Islands of Hawaii - 2011

N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Year of the Dragon

January 18, 2012

(Note: this blog entry is repeated with photos at the beginning of the new section “Further Adventures in Hawai‘i 2012” – please find that new section and sign-up for email notifications if you wish.)

 

Over the last few days the winds in Hawai‘i have been blowing from the south and southeast, the relatively unusual Kona winds.  These have not only been unhelpful for our passage back to Kailua Kona (a southeasterly course) but they have brought clouds and vog from the Big Island.  Matt was lucky not to be here still.  Since he and Shev departed on January 4th, we have been busy with many small projects on the boat (e.g., re-positioning lights and the fan in the fore-cabin) and getting caught-up with annual accounts, etc. 

 

We have not been completely boat-bound but without the rental car we have focused on enjoying some of the more local attractions.  For example, after a good recommendation from Shev and Matt, we visited the US Army Museum at Fort DeRussy which is in Waikiki, just east of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Most of Fort DeRussy Military Reserve is open parkland but there is a large hotel, the Hale Koa, which is only for military families, and there are a few offices and an Army Chapel.  The museum is housed in a part of the WWII shoreline battery that proved to have been so well built that it was almost impossible to demolish when it was intended that the hotel be built on that location.  So instead, the bits that had been destroyed were rebuilt and the museum was installed.

 

We also enjoyed more hospitality from Kathy (Dan was still away in West Virginia) including dining with Karin (who swapped jobs with Dan), her husband John, and Kate and Earl (who organized our Thanksgiving camping trip).  We planned a day-sail with Kathy, Karin, and John after the parade on Martin Luther King Day but with the gusty, choppy conditions we had to settle for hanging out in Tregoning’s cockpit while still tied to the dock.  Randall also benefitted from Kathy’s TV by watching some of the college bowl-games and NFL playoff-games at her house.

 

The Martin Luther King Day parade went through Waikiki from Ala Moana Park (to our west) all the way to Diamond Head.  There were few vehicles but it was very well attended by marchers representing a diverse collection of organizations.  It had been a busy weekend for parades because on Saturday afternoon we had joined Kathy downtown for the Chinese New Year parade and then wandered around very crowded booths on the closed streets of Chinatown.  The actual lunar New Year does not start until January 23rd but the celebrations here start early.  Randall and I had never been to a Chinese New Year parade so we were thrilled at the opportunity, especially as this is the Year of the Dragon.

 

As anticipated, there were several sinuous dragons dancing along the route including a large one at the end of the parade.  Kathy also explained to us about feeding money to the lions.  Traditionally, for good luck money is fed to them wrapped in pieces of lettuce (they are presumably vegetarian lions) and the lettuce is discarded on the ground as a symbol of new life.  We dutifully brought some lettuce with us and Randall fed one lion in this manner but everyone else was just offering “raw” cash.  The children around us were particularly excited about feeding dollars to the lions despite their fierce appearances.  The parade also had its share of dignitaries, beautiful women, and people in costumes.  There were several martial arts groups, including some jiu jitsu demonstrations, cars and a few trolley buses with participants aboard, but only one or two typical floats including one with beautiful lotus flowers and meditating children.  Unfortunately, this tranquil float was followed a van from a radio station with a humorous DJ blaring out very loud hip-hop music.  Some meditative skills were being sorely tested.

 

An elderly gentleman sitting next to us was apparently someone special because several parade participants came over to greet him.  This included a lion that bowed very low and a dragon that curled up tightly and then bowed its head.  Having asked him how he was saying “Happy New Year” in Chinese which he did tell us, he then said firmly that he was not Chinese.  We did not feel inclined to ask him further questions but we enjoyed the benefit of seeing the special recognition that was paid to him.

 

The weather forecasts suggest that the southerly winds may resume again next week (in time for the actual Chinese New Year) but there is going to be a lull over the next couple of days during which time we will escape from the luxury of Honolulu and head south.  We have really enjoyed staying at Ala Wai Harbor and look forward to returning in late February (to meet my brother, Mike).  But we are also looking forward to a change of scene and a chance to catch-up with our friends in Kona and Hilo.  Luckily, there is room for us at Honokohau Harbor although we must hope for good weather as our berth will be next to the entrance where our friend Ron’s boat is usually kept (it is currently out of the water).  So we look forward to setting off tomorrow morning (Jan 19th) for the overnight passage and a return to having a wonderfully clear and rich snorkeling beach just outside our backdoor (so to speak).

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Happy New Year from Honolulu!

January 06, 2012

Happy New Year!

Details and photos to follow soon… 

We have had a wonderful three holiday weeks of visitors to Tregoning starting with Martha (Randall’s sister) arriving on Dec 12th and finishing with daughter Shevaun and her husband, Matt, leaving on Jan 4th.  Not much sailing but plenty of sight-seeing and a lovely Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve with Kathy.

I’ll start a new section of blog once I get caught up so be ready to request new email updates then if you are so inclined.

All best wishes in 2012!

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

A Happy New Year

January 04, 2012

Having lived in various parts of the world that are popular tourist destinations (Florida, Cornwall, English Lake District, southern California), Randall and I have become fairly proficient at balancing the desire to rush to see all the attractions with each set of visitors and not allowing ourselves to get “burned-out” with the most popular places.  Now that we were launched into a series of visits from family and friends, we had to resurrect these balancing skills for Hawai‘i.  Since Martha had been to Honolulu before, most of our entertainment with her had been focused on the holiday season.  By the time she left on January 28th, there were still several things on Shev and Matt’s “to do” list that we had not done recently, if at all.

 

After dropping Martha off at the airport for her flight to Kona (where she would connect with her original flight back to San Jose), the rest of us visited Chinatown to look around the flourishing markets, see the place where we had got Shev and Matt’s leis, and to enjoy another tasty lunch at the Little Village Noodle House.  This was followed by a leisurely stroll around the Foster Botanical Garden, a small arboretum near downtown Honolulu with gardens specializing in orchids, gingers, palms, herbs, and economic plants.  There are several botanical gardens around the city, most of which were planted by members of royalty or wealthy merchants who had an interest in collecting plants from around the world.  Some, such as the Lyon Arboretum (to which we had driven but not entered with Martha), specialize in tropical rainforest vegetation and are located at the heads of the lush, wet, steep-sided valleys of the Ko‘olau Mountain Range.

 

Although Randall and I had visited Pearl Harbor before, there was so much to see that we were happy to return with Shev and Matt.  Given our aborted trip with Martha, we picked a day when there were no cruise ships in port and we arrived at 7:40 am.  Even then, our tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial were not valid until 11 am but this gave us time to look around the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park first.  Launched in 1942 and dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger” this submarine saw active service in the Pacific throughout the rest of WWII and has been preserved in immaculate condition.  In the midst of a crowd of other visitors and wearing headphones for a very informative audio-tour, Shev, Matt, and I were treated to a fascinating taste of what life might have been like on board such a complex and confined vessel.  I was probably about the optimal size for life as a submariner but at a height of 6 ft 4 inches (1.93 m) Matt would have found it pretty uncomfortable.

 

It was sobering not only to see some of the highly polished torpedoes positioned ready for action but to read the Commander’s memo to his crew, hand-written the day before the USS Bowfin passed through the heavily mined Tsushima Straits on its way to the Japan Sea.  Able to run for weeks at the surface using diesel engines, the USS Bowfin could stay submerged running slowly on quiet electrical motors for up to 24 hours. The associated museum took us through the history of submarine design from pedal-powered, one-man, mini-subs to futuristic styles of nuclear submarines which remain on undisclosed missions underwater for months at a time.  Outside, one could stand underneath the roof of a conning tower and look across the harbor through the long- and short-range periscopes.  I have visited submarine museums before but this one gave by far the best sense of what life must have been like in one during WWII.

 

The films about the Pearl Harbor attack in the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors’ Center were even better on the second viewing (there is so much to absorb the first time).  Out on the Memorial itself we could see more of the sunken ship than on our previous visit because the tide was lower.  There was also more oil leaking from the hull, creating larger and more frequent, black “tears of the Arizona”.  The reality of the attack was made even more poignant by the presence in the central courtyard of three elderly survivors who were signing books and souvenirs.  Even when all of their generation has gone, we must hope that the horrors and sacrifices of WWII are not forgotten.

