Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feeling the love on Maui

A big part of Maui's beauty is found underwater, like this green seaturtle or honu'.
Part of what inspired us to go cruising was our first trip to Maui. The island and surrounding sea were even more beautiful than we imagined and the weather was perfect. I almost cried when we had to leave. What really got my juices flowing during that first visit was a cruising boat anchored at a popular snorkel site called Coral Gardens. I imagined us blissfully at anchor, diving into the clear warm water from the deck of our own boat. We could snorkel and dive at one of Maui's prime dive spots anytime we wanted. I started dreaming of sailing to tropical islands when I was 13. Seeing that cruising boat anchored at Coral Gardens brought the dream into sharp focus.
Oceanus anchored off Olowalu just north of Coral Gardens.
Seven years after our first visit, we bought Oceanus and began working on her restoration and refit. We visualized each project bringing us closer to the picture of us anchored off Maui. For the most part, the reality is even better than the dream. Especially now that our diesel mechanic friend helped me fix our engine. He diagnosed the problem right away -- a stuck fuel cut-off valve on our newly-rebuilt fuel injection pump. But fixing it took nearly eight weeks because of his heavy work schedule (he could only help us on his days off), other projects he recommended, and waiting for parts (Maui is like a third-world country in that regard).
The view of the highway tunnel from anchor at Coral Gardens.
Once the engine was fixed, the first place we wanted to go was Coral Gardens. For a couple of days we and our boat provided the inspiration for other people's dreams. While at anchor there, a familiar boat picked up a mooring about 100 yards away. It was the Four Winds II. On our first trip to Maui our big splurge was a snorkel trip to Molokini Crater on Four Winds II. The 55-foot catamaran was under the command of Captain John. It was 10 years since that adventure and Captain Johnisms still pepper our private conversations. We found his patter during the voyage -- especially his "rules" -- hilarious. After each "rule" (like leaving your shirt tag out, no kicking like a bicyclist while snorkeling, or not wiping your nose after taking your mask off ) he would say "no lunch for you." He also cautioned his snorkelers to pay attention and return to Four Winds so they didn't end up on the other snorkel boats, all of which (according to Captain John) only served Spam for lunch.
Four Winds II at Coral Gardens.
We were about to jump in the water ourselves and ended up snorkeling together with the Four Winds II guests. Before heading back to our boat, we told one of the crew what a great time we had 10 years ago and how much we enjoyed Captain John. “He’s aboard today,” he said, “come aboard and say hi.” We were delighted and a little surprised (since he seemed old 10 years ago). We climbed aboard and found Captain John as affable and witty as ever. He didn’t look a day older either. After a visit, we swam back to our boat. A short time later, Four Winds II left their mooring. As they motored past, Captain John coned his hands around his mouth and yelled, “See you in 10 more years.” As beautiful as Maui is, it’s the people who make it special. The locals are friendly and always ready to help. They truly practice aloha.
Pu'u Olai or Red Hill as seen from our anchorage at Big Beach
After we anchored at Big Beach, we went around Pu'u Olai (Red Hill) to check out the snorkeling there. A Pacific Whale Foundation snorkel boat was at a mooring. Virginia hailed them on the VHF to ask if they had any diet pepsi on board. She told them she would swim over with a dollar. Minutes later another Pacific Whale snorkel boat came into the anchorage aiming right for our boat. Over their loudspeaker the captain told us he had a plastic container of Coke for us. They tossed it to us. Everyone listens over channel 16 on the VHF! One of the first times we landed on Kama'ole Beach at Kihei, a local named Steve introduced himself and immediately offered to drive us anywhere we wanted to go. We took him up on a lift to the auto-parts store. He then gave us his phone number so we could call him anytime we needed a ride. Steve is not unusual. In fact, we find that he is the rule, not the exception, among the locals on Maui. Nick is another example. Shortly after we met Steve, we were sitting in our cockpit fretting over our engine troubles when Nick motored up in a small runabout. We talked about our boat and he told us he skippered a large catamaran out of Maalaea Harbor. In fact, he heard the whole Pepsi story on channel 16. We asked him if he knew of any good diesel mechanics on the island and he put us in contact with Keith. Keith proved to be a Godsend. Not only is he a great marine diesel mechanic, he also has a Perkins diesel like ours on his boat. And he's a heck of a nice guy.
The view from our mooring: rainbows to the east...

