Alameda Skipper Sails Singlehandedly to Hawaii

Margie Woods    Carliane Johnson at the helm.

An Alameda resident completed the Singlehanded Transpacific Race, sailing from the Bay Area to Hawaii. 

Carliane Johnson, 53, completed the 2,120-mile sail from the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon to Pu’u Poa Point in Hanalei Bay, Kauai, after more than two weeks sailing on the Pacific Ocean. Johnson was the only female among 19 sailors to take part in the race. 

The race is unique in that it does not attract the most expensive sailboats. Most participants race in boats they already own. Johnson, an independent environmental consultant, sailed in her 38-foot Freedom single-masted sailboat Kyntanna. Johnson also lives onboard the Kyntanna on the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.

Johnson and the other participants set sail on June 23 from Tiburon. Sixteen made it to Hanalei Bay, while the other three were forced to turn back due to equipment failures.

Johnson faced strong winds the first day, but then a high-pressure system to the north caused the winds to die down. Managing the boat in high seas without much wind was challenging. Several pieces of equipment broke as the Kyntanna bobbed up and down in the large swells. Johnson persevered and eventually picked up the trade winds. 

After 16 days, one hour and five minutes, she crossed the finish line in Hanalei Bay in the middle of a rain squall. Johnson placed second in her division of four, earning a coveted brass belt buckle — the only prize awarded to Singlehanded TransPac finishers.

The Single-handed TransPac appealed to her because she wanted to test herself and her boat to see if she has what it takes to one day make her cruising dreams of sailing around the world a reality. 
To be eligible for the race, Johnson first had to complete a qualifying cruise singlehanded. She chose the 2017 Great Pacific Longitude Race, a 400-mile roundtrip sail out and back from San Francisco’s Golden Gate. According to race chairman Brian Boschma, a five-time veteran of the Pacific Cup and a 2012 Singlehanded TransPac finisher, the race typically exposes sailors to the worst conditions they will experience along the route to Hawaii. 

After 71 hours of seasickness and sleep deprivation, Johnson finished the race, tied up to the dock and said, “I’ll never do that again.” However, she reconsidered and took part in the TransPac. Her son, Shawn, and doublehanded sailing partner, Beccie Mendenhall, were there to greet her in the harbor.

“It makes everything pop,” said Johnson on why she enjoys soloing. “You’re completely focused when you’re by yourself and you’re doing something that’s really pushing the boundaries.” 

The Singlehanded Sailing Society (SSS) puts on the Singlehanded TransPac race every two years. The first race took place in 1978. Since then, more people have made it to outer space than have raced singlehanded from San Francisco to Hawaii. 

For more information on the SSS, visit www.sfbaysss.org.