 

We spent the last day of 2011 enjoying glorious sunshine and a marvelous hike out to Ka‘ena Point.  We had driven up the eastern side of the Wai‘anae Range (remnants of the western of the two volcanoes that created O‘ahu) and then west to the end of the road just beyond the Dillingham Airfield.  The walk out to the westernmost point of the island was relatively level, sandwiched between the black rocks, patches of yellow sand, and the bright blue sea of the Kaua‘i Channel, and the steep side of Kuaokala Ridge which peaks at 1,350 ft (412 m) before slicing down to sea level at the acutely pointed headland.

 

In addition to being a pleasantly scenic walk, the main attractions were the marine wildlife of which we were treated to two out of the three stars.  Although there were no Hawaiian monk seals present, we did get to watch humpback whales spouting, breaching, and tail-slapping not far from the shore.  Peering excitedly through binoculars, Matt got to see his first whales at sea and we were all delighted by the huge splashes and flashes of white fins as the spectacular cetaceans leapt out of the water.  The other “first” for Matt and Shev was seeing Laysan albatrosses flying and nesting.  According to a ranger for the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve there were 61 pairs of albatrosses, with nests scattered throughout the low-shrubby vegetation. 

 

To reach the headland it was necessary to pass through one of two “pest-lock” gate systems (open one door and step into a cage then only open the exit door once the entry door is closed), the only access through a robust mammal-proof fence.  The ranger said that the fence had been controversial (presumably because of high cost and slightly military appearance) but it was succeeding in protecting the headland from incursions of mongooses, rats, and mice, all of which were being controlled within the fenced area by poisoned bait-stations.  Dogs were also excluded from the reserve and since people had been limited to clearly marked trails, the number of nesting albatrosses and wedge-tailed shearwaters had increased dramatically.  It seemed to be a highly satisfactory example of invasive-species management and conservation in action.

 

Despite the relatively benign walking conditions, Randall suffered a blow-out on one of his 35-year old hiking boots.  Luckily, the second person in a truck that he asked was an electrician who gave Randall a roll of electrical tape which, when wound around the boot’s toe, successfully held the flapping sole in place.  He subsequently had his precious boots repaired in Honolulu by an Oriental, marathon-running, incomprehensible but efficient shoemaker.  Let’s hope they last him another 35 years.

 

During the walk from Ka‘ena Point back to our rental car, we noticed several gliders being towed overhead and then making slow, elegant, looping descents back to the airport.  There were obviously sufficient up-drafts along the face of the Kuaokala Ridge to keep the motor-less planes aloft for quite a long time.   We also saw quite a few paragliders being dropped up high and then spending what seemed like most of an hour riding the same up-drafts back and forth across the front of the ridge.  Paragliders are parachutes that are designed to stay aloft on up-drafts.  Once they have jumped out of the aircraft, the solo or tandem riders sit in a sling-like backpack but can still land comfortably on their feet.  The dozen or so people that we watched made it look so relaxing and easy but it must take quite a bit of experience to jump out at a site where there is only a narrow area of flat land or beach upon which to landsafely.

 

To finish our tour of the area, we stopped in Hale‘iwa to eat roast chicken (cooked on one of many rotating spits on a huge trailer, BBQ pit) and ice-cream (me) or shave ice (Shev), and then drove past the busy Waimea Bay before stopping to admire the Banzai Pipeline.  Shev and Matt got a fine view of the North Shore as some good-looking waves were being ridden at the Pipeline but they were not quite as big or consistent as the swell that Randall and I had been lucky enough to witness in November.

 

As spectacular as our New Year’s Eve had been so far, it was not yet over.  At Randall’s suggestion and with Kathy’s generous ticket purchase, the four of us walked from the boat to the Aloha Tower (another item on the visitors’ “to do” list) where we met Kathy and several thousand other people for a New Year’s Eve Block Party.  With seven stages of live bands or DJs and with numerous restaurants and temporary bars, the area was crowded but surprisingly not as uncomfortable as one might have expected.  Although we were not the oldest people present, we were certainly not in the most typical age-group and, thanks to our sensible shoes for the walk, Shev, Kathy and I were distinctly under-heeled.

 

Although none of us would make much effort to go to such a crowded, young-persons’ event again, we did eventually find some older-style (e.g., 1980s) music that we liked and sat down to eat spring rolls and delicious garlic-edamame.  Kathy had to admit defeat at 11 pm but the rest of us lasted until midnight having been revived by the food and it turned out that we were sitting in an excellent place to watch the impressive firework display set-off from a barge in the middle of Honolulu Harbor.  Although we have been rather spoiled by the excellent fireworks every Friday evening at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the New Year’s Eve display downtown was particularly long and impressive, with several styles of rockets that we had never seen before.

 

The New Year began particularly well for us as we were able to catch a specially-arranged bus back to Waikiki rather than having to walk back again.  After our full day with the Ka‘ena Point hike, by 1:15 am we were glad to see the colored lights that we had strung up Tregoning’s fore- and back-stays (and which were now working flawlessly) and know that we were close to bed.  Once rested, we spent the middle part of New Year’s Day sailing Tregoning off Waikiki beach and Diamond Head, giving Matt his very first sailing experience, including an opportunity to take the helm.

 

Having admired Diamond Head from the sea, the next day we drove into the crater with the intent of walking up to the top of the rim at 761 ft (232 m) above sea level.  It was a sunny and windless morning which made the 1.6 mile (2.6 km) zig-zag walk 560 ft (171 m) up and down the steep crater side quite a hot ordeal.  It had also attracted a huge number of other people on the observed New Year’s holiday so the crater-parking lot was full.  Randall nobly left the three of us to make the hike while he took the car back downhill to find a place to wait…while listening to college football bowl-games on the radio. 

 

The crater was formed 300,000 years ago during a single brief eruption that occurred at the underwater, southern end of the Ko‘olau Range.  The water and steam broke-down the magma into ash and fine particles which, when blown into the air, cemented together to form tuff rock.  The southwestern part of the rim around the broad, 350 acre (142 ha) crater is highest because the prevailing winds were blowing the ash in that direction during the eruption.   Although the slopes of the crater have been eroded by wind, rain, and waves since its formation, the coral reef now protects the seaward slopes from the sea.  The ancient Hawaiians lit navigational fires along the crater rim to guide canoes along the shoreline.  The Hawaiian name, Le‘ahi, may mean “fire headland” reflecting this ancient use of the area and this tradition was continued in 1917 when the existing lighthouse was built on the bluffs above the shore.  The common name of Diamond Head was derived from the mistaken identification of calcite crystals found there by Western traders and explorers in the late 1700s. The iconic headland was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.

 

The Federal government purchased Diamond Head in 1904 for military use because the panoramic view, from Koko Head to the east around to the Wai‘anae Range in the west, made it an ideal site for the coastal defense of O‘ahu.  Construction of an entry-tunnel into the crater and various gun emplacements all around the rim was started in 1908.  Five batteries were eventually built, one underground inside the crate, one on the northern exterior wall, and the others tunneled through the crater walls.  A four-level Fire Control Station was constructed at the highest point on the crater rim and it was disguised with rubble embedded into the concrete.  Unrelated to forest conflagrations, the Fire Control Station was where observers could triangulate targets at sea and then provide information for aiming guns both in the crater’s batteries and at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki.  Despite being thoroughly prepared to defend O‘ahu from attack, no artillery at Diamond Head was ever fire during a war.

 

Currently, the crater floor is occupied by the small State Monument parking lot, information Center, and “comfort station”, a government facility, and semi-arid, predominantly introduced vegetation.  The path to the rim is mostly a dirt trail that was used by mules to haul materials for the construction of the Fire Control Station.  The various lookout points and stairs on the trail are remnants of the Station including: a steep flight of 74 steps; a narrow tunnel; another stairway of 99 steep steps leading to the bottom level of the Station; 52 stairs up a spiral staircase to the third level where the path exits through the low slits from which observations were made; and a final 54 metal stairs lead to the summit.

 

Many of the people around us on the trail and at the top did not look like regular hikers and although most were wearing sensible, sneakers (trainers in the UK), there were a few pairs of slippahs (flip-flops in Hawai‘i), and even some dress shoes and heels.  Despite the heat most people seemed to be coping pretty well and it was clear that once they saw the spectacular views from the top it was considered worth the effort.  The Ko‘olau Range was clear of clouds and the view over Honolulu was amazing with the coral reefs clearly visible in the turquoise sea.  The horizon at sea was unusually hazy and we were a bit surprised not to be able to see Moloka‘i which had been visible during our sail the previous day.

