March 25, 2012
As has been mentioned before, there is often a dilemma for sailors trying to make a passage into the wind. Light winds and small waves make motoring a comfortable option but sailing is slow, not only because of low forward speed but because tacking angles have to be wider as it is not possible to point as closely to the wind. As the wind speed increases, sailing becomes more viable as it is possible to point a bit more directly toward the upwind destination but the wind-generated waves are not only larger but are more likely to slow the boat is it plows headlong into them.
Such was our quandary as we sat in Nawiliwili Harbor on Kaua‘i watching the weather forecasts looking for a window to go southeast to O‘ahu. In the end, we had little choice as the easterly winds showed little likelihood of abating enough for comfortable motoring and there was only going to a brief window when the oceans swells would be reduced enough for the predicted waves to be less than 8 ft (2.5 m) in height. So with Mike swallowing some anti-seasickness pills and the mainsail double-reefed, we cast-off from the dock just after 7 am on Wednesday (March 14th) expecting a rather lumpy, slow crossing.
It certainly was bumpy in the 7 ft seas (2 m) and we heeled sharply in the occasional 20 knot gusts but with generally steady 15 knot northeast winds we flew along all day between 6 and 7 knots, a very respectable speed for Tregoning. The pitching and heeling motions kept our muscles well exercised as we had to brace ourselves constantly when seated in the cockpit or staggering through the cabin but Randall and I were both able to get some sleep between watches in the reliable and reassuring embrace of the lee-cloth in the central, main cabin. Mike’s cabin in the bow was not quite as restful, not only because of the periodic, juddering slams into large waves but because two of the three dreaded plastic file-boxes, which Randall thought he had adequately secured on their shelves, finally leaped loose and rudely forced their heavy, angular company on Mike in his berth. Somewhat predictably, he decided to sit up in the cockpit for most of the rest of the passage and we must find a better way to secure the books and boxes.
Our exceptional speed put us considerably ahead of schedule so that we reached the lee side of O‘ahu by 6 pm, at which time the wind suddenly and almost completely disappeared. Within just a few minutes, from cruising along steadily at more than 7 knots we found ourselves looping in a circle at less than 3 knots while the wind faded and its direction floundered. Without a reliable wind we had to abandon our plan to sail south of the island then tack back towards Waikiki. Instead we fired-up the engine and pointed directly to Barber’s Point (SW corner of O‘ahu) and then turned east towards Ala Wai. Although the wind did recover again after an hour or so of motoring, the “horse was heading to the barn” and there was little enthusiasm among the crew to start tacking directly into the wind. Instead we motored along steadily admiring the south-shore lights and pondering the odd behavior of the helicopter that kept flying over us and then south towards a ship (not seen on the AIS so possibly US Navy or Coast Guard) whose lights kept appearing and disappearing even though they were well within our horizon.
We arrived at the Ala Wai Harbor channel just before 1 am and having never entered it in the dark we approached with some caution. With so many lights on shore and reflected in the water, it is easy to become disoriented in the channel especially on the eastern side where the steep-sided canal cuts through the shallow reef. I watched the red lights of the range-markers and shone a flashlight on the unlit channel posts while Randall at the helm put his faith in the chartplotter (which we knew from previous daytime entrances was very accurate). At least no other vessels were moving and once safely into the wide turning basin we were able to tie-up ahead of a large catamaran on the fuel dock, sleeping there for the rest of the night and moving to slip 839 before the refueling business commenced in the morning.
To Ala Wai Harbor users who have made many after-dark entrances, we might have seemed unnecessarily anxious but visions of the boat that had been lost on the reef just a few weeks before were seared on our memories. Just a few days later and again in the dark, we found ourselves sailing rapidly into the channel, heeling sharply in the strong and variable gusts and having to pay attention to other sailboats dropping sails just ahead of us. This time, however, both Randall and I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of it, secure that any risk was to someone else’s boat and that a very experienced, confident, local sailor was at the helm.
