops none meshing with the surroundings.

Beach combing Dave found 2 small Japanese glass fishing floats, so that's 3 in 3 days.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Day 5 Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America (Ailuk atoll to Bikar)

July 1, 2014 @ 9:30am or (UTC June 30 @ 2130)

Day 5 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Tags: Ailuk atoll to Bikar atoll.

Underway position: 11 58N 170 00E

98nm day/348nm total

Wind 17 ESE
Max wind speed 30+ knots in squalls
100 % Cloud cover with rain and squalls
Air Temp 86F

Seas: 2.5 meters and confused
Sea temp 86F

We sailed out of Ailuk atoll yesterday afternoon around 5pm after a lazy day of beach combing, swimming and naps. As we cleared the NW pass on Ailuk winds were light, but many large squalls loomed ominous on the horizon. With only 120 miles to sail we'd need to go fairly slow to meet our desired afternoon arrival time at Bikar, so I tucked in a double reef and unfurled our new tiny working/storm jib. The wind soon filled in with the first squall and didn't let up until sunrise. Controlling boat speed was the challenge. LightSpeed was skipping, jumping and slamming into the confused seas. It didn't help that the predicted ESE moved to ENE putting us close on the wind. In the most vigorous squalls the storm jib started to feel too big and I was wishing I'd rigged that third reef in the main. LightSpeed lived up to her name and we occasionally surpassed 10 knots going to weather. 10 knots was way too fast for the sea state and eventually I furled the tiny jib.

This morning the seas are still a bit confused and slapping us around a bit, but the wind is down to 15 and the jib is unfurled driving us at 6-7 knots. Needless to say we're going to arrive many hours earlier than anticipated at Bikar. I guess that will give us a chance to see the pass at low water and maybe a few hours of lying a hull for a nap before we decide if Bikar pass is tenable. We have 15 miles to go to Bikar.

At the first opportunity I'm going to repurpose the first and second reef lines to second and third reef lines. I'll loose the ability to fully hoist the main, but gain the ability to easily reef down to 3 reefs.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 4 Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America (stop at Ailuk atoll)

June 30, 2014 @ 1:30pm or (UTC June 30 @ 0130)

Day 4 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Tags: Erikub atoll beach combing and Japanese fishing float, Bigen Island Ailuk atoll

Anchor position: 10 24.94N 169 57.63E

95nm day/248nm total

Wind 12 ESE
Max wind speed 25+ knots in squalls
Cloudy, with rain and squalls
Air Temp 86F

Seas: Calm with 1m ground swell
Sea temp 86F

Yesterday we had a great beach combing session walking around Jeldoni island at Erikub atoll and I finally managed to find an old Japanese glass fishing float. Whew, I can finally check that off my list after years of searching. After our walk we enjoyed some truly spectacular snorkeling in coral gardens on the lagoon side of Jeldoni island. The anchorage is tough, but in settled conditions it's well worth the visit. We ranked our snorkeling session in the top five ever. Lots of big fish, sharks, incredible coral gardens and tons of gorgeous clams some twice as big as a rugby ball. After a shower and lunch we headed across the lagoon on what we thought might be a slow 36 hour sail to Bikar. Shortly after sailing out of the west pass on Erikub we hoisted a double reefed main and small jib and enjoyed some brisk sailing between frequent squalls. Our sail plan was perfect for strong blasts of the squalls and soon we could see we'd be arriving too soon to Bikar. We'd planned on 5.5 knots with little wind and were now averaging 7-8 knots. The logical choice was to make a day stop at Ailuk, do some more beach combing and then make an easy overnight the remaining 120 miles to Bikar.

We're treating tidal height and direction as critical for a safe passage into the super technical entrance of Bikar atoll. We want half tide and rising and for the next few days that brackets our arrival time to 2-4pm with high tide around 5:30pm. After we clear the pass we need to navigate another 4 miles across the lagoon and there looks to be lots of hazards, so good light will be required to dodge the coral heads.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 3 Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America (anchor drama)

June 29, 2014 @ 9:30am or (UTC June 28 @ 2130)

Day 3 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Tags: Yellow fin tuna, Erikub atoll anchorage, turtle nests, anchor in a squall twice

Anchor position: 09 03.37N 170 06.09E

44nm day/153nm total

Wind 12 ESE
Max wind speed 30+ knots in squalls
Cloudy, with rain and squalls
Air Temp 81F