 

This same haziness was evident later in the day when we visited the Nu‘uanu Pali lookout.  We had spent the middle of the day at Kathy’s watching college football bowl-games but before returning to the boat we drove up the Pali highway to the lookout where King Kamehameha I had a decisive victory in his conquest of O‘ahu.  Many defending warriors were driven to their deaths over the cliffs at the 1,200 ft (366 m) high pass across the Ko‘olau Range.  Unlike normal conditions and our previous visit there with Kathy and Dan, this time there was no wind at all and although very dry, the haze on the surrounding 2,500 to 3,000 ft high peaks (760 – 915 m) created a very attractive misty appearance.

 

The still, hazy air continued for another couple of days and local discussions quickly turned to the theme of vog (volcanic emissions of sulfur dioxide and other gases combining in sunlight with oxygen and moisture to create a smog-like condition) which was drifting over to O‘ahu from Kilauea on the Big Island. While Randall and I had not suffered any noticeable ill-effects from this, even when frequently surrounded by it in Kailua Kona, it turned out that Matt was rather sensitive resulting in a sore throat and congestion.  Apparently this cleared up as soon as he returned home much to everyone in the family’s relief, as we had all hoped to escape the holiday season without any contagious diseases.  (Sadly, Heather’s family was not quite so lucky with poor Kaeden and his dad stricken with a nasty stomach ‘flu.)

 

Matt felt sufficiently afflicted by the vog to decide to miss the snorkeling trip that we had planned for the last day of their visit.  Thus, just Shev, Randall, and I set off fairly early on Wednesday morning (Jan 4th) to drive 10 miles (16 km) east of Waikiki to Hanauma Bay (pronounced Ha-now-ma).  I had snorkeled in this famous nature reserve several years before but I had been on my own (at least, as alone as you can be with several hundred other snorkelers in the same bay) so I had stayed inside the inner reef and had, frankly, been rather disappointed.  With sufficient cloud covering to dull the view down into the almost circular bay from the parking lot, my expectations for the trip were not high but there was supposed to be a huge diversity of fish in the bay so we hoped to show Shev some Hawaiian species in addition to those that she had seen at Waikiki.

 

The bay is a flooded volcanic crater that has a narrow opening to the sea.  Until 1990, 3 million visitors a year, up to 10,000 people per day, had been loving-the-bay-to-death, such that little of the coral between the inner reef and the beach was still alive.  A management plan was developed that prohibited damaging practices (such as fishing and feeding fish), limited the daily number of visitors (maximum of 3,000), included complete closure one day a week (Tuesdays), banned most commercial tours, imposed an entrance fee for out-of-state, civilian visitors, and required an educational program for all new visitors. The bay remains popular (although more so with tourists than locals, somewhat to the disappointment of the State government) so the parking lot is frequently full and closed by mid-morning.

 

After watching the required educational video and walking down the crater slope to the beach, we donned our equipment and entered the surprisingly chilly water.  We saw a quite a few interesting fish inside the inner reef including a 5 ft long (1.5 m) white tipped reef shark resting on the sandy bottom under a rock overhang.  Shev was curious from a respectful distance while Randall and I marveled that it was the first shark we had actually seen in Hawai‘i despite all the warnings we had heard about the tiger sharks at Honokohau.  With Shev boldly following us, we swam out through one of the two marked channels through the reef.  In addition to being significantly deeper (20 ft to the bottom rather than 10 ft or 6 rather than 3 m), the most obvious difference outside the reef was the diversity and color of live corals.  It was also easier to swim around in the deeper water so we saw many more fish species there.  Shev was very excited by all the colorful fish and even Randall and I identified several species that new to us including ladyfish, spectacled parrotfish, blue-lined surgeonfish, cigar wrasse, and the island goatfish (I thought that we had seen this before but it was so obvious here that I now know that my previous sightings were juveniles of the common manybar goatfish…sigh…).

 

Thus, by the time we had to get out of the water because we were getting too cold, we were all very pleased with what we had seen and were anxious to go in again.  The sun did not oblige us by coming out to warm us up so we decided to be satisfied with all that we had seen and Randall and I looked forward to returning on a warmer, sunnier day in the future.  We drove back to Ala Wai harbor by continuing on the scenic road around Makapu‘u Point (the easternmost tip of O‘ahu).  Along the way we saw the Halona Blow Hole blowing and a couple of hang-gliders riding the up-drafts remarkably close to the lookout area at Makapu‘u Point.

 

Shev and Matt departed from Honolulu airport later that afternoon having experienced quite a good variety of what O‘ahu had to offer.  Although we were sorry to say good-bye, we were all relieved when their boarding passes were in hand as there had been an automatic, temporary block placed on part of their reservations due to their absence from the booked flight from Honolulu to Kona on Christmas Day.  Fortunately Shev had patiently persevered on the phone to get the matter resolved before we went to Hanauma Bay but we were all happy when they were finally on their way to Duluth. 

 

Our next guests arrive in Kona in early February so we have a few weeks to get to the Big Island and to work on some more boat projects.  Randall had to undertake a fairly complex re-wiring task just before Christmas when Martha’s cabin lights stopped working but otherwise we had been in vacation mode for the last three weeks.  Overall we had a spectacular holiday season in Honolulu and, so far, 2012 has started well for us.  We hope that the same is true for you and that the year is a good one.

 

With the next blog posting, I will start a new section “Further Adventures in Hawai‘i 2012” so watch for that entry if you are inclined to sign-up for email notifications about posts in the new section.

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

A Honolulu Christmas

December 28, 2011

Christmas in Hawai‘i may lack the snow and cold weather associated with the season in much of the northern hemisphere but this does not dampen the holiday spirit in Honolulu.  The hotels and beaches near Ala Wai harbor appeared to be bursting with visitors happy to escape to the tropics from the US mainland and northeastern Asia.  The openness of the lobbies and grounds of the Waikiki hotels, through which anyone can wander, combined with an enthusiasm for seasonal decorations, local music, and hula dance provided us with plenty of free entertainment. 

 

For example, despite heavy rain one afternoon, we found ourselves enjoying a cute Christmas hula show (in which I was encouraged to participate) and a display of decorated gingerbread-houses at the Outrigger – Reef Hotel.  We showed Martha the penguins and other exotic birds at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and enjoyed evening strolls looking at the lighted holiday displays in the hotel lobbies.  We also revisited the Honolulu Hale (house), the site of the tree-lighting ceremony for the “Honolulu City Lights” parade.  In addition to admiring the tree, the “Shaka Santa” (the shaka sign is the hand-gesture meaning Hawaiian “aloha” or surfing “hang-loose” with little finger and thumb extended and middle three fingers bent down to the palm), and other outdoor figures and lights, we went inside and viewed the Christmas trees that had been decorated by various city departments around a common theme.  After seeing the Police Department’s homage to Lilo and Stitch (a Disney animated film set in Hawai‘i) it occurred to me that I had never seen that film and should probably do so while in the state.  After the New Year, Randall and I went to see “The Descendants” which had been released for the holidays.  Not only did we find it to be an excellent story with good acting but we recognized many of the prominently highlighted locations in Honolulu and other parts of Hawai‘i.  It made us feel as though we were truly getting to know the state.

 

Making new friends here also helped us feel at home and although we were disappointed not to be seeing Cheryl and Steve nor Bill and Mary on the Big Island over the holidays as expected, we were certainly not alone in Honolulu.  New friends, Bonnie and Charlie invited us over for drinks and pupus (a slightly unfortunately pronounced Hawaiian word – sounds like pooh-poohs – for appetizers) on the large sailboat on which they are caretakers. 

 

The weather during Martha’s visit was as prolonged a period of wet and windy conditions as we had ever seen during our stay in Hawai‘i, leaving us in no doubt about the “Christmas winds” of which we had heard.  It confirmed that we had made a good decision not to try to sail to the Big Island.  Fortunately we had one pleasant morning when the wind was subdued enough for us to venture out in Tregoning so that Martha could see Waikiki and Diamond Head from the sea.  Even then, the wind came whistling through the gap between Diamond Head and the inland pali (steep hillsides).

 

It was a beautiful, sunny morning and we enjoyed cruising outside the reef towards the iconic headland.  As we passed the three “Atlantis” submarines that had been towed into place and were ready to receive passengers for a view of life underwater, we had to steer around a person in a small out-rigger canoe who did not respond to our cheery greeting.  Not long after we had turned back towards the harbor, we heard on the VHF radio a call to the Coast Guard from the Atlantis support vessel saying that a person was lost overboard from a capsized outrigger canoe right where we had been.  The person we had seen in the canoe had been desperately looking for their partner and was now alongside the Atlantis boat.  We immediately turned around and started searching downwind of the submarines with me on the bow looking for any signs of a frantic person.  And then, for a heart-stopping moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the body floating face-down just off our port bow.  With an adrenalin-rush, pounding heart, and the beginnings of a shout, I started to evaluate the options of me diving-in versus Randall.  But before either of us had time to react to get the unconscious person turned face-up, I realized that what I had briefly glimpsed bobbing in the waves was in fact a huge sea turtle!  It took a while for my heart to slow down and my brain to accept what had happened but I certainly acquired a better understanding of how sailors long at sea might mistake a manatee for a mermaid. 