We were on “Urban Renewal” the J35 sailboat that our friend Donna co-owns with some other Waikiki Yacht Club members. We had joined them for a Friday evening sail (March 23rd) and conditions were spectacular for such a fast boat. Even with two reefs in the mainsail and only a partial jib, the steady 15 to 20 knot winds with gusts possibly over 30 knots (no one was reading any gauges) made for several exciting tacks as we raced ourselves around Mamala Bay. We saw a spectacular rainbow arcing out of the rainbow towers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, we were honored by the close proximity of at least two humpback whales, we watched the steady approach of the huge radar dome on the floating rig being towed towards Pearl Harbor, and we oohed and ahhed at the Friday night fireworks. These were a little more distant than intended as the westward, downwind run had taken us all the way past the airport. However, after going about (fairly promptly as we approached the breaking waves of a reef-surf-break), Captain Cory found ways to eke every extra knot of speed and degree of angle into the wind out of the frisky racing boat. When winching the jib sheet tight inside the starboard shrouds resulted in a block breaking free from its track (luckily the expensive block was saved only a cheap pin was lost), it was somehow refreshing not to angst over the potential cost or what else might fail. It was not our responsibility and we had total confidence in Cory and Donna to get us all safely home.
Donna’s cousin, Naomi had joined us for her first ever sailing trip. Many novices would have been seasick or jabbering in the dark, wild conditions but she remained remarkably calm and expressed her complete faith in her hosts and their boat. Having made a generous contribution to the evening’s entertainments of tasty dim sum, everyone was relieved that Naomi had been such a good sport and trusting passenger. We were particularly impressed with Donna’s fearless agility on the bucking decks and her determined strength to hold the downwind course when the tiller was heaving with the large swells. Honed by such regular Friday-evening excursions, her skills will be important in mid-April when she sails to Tahiti on her friend Richard’s Valient. Listening to them discuss their preparations reignited our excitement about preparing for our passage to Alaska.
Between these two nighttime entrances to Ala Wai Harbor we resumed life on the 800-dock which seemed to be relatively peaceful. Although the weather remained rather variable with gusty winds and showers, it was much better than it had been during our stay on Kaua‘i. Mike and I made two more trips to snorkel at Hanauma Bay. For the first of these on Friday (March 16th) we rode the crowded bus from Waikiki, luckily securing seats both ways and discovering that for $2.50 each our admission to the park was unaffected by whether the parking-lot was full. On the outgoing bus we chatted with an energetic woman, who after climbing Diamond Head was going to snorkel at the Bay and then catch another bus through Kailua before returning to her cruise-ship. Living on Catalina Island, off the coast near Los Angeles, Victoria gave me her phone number in case we wanted to stop by when we were sailing south in California. I warned her that we were developing a habit of actually taking people up on such generous offers…as Eric and Ellen could testify in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
By the time we returned to Hanauama Bay in Kathy’s car the late following Monday morning, the parking lot was full so Randall dropped Mike and me at the entrance while he enjoyed a few quiet hours of shopping and reading. During our various visits, Mike and I explored all sections of the bay inside the reef including the end further from the entrance which was shallower and only comfortable for snorkeling at high tide. However, with fewer visitors there were more living corals, roving schools of larger fish (including my first sighting of the colorful lagoon triggerfish), and, it turns out, some unclaimed treasure. Cruising along, I noticed an unnaturally perfect circle on the reef and reached down to pick-up a jewel-encrusted ring. It had algal encrustations as well so it had probably been there for a while but I left a description of it with the Park Staff in the hope that someone had reported the loss and could be reunited with their wedding or engagement ring.
Continuing the theme of utilizing Kathy’s generous loan of her car and getting ourselves wet, we drove Mike out to O‘ahu’s west coast on Saturday hoping to enjoy our boogie board in the small swells. Disappointingly, the only decent waves were at Makaha Beach which appeared to be the site of a surfing competition. We drove all the way up to Ka‘ena Point State Park, where we were able to admire a breaching whale for several minutes but everywhere the water was too murky for snorkeling. Instead, Mike and Randall immersed themselves in the warm sheltered waters of Poka‘i Bay while I wandered out through the throngs of feasting families to Kane‘ilio Point. Sadly, none of Randall’s loud comments complimenting the luscious aromas of barbecuing food resulted in any offers to sample it.
