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Our Slog (Ships Log) with a Satelite View

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Brewing beer and 40 bottles of beer on the boat

Posted on Wednesday Jul 31, 2013

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UPDATE: Check out our guide to brewing beer on a boat.

What do you get when you combine some starches, Hilo rain water and yeast?  Vog Head IPA!  Vog is volcanic fog and it drifts around the islands Volcanoes depending on the wind direction.  It's toxic and can be quite a pest sometimes.  Since we were using rain water we thought it might make a subtle difference to the beer.  Ok, we also thought it makes a great name for a beer.  Vog is a very unique feature to the Big Island of Hawai'i and even the WikiPedia page for Vog features Hilo.

The past year or so we've been experimenting with brewing our own beer.  We've learned a few things about it and how to do it best on the boat.  Now we've refined our technique and upped the brew size to almost 4 gallons.

In this picture you'll see our white fermentation bucket (food grade) with a spigot and a vapor lock.  Then we have our 16qt. stainless pot for brewing.  And since we are beer snobs, we have to have some fresh grains.  We use a "mash extract" technique where we crack the grains (for best freshness) with the grinder you see on the stove, and then we soak them in a bag we made out of bridal vale material.  We also use some dry and liquid malt extract just to make the ingredients more portable.

Then we cooked it with the malt, grains and hops, which is a hot job in the tropics!

This is our biggest batch of brown sugary stuff yet!  Hard to believe that turns into beer, but add some bacteria and it does the work.  It takes about 10 days to ferment in our warmer climate we can't keep it at the proper temperature so we have to be careful not to let it sit too long.
We were a bit worried how our 4 gallons of bubbling beer would do during the tropical storm that came through, but fortunately we didn't get bounced around too much and the beer looks and smells good.
When it's done fermenting it's time to break out the freshly sterilized bottles, bottle caps and priming sugar!
Now the hardest part is letting them "bottle condition" for weeks.  Agh!
Some of the tricks we've worked on refining is using minimal water for sterilization and cleaning.  We've also have a system the eliminates the need for a bottling bucket, siphon, and a second fermenter.  It's a work in progress so we'll see how Vog Head turns out when the bottles are ready to be cracked open.  I hope it's good!

Mauna Kea Biggest Mountain in the World

Posted on Tuesday Jul 9, 2013

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Sure it's only 13,796 feet above sea level, but measured from it's oceanic base it stands 33,500 feet (more than twice the base-to-peak height of Everest).  No sherpas or clamp-ons for us -- we drove to the top

I've always been a big Astronomy fan and ever since playing around in the University Observatory many years ago I've wanted to see the best facility this side of our atmosphere for a long time.  I wasn't dissappointed.

On a rare clear day you can even see some of the large telescopes perched on top.

From the visitors center at 9,000 feet we climbed a small hill to try to acclimated as we both felt the altitude.

At the dizzying top we were freezing cold, the wind was cranking and the views were stunning.  (Yes that's me in foul weather gear)

While it was pretty cool to drive up to 13,700 feet.  It was even cooler to see the tools we as a species have built here just to look at the sky and search for answers.

My personal favorite was the Submillimeter Array (see the photo with Sherrell and one of the big dishes).   And I also liked the James Clerk Maxwell submillimeter telescope.  We were going to sneak in on a tour that was looking at it, but we were spotted so we just stayed outside...bummer.

In the cheesiest sort of ways seeing this massive investment in pure science research from countries all around the world gives me hope for the future.   Learn about the 12 Observatories here or check out some live webcams of the mountain top.

It's not so much the mountain top that is spectacular, but rather the things you can see from it.  I'll leave you with one amazing image from Mauna Kea:  Interacting Galaxies NGC474 (Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope).

Over 260 Days at sea

Posted on Sunday Jul 7, 2013

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When we crossed from Mexico to Hawaii each evening we listened to other sailors checking into the long range radio network.  At the top of the list (goes by longest number of days at sea to least number of days) was Jeanne Socrates on Nereida.  She was doing a non-stop solo round the world sail (not her first attempt either).  We listened as she sailed around New Zealand and started working her final leg back to Victoria, Canada.

An amazing story in itself.  But long after we arrived in Hawaii and during our time of climbing volcanoes and hiking jungles she has continued on day after day.  Now she is less than 60 miles from the end and there is no wind.  There's been little or no wind for some time on her leg home.  Once she reported in 24 hours later that she had managed to go backwards.