Seas: Calm with 1m ground swell
Sea temp 88F

Yesterday on the approach to Erikub atoll we landed a nice yellow fin in less than 10 minutes of fishing, then a school of dolphins escorted us to the pass. A nice welcome to a beautiful remote atoll and soon after we found a suitable day anchorage near 09 01.518N 170 02.394E in sand with isolated coral heads. We wasted no time heading ashore for a bit of beach combing as the tide was rising, plenty of fresh turtle tracks, but disappointingly quite a few human tracks in the vicinity of the turtle nests. The Marshall Islands are not CITES signatories and regularly kill and eat mature turtles at every chance, clearly egg thieves had been at work. Dave foraged in the bush trying to find a Japanese glass fishing float near the high, high tide line with no luck. With the tide nearly high at 4:30pm we headed back to the boat with the plan to move across the lagoon to what looked to be a fresh ship wreck on the SE corner. It was a 90 foot foreign steel fishing boat that was hard on the reef, I wanted to check out the interior, but there was no easy access up the sides of the ship. It was late in the day to be moving around the lagoon, so we hustled up to Jeldoini Island and found a decent anchorage that had the anchor in 30' of sand and the stern of the boat in 90'. Not ideal as we'd be pulling the anchor downhill if it moved from it's nice set. We did our normal procedure and backed down hard on the anchor twice to ensure it was set.

We had a nice sashimi dinner with the tuna and the last of our fresh spinach, watched a movie and were rudely awakened around 1:30AM when the anchor alarm started to howl. A big squall was lashing fiercely at our rain catching awning as buckets of water poured from the skies.

We were actively dragging anchor, but before we could deploy more chain we'd have to retrieve about 25' of chain to remove the chain hook on the anchor bridal. We were drifting uncomfortably fast toward unknown dangers in the howling squall and it was a relief when all the chain was deployed and the anchor grabbed the sea floor some 100' below.

Luck smiled on us as while we were dragging astern we avoided crashing into any dangerous isolated shallow coral heads that might have been off our stern, very likely with grave results for the boat. All said we'd moved fully 300 feet and now the anchor scope was now a tenuous 2:1. Attempting to move to a better location in the howling wind and driving rain and the zero visibility of this moonless squally night was not a good bet. We'd stay put and wait for first light to access conditions. Once the adrenaline subsided I reset the anchor alarm and went back to bed for a few restless hours until around 5AM the anchor alarm sounded again and we sprung to action in the still pitch black and stormy conditions.

This time our options were more limited, our 200' of all chain rode and 44 pound Rocna anchor were omni potent in over 130 feet of water. We'd have to retrieve the anchor and move blindly toward shallow water to reset the anchor. The only other option was to motor around in the dark waiting for sunrise and that was just too risky with isolated shallow boat wrecking coral heads in unknown locations. So, we retrieved the anchor and slowly approached our original anchorage utilizing all of our electronic wizardry, Goggle earth charts with radar overlay and standard low tech stuff like use your eyeballs with Kathy on the bow with a flash light in the driving rain and howling wind. We ever so slowly motored back toward the shallows at 1/2-1 knot, just enough speed to maintain steerage as we crabbed toward shore with strong winds buffeting the boat. I kept an eagle eye on depth sounder and watched it tick down slowly at first 117, 114, 104, 99, 97, 88, and 74 I knew we were getting really close to the reef now. Then more quickly 62,59, 56, then too fast 41, 33, 18 and now Kathy yelling now that she can see the bottom all to well. Engine in full reverse and anchor chain running fast off the bow, adrenaline pumping as I see as little as 8.9 feet on the depth sounder and sort of tense up waiting for a crunch, but we escaped into deeper water laying out chain as we went until we'd deployed all 200'. Anchor snubber on and then we waited as the howling wind swung us about 30 degrees and back toward the reef and the depth sounder went from 90 something back down to 64 feet before settling. Whew, not ideal anchoring conditions in the pitch black howling wind and rain. Having practiced this routine thousands of times, it was all very routine beside the 100% lack of visibility and far too much reliance on technology. I guess we could have tried to anchor again at a very marginal depth of 90' with a 2:1 or added more anchor rode to get to 5:1 scope, but that would have most likely resulted in permanently fouling our anchor in depths beyond our ability to retrieve it and the loss of our primary anchor gear. So, we decided to get close to shore and re-anchor. Next time I'd do the same, but go even slower on the approach.

