February 20, 2012
On Monday (February 13th), we had to return to Hilo for the fourth time in two weeks so that the doctor could remove my stitches and check the motion in my thumb. Since I have been easily removing the stitches from Randall’s skin-cancer head-wounds, we thought that we might be able to do it ourselves but the doctor insisted that we return. This was just as well as it took both the nurse and doctor quite a bit of uncomfortable pulling to complete the procedure. He was pleased however by the movement that I had already regained once the bandages had been removed three days after surgery. He assured me that within a couple of months all should be back to normal and, most significantly, I could now get my hand wet. I enjoyed the first opportunity to thoroughly wash my hands…a simple pleasure restored.
We had driven to Hilo via Saddle Road after Randall had made an early and satisfactory visit to the dentist. With some time to spare before my appointment, we had stopped briefly to check-out the cabins at the Mauna Kea State Recreation Area. Looking up from this area on the southwestern side of Mauna Kea, the observatories on the summit were hidden from view by cinder cones and the moraines left by glaciers that had formed part of the ice caps that covered this dormant volcano during various ice-ages, most recently 13,000 years ago. To the east of the deep, dark scar of Pohakula Gulch, we could see the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve which is topped by Lake Wai‘au, the third-highest lake in the USA. Although there has been some snow on Mauna Kea during our stay in Hawai‘i, it was still difficult to imagine that the shape of the summit had been carved by glaciers and ice caps as well as the cinder cones that were formed as recently at 4,400 years ago.
We then had the idea to drive up to the Visitor Information Station for the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy (managed by the Office of Muana Kea Management part of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo). The 6 mile (10 km) drive off Saddle Road rises to the station at 9,200 ft (2,804 m) and we had been rewarded with another clear and sunny day. There were not many other cars on the road but, remarkably, we passed a bicyclist slogging his way up. We subsequently met him at the Visitor Center where he refueled himself after cycling the 30 miles (48 km) from Hilo and before riding the same distance (mostly downhill) to Waikoloa. Amazing!
Neither of us felt any particular effects of the altitude but there were plenty of notices warning visitors of the symptoms. If you go on up to Mauna Kea’s summit at 13,796 ft (4,205 m) you are encouraged to stop at the Visitor Center for at least 30 minutes to start getting acclimatized but even then quite a few people feel ill. We did not have the warm clothes, four-wheel-drive vehicle, or time necessary to make the full ascent that day but after watching the interesting series of videos at the Visitor Center, we decided that sometime we would like to go up to see the summit with its 12 observatories. There is also something appealing about going to the highest point in the central Pacific Ocean (there are higher peaks in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea).
I had hoped that we would be able to stay in Hilo on Monday night so that on Tuesday we could visit the ‘Imi Loa Astronomy Center on the UH Hilo campus. We could then return to Kona via the southern route, a with stop to snorkel at Honaunau (“two step”), a highly rated dive-site 20 miles (32 km) south of Honokohau. Instead, we will have to save those excitements for another visit because a narrow weather window to sail to Honolulu was opening on Tuesday and we needed to get back to meet my brother, Mike. So having returned over Saddle Road on Monday afternoon, we scurried around on Tuesday morning, dropping off the car and cycling back from the airport, and then preparing to cast-off. The latter process took quite a long time as we carefully fed a line out to a cleat on the dock while pulling ourselves back on the mooring lines, removed our lines from the permanent mooring lines, and then threw the latter up onto the frame on the mooring ball so that Lurline or the next user of the slip could pick them up easily. At least neither of us had to go into the water. We did all this under the watchful eyes of Cheryl and Steve who had come to wave us off, and Peter and Margarita on Seatime who were probably itching to get in their dinghy and help us speed-up the laborious process.
Still, it was good to get Tregoning back out to sea and we enjoyed several hours of beautiful sailing through the early afternoon. Gradually the wind decreased and veered towards our bow so we soon found ourselves motoring. We ended up motoring the rest of the way to O‘ahu with periods of assistance from the jib but the anticipated east winds that would have allowed us to sail again never materialized. The seas were not too rough so in all it was a fairly easy overnight passage with plenty of stars, a satisfactory supply of Valentine’s Day chocolate, and the glorious sights of humpback whales while we crossed Penguin Bank (off the west end of Moloka‘i).