Now on about day 260 I decided to see how she's doing.  She's in range of the US/Canada coastal AIS tracking system so you can see live updates of her position with her track history.  I was surprised to see her still struggling to get home.

Can you image the intense frustration to be able to see your destination yet, be going backwards?    260 days at sea.  That's 6,240 hours of sailing.  Compare that to your average 40 hour work week and that's almost 3 years of being "on the job".  With only 60 miles to go you can bet she wants a vacation.

Hilo and More -- June Photos

Posted on Thursday Jul 4, 2013

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We've been having so much fun here.  But we are leery of the strict laws regarding boats in Hawaii.  Sometimes the only solution for living on your boat can be to move it on land.  We helped Dan and Sylvie move Ustupu onto a flat bed which they trucked to a nice plot of land about 25 miles from the bay.  Why?  Well getting a permanent mooring is almost impossible and you can't live on your boat for more than 90 days before you have to leave.  So out came the boat!

And down the road USTUPU goes:

There are some fun aspects of Hilo we 've been enjoying a lot.  There is a farmer's market right down town run mostly by Philipinas.  Much of the produce is from the Island and the variety is incredible.  It's a lot like being in Latin America but the produce is often pesticide free or organic.

And there are parks about every 100 feet with Banyan Trees expertly maximizing their photosynthesis and providing shade for us.

We've also hiked to some of the local waterfalls and lava tubes.


We took an amazing hike to Pu'u O'o Crater which is very active right now.  While this trail is officially closed, we read the reports and tried it out.  There was a 4 mile tropical rain forest hike, which took us up to edge of the lava flow.  We were surprised to see that when we emerged from the forest the heat waves across the rocks were distorting everything.  The lava has moved well past the boundary it reached during a large flow in '86 to '89.  So far in fact it was in the process of burning all the vegetation around us.  We could hear trees crackling and burning and there were areas of rock that would just suddenly start smoking!  Good to know we could be airlifted out in an emergency...or was this just a cruel joke?

Let me tell you this stuff was HOT and fresh.  Fortunately the wind was blowing in the right direction to keep the toxic gas and smoke away from us.  After seeing how the world around us was burning we didn't linger long.

We were LAVA struck!  So we took another hike to the area where it pours into the ocean were the gods Pele (lava) and Poli`ahu (water) do constant battle.  This is the same lava flowing underground from the Pu'u O'o crater which was several miles up the hill from this location by the sea.

We also made a mesmerizing video of the lava in the "Burn baby burn" post.  Incredible isn't it?

Aloha from the Big Island - May Photos

Posted on Thursday Jul 4, 2013

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Happy Independence Day!  Last year we watched fireworks over New York City and this year it's going  to be over the top of our boat.  However Hilo's $20,000 budget is probably about 200x less than the NYC show.  Nonetheless we'll have ring side seat.

I'm catching up on our May photos!  So let's rewind!

How did our kitty Jordan do on the trip?  We were anxious to know, but she didn't seem to really notice.  Once in a while she'd slide of a table or along the floor and seem confused, but for the most part this during picture shows her crashed in our bunk wedged in:

And here she is the day after we arrived stretched out in the bed.  Not much difference.

Kate came to meet Michael and they rented a place on the other side of the island and a giant car to tour with.  They took us to see waterfalls!

The amazing Waipio Valley!

 They showed us where lava comes from:

And how to stop it from spreading over the road:

And at night we watched the center of the Earth leak out of Kilauea Crater.

We swam in hot pools warmed by the this molten stuff too:

And saw some reptiles relaxing on the beach too.

We also swam with dolphins (I posted a the video in a blog post a few posts back) and we celebrated my birthday (Eric) with "Chocolate Lava Cake".  Best time anyone could ever have!

Burn baby burn

Posted on Sunday Jun 23, 2013

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Lava is hot.  2800 degrees F hot.  Hot enough to glow.  Hot enough to instantly evaporate sea water.  And hot enough to remove your leg hairs when you stand too close to it.

We hiked out across the black rock fields to a billowing cloud of steam and were amazed at the power pouring out from deep inside the Earth.  And of course we did what any normal primate would do:  we poked at it with sticks and stuff.

