June 01, 2012
It is hard to believe that it was exactly four years ago that we set-off on our shake-down cruise to Nova Scotia. I am not quite sure if it feels much longer than that, it certainly seems a long time ago since we lived in Gainesville, or if it is amazing to think of all the things we have seen and done in that brief time.
Anyway, being of the analytical bent I have crunched a few numbers based on my crude hourly logs of activities and can summarize the boating activities of the past four years thus:
Percentage of days with any time underway (sailing or motoring) = 25%
Percentage of time underway: sailing = 51.6%, motoring (including motor/sailing) = 48.4%
Percentage of nights: anchored = 46%, in a marina = 28%, mooring=15%, underway or on the hard (boat out of the water) = 11%
Compared to many other retired cruisers, we seem to be underway a fairly high proportion of the time but compared to younger, circumnavigators we spend far more time (75%) sitting in a harbor. The percentages vary depending upon where we were, for example, during our trip to Nova Scotia, we moved for some distance on 42% of days.
I was a bit surprised, and perhaps a tad disappointed, at the even split between motoring and sailing but we are not hard-core sailors in a racing boat who particularly enjoy a long tacking slog into the wind or will wait for a windy day if we want to get somewhere comfortably. Almost every trip begins and ends with motoring whether we are maneuvering in and out of a marina, or raising or setting the anchor. Since I included motor/sailing with “motoring”, this does not acknowledge the slight boost in efficiency that the sails can provide when we motor/sail to point closer into the wind than we would if we were just sailing (hmmm…sounds like some desperate rationalizing there…)
The nighttime activities have varied the most by location. We largely used moorings in Eastern USA and Canada, we mostly anchored throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and The Galapagos, and then marina usage has been much the highest (and costliest method) in Hawai‘i. We have yet to estimate the total distances that we have traveled (we do not keep our GPS/chart-plotter on all the time we sail so we do not have a running, electronic log of this) but we will eventually get these data up-to-date. Such are the obsessions of former research scientists.
Back to current life on the boat… On Friday (May 25th) after a couple of fairly lazy days in the Nawiliwili anchorage, we moved into a marina slip where we thoroughly washed down Tregoning. Kristy, a member of staff in the Harbormaster’s Office at Nawiliwili, was particularly friendly and helpful and the slip that we were assigned (usually occupied by a boat that had gone to Hanalei Bay for the summer) pointed into the wind. This was important because the winds blew at a steady 20 – 25 knots during our stay and kept Tregoning off the dock rather than grinding into it, which can happen when the wind is behind you. We also saw Craig, visiting his boat “Sabbatical”, and it was fun to be reunited with familiar faces.
That evening, we attended the Nawiliwili Yacht Club dinner and meeting, where we were greeted by various members with general enthusiasm and cheer. We invited ourselves to join their pot-luck dinner the next day after their boat race from Nawiliwili to Hanalei Bay. We decided not to sail Tregoning but caught the bus to Hanalei on Saturday morning, arriving in time to find Hannes and Sabine in the Hanalei Farmers’ Market. We were also reunited with Peter and Margarete (Seatime) and Ben and Nannie, a Dutch couple we had only met briefly before who own a large catamaran, Dual Dragons. By the time we rode out to Cayenne with Hannes and Sabine, the first of the racing boats appeared around the Princeville headland. They were true racers with their spinnaker hoisted despite the 20 knot winds and had completed the 35 nm trip in about 5.5 hours. Not long after they started their victory lap around the anchorage, the remaining four yachts closely followed each other into view and by 3 pm, Hannes was ferrying competitors ashore in his dinghy. He then picked us up and we joined in the post-race pot-luck meal for a while and then scampered off to catch the last bus back to Lihue at 4:15 pm. It was sad to say good-bye to Hannes and Sabine who might be on their way to Vancouver by the time we get Tregoning to Hanalei. It was a bit worrying that Sabine had been enduring back-pain for several weeks which would not make their passage easy but in addition to being entertaining, they are a tough, resourceful, and energetic couple so we hope to catch-up with them again in the Pacific Northwest.
The following day we collected a rental car in the afternoon and drove south to Koloa and the popular resort area of Po‘ipu. Randall had not visited this area before as he was fixing Tregoning’s refrigerator when Mike and I had peered at the sights in the rain. It was very windy but at least it was sunny which made the place look so much better. Given the wind and rather cloudy-looking water declined the opportunity to snorkel but instead we admired the Spouting Horn, examined the beach and rock-pools at Po‘ipu Beach Park (the latter being unusual because they are at the end of a spit of sand with the highest pools at the shore’s furthest edge so when filled by waves, the water then trickled down to lower pools further inshore), and admired surfers and two wedding ceremonies at Shipwreck Beach.
Monday morning (Memorial Day holiday in the US), we set-off fairly early so that we arrived at the Pu‘u o Kila Lookout at the far end of the road into Waimea Canyon by 9:30 am. There were a few other cars there already but they must have all carried hikers as no one was on the viewing platform. The wind was whistling from the NE and it was cloudy with occasionally light drizzle but the cloud-base was high enough to see all of the Kalalau Valley below us and across the Alaka‘i Swamp to the receding rows of ridges. Based on Kathy and Dan’s enthusiastic reports, our goal was to get to the boardwalk trails that cross the Alaka‘i Swamp. Fed by the massive amounts of rain that fall on Kaua‘i’s highest peak Kawaikini (5,243 ft or 1,598 m) and one of the world’s wettest sites, Mount Wai‘ale‘ale (average annual rainfall of 430 inches or 10.9 m), the Alaka‘i Swamp is perched above 3,000 ft (914 m) elevation, upstream of the Waimea Canyon. The Alaka‘i Swamp fills the caldera of the Wai‘ale‘ale volcano, which was lined with dense basalt (providing a poorly water-permeable base to the Swamp), and much of the caldera rim subsequently eroded away, leaving the Swamp near the top of the island. This area is popular with hikers, hunters (mostly after non-native deer and pigs) and bird-watchers hoping to see some of the rare forest birds unique to Kaua‘i.