We arrived at Ala Wai Harbor in Honolulu during the mid-afternoon and we quickly located the slip that had been assigned to us on the 800 dock. The gap between neighboring boats looked very narrow and with the stern mooring ball in the middle, it all looked a bit intimidating. But we had a sure-fire plan so we were confident that neither of us would be swimming this time. The first part of the plan went well and I was able to drop a loop on a long line over the mooring ball. In theory, it would then have been simple to continue forward into the slip as I walked the line back to the stern and up to a winch for Randall to control from the helm. I would then scamper forward and toss the bow lines to a helpful neighbor who was already waiting on the dock.
As has become tediously predictable, things did not go according to plan. I had difficulty getting the heavy stern line clear of all deck obstacles and back to Randall, during which time the strong cross wind swung the bow around faster than Randall could compensate, given his lack of bow-thruster and very limited room. Eventually when we were no longer pointing at the dock and could not safely maneuver while continuing to hold the line on the mooring ball, I had to throw the latter in the water and we retreated to the fuel dock. After abandoning the idea of swimming to retrieve the sunken line on the mooring ball, we realized that the wind had dropped so we were able to nose into the dock, tie-off the bow, and then lash Tregoning to the upwind, neighboring boat until we could get lines onto the mooring ball. Given that our close neighbors prevented us from launching the dinghy, the latter operation inevitably required one of us to go swimming and I was glad that Randall was willing to volunteer. So it was still not the flawless Tahiti-tie docking about which we had fantasized but we were finally secure and had not hit anything.
The next few days were spent getting checked-in, tidying-up the boat, accomplishing a few chores (e.g., Randall repainted the cockpit’s binnacle while I worked on the blog), and resting while trying to ignore my head- and various body-aches and Randall’s new cough. Although we were determined not to succumb to colds, if we had to be sick it would be better to get it over with before Mike arrived on Wednesday night (Feb 22nd). We also assumed that we would be exploring O‘ahu again once Mike arrived, so quietly minding our own business on the boat seemed like a good idea especially given the very gusty, cloudy, and occasionally showery weather. Sadly, Dan and Kathy’s rental house had been broken-into for the second time so they were understandably preoccupied with all the repercussions from that.
As much as we enjoyed the view of the surf and setting sun at the Ala Wai 800 dock (the most seaward dock), we found that compared to our previous stay in October, the melodrama seemed to have increased. While it did not directly affect us, one of our neighbors seemed intent on keeping us up-to-date with the latest episodes of the local soap-opera and the presence of police to deal with domestic disputes on two of our first three days there at least caused us to pay some attention. By chance, I walked out to the dock chatting with an officer on the second occasion and it seemed that everything revolved around several somewhat odd people (their erratic behavior being probably drug, drink, and/or mental-illness induced) who lived-on or visited some of the boats beyond ours on the 800 dock. There seemed to be rotating alliances between the various characters which alternated between doing favors for each other and then calling for restraining orders.
One of the central characters was a frail man staying on the small motor boat next to us who was recovering from pneumonia and rather pathetically repeated the exact same stories every time he saw us. One morning, having had to listen to his stories yet again as I was getting off Tregoning, it dawned on me that he was talking at me while using the porta-potty on the stern swim-platform of the boat. I was selfishly very thankful when he moved that night to a boat further away. With friends coming to visit for breakfast the next morning, I had been desperately trying to think of a way to distract their attention had he been there to repeat his on-the-pot performance.
Instead, things actually seemed fairly normal by the time Maria and Beth arrived at the boat on Friday morning. Friends from Gainesville, they had been spending their first trip to Hawai‘i staying in a hotel that overlooked the harbor. It was great to see them and to catch-up on news from Gainesville and the University of Florida. They were managing to cram plenty of activities into their week-long visit and we were glad that we had returned to Honolulu in time to catch them before their departure for Florida later that day. At least they would be returning to fairly pleasant weather. Mike, on the other hand, was going to be arriving late on Wednesday night after escaping the rotten winter weather that had its grip in Britain and much of Europe. Talking to him on Monday, he was obviously very excited by this prospect and we were really looking forward to a month of showing him around the state of Hawai‘i.