April 27, 2012
If April 2011 was a month at sea on our passage between The Galapagos and Hawai‘i, April 2012 has been a month of boat projects in preparation for going to sea again. Some are routine activities like the inevitable cleaning and testing of equipment but others were one-off projects that almost always took longer than expected and for which we were glad to be staying in a city with access to a variety of hardware and boating-supply stores. While Randall had to deal with the brunt of these types of projects (thank goodness for the great talents for home-improvement that he can muster, especially electrical wiring and plumbing), my role was mostly as “go-fer”, often cycling across town on successive days to get exactly the right part.
Perhaps the most arduous of these projects was the installation of a diesel-fueled heater, which started in earnest at the beginning of the month. While we waited for the fuel pump to arrive from the mainland, the major tasks were to mount the heater and thermally-protective ceramic tiles on the wooden bulkhead (wall) and thread all the fuel and electrical lines forward from the engine room. But by April 16th when Kathy called us to say that our package had arrived, the heater was ready. Of course, we were a bit surprised after we had cycled downtown to Kathy’s office and opened the box to find that it actually contained four jars of mango chutney! This was a kind gift from Bill and Mary in Hilo, sent after Randall had expressed to them how much he had enjoyed the first jar that they gave us.
Luckily the pump arrived the next day and once fitted, the final task was to drill, and then seal the edges of, a large hole for the chimney. This was not an insignificant job because unfortunately Randall’s saw ran into a large block of hard resin in the gap between the deck and cabin roof but perseverance paid-off and on Monday, April 23rd we finally, and successfully, tested the heater. Sitting in the harbor in Honolulu, it was rather hard to imagine needing the heat but with the arrival of a lovely package of goodies from Jan and Michael that included several guidebooks for Alaska, we soon found ourselves looking forward to visiting the higher latitudes and cruising near glaciers.
Another “mission-critical” project was to replace the cable to the radar. After several trips up the mast and much grunting and groaning as we pulled out the old cable and hauled in the new one, Randall made the final connections and… Well, we had solved one problem but apparently created another and so still could not see any return-signals on the screen (despite being surrounded by hundreds of boats, not to mention a large island that should have shown-up). Disappointed and frustrated, we called in an expert fearing that another part of the system would need to be replaced, undoubtedly having to come from the mainland at great expense. However, after much testing Brian found that there was a problem with part of the new cable that we had installed, probably caused by our over-zealous hauling on it to get it in place. Very luckily, it was the shorter, less-difficult-to-install piece (i.e., not up the mast) and the equivalent part of the old cable was not damaged. So after re-replacing that part of the replacement cable all was well and the radar worked perfectly.
The final must-get-done task was to get the outboard running smoothly because we would likely be anchoring quite a bit more in Alaska than we had in Hawai‘i. Despite getting a new gas tank (there was a suspicious dark grunge in the bottom of the old one), clean fuel, and cleaning fuel additives, the problem was not solved and so we again resorted to the experts. After considerable internal cleaning and replacement of filters, impellors, and spark-plugs, the motor now runs smoothly and reliably so it was a pity that we had not realized the extent of the problem and fixed it before Mike’s visit.
Randall has had an assortment of other wiring, plumbing, and fixing projects, while I have been cleaning (making the most of the abundant supplies of water and sunshine) and keeping the sewing machine busy patching canvas and making a cover for when our new dinghy is on deck. Steadily the long list of tasks has subsided and this is particularly satisfying as some of the projects have been on the list for quite a while.
It has not been all work, however. Kathy joined us onboard for lunch and chocolate-treats (or in her case salty-treats) on Easter Day. I surprised Randall with a “mystery date” one Saturday afternoon to see Henry Kapono and his band playing Hawaiian folk music (with some Jimmy Buffett-style dance songs thrown-in) in the Tropics Restaurant, just beyond the lagoon at the Hawaiian Hilton Village. Although his music was new to me, we danced and had a great time while Randall reminisced about first hearing the spectacular harmonies of “Cecilio and Kapono” in 1976.
A couple of times a week we went surfing. Our spirits were willing to go everyday but projects and aches from our shoulders that were unaccustomed to paddling Dan’s big board out to the reef kept our ambitions modest. Actually, we developed a pretty efficient system. Randall carried Dan’s surfboard down our long dock to the beach as it was too wide to fit under my arm. We then traded so that I paddled the surfboard out and tried catching some waves on the inner reef while Randall used the boogie board and fins. We swapped equipment twice more so that I would paddle back into shore when we were exhausted and Randall carried the board back to the boat.