 

We continued searching for a bit longer but soon heard on the radio that the missing person had been sighted about a quarter-mile (400 m) east of us.  One of the Atlantis dinghies went over to rescue him (and his paddle) and not much later his canoe was found and picked-up further down-wind.  Although we had not actually accomplished much ourselves, it was the first time that we had been involved in a missing-person search at sea and it was good to have a happy ending to the story.  Given the sunny but windy conditions, it was a good illustration of how difficult it would be to find someone who had fallen overboard if they had not been watched from the moment of the fall or unless the sea was completely calm.

 

Christmas Day, on the other hand, was mostly spent with our feet firmly on the ground.  After opening our stockings on the boat with Martha, we drove up to Dan and Kathy’s where Randall was to prepare our turkey dinner.  Just like Thanksgiving, Kathy had readily agreed to let Randall take over her kitchen so that she could enjoy a turkey meal without having to make it herself.  This arrangement worked particularly well this year because Dan was leaving around midday to catch a flight to West Virginia so Kathy was not inspired to cook a big meal for herself.  Dan’s departure was for a 30-day job-swap assignment with another person at the US Fish and Wildlife Service who was participating in the same Leadership Training Program as Dan.   It was nice for Martha to meet Dan before he left and he kindly gave us a lovely calendar of photos that he had taken during our trip to Midway and of rare Hawaiian birds we had seen on the Big Island.

 

However, Dan just missed our daughter Shevaun and her husband Matt who arrived from Duluth, MN, later in the afternoon.  Randall and I met them at the airport where we greeted them on their first trip to Hawai‘i with leis that we had bought in Chinatown the day before.  Although they had been scheduled to fly on to Kona, they had short-checked their luggage to Honolulu and before leaving the airport they confirmed with Hawaiian airlines that they were not going to Kona.  With that settled, Shev and Matt were excited and ready to enjoy their vacation, especially as it was Matt’s first Christmas away from the cold of Minnesota.

 

Despite having been awake for 18 hours, Shev and Matt joined me for a pre-dinner walk around Kathy’s neighborhood and then we all dug-in to Randall’s delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings including English-style Christmas crackers (paper tubes that are “cracked” to reveal paper crowns, jokes, and trinkets).  By the time we had made the most of Kathy’s generous hospitality and had returned to the boat, energy was starting to ebb so we postponed opening family gifts until the next day and settled five people down to sleep on the cozy confines of Tregoning’s cabins.

 

Shev and Matt are keen runners so they went out most mornings before breakfast.  I escorted them on the first day but once they had got their bearings, I left them to go faster and further than I would normally venture.  Shev ran for a steady 30 minutes each day and Matt (the ultra-marathoner) for an hour.  While Shev was content to sit on the boat reading or online between group activities, Matt enjoyed spending hours walking around exploring the city by foot.  They were both also happy to enjoy the local beaches and at Waikiki we were proud to escort Matt (formerly a keen triathlete from the Great-Lakes region) on his first-ever swim in the sea.

 

On Boxing Day (Dec 26th), we drove up to the Punchbowl to see the amazing views of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and inland.  We also spent time admiring and reflecting upon the significance of the Honolulu Memorial.  Compared to our previous visit, Randall and I noticed that there were far more tributes of flowers on the military grave-sites, which is apparently something of a holiday tradition.  It was a beautiful morning and signaled the beginning of a glorious and rain-free period that lasted throughout Shev and Matt’s stay.

 

Continuing the theme of military history and because Martha had never been there, we planned to visit Pearl Harbor the next day.  As we drove past Honolulu Harbor at 8:30am we commented on the unusually occurrence of two cruise-ships in town on the same day.  This should have been a clue.  When we arrived at the entrance to the visitors’ center it was packed with buses and people and we found that the earliest tickets available to go out to the Arizona Memorial were not until 2:45pm.  Thus, we decided to return on a day without cruise-ships in port and instead we would continue driving west to follow the coast road through Makaha to the south side of Ka‘ena Point (the westernmost tip of O‘ahu).  None of us had ever been on this route so it was an enjoyable exploration for us all.

 

The water was clear and relatively calm so some of us slightly wished that we had brought our snorkeling gear.   However, the views of the steep-sided valleys of the leeside of the Wai‘anae mountain range were spectacular and Matt treated us to a round of ice-creams which kept spirits high.   That afternoon, I joined Shev and Matt on a walk through Waikiki to the Aquarium.  Randall and I had been there a couple of weeks before with Martha but I was happy to return and linger over my favorite exhibits, especially the pair of Hawaiian monk seals.  Waikiki Aquarium is not particularly large but the exhibits of tropical, and specifically Hawaiian, fish, corals, and other invertebrates are well presented and interesting.

 

We finished the last full day of Martha’s visit by meeting at the Shore Bird Restaurant where Matt and Shev treated us to dinner (huge salad bar and cook-your-own meat on the grill).  Overlooking Waikiki Beach, we had a lovely view of the sunset and a large cheer erupted when the final view of the sun was a clear, green flash. (The term “green flash” perhaps suggests something a bit more dramatic than the green tinge to the final edge of the sun at the horizon that is usually observed.  It is not easy to photograph so see some else’s picture at http://spaceweather.com/swpod2006/31jan06/zinkova.jpg). It made a lovely ending to our delicious meal and we took it as a good omen for Martha’s return trip to California and for the rest of Shev and Matt’s stay in Hawai‘i.

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Sliced, stoked, and soaked

December 14, 2011

By early December, the scar running down the left side of Randall’s face, which had been the model for our Halloween pumpkin, had healed up nicely.  It was also fairly well hidden by his winter beard.  However, after another round of Moh’s microsurgery on Monday morning (Dec 5th) he found himself sporting a vertical row of stitches in an even more prominent position on his forehead.  The resemblance to certain crested, non-human characters in the modern Star Trek series was uncanny.

 

As Randall recuperated, the following few days were relatively quiet until Thursday when Dan stopped at the boat between meetings to announce the latest treat that he had planned for us.  He did not work on Fridays and the next day he was going to get up very early and drive to the North Shore to photograph a surfing competition.   We did not hesitate to accept his invitation to join him, so by 4:30 am we were driving northwest out of Honolulu on almost deserted roads.  It was quite breezy with small clouds scudding across the sky, bringing short but frequent rain showers.  When the full moon was periodically uncovered, we were delighted not only to see its reflection on the black sea but, in the opposite direction, was a moon-bow, the faint silvery cousin of a rainbow.

 

Our early start paid-off because we were able to park right at the entrance to the tiny Ehukai State Park that housed the competition headquarters.  Some tents, trailers, and satellite dishes were assembled on the grass at the top of the low bluff overlooking the beach, while scaffolding down next to the sand supported the large illuminated scoreboard and seating for judges, announcers, and contestants’ families.  Dawn broke as we examined our options for places to position ourselves and gradually the size and power of the thunderous waves were revealed.  And large and powerful they were.

 

We had come to watch the second day of the Billabong Pipe Masters professional surfing competition, the third and final event in the Hawaiian Triple Crown of Surfing and the final event on the ASP World Tour (Association of Surfing Professionals).  Thus, the top 34 surfers in the ASP World Rankings were invited, ensuring that we would get to see many of the world’s best athletes in this challenging sport.  The surf break before us was the world-famous Banzai Pipeline and we were lucky enough to be seeing it on a perfect day with 15 to 20 foot-high waves (4.5 to 6 m).  Waves at this site break on two shallow sections of reef, one inside of (closer to shore) the other.  On this particular day, only the largest waves were breaking on the further reef but on the inside reef they were forming perfect tubes (or barrels) with the lip of the wave curving over to create, albeit briefly, a cavern that moved steadily along the front of the wave.  The off-shore wind whipped spindrift-water in a white veil that billowed up and backwards from the wave’s lip and as the barrel moved along the wave’s face, spray would periodically blast out of the cavernous opening in a huge, audible belch.

