June 06, 2012
NOTE: this is the last post for the blog “Further Adventures in Hawaii – 2012”. This will be repeated at the beginning of the new blog “Hawaii to Alaska – 2012”. If you request email notifications about blog posts, you may need to renew this request for the new blog.
As we sat in Nawiliwili Harbor on Saturday (June 2nd), the long-range weather predictions for the Alaska passage seemed to be more promising than were the local forecasts for windward Kaua‘i, which kept moving back day by day the prediction of reduced winds. So we decided to make the day-sail to Hanalei Bay on Sunday even though there was a small craft advisory with winds of 20 – 25 knots and the seas up to 9 ft (3 m). Luckily, Jim (an Australian on “This Boat” whom we first met in Ala Wai) and a friend of his were willing to help pay out our lines as we left the slip. With the stiff breeze, that was very useful and we were glad to escape without bumping the dock or another boat. We raised the double-reefed mainsail before passing the breakwater and motor-sailed out into the 8 ft waves (2.5 m) until we were well clear of Ninini Point on the north side of the harbor entrance. It was certainly bouncy but not too uncomfortable although we marveled at the fortitude of the people on the various sport-fishing boats around us who were trolling, and rolling, in the short-interval waves.
We then cut the engine, unfurled the jib, and for a couple of hours we tacked (mostly) northwards. We made good progress north on our starboard tack (when the ENE wind was on our right) but to clear the easternmost point of the island we would have to make long port tacks which would give us the necessary easting but in doing so would carry us back south again. By lunchtime it was apparent that we were not making the fast, closely-hauled progress that the Nawiliwili to Hanalei racers must have made the week before. So, anxious to be anchored before dark, we furled the jib, started the engine, and for another two hours we motor-sailed more directly into the wind until we were east of Anahola. From this position we enjoyed one long starboard broad-reach tack that took us northwest, past Kilauea Lighthouse and out to sea until we were north of Hanalei Bay. A relaxed gybe (keeping the wind behind us as we turned to the port tack) then allowed us to sail south into the bay.
As we have noted before, Hanalei Bay is a spectacular sight. The almost circular bay is lined by a 2-mile long yellow-sand beach (3.2 km) and to the south the backdrop is a series of steep, waterfall-streaked mountains. The highest, central peak is Mamalahoa (3,745 ft or 1,141 m) although there are taller summits out of sight beyond it. The residents of Hanalei have been very protective of their small town, keeping large hotels out of the valley although the eastern headland at the mouth of the bay supports several Princeville (the neighboring town) hotels and condominiums. The single-lane bridge into the valley has been kept small on purpose to keep-out large trucks and tour-buses.
With a sand bottom mostly shallower than 40 ft (12 m), from a boater’s perspective the bay is absolutely ideal for anchoring and there is plenty of room. Theoretically, boats staying for more than three nights are supposed to have a $2-per-day permit but these have to be obtained from the Harbormaster’s Office in Nawiliwili. As I discussed with Kristy, as she was issuing our permit, it is not easy for the Harbormaster to enforce but presumably it would give them grounds to try to “evict” any boats that were not complying and were creating a nuisance. In fact, most boaters seem to be cooperative in terms of anchoring and using dinghies outside the swimming areas, so in general they seem to be accepted with good grace.
There are only a couple of problems with the bay as an anchorage. If there is a northern swell, it can become rolly. This makes it unsuitable for most of the winter so most local boat-owners keep their boats in Nawiliwili for the winter and then move to Hanalei in May. The roll was enough to be quite noticeable on Tregoning but not quite enough to inspire us to deploy the flopper-stopper which we needed to dismantle and pack-up for the passage.
The second problem was the theft of outboard motors or anything desirable left unattended at night on the beach or on an unoccupied boat. We first became aware of this when we visited Hannes and Sabine by bus and another cruiser warned them that his outboard was stolen from his dinghy the night before when he was ashore. Before we left Nawiliwili, Gabby warned us about the same thing, saying that she had lost a beach tent there and hds noticed on Craig’s list a collection of items for sale in Hanalei that she thought seemed suspicious. She said that the police had told her after her tent theft that Hanalei had the worst problem of this type on Kaua‘i. Gabby was a very friendly and interesting woman who spends summers in Nawiliwili on her beautiful but small, all-wooden boat with three pre-teen children. Born in Hungary, her parents defected when she was just a few months old but unexpectedly she was not allowed to join them until she was three, during which time she was raised by her aunt.