Exhausted from the restless night I went back to bed and slept in until a record 9AM when I was awakened by a big thud. Oh, what could it be now? I jumped out of bed in a rush and looked on deck to see Kathy sheepishly smiling as she'd just slipped on the wet deck and landed on her bum. Whew, everything and everybody was alright. Hopefully, the remainder of today is less eventful.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 2 Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

June 28, 2014 @ 8am or (UTC June 27 @ 2000)

Day 2 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Underway position: 08 34N 170 22E


Max wind speed 4 knots
Partly Cloudy
Air Temp 88F

Seas: Calm with 1m ground swell
Sea temp 88F

Yesterday we motored out of Majuro lagoon and we're still motoring along 20 hours later. The only excitement was a issue with the port engine alternator that failed to output unless the starboard engine was running. This proved to be a bit of a head scratcher and took a few hours of trouble shooting and too many trips into the broiling hot engine rooms to sort out. Our charging system uses two Balmar external regulators and 'centerfielder' to balance the load between the alternators as it turned out it was just a dirty connection that blew a fuse.

This mornings job was to top up the port fuel tank and calculate our fuel consumption rate, 11 gallons in 21 hours, so we're burning about 1/2 gallon an hour at 2150rpm running just one engine and making about 5.7 knots speed over ground. Maximum windspeed thus far is 4 knots and that was a gust, mostly less than 2 knots true, so no chance to do any meaningful sailing. We unfurled the jib, but it was only for show as I think it boosted our speed 0.1 knots. It's hot and still and the going is slow, but we're stoked to embark on a epic journey towards Alaska.

Our plan is to stop at uninhabited Eirkub atoll (we obtained written permission to visit in advance) this afternoon, do some beach combing and then head out early in the morning with a possible stop at uninhabited Jemo which shows a interesting looking ship wreck on Google earth.

Kathy has been cooking some great meals in the calm conditions and we're enjoying our current bounty of fresh spinach, broccoli and fruit. Our cat Shell is suffering in the heat and spends most of her day sprawled out exhausted by daytime temps into the mid-nineties. Yesterday I read an entire National Geographic magazine in one sitting. It's a bit hard to unwind after several weeks of concerted effort to prepare LightSpeed for the voyage ahead.

Overnight we didn't spot any ships and enjoyed the using our new Simrad 3G radar. The radar is overlayed on OpenCPN and easily viewed on a 22 inch monitor from our settee.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

LightSpeed Underway today for Alaska

June 27, 2014

We're getting underway today June 27, 2014 around noon (Majuro time) and hope to make one stop at uninhabited Bikar atoll before the long voyage north.

Sailing from Majuro, Marsahll Islands to Dutch Harbor, Alaska on a small boat is going to be a challenging voyage with everything going right. At the moment I have some doubts about our communications as we're using aN Iridium Satellite phone from Global Marine Networks, GMN has been a huge disappointment in every respect.  The first phone they sent to us untested and guess what it was DOA.  Most recently, I've made no headway obtaining our new satellite phone number which they could have sent to us nearly a week ago, if they had a clue.
Customer dis-service will not return our emails in less than 24-48 hours.  All of this makes me concerned that our coverage may be interrupted en route due to ongoing incompetence at Global Marine Networks.  That being said if those who follow our blog see more than three (3) days pass with no blog update then we'd appreciate some shore side support to contact GMN on our behalf and ensure they haven't buggered something up.  Communications in the north pacific while dodging storms are critical.

And of course it's possible that the new phone GMN provided could also break, so don't worry if you don't hear from us for many weeks and GMN checks out.   We have an EPIRB for emergencies.

So, here are the particulars of our account

David Kane
Iridium Sim card number:  8988169326000433643
Phone IMEI: 300115011233070

Global Marine Networks
GMN Help Desk
1.877.379.8723 (USA) Press “201” for Support when the auto attendant answers which they have not in the past!

Iridium Customer Support
1.866.947.4348 (Option 3) (USA)
001.480.752.5155 (Option 3) (International)


David and Kathy Kane
KF7TDY ham
USCG 1058693

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

LightSpeed to Alaska. 7000nm doesn't look so far from space.

Marshall Islands San Francisco via Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon ~7000 nm.

It's hot in the Marshall Islands during summer, so we're heading to Alaska to cool off.   There are plenty of reasons to leave the Marshalls for summer, none the least is the chance of a typhoon as a result of el nino. On the way north we hope to stop at Bikar atoll about 300nm north of Majuro and from there the next stop is somewhere in North America, very possibly Dutch Harbor, Alaska (home of the deadliest catch crab boats).  Even though it's summer the weather enroute is likely to be boisterous at times.  

LightSpeed is ready for the voyage with a new storm jib, 100 cone series drogue, cold water immersion survival suits, tuned up our twin Espar D4 diesel cabin heaters, closets stocked with warm clothes and cupboards full for at least 40 days of good eating.