 

As well as having one of the most perfect pipeline-breaks in the world, the inside reef is so close to the shore that spectators have an absolutely astounding view.  And with the sand sloping gently down from the bottom of the vegetated bluff there is plenty of room for several rows of people to sit down without obscuring each other.  About halfway between the bluff and the water, the sand dips into a gulley and then rises again forming a ridge right in front of the water’s edge.  With no view, no one sits in the gulley making it the perfect avenue for walking along the beach.   Without blocking the view of the seated crowd, this ridge forms an ideal viewing platform for photographers and any standing spectators who are prepared to move or get their feet wet every time a particularly large wave runs up the beach and overtops the sand ridge.  For some reason, Randall derived great pleasure from watching any unobservant spectators being startled by the occasional foot-bath, especially when foolishly-deposited ice-chests, towels, or bags were swept down into the gulley. 

 

Before the competition started for the day, quite a few intrepid souls paddled out to ride a few waves and there was some scrambling for dominant position on the good waves but they had to leave the water when the first heats began.  We watched all of Round 3 and the beginning of Round 4, both of which were divided into multiple heats of 30 or 40 minutes with only 2 or 3 competitors in each heat.  Pairs of heats overlapped so there might be up to six people competing at a time but there was a priority system so nobody could hog all the best waves.  There were a couple of jet-skis in the water at any given time with life-guards who could tow disabled or dis-boarded surfers to shore and the maneuvers that they had to perform to avoid falling off a wave or being swamped were impressive, especially as they fought their way out through the broken waves to be beyond the first reef.  They also carried in-water photographers out to the edge of the competition area where these helmet-, wetsuit-, and fin-clad daredevils could take exciting photographs looking into the ends of the barrels while trying to avoid being run-over by the surfers.

 

The competitors did not have the luxury of wearing helmets and at the Banzai Pipeline, injuries are not unusual.  The rocky reef is only 3 to 4 feet (1 to 1.5 m) below the water surface at the bottom of a wave, so any mistakes could be very painful if the surfer dropped off the wave face into the shallow water or was pounded down into the water-column by a breaking wave.   With the additional hazard of strong rip currents that swept water rapidly out to sea, this beach was exceptionally dangerous to anyone other than these expert wave-masters.

 

At most modern surfing competitions, points are awarded for extra turns, “air” (leaping with the board clear of the water), and other stylish acrobatics.  In this contest, points were awarded based on the size and difficulty of the wave, length of time in the barrel, and making a clean exit before the barrel closed down on top of the surfer.  This was not about elegant or aggressive gyrations but about the sheer guts needed to catch, stay on, and rapidly ride the biggest and most violent waves that we had ever seen.  While we saw several gut-wrenching wipe-outs, we also saw some excellent rides, including one that was given a perfect score of 10 points.

 

Having selected a suitable wave, the surfer either had to make a precipitous descent down the wall-like face of the wave and then turn at the bottom, or they had to launch with a sufficiently shallow angle to ride down the face with just a tiny portion of the board actually in contact with the water.  In either case, the next challenges were to adjust their speed to catch or be caught by the barrel, stay crouched in the barrel, and then exit before the barrel closed on them either by accelerating and sweeping over the top of the lip or by zooming out at the bottom and trying to stay ahead of the “washing machine” of turbulent white water that was chasing them.  Seeing the waves alone, it was difficult to gauge just how big they were but add a human body for scale and the impressive wave size is revealed.

 

The announcers suggested that these were some of the most perfect conditions that they had ever seen at the Banzai Pipeline, certainly during a competition and with such skilled professionals we were truly experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Even by the next day, the swell had dropped so we were really lucky.   In addition to the top-ranking world professionals such as Kelly Slater who currently tops the rankings (earning $550,000 in prize money a year with massively more in sponsorship and endorsements), there were several local surfers who qualified to compete and who were also very popular with the crowd.  Randall was intrigued that when competitors were interviewed, their surfing lingo had changed very little since his day (late 1960s).  They were still stoked with a good ride and bummed at wiping-out on a particularly gnarly wave.

 

The weather was also perfect with the sun eventually breaking through the clouds to highlight the waves in marvelous turquoises and white.  Sadly, the weather and our good luck did not hold throughout the next day.  On Saturday evening, we had signed-up to join the Holiday Lighted-boat Parade in which 21 boats were to motor from Ala Wai Harbor into the main Honolulu Harbor and back, passing judges and crowds at the Aloha Tower and competing for the best light-display.  Since pleasure boats are not allowed in Honolulu Harbor at any other time, this was an interesting opportunity but meant that everything had to be tightly planned.

 

We did not have many lights and did not want to invest in a large number that we had nowhere to store on the boat so playing to our unique status, we had planned a display that included the flags from all the countries that we had been through to get from Florida to Hawaii.  I made signs to go with each flag (assuming most people would not know a Jamaican flag from that of Panama).  We had invited Dan and Kathy, and Donna and Ed to join us with the idea that as we passed the Aloha Tower, we would shout-out appropriate holiday greetings while dressed in outfits that represented the countries we had visited.

 

Without too much elaboration, here is a list of what went wrong:

1.    Dan and Kathy became stuck in traffic due to a burst water main so missed the boat (they had several props with them including the Hawaiian flag)

2.    The string of lights up the backstay would not work

3.    The strong wind blew our flags and signs horizontal so they were not easy to see

4.    The rain poured as we headed to Honolulu Harbor drenching us and soaking the flags and signs

5.    The parade was rushed to get in and out before the Pride of America cruise ship was due to leave at 7 pm so we only had a few seconds in front of the Aloha Tower and the announcer spent most of that time looking for their notes on the preceding boat so our merry cheers were obscured

6.    All of our Christmas lights blew-out on the return to Ala Wai

7.    The dinner to which we “treated” our wet and frustrated guests was terrible: cold spaghetti with little sauce (with meat the only option) and there was no salad left

 

Donna and Ed were wonderfully cheerful as it all deteriorated so we greatly enjoyed and appreciated their company, especially when we had to “parallel-park” back into our place on the dock.  It seemed to add insult to injury that on Friday, Donna had taken me and a lively group of her friends out for a fine evening of sailing on a boat that she rents with a couple of other Waikiki Yacht Club members.  We had enjoyed good weather, tasty food, and the spectacular weekly firework display at the Hilton Hawaiian Village with.  

 

Dan and Kathy also helped to make the disappointing parade meal entertaining and while we decided not to rush to participate in this event again, it had been fun to see the other boats that were brilliantly lit with hundreds of tiny, colored lights.  It also looked as though the US Marines had done well with their associated “Toys for Tots” campaign.   Randall managed to replace the blown outlet and he has restrung the lights up our fore- and back-stays, so we have been lighting those up in the evenings.

 

Due to all the rain on Saturday, the water in the harbor became a muddy brown so it was with some alarm that Randall and I watched a very strong gust of wind blow his bike (which I had left leaning on its kick-stand) off the dock into the water next to Tregoning.  Of course, with stitches in his head, Randall could not dive down to retrieve the bike so I had to face entering the opaque, brown water.  Luckily, the depth gauge showed us that it was only 12 feet deep (3-4 m) so I was able to swim down and tie a rope around the bike on one breath.  The sediment at the bottom was very soft but once below the surface I could actually see a short distance…when I finally opened my eyes inside my mask.  Randall hoisted the bike back onto the dock and hosed it down with freshwater while I went to scrub-off in a hot shower, trying not to think of Dan’s story of a homeless man who had fallen in the adjacent Ala Wai Canal and subsequently lost all of his limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria.  I showered with much soap and hot water.

 

Still, things could have been worse.  There was prolonged, very heavy rain on Monday night and by the next morning many of the slips on the other side of our dock were surrounded by a floating mass of debris that had been swept down the Ala Wai Canal but got trapped in the harbor rather than flooding out to sea.  We were told by someone who had used the marina for 40 years that they had only seen it this bad once before.  Lucky us!

 

Randall’s sister, Martha, had arrived on Monday afternoon so she had a rather soggy start to her vacation but we had rented a car for a few days so at least we did not have to drag her luggage onto the bus in the rain.  We assured her that she had been fortunate to miss the boat parade and the incredibly loud fireworks that had been set-off in the neighboring Ala Moana Park, at 5 am on Sunday morning for the start of the Honolulu marathon.  With the sound resonating around all the high-rise hotels, I first thought we were under attack like Pearl Harbor while Randall worried about a massive thunderstorm.