The first part of the Pihea Trail took us along the ridge at the head of the massive Kalalau Valley which constitutes a significant part of Kaua‘i’s famed Na Pali Coastline. This is a very well-worn trail as many people make the 1 mile hike (1.6 km) along it to the Pihea Vista. As a result the steep sections of the path have been eroded into awkward, tall steps in the hard, clayey soil which can be quite slick when damp, as it was early in the day. Another steep section descending from the Vista down towards the swamp probably puts quite a few people off because beyond it the trail became less worn and easier. Then the fun part begins as a two-planks-of-wood-wide boardwalk starts to step and snake across the Swamp. After turning off the Pihea Trail onto the Alaka‘i Swamp Trail, having already walked a little more than 2 miles (3.2 km), and seeing the trail starting to descend steeply into a valley, Randall decided to stop for lunch and then turn to take a relaxed saunter back to the car. I elected to continue to the end of the trail at the Kilohana Lookout, another 2 miles ahead so I speeded up my pace and continued on alone.
The boardwalk on my trail stopped for a short distance and then resumed all the way to the Lookout, passing through a variety of beautiful habitats from streams to forests, from scrubby moorland to bog, the latter areas being so high and open that I really felt on top of the world. With a few other sections that we did not use, there are about 3 miles (5 km) of boardwalk in the Swamp, mostly in remarkably good condition and undoubtedly available as the result of a huge amount of arduous work by the State of Hawai‘i’s Na Ala Hele Trails Program in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As I scurried to the Lookout and then back to where I left Randall (approximately 4 miles or 6.5 km), I met about 30 people, so although not densely trafficked the boardwalk is certainly used.
Walking through the elevated parts of the Swamp was invigorating but I mentally prepared myself that it was likely that there would be clouds forming at the windward edge of the plateau where the Lookout was. Instead, I burst out into the small viewing area to have a spectacular vista across the north coast of Kaua‘i with the almost circular Hanalei Bay in front of me and Kilauea Point (site of the historic lighthouse) beyond. Even though the clouds were not far above, the panorama was breathtaking and I was pleased to share it with a young couple who were happy to peer over my shoulder as I examined my map (once I had battled it into submission in the howling wind). And, as if this had not all been good enough, the clouds started to break-up and on my return trek I was fortunate to enjoy most of the trail in glorious sunshine.
While it was a pity that Randall had not been able to enjoy the higher parts of the Alaka‘i Swamp and the Kilohana Lookout, I found that he had reached to the car only 30 minutes before me having greatly appreciated a leisurely paced return. We also both enjoyed stopping at a few of the Waimea Canyon vistas on the sunny drive back down the valley. Back in the town of Waimea, we briefly detoured by the beach to see where on January 20th, 1778, Captain Cook came ashore for the first time in the Hawaiian Islands. We also drove up alongside the Waimea River to see the swinging bridge and Menehune Ditch. The former was like the suspension bridge we previously visited in Hanapepe and we would have missed the latter had it not been for a sign pointing to the side of the road.
Running on a level just above the road was a reconstructed section of small ditch which flowed into a small lava tube in the cliff. According to a 1928 plaque beside the ditch, “The row of hewn stones along the inner side of the road is a remnant of one wall of an ancient water-course which is said to have been made by the Menehunes (Hawaiian dwarf or brownies). The stones were brought from Mokihana.” The whole aqueduct was originally 25 miles long (40 km) and legend claims that it was built by the supernaturally endowed Menehunes overnight (like the ‘Alekoko Fishpond near Nawiliwili). The origin of the still-visible hewn stones would have been a bit more meaningful to us, if we had any idea where in the Islands Mokihana was located. (The mokihana berry is the official island lei material for Kaua‘i.)
Visiting the Alaka‘i Swamp had been the main remaining item on our Kaua‘i “to-do” list and it had been a very rewarding experience. Not only had we enjoyed good hikes and views but we both saw a nesting Kaua‘i ‘elapaio (endemic, wren-like bird). I also saw some ‘apapane (bright red honeycreepers “with white underpants”) and Randall got a close view of an ‘anianiau, the smallest honeycreeper and a species endemic to Kaua‘i. It was also a good time of year to see the ‘ohi‘a trees covered in their bright red, shaving-brush-like blooms.
The next day our leg muscles complained a bit about our exertions but while we had the car for the morning we zipped around Lihue finishing our provisioning, filling propane tanks, and visiting the Laundromat. After Randall had returned the rental car, Craig and Pattie came over for dinner and we enjoyed showing each other around our respective boats, theirs being a plush and uncluttered Hunter 46. The rest of the week we stayed on the boat completing routine maintenance chores, preparing equipment for our long passage, and watching the weather forecasts for the Northeast Pacific.
We had been startled to learn that there had been three early (May) tropical storms and a hurricane in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific so we were thankful not to have been in their way. Our preoccupation for the next few weeks will be the position of the North Pacific High and the string of depressions with associated strong winds that will move eastwards, north of the high pressure system. We hope to sail in a clockwise direction around the high which would give us favorable wind directions and speeds to go NE to Alaska, keeping away from the calm air in the middle and south of the gales that might develop further north. Of course, given the 20 to 30 day length of our passage, the forecasts cannot predict far enough ahead for us to know in advance all of our optimal course. However, by watching the changes in patterns of the pressure systems, we hope to select a departure time when the high is fairly stable and we will, at least, have suitable winds to get us going on our clockwise swing.