We generally tried to surf in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon when it was least crowded but inevitably the better the waves the more crowded it became especially on the outer reef. I managed to improve enough to get some fairly reliable and long rides standing-up and could see how addictive it could become as you got more used to the varying conditions and became a little bit better each time. After a 40 year hiatus, Randall loved being back on a board (although, oddly, paddling was not as easy as it had been in his youth) and he was very happy that he caught several waves and stood-up while I was nearby and watching.
Once we had started surfing ourselves, it made sitting in our cockpit at mealtimes watching the local surfers even more enjoyable. We had a much greater appreciation of the wave conditions and the skills on display. One weekend, we were treated to a series of competitions (boys, girls, men, and women) at the Ala Moana Bowls, the surf break beyond the breakwater immediately off Tregoning’s bow. For this world-class view and some spectacular sunsets, the 800-dock at Ala Wai is hard to beat.
We also cycled over to Ala Moana Park one afternoon and snorkeled off Magic Island. We picked a day with relatively little swell so that it was easy to get in and out of the gaps in the breakwater but there was still a fairly strong along-shore current to content with. There were a good number of familiar species of fish especially in the turbulent water near the breakwater and we saw our first snowflake moray which is a very attractive and distinctly patterned eel. We also picked up a weight from a diving-belt and several lead fishing weights, the latter Randall hopes to put to good use for fishing for halibut in Alaska. On the subject of snorkeling treasure, the diamond ring I found at Hanauma Bay did not match any of their records of items reported missing. So I sold it, sending half the money to the Friends of Hanauma Bay and using some of the rest to replace the snorkel I had lost there.
Although we have not seen any particularly unusual tropical fish in Ala Wai Harbor, I have noted at least 24 species (listed below) in the shallow waters between our dock and the breakwater. This diversity seems impressive considering that the water is not pristine (thanks to all the harbor’s boats and all the junk that is carried down the Ala Wai Canal) and that, despite signs to the contrary, several local people spear fish from the dock every day. The other extraordinary things that we have seen during our extensive walks along the dock are sea cucumbers. Not just your regular 8 inch long by 3 inch diameter boring species (20 by 7 cm) but also some long, thin ones that look more like fancy, crimson curtain-ties than green prickly logs. Misunderstanding the name that our neighbor Charles initially told me (assuming that it was some complicated Hawaiian word beginning with K), I finally discovered online that he had actually been saying “conspicuous sea cucumber”, a species that is not uncommon in sandy bays in Hawaii and which can extend to longer than 3ft (1 m). Having failed to notice these nocturnal creatures before, I counted 11 of them the next day on my early morning pilgrimage to the marina bathrooms. So much for being a trained observer of nature…
We also sailed once more on a Friday evening with Donna and friends on Urban Renewal, this time under very calm, relaxing conditions. A couple of weeks later, we waved good-bye to Donna and Richard as they departed for Tahiti on his Valient 40 “Surf ride”. On a glorious day, they had a good send-off from their Waikiki Yacht Club friends and we have followed their progress south on Donna’s blog. All of this made us start to feel quite restless about getting-going ourselves and this sensation was further enhanced by the departure from Ala Wai of Hannes and Sabine on Cayenne. They only went around the island to anchor in Kane‘ohe Bay and we hope to see them again in Kaua‘i before they set-off for Vancouver but, unlike us, they had managed to escape the beguiling grasp of Honolulu and were ready to sail away. On with projects and provisioning!
Fish species seen at Ala Wai Harbor Barracuda, spotted boxfish, raccoon butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, bluespotted cornetfish, Hawaiian dascyllus, bandtail goatfish, manybar goatfish, square-spot goatfish, oriental flying gurnard, lizardfish sp., Moorish idol, striped mullet, giant porcupinefish, Hawaiian sergeant, blacktail snapper, yellowfin surgeonfish, convict tang, tilapia (non-native), Hawaiian whitespotted toby, bluefin trevally, wedgetail triggerfish (humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua‘a), Pacific trumpetfish, and bluespine unicornfish.
Fish species seen at Ala Wai Harbor
Barracuda, spotted boxfish, raccoon butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, bluespotted cornetfish, Hawaiian dascyllus, bandtail goatfish, manybar goatfish, square-spot goatfish, oriental flying gurnard, lizardfish sp., Moorish idol, striped mullet, giant porcupinefish, Hawaiian sergeant, blacktail snapper, yellowfin surgeonfish, convict tang, tilapia (non-native), Hawaiian whitespotted toby, bluefin trevally, wedgetail triggerfish (humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua‘a), Pacific trumpetfish, and bluespine unicornfish.