 

Having studied the weather forecasts for several days, we had decided that if we left early on Thursday morning there might be a brief window when we could sail from Honolulu to Honokohau Harbor on the Big Island without being too battered.  The winds were predicted to be 15 knots or less but the waves were still going to be quite noticeable with a swell at a different angle from the wind waves. The forecast for our trip to Lana‘i with Dan had been similar but actual conditions in the channel were much worse and most unpleasant.  Conditions deteriorated significantly after Friday and each time we checked, the window became smaller and less favorable.  With Shevaun and Matt due to fly into Kona on Christmas Day we were really keen to make the passage but it sounded as though it might be pretty uncomfortable, especially for Martha.  It was too early to see if conditions would improve again before the holidays so we were anxious as to whether we would have another opportunity if we did not leave soon.

 

So with some trepidation, we planned to leave early on Thursday and in anticipation I called Honokohau Harbor to ensure that they would have a suitable slip available for us, as I had been previously assured would be likely.  But no, they did not have room suitable for us until January 6th…yikes!  We quickly considered other harbor options on the Big Island but none of them seemed as suitable as where we were in Ala Wai and, quite frankly, we really felt relieved at not having to make the passage under questionable conditions.  So, while we are disappointed not to be seeing Steve and Cheryl or Bill and Mary over the holidays nor showing off the Big-Island to Shev and Matt there are various advantages to staying in Honolulu and Randall and I will return to the Big Island sometime in the New Year.  Despite being scheduled to fly into Honolulu before going on to Kona, Shev and Matt may still have to fly to Kona and then get another flight back to Honolulu to meet us on Christmas Day evening because it would cost three times more to change their flight even though they would just be cancelling their last leg.  However, once they join us, on their first visit to Hawaii, with Dan and Kathy’s suggestions, we will be able to show them all sorts of cool things in Oahu.

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Honolulu City Lights

December 04, 2011

With a series of visitors scheduled to start with Martha on December 12th, during the week after Thanksgiving Randall was fully occupied in the forward bathroom replacing the old toilet and numerous associated hoses, and installing a macerator (a pump to empty the holding tank when far out at sea).  This was a very unpleasant and uncomfortable task with uncooperative hoses, clamps, bolts, and fittings and involved spreading the stored contents of the forward bathroom and cabin all over the rest of the boat.  Although I had plenty of cleaning jobs to do in anticipation of Martha’s visit, it was lucky that instead I could sit still in a fairly small space for hours catching-up with the blog and other online tasks because not much else would have been possible in the chaotic cabin.

 

We had to make a couple of bike rides to the West Marine store and The Home Depot (8 miles round trip – 13 km) for parts and tools but by Friday evening we were both ready to get out of the boat for an evening.  We joined Kathy and Dan for some appetizers at a nice wine-bar in downtown Honolulu and then we wandered around a few blocks on the edge of Chinatown where art galleries were open for “First Friday”.  A bit like the weekly arts and food festival we had been to in Hanapepe on Kaua‘i, on the first Friday of the month, galleries and restaurants in towns on the other islands cooperate to attract people for an evening of arts entertainment. One street was closed to traffic and people could enjoy food, a band, and various vendors.  We wandered through a few galleries where the artists were present to discuss their work, enjoying the ambiance but not with any particular purchases in mind.  As we walked back to the car afterwards, we admired some of the downtown Christmas lights but it seemed that some of the displays were in place but not lit.

 

That was because the next evening was when the city’s Christmas tree and other main lights would be turned-on.  Randall had found out about this and arranged for us to attend as a mystery date for me, with Kathy and Dan also joining us.  Randall and I walked from Ala Wai to the Honolulu Hale (Honolulu House) where the tree was ready to be lit.  There was also a Christmas parade and far more people were waiting along the route than I had expected (they anticipated 75,000).  Inevitably, the mayor and various other people felt the need to precede the tree-lighting with some rather tiresome, long-winded speeches but at 6:30 pm the lights on the tree and Hale building were illuminated and it was quite impressive.

 

The Honolulu City Lights night-time parade was fun, with assorted city vehicles covered in numerous colored lights.  In addition to the usual fire-engines and ambulances, this parade included such slightly surprising participants as a tow-truck, parking-meter-reader’s golf-cart, garbage truck, and sewer-cleaning truck.  Between these highly decorated “floats” were various high school marching bands most of whom had some festive costumes, with lights on themselves or their instruments.  There were also a couple of hefty Polynesian men vigorously twirling large flaming batons which were absolutely spectacular.

 

Having met Kathy and Dan at the Christmas tree, towards the end of the parade route, about halfway through the parade we made the lucky decision to walk west towards the start of the route.  This had three advantages.  Firstly, it got us away from a slightly crazy and malodorous old woman with scary, two inch-long fingernails who kept erupting into gibberish in front of us.  Also it accelerated our view of the parade, and finally it allowed us a quick escape in Kathy’s car before the traffic built-up once the event was over.  Thus, we were back at the house feeling pretty pleased with ourselves by 8 pm.  It had been a lovely evening with a half-moon, bit of breeze, and warm enough to be comfortable in shorts and Hawaiian shirts.  True, these are not the conditions which many people associate with Christmas but Honolulu’s parade, lights, and jolly decorations were certainly what we needed to put us in a festive mood…at least, until Randall had to return to work on the toilet the next morning.

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N 21° 17' W 157° 50'

Thanksgiving and a windy campsite

November 28, 2011

 Not long after a spectacular dawn broke over Moloka‘i on Monday (November 21st), we raised the anchor and left Lono Harbor.  We again had a lovely downwind sail in strong breezes and 8 – 10 ft waves (3m), and in sunshine and cheerful mood we approached Diamond Head from the southeast.  We initially returned to a slip with three-point-tie on the outermost dock at Ala Wai but after a week we moved to the floating cross-dock.  Although lacking the view of the Ala Moana surf-break, this more-inland location in the marina had the advantage of a side-tie so that we (and Martha) could get on and off the boat more easily without having to scramble over the anchor and bow rail.

 

We spent Thanksgiving (Thursday) at Kathy and Dan’s house with Randall starting his preparations for the traditional turkey meal on Wednesday evening.  Kathy loves to eat turkey dinners but does not enjoy cooking them.  Randall loves to cook (and eat) turkeys so Kathy had done all the shopping and Randall did all the cooking, which was a day-long affair.  Being so far west, it seemed a bit odd that almost all of the traditional Thanksgiving Day football on TV was over by the time we had eaten at 4 pm but it meant that Randall was able to watch snatches of it all morning between meal preparations. 

 

Just before we ate, Dan read us a brief account of two of the original pilgrims who were said to have had the first romance among the pilgrims in the New World.  The reason for telling us about this was that Dan is a direct descendent of the young woman, who must have participated in the very first Thanksgiving gathering.  After stuffing ourselves with the delicious food, we had a good walk around the neighborhood and watched our first Christmas movie (Love Actually).  Randall is not usually allowed to play music from his huge Christmas collection until after Thanksgiving but Kathy had no such restrictions so it was playing from the moment we arrived at the house on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Friday morning found us packing Dan’s truck with camping equipment and we set off for an hour’s drive northeast to the windward side of Oahu.  At the north end of the large Kane‘ohe Bay, we pulled into the parking lot of the Kualoa Ranch visitors’ center where we were joined by Dan’s boss (and friend) Earl, his girlfriend Kate, and their cute dog, Giget.  Tourists can tour the ranch by bus, SUV, all-terrain-bike, or horseback and the attraction is that the ranch is mostly in a narrow valley that runs perpendicular to the shore and between narrow, steep-sided, 2,000 ft high (610 m) ridges.  The floor of this privately-owned valley is grazed by beef cattle but with the spectacular backdrop of the dramatic ridges, the ranch has become a popular location for filming tropical scenes.  Even though the valley is close to Honolulu and fairly accessible for construction equipment on the good farm roads, viewed at the correct angles it can look like a remote and ancient world. Scattered throughout the valley are various pieces of sets leftover from film production and these are the highlights of the visitors’ tours.  Various parts of the TV series “Lost” were filmed in the valley including on a small section looking like a golf-course.  Among other movies, scenes were shot in the valley for “Jurassic Park”, “50 First Dates”, “Windtalkers”, the recent version of “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, and there were several huge footprints that were dug-out for “Godzilla”.

 

The only people allowed to camp in the valley are personal friends of the owners or, as in our case, people who are trusted to perform some useful stewardship work while there.  For years Kate had been working with the ranch owners helping to manage their invasive plants and other natural resources so we had been invited to join their privileged group on their Thanksgiving camp thanks to our association with Kathy and Dan.  The campsite is on the north side of the valley and while enjoying stunning views is discretely off of the main tour-route.  We were discouraged from walking around the main roads when tours were occurring but this left various other trails to hike on during the day and plenty of other times to view the more popular areas. 