For communications we recently sold our Icom M-802 single side band radio with the hopes of replacing it with an 'Iridium GO', a satellite powered WIFI hotspot.  Unfortunately the 'GO' release date keeps getting pushed back, so we recently purchased an Iridium 9555 satellite phone which we'll be using as a data modem to download weather and update the blog.  

I could have purchased the Iridium 9555 on ebay for under $1000, but I went with what I thought was a more reputable supplier, Global Marine Networks.  Well, I paid premium price, but the purchase process has been far from smooth.  The first phone provided by Global Marine Networks was dead on arrival as it would not recognize the sim card.  A real shame that GMN didn't take the one minute to power it up with a sim card before sending it half way around the world!  GMN customer support was quick to send out another phone and just as quick to charge my credit card for a second phone and shipping.  I was also, welcome to return the DOA phone at my expense.  I'd really rail on the experience with GMN, but at this point I wouldn't put it past them to disconnect my service half way into my voyage.  Buy your satellite products elsewhere.  

Obtaining weather under-way is of vital importance to the safety of our voyage thus the reason for paying the big bucks for the new satellite phone.   For email services is still the best for both SSB and Satellite phone.  A big thanks to Sailmail for all the great service over the past 8+ years.  

I'll be doing frequent blog updates along the way, so we hope you virtually join us for the epic voyage to the north.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bikar atoll expedition

Bikar Passage, Marshall Islands

12° 14.2841' N
170° 04.3454 E

We're heading toward Bikar hopefully this week.  Bikar atoll is the second most northern atoll of the Marshall Islands and infrequently visited due to it's remote location and technical pass with limited water depths just inside the pass.  Before going in we'd scout the pass in the dinghy.  It looks like the north branch is most favorable, however on the lagoon side the water looks very shallow and studded with coral heads.  It will definitely require good visibility and settled conditions to attempt.      

 Bikar Atoll, Marshall Islands
 Bikar Atoll Pass looks sketchy and then it looks very shallow just inside.
Bikar Atoll is located just above the M in Marshall Islands.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A few photos from around Majuro Lagoon

Summer Solstice BBQ.
 Dave s/v LightSpeed and Teri s/v Blue Bie give one of the tame pigs a pet.
 Enemanet is currently home to quite a few pigs and seems to be in need of a huge BBQ.  LightSpeed and Concerto in the distance.
 Norm post spearfishing near Enemanet, Majuro, Marshall Islands
 MIR (Marshall Islands Resort)

 RRE shoreline dock, bar and fuel pier.  This is the best place to land a dinghy.
 Looking to the South with Uliga dock and the south mooring field beyond.
 RRE North anchorage with s/v Pogeyen (catamaran) and s/v Tribute.
 RRE North anchorage with s/v Stevens, s/v Navigator, s/v ? s/v Changing Spots (catamaran), s/v Miami and s/v Goodnews.
Majuro Lagoon, Marshall Islands looking toward the NNW.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

More great customer service.

More great customer service.

One of my Espar Airtonric D4 heaters exhaust hoses had rusted out and even though it's never below 80F here in the Marshall Islands I like to run the heaters once a month to keep them in working condition.  So, I placed an order with a company I've been using since 2010.  

Lucky for me Ray Lawrence, President of Esparparts caught an error in my order.  I had ordered 24mm pipe when I really needed 30mm double wall.  Ray emailed me to point out that I really needed 30mm pipe and this saved me at least $150 in shipping and a whole lot of inconvenience.  A big thanks to Ray for his thoroughness, expertise and professionalism. 

Ray even shipped USPS Priorty mail which took a special trip to the post office as this is not a regular shipping option for them.

If you have Espar heaters it would be hard to beat when it comes time to order spare parts.

Espar Parts Phone -800.837.3900  Fax-800.837.3900

Thanks Ray!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bikar Atoll photos for Karen

Hi Karen,

Here's a few photos of Bikar atoll.  Sorry, just point and shoot stuff.

Can't suggest anyone try to take a yacht through the pass... we're lucky LightSpeed is not one of the many wrecks there.  Very, very , very technical.  Best for a small powerboat, but not sailboats.

 Coral heads at low tide
 One of many many clams
 Low tide between islets
 Looking toward the ocean
 Sailing along the shoals inside Bikar lagoon
 Northern islet of Bikar atoll
 Northern islet, southern end.
 Cool blue glass bottle on the windward side of Bikar atoll.
 One of many shipwrecks that remind potential visitors that this truely a dangerous atoll to enter/exit.
 Sand island near the middle of the east side of the lagoon.
 Sand island near the NW corner of Bikar atoll
Japanese monument on eroded by storms.