The next day we sought suitable surfing waves around the southeastern side of the island. Frustratingly, the large waves were dumping onshore with little possibility of a decent ride at Sandy Beach and Makapu‘u Beach Parks so we had to settle with splashing around at the south end of Kailua Beach. Since the surf was not peeling-off, we had to content ourselves with riding broken waves the short distance until we were unceremoniously beached on the sand. It was not stylish but it was worth getting the boogie board wet.
Between these aquatic excursions we ate well. On Friday we met Kathy to receive her car and eat at the cook-your-meat-yourself Shorebird Restaurant. The next evening we were joined on Tregoning to enjoy a spread of various poke (raw fish) appetizers and other tasty pupus by Bonnie and Charlie. In mid-May they are leaving Ala Wai and permanently moving to their house in Coverack. Not far from where Mike and I grew-up, it was fun to see their photos of the small Cornish fishing village with the few small boats all beached on the mud at low tide. On Sunday evening, Mike treated us to a meal at the busy Tsukiji Restaurant in the Ala Moana Mall, an all-you-can-eat fish- buffet. It is not certain that I ate my full $32 per-person-worth but I enjoyed all the sushi, tempura, cooked fish, vegetables, and desserts that I did have. Mike and Randall certainly did get their value-for-money and we all waddled back to the boat agreeing that such gluttony is best enjoyed infrequently. However, the next evening we were treated to copious quantities of barbecued chicken, shrimp, peppers, and squash by Dan and Kathy. I had made a chocolate and raspberry cake for Dan’s birthday (the previous day) but the poor fellow seemed to be so tired from his long-weekend’s deployment with the US Coast Guard Reserves that it took him several puffs to blow-out the candles.
In a final effort to work off some of the excess food and to make Mike suitably restful for his 24-hour journey home, we drove up to Diamond Head on Tuesday morning and hiked up to the top where the views were spectacular. It was busy but nothing like as densely crowded as when I had made the ascent with Shev and Matt, and having secured a parking space this time, Randall was able to join us. We talked Mike into having one of the favorite Hawaiian snacks, a shave-ice, at the end of the warm morning of which he declared the pineapple flavoring was tolerable but, like us, he would rather have an ice-cream.
By the time we dropped Mike at the airport on Tuesday evening, he had seen all parts of O‘ahu and most of Kaua‘i, he had experienced the vagaries of the Hawaiian winter weather, and he had survived a chaotic anchorage and two rough channel crossings. He enjoyed plenty of Hawaiian hospitality and was also reminded of the typical ups-and-downs of boat life, the downs including the failure of our macerator, the breakdown of the fridge, and the blockage of the freshwater pump during our return passage. Randall skillfully and nobly fixed all of these while Mike and I enjoyed being tourists. The water pump had been blocked by calcium carbonate crystals that had been stirred-up from the bottom of the tank during the rough crossing so after cleaning the pump, Randall inserted an upstream water filter to try to avoid any future repetitions.
Although we were sad to say good-bye, Mike’s departure did not leave us lonely for long. A couple of evenings later we were invited over to “Cayenne” where we enjoyed delicious food and lively conversation with Sabine and Hannes, the Austrian couple we had met briefly in Honokohau. Then on Sunday morning we were joined on Tregoning by Randall’s cousin Irv, his wife Coralie, her sister Lori, and her husband Jack. They were passengers, with the rest of Coralie’s family, on the Star Princess ship which was on a 15 day cruise out of San Francisco. After a rainy day in Hilo they were spending a day in Honolulu to be followed by a day each in Kaua‘i and Maui. It was fun to meet Lori and Jack and to catch-up with Irv and Coralie. At lunchtime we were joined by their friends from a previous cruise in South Africa, Linda and Tom who have retired to Honolulu. By the time they left, we had been quite enlightened about the intricacies of various cruise-lines and African safari options. Although I do not think that we had convinced any of them to join us for a long-distance cruise aboard Tregoning, we suspect that our ability to stay for prolonged periods in any port we visited was quite envied.