 

Dan and Kathy provided us with a tent, inflatable mattress, and sleeping bags and everyone pooled food to be cooked over a camp fire.  There was a composting toilet and solar shower so life was not too rugged and it was astonishing how much stuff everyone had brought in their vehicles for just a couple of nights.  Along with Earl and Kate we were also joined by George and his son Nikolai, and a family of Earl’s friends, Kelvin, Thea, and 10-year old identical twins Brooke and Thalia.  Everyone got along very well and we had a fun Friday evening by the campfire roasting marshmallows, telling stories, and, inevitably, drinking.

 

Although all tents had been raised successfully and securely, it was a windy night and between the noise in the nearby trees and the billowing or flapping for various tent parts, few people slept very soundly.  However, Saturday started off with sunshine so most of us walked two miles (3 km) up to the ridge at the head of the valley.  From there we had a most spectacular view back down the valley and also over into Kane‘ohe Bay.  Dan and Kate stayed at the camp and started on their stewardship work which involved removing unwanted Brazilian peppertrees and umbrella trees from within a stand of Pandanas in a steep-sided gulch adjacent to the campsite.  Earl and Kelvin helped with the project in the afternoon by which time quite a good area had been cleared.  The Pandanas (Lauhala or thatch screw pine) is a thin, palm-like tree that produces long, grass-blade-like leaves in a spiral formation around the main stem.  Hawaiians used the leaves to make mats, baskets, and “grass” skirts, and “nuts” from the pineapple-looking fruit was ground to make flour.

 

By late Saturday afternoon the wind had increased and a front was forecast to pass through overnight bringing stronger winds and gusts up to 49 mph (43 knots).  Some rain was also possible so Thea decided that their family did not need another sleepless night and they packed-up and left.  The rest of us enjoyed a walk around some of the movie sets and another campfire evening that was made a little more exciting by the wind-blown ash and sparks.  Predictably it was another very noisy night but there was only very light rain and all the tents were undamaged and stayed in place.

 

Some of us returned to the head of the valley on Sunday morning, this time going a bit higher to where we could see the large, ancient-Hawaiian Moli‘i fish-ponds at the north end of Kane‘ohe Bay and over into the neighboring, relatively undisturbed valley to our north.  This fully forested valley is conserved as Ahupua‘a ‘O Kahana State Park and gave us a good sense of what the Kualoa Valley must have been like prior to establishment of the cattle ranch.

 

We finally packed-up and left after another turkey-sandwich lunch.  We enjoyed a much quieter night in the house and then returned to Tregoning on Monday morning.  We were very glad to see that she was exactly where we had left her and all was well aboard despite being told that there had been some very strong wind gusts in the harbor.  We had borrowed Kathy’s car that day and fulfilled several errands that required a carrying-capacity that exceeded what we could manage on our bikes (e.g., dropped-off our mainsail for some repairs, picked-up our inspected life-raft, bought a new toilet bowl for the forward head, and filled two of our propane tanks).  By the time we had returned Kathy’s car to her office and cycled the couple of miles back to Ala Wai, we were exhausted and ready for a quiet evening to recover from our lovely Thanksgiving “vacation”.

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N 21° 05' W 157° 14'

Bees but no landing

November 21, 2011

 

After leaving Lahaina early on Sunday morning (November 20th), we had an excellent downwind run from Lahaina to the southwest corner of Molokai.  The winds were steady 25 knots with many gusts to 30 knots and a few to near 40 knots but with just the jib out and following seas (waves going in the same direction as us) we flew along at 7-8 knots and really enjoyed it.  Again, we did not see any whales and there was little other boat traffic.

 

We decided to stop for the night on the southwest coast of Moloka‘i at Lono Harbor which is an abandoned quarry harbor from which barges carried sand and gravel to Oahu until 1975.  The triangular harbor has an abandoned airstrip on the eastern breakwater and a 150 ft high (46 m) bluff along the northern shore.  Fortunately, there are range markers (two billboards on the shore, the lower one about 300 ft or 100m in front of the other with a line painted vertically down the center of each) so that by lining up them it is possible to follow the optimal path along the channel into the harbor.  With the strong wind and 6 to 8 ft (2 -3 m) waves buffeting us from the side, this aid to navigation in the narrow entrance was very reassuring.

 

Inside the harbor we found very calm water (thankfully) but strong wind gusts so Randall slept in the cockpit to make sure we did not drag anchor or swing to close to the battered old, concrete dock wall during the night.  Around 2 am a cruising sailboat from Washington State joined us in the anchorage.  Since the range markers do not have lights we concluded that the captain had either used the harbor before or was pretty desperate to get into shelter.

 

A few people in cars stopped at the harbor but there was not much to do or see so they did not stay for long.  Apart from a few masts on top of the bluff, a couple of outrigger canoes pulled up on the beach in the western corner of the harbor were the only other signs of human activity.  As we had been warned by Barry and Samantha, the oddest thing about the harbor was that as soon as we arrived several bees flew onto the boat and headed straight for the cabin.  Apparently the bees live around the low Kiawe trees at the east end of the harbor and although it is possible to anchor and then attach stern lines to the trees or rings on the dock, getting too close to shore only invites an uncomfortably large bee invasion.  This was not cruising problem we had come across frequently. 

 

With the strong wind and cloudy water, we did not try to launch the dinghy or swim ashore from our location in the center of the deeper eastern half of the harbor.  So despite having anchored beside the island twice, we have yet to set foot on Moloka‘i.

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N 20° 52' W 156° 40'

A whaling town with wet carpets

November 19, 2011

 

While in Honolua Bay we carefully monitored the weather forecasts.  Although the trade winds had somewhat subsided since our stay in Lana‘i, they were predicted to increase again and this would create large waves in Kaiwi Channel, which we would have to cross to return to Oahu.  We were also in contact with the harbormaster at Lahaina waiting for a slip to become available for a couple of nights.  So on Friday (November 18th) we left Honolua Bay and sailed downwind with just the jib most of the way to Lahaina.  It is possible to anchor or rent moorings off Lahaina but the area has a notorious roll from southwestern swells.  We saw several monohulls rolling uncomfortably on the moorings so we were thankful that we had secured a place in the tiny harbor.  Vacancies are not common and we got the only slip available for the weekend.

Protected by a breakwater that was overtopped by the March 2011 tsunami, the rectangular harbor with a simple U-shaped dock protrudes from the otherwise straight shoreline.  It is mostly occupied by charter boats that take people snorkeling, diving, parasailing, submarining, to Lanai, whale-watching, and assorted other aquatic activities but there are a few private pleasure boats. Our slip was a “three-point-tie”, just like the ones we had used at Honokohau and Ala Wai, with a mooring ball and two cleats on the dock.  We first pulled up to the loading dock to complete our paperwork and to launch the dinghy.  We then paddled the dinghy over to our slip and attached a line with a float on it to the mooring ball.  Thus, when we nosed Tregoning into the narrow slip, I could snag our float and tie off the stern line before going forward to secure the two bow lines to the dock.  One of our neighbors was always out during the day but at night we were snugly packed between a tiny tow-boat called Roxie (it towed one of the tourist submarines) and a large inflatable boat for snorkel tours.

 

Lahaina has had a eventful history.  Although it receives relatively little rain, being in the lee of the West Maui Mountains which peak at 5,788 ft (1,764 m), there have always been freshwater seeps near the coast supporting settlements and many years of sugar cane production in the 19th century.  Since the 16th century, Lahaina was home to all of Maui’s rulers and after the Hawaiian nation was united by King Kamehameha I in 1810 it became the seat of government.  Even after Kamehameha moved his offices to Honolulu in 1845, Lahaina remained important to vacationing royalty all of whom had second homes there.

 

Beginning in 1819, whaling ships (predominantly from America and Europe) started using the Lahaina Roadstead as an anchorage.  Although lacking any protective headlands, the area could accommodate at least 100 boats and was relatively secure from the trade winds and most storm waves.  The grog shops and prostitution that flourished with all the whaling crews that came ashore so alarmed Queen Keopuolani, one of the most powerful widows of Kamehameha I, that  in 1823 “she invited the missionaries to come and save the town from sin”.  Although Lahaina has now almost been overwhelmed by tourism with the many large hotels to the north and numerous boutiques, galleries, and gift stores around the main waterfront street, some of the residents have done their best to preserve its whaling-era history.  This included walking trails leading to many informative interpretive signs and several preserved ruins and buildings now housing museums. 