Hilo is Heaven

Posted on Thursday Jun 20, 2013

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I can't say we are enjoying Hilo.  It just isn't enough.  We love it here.  There I said it.  Will Hilo will say it back?  These things can take time, I know.  There are a lot of restrictions on boats and for people living on their boats in Hawaii which makes the politics of just hanging out here complicated.  But with some luck we'll overcome them.  So far only the politics have been the downside.

Hilo has a lot going for it.  It's a low key working town with few tourists.  The weather is perfect for us:  daily sun and rain.  The mooring we are on is behind a protected breakwater and just off a pretty public park where we can land our dinghy.  People paddle their kayaks and paddle boards by us everyday from the park where they also picnic and fish (often both at the same time).  There are no less than 4 parks within a mile of us.  We can walk down town and never have to worry about surf landings with the dinghy.

Literately from the minute our feet first touched the soil people have gone out of their way to help us out.  They've been AMAZINGLY friendly.  After being here almost 7 weeks now I keep waiting to see the other side of the coin, but it's all good.

When Kate and Michael were here we toured a lot of the island.  We even swam with dolphins:

If you're thinking it can't get any better -- it does.  We bought a great little car and now we are hitting the hiking trails.  We've hiked lava tubes, waterfalls, near very active lava craters, tropical rain forests, and taken tons of photos which we haven't even begun to sort through (sorry).

We've been behind on our slog updates as internet is a bit patchy and we've been busy getting settled.  We'll get some photos up soon.

Day 28 - Booyah!

Posted on Friday May 3, 2013

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This post contains a GPS location. Click here to see it on the map.

6:30 am -- anchored in Hilo.

Cat cleared all her rabis free requirements (no small or cheap task).  Crew also rabis free and resting comfortably in calm water.

I can't wait to see Sherrell tomorrow.  Did we time that perfectly or what?

Day 27 -- Last push to Hawaii

A bit of a wild night last night. The rain clouds were out causing havok. Everytime a cloud snuck up behind us the wind would increase sharply and then the rain drizzeled down. After the shower, the cloud would move on taking the wind with it. That would leave us wallowing in the super sloppy seas when our speed dropped from 6+ knots to 3.5 or worse. Repeat that multiple times.

On my watch the rain came down so hard I had to hide below. The extra wind however was a boon for making miles. 129 in the last 24 (only counting westward miles). As I write this we are less than 80 miles away. My best guess is we'll get near the bay around 3/4 am. and at the enterance around 4 or 5. This will be our last full day and night at sea.

We can already hear the USCG and NOAA weather on the VHF. This is the first VHF traffic we've heard in at least 10 days if not more.

We're both pretty excited and it's going to be hard to sleep off-watch. I'm a bit bummed we'll be approaching in the dark because I wanted to see the land rise up out of the ocean after 27/28 days. There's probably going to be more rain tonight but the winds are expected to be a bit lighter. Then later tomorrow the trade winds are going to shut down for several days! Looks like we got lucky with the timing on that one.

What I'm really looking forward to is SEEING SHERRELL! She flys in the day after we arrive. What good timing, eh? After having sailed so many miles with her at my side it was really hard to adjust to not having her with me. Not to mention we are hardly ever apart, so this month has been tough. I'm going to try to call her when we get close to the island because I'm so excited to see her again and talk to her. My sister also flys in on the same day, but she'll be in Kona the other side of the island. So Michael is going to meet her over there and they will probably stay there for a while as they have friends coming to Kona too. They'll be here long enough to help me celibrate my birthday in Hawaii!

(I've been unable to get an email connection for 2 days so these slog posts might appear out of order when they finally get through).

Day 26 - Sail. Repeat.

Posted on Wednesday May 1, 2013

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This post contains a GPS location. Click here to see it on the map.

We have more wind today and I expect it to continue tomorrow which has been nice but a little rolly. Michael is already taking about how he'll miss the deep blue sea and watching the waves. He'll have another day or two to burn them into his brain along with all the video he's shot to keep him going.

He was just talking about how for the past 25 days the only thing that told us we are going anywhere is the fact that the sunset and sunrise times keep changing. The electronics help, but there's no external clues around us that we are actually going anywhere. Waves, water, wind. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It seems pretty strange that there is even an end to all this after almost a month. It's become such a central part of our daily lives that there is a weird longing for it not to end. Yeah, I can't believe I'm saying that either.

With only about 180 miles or less left we should see land soon. Just 2 more nights at sea and we will be arriving early Friday on the 3rd.