When we got to Hanalei, another cruiser, Daniel on “Allie Cat”, paddled over to introduce himself and warn us that his outboard had been stolen one evening recently when his dinghy was on the beach. All this news was a pity because it did reduce our feeling of security in using the bay. However, when we subsequently spoke to local who kept his boat there every summer, he seemed to think it was more of an unfortunate, mini-crime spree than a typical problem here although he admitted that leaving dinghies ashore at night was a bit of a gamble.
Still, the place is exceptionally beautiful and everyone we met seemed friendly so we just decided not to leave our dinghy ashore after dark and to have it bristling with padlocks and chains so that it was not the most tempting option. In fact, we spent our first full day in the bay on Tregoning enjoying the views and all the water-based activities around us. As well as Daniel, Peter and Margarete (on “Seatime”) came over to greet us and we surprised them with our plan to leave so soon, on Thursday (June 7th). They are waiting for their son Olli to arrive on June 13th and will leave for Seattle in early July.
On Tuesday (Happy 21st birthday, nephew Roger!), after Randall had assisted Daniel in picking up his crew for the day, we left the dinghy just inside the mouth of the Hanalei River and walked into the small town. Randall established himself at a Pizza restaurant that had free Wi-Fi (he needed to download a program and did not want to use up our cell-phone data quota) while I went to the Post Office. When I returned we ordered a pizza and I tried using a pin-hole camera (a piece of paper with a pin-hole in it) to project an image of the sun on another piece of paper. The idea was to try to see the Transit of Venus across the face of the sun which started just after noon local time. As it turned out, the restaurant owner was also interested in this phenomenon and he could project the sun onto a surface using up-side-down binoculars. His image was much bigger than mine so I helped him tape the binoculars to a high-chair and we were soon able to see the tiny black spot of Venus at the edge of the white disc.
Since we were doing this by the restaurant’s front door, in a small outdoor shopping mall, we soon had plenty of other people interested in what we could see. On his laptop, Randall found a webcam of the transit from Mauna Kea and we soon had quite the astronomy class going. It was really most impressive. Hawai‘i was one of the ideal places to see the transit because the sun would be above the horizon for the six hours or more it would take for Venus to cross the face of the sun, whereas on the mainland, the sun would set before the transit was completed. As it turned out, it was just as well that we watched the transit early because by midafternoon the clouds had covered northern Kaua‘i. Incidentally, a new pizza chef was at work and his first attempt at our pizza had the crust too thin so was given away to “transit-spotters” but the pizza we eventually received was very good.
We walked along the beach to return to the dinghy and were relieved to find everything in it unmolested. We explored a little way up the Hanalei River, as far as the main road, motoring slowly so that our wake did not disturb the many visitors who were hesitantly propelling themselves along on paddle-boards. On returning to Tregoning, we enjoyed the sunset that finally developed below the clouds while we contemplated the tenuous connections between seafaring, a Venus Transit, Hawai‘i, and the Pacific Northwest (NW part of the continent that is, NE part of the ocean).
The first voyage of Captain James Cook (1768-1771) was partly intended to study the predicted Transit of Venus in 1769, an objective that he accomplished in Tahiti. He subsequently sailed further south and west where he ‘discovered’ New Zealand and Australia before returning to Britain. It was during his third voyage of exploration (started in 1776), that Cook became the first European to visit Hawai‘i, (which he named the Sandwich Islands after the acting First Lord of the Admiralty) when he landed at Waimea Bay, Kaua‘i, in 1778. He then landed in Oregon and explored the Pacific Northwest as far as the Bering Strait, looking for the northern limits of the Pacific.
Following sailors’ convoluted, slightly superstitious logic, we decided to regard our sighting of the Transit of Venus in Hawai‘i as a good omen for our subsequent passage to the Pacific Northwest. Of course, on future route planning, we conveniently intend to ignore the unfortunate omen that might be interpreted from knowing that Cook’s return to Hawai‘i after leaving the Bering Strait resulted in his death on the Big Island…
The following morning (Wednesday), we awoke in Hanalei Bay to, of all things, fog! If there was anything that could be construed as a foreshadowing of what we might expect to be in store for us in Alaska, fog was perhaps the most portentous. So today we get ourselves and Tregoning ready (stow the dinghy, outboard, and barbecue grill below, lash-down the spare fuel cans, stow as much away below decks as possible, and finish internet projects) and tomorrow we hope to start our passage to Alaska and a new chapter in our cruising adventures.