 

A concrete lighthouse from 1916 stands beside the harbor and a light has been maintained at this spot since 1840, predating any other light in Hawai‘i or on the US Pacific Coast.  The front of the attractive Pioneer Inn (1901) dominates the waterfront by the harbor along with the 1850 Court- and Custom-house in which we briefly visited the whaling museum.  Behind this is a massive banyan tree that was planted in 1873 to celebrate 50 years of the Congregationalist Mission.  With a huge, divided, central trunk, the 60 ft high (18 m) tree canopy spreads over two thirds of an acre (0.3 ha) with multiple axillary roots/trunks supporting the massive lateral branches.  On Saturday, we admired the large artists’ market that was spread out in the shady park under the tree.

 

Having concluded that we would probably return to Lahaina with some of our visitors in the spring, we did not tour the missionaries’ houses (mid-1830’s) or masters’ reading room (an “officers’ club” started in 1834) but we did wander around the Hale Pa‘ahao or prison.  Most of its inmates in the late 1800s were incarcerated for drunkenness, desertion from ships, working on the Sabbath or dangerous horse-riding.  The large outer wall was built by convict laborers of coral rock taken from the demolished waterfront fort.  The fort had been built in the early 1830s after some disgruntled sailors had “lobbed cannonballs at the town during an argument with the Protestant missionaries over the visits of native women to ships”.  Serving little purpose other than as the first prison and site of birthday gun-salutes for the Hawaiian King, the fort was torn down in the 1850s and only reconstructed ruins of two of the corners remain.

 

During our brief stay in Lahaina Harbor we met cruisers-to-be, Barry and Samantha, who were very friendly and informative.  Barry had done long-distance sailing before (involving the sinking of his beloved sailboat in New Zealand about which he has published a book) but Samantha had no cruising experience so we invited them over for the evening and tried to answer some of her many questions.   Barry was a also a sail-maker so as they worked to get their boat, Cornelia, ready for South Pacific cruising (at some as yet unspecified date in the future) they had protection from several beautiful canvas canopies and covers. 

 

They gave us some useful local information about channel crossing and anchorages around Maui and they also solved a mystery that had been perplexing us from the moment of our arrival at Lahaina.  All of the dock running around the inside of the breakwater was made of wood and in front of many slips were pieces of carpet (presumably to make disembarking more comfortable and less prone to splinters).  We were curious as to why all these carpets always seemed to be wet despite the absence of rain.  We came up with various oddball theories but we could not have guessed the real reason.  Coinciding with the start of the APEC meeting in Honolulu, a new homeless man had appeared in Lahaina (the Lahaina conspiracy theorists assumed that he had been given a one-way ticket to Maui by police in Honolulu).  One evening he had ripped up one the dry carpets and rolled up in it to sleep in on the dock, getting in everyone’s way.   Since then, boat owners had kept their carpets soaked, causing the homeless man to move elsewhere in town.  Of course!  Learning about these bizarre local customs is exactly why we travel.

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N 21° 00' W 156° 38'

A snorkelers' paradise

November 17, 2011

 

Lana‘i is the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands and having been formed by a single shield volcano, Palawai, it has a simple dome shape.  Being in the lee of the West Maui Mountains, the island has sparse rainfall with an overall arid brown appearance except in the few irrigated areas and at the forested summit.  The east side of the island has many deep gulches radiating down to the coast from the island’s (almost) central peak.  The west coast has fewer gulches but has a rim of high cliffs that extend all the way down to the southernmost point of the island.

 

There is no evidence that Lana‘i was inhabited before 1400 and even after that time the Hawaiian and subsequent foreign populations were limited by the lack of freshwater.  Attempts at sugar cane production were unsuccessful but in 1922 James Dole bought the island for $1.1 million and turned it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation.  The Dole Company stocked the island with wild game and fowl for hunting and built the only town, the centrally located Lana‘i City, for the plantation workers.  These days, another company owns most of the island (and we heard that it was for sale) and only enough pineapples are produced for local use.  There is essentially only one hard-topped road that runs east from Kaumalapau Harbor (where we dropped Dan) past the airport to Lana‘i City (population about 2,500) and then south to Manele Bay.  There are two luxury hotels, one in the town the other at Manele Bay, and both have golf courses and other sports facilities.  Otherwise the island is mostly uninhabited and, other than at the small harbor to our south, we certainly did not see any lights or signs of humanity on the west coast near our anchorage.

 

We ended up staying at Nanahoa for another four nights after Dan had left us, while the trade winds continued to whistle over the cliffs.  It was said that the trade winds had been particularly light this summer although we had not really noticed having spent much of the time in sheltered harbors.  During the winter months (October to April is the cooler season or Ho‘oilo in Hawaii) winds may periodically increase with frontal storms that sweep down from the North Pacific and these storms produce the famous north-shore surfing swells.  Occasionally during winter, strong Kona winds bring heavy rain to the usually drier, lee-sides of the islands from the southwest and west.

 

On Sunday (November 13th), we snorkeled again at Nanahoe, this time going north from the pinnacles and we briefly crawled through the surf onto the rocky shore to say that we had actually set foot (or fin) on the island. We also saw a couple of fish species new to us, paletail unicornfish and fivestripe wrasse.  The following morning we pulled up the anchor and on an almost glassy sea we motored around the south end of Lana‘i.  We briefly poked our bow into the tiny harbor at Manele Bay which was busy with charter boats discharging passengers for lunch.  We crossed Auau Channel looking in vain for humpback whales which had just started arriving in Hawai‘i from Alaska and the Arctic for their breeding and calving season.  We approached Lahaina on the western edge of West Maui and then cruised northwards examining all the hotels and condos strung along the shore.

 

Around 3 pm, as we started to approach the north end of Maui, the headwind suddenly picked-up to 15 to 20 knots.  However, our destination, Honolua Bay, just west of the northern tip of the island was beautifully protected from the winds by cliffs and a long headland.  Thus, although we could see white-caps not far away in the Pailolo Channel, between us and Moloka‘i, we were in a flat-calm anchorage with only moderate breezes. Fortunately, we heeded the advice of Cheryl and our cruising guide and stayed in the center of the bay.  We anchored in 40 ft of water (12 m) over sand but it was not until we snorkeled the next day that we realized that on either side of the bay walls of coral rose almost to the water surface.  These walls were a considerable distance from the shore so the central slot of deep water in the bay was much narrower than it appeared.  We were deeply and safely anchored in the sand but an inattentive boater could easily have a nasty surprise if they anchored very much off the centerline.

 

We stayed at this anchorage for four nights and after 4 pm each day we were the only boat there.  But every morning after about 9 am, charter catamarans would arrive and tie-up to state-provided mooring balls far inside the bay.  There were up to 6 of these boats a day and on average they carried 30 people, most of whom spent about an hour snorkeling around the bay.  Add to this another 30 or so snorkelers who walked-in from the stony beach at the head of the bay each day and it could be a busy place.  The number of boats widely varied (one day only a couple appeared) but the popularity of the two view-points on the adjacent road that overlooked the bay did not seem to diminish much from day to day.

 

So what made this place so attractive?  As part of the Honolau-Mokule‘ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District, the area had been protected for many years from fishing and as a result it contained a profusion of fish which had relatively little fear of people.  Species of which we usually caught only a brief glimpse, such as snappers and soldier fish, were positively bold in Honolua Bay.  We snorkeled for several hours each day, working our way around the whole bay and revisiting places in both the afternoon and early morning.  We saw several fish species new to us including, common bigeye, bicolor and highfin chubs, barred jack, leatherback, and the usually deep-dwelling Hawaiian hogfish.  The multi-colored coral formations were the most varied that we had yet seen in Hawai‘i with vertical walls, large shallow areas covered with domes of coral, and the rocky head of the bay with tiny coral colonies attached to small boulders.  Water clarity was good with the sandy bottom visible from the deck of Tregoning.

 

Judging by the cries frequently heard from the other snorkelers, the creatures that captured the most attention of visitors were the green turtles, of which the bay had an amazing number.  Each day from Tregoning we saw several turtles breathing at the water surface and when snorkeling they would swim nearby, completely disregarding us.  One surfaced within arm’s reach of us and for several minutes the three of us floated almost motionlessly, just trying not to drift into each other.  During just one snorkel, we saw a huge male with several tumors on its face, two small, young turtles, and at least four male and female adults.

 

Despite its daytime popularity, Honolua Bay was a lovely anchorage and the coral and other marine life appeared to be thriving.  We felt very lucky to be able to enjoy this fascinating location for several days and we look forward to returning.

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