Fun With AIS – Pacific Voyager Sailing Canoes Approach San Francisco

Yesterday I was monitoring the AIS receiver at my house to see what was going on in the neighborhood. As is often the case when there is a heavy marine layer (fog), the AIS signals were propagating from a long way off, some as far as 700 nautical miles. But something much closer to home caught my eye: several Class-B AIS vessels having Polynesian names were tightly grouped near Point Reyes and Drake’s Bay:


July 31, 2:00PM
A little snooping with Google revealed that these were six Polynesian-style 72-foot sailing canoes, en-route from Hanele Bay, Kaua’i, Hawaii to San Francisco. These vessels began their voyage in Aukland, sailed through the South Pacific, to Hawaii, and will be arriving in San Francisco tomorrow (if the wind doesn’t die completely). Here’s the website for the Pacific Voyager’s project:
This looked like a great excuse for a field trip, so we packed the camera and binoculars and drove out to Pt. Reyes – it’s less than an hour from our place. As we approached the lighthouse, we saw one of the boats a short way off shore, struggling to work its way into the southerly and very light headwinds:


The seas were calm, winds light, and the fog overhead slowly drifted past. These probably weren’t the conditions the voyagers were hoping for! We walked to the lighthouse and saw three more of the fleet trying to work their way south. One was almost to the point, and the other two were slowly tacking back and forth, not making much progress. After watching for a while, we drove down to Drake’s Bay, where we say HAUNUI working her way into the calm waters. There was a large white motorsailor in the bay, which we later learned was the EVOHE, the support boat for this expedition. As we were leaving Drake’s Bay, the HANUI began slowly sailing back out to sea.
The fleet had been planning to enter San Francisco Bay this evening (Monday) with the 5:00PM flood current, but they are now planning on a Tuesday arrival. The wind has not been cooperating at all, instead of the typical 20 kts from the NW, they have been seeing 2-4kts from the South (and I’ll bet some of this “wind” is actually caused by the weather buoy rocking back and forth):


Here they were as of 1:00PM today:


These are the three trailing canoes, with their support boat in front. I’m no longer receiving the AIS transmissions from the leading three canoes, there are gaps in my coverage off of Pt. Bonita. I suspect they are waiting for the rest of the fleet to catch up. This has been a tough slog as the fleet approaches San Francisco. UTO NI YALO has only made twelve miles in 23 hours, for a VMG of 0.5 kts.
These canoes will be open to the public when they arrive in San Francisco (on Treasure Island). According to the published schedule, open house will be on Aug 6th.

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