Sunsets to the west.
To make it convenient for Keith to work on our boat, we sailed from Kihei to Lahaina and anchored near Mala Wharf. Lahaina always figured large in our Hawaiian cruising plans. It looked like the perfect base from which to explore the west side of Maui and the islands of Lanai and Molokai.
A couple of weeks after anchoring off Mala we met Cory, another local. After a short conversation, he offered to rent us his registered mooring for $50 a month, since he just scored a sublease on a slip in the Lahaina Marina for his boat. We jumped at the offer, especially after he said he would put in all new chain, mooring ball and rope. Having a mooring makes it even easier to come and go on our exploring expeditions. We found the roadstead off Mala to be a great place to hang out. It's one of the few places where we can land the dinghy without getting our feet wet. It's a great place to tie up the dinghy too. Water is available and there's a place to dump our garbage and recyclables. It's an easy walk to three different grocery stores, Barnes & Noble, two different pharmacies, a laundromat and our church.
Lahaina's famous Front Street is just a short walk from Mala Wharf.
Lahaina’s famous Front Street -- filled with shops, galleries and restaurants -- is an easy 10-minute walk. Every few weeks we walk down and enjoy the atmosphere. We even found a used book store on Front Street where we replenish our book supply.
Marsha, her dog Fin and grandson Xavier
at the Lahaina Halloween Keiki Parade.
We are also not far from the home of Marsha, a high school classmate and friend, who drives us places and lets us borrow her car when we need it. We feel like part of her family and enjoy the hugs from her three grandchildren. By boat we are close to most of the best snorkel and dive spots. Black Rock is only a few minutes away and the east side of Lanai is only a 1½ hour sail. Not only is it wonderful snorkeling and diving, but it’s it a good place to escape when the Kona winds make our roadstead uncomfortable and dangerous. We haven’t gotten to Molokai yet, but we will soon. Molokai is known as “The Friendly Isle” although the locals there will have their work cut out for them to top those from “The Valley Isle” of Maui.

The Black Rock from the deck of Oceanus.

The West Maui Mountains viewed from aboard Oceanus while underway.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Differences between Columbia 43 Marks

Columbia produced three versions of the Columbia 43: the original Mark I, a keel-centerboard version called Mark II and, after 1973, a Mark III. There's a lot of myth and misconceptions about the differences, especially between the Mk I and Mk III. I hope to cut through most of this.

Differences by the numbers

The following information came from two Columbia brochures. One is likely for the original model, which was offered as with a fin keel or with an abbreviated fin and swinging centerboard. The MkIII specifications came from a general Columbia brochure (circa 1974) which included the C-43 MkIII.

                      KEEL         KEEL/CENTERBOARD     MkIII
LOA                  43'3"            43'3"             43'9"
LWL                  32'8"            33'0"             32'8"
BEAM                 12'4"            12'4"             12'4"
DRAFT                 6'11"       4'11"/10'3"            7'0"
DISPLACEMENT         22,200           23,500            22,200
BALLAST              10,300           11,600            10,300
SAIL AREA           810 sq ft        810 sq ft         852 sq ft
OPTIONAL POWER              Palmer M60                 50 HP Perkins 4-107 Diesel
WATER                48 gal           48 gal            50 gal
FUEL                 50 gal           50 gal            50 gal
VERTICAL CLEARANCE   58'4"            58'4"             64'4"

Keel differences 

The big difference between the three Marks is in the keels. The Mark I has a cast-iron keel with an intricate shape when viewed from fore or aft. The Mark II has a keel stub, which houses a centerboard. The Mark III has a fiberglass and lead keel the same depth as the Mark I, but with a much shorter chord (the length between the front of the keel and its aft end).

A Mark I keel viewed from the stern.
The Mark I cast-iron keel has a beautiful shape that could only be achieved with a strong, heavy material like iron. It is narrow close to the hull to create a more hydrodynamic shape and then flares out near the bottom to put more weight lower increasing its leverage.

Mark III. Notice the shape of the keel and the skeg-hung rudder.
The designer of the Columbia 43, Bill Tripp, Jr., was rightly famous for his keel-centerboard designs, so you would expect that as an option. Of the three Marks, the Mark II is the most rare. It is also 1300-pounds heavier than either of the other two. I don't know how many Mark IIs Columbia produced, but I have never seen one offered for sale. I imagine the Mark II was somewhat more expensive than the Mark I. Unless shoal-water capability was critical, most owners would skip the extra initial expense and the added maintenance. The keel is the only difference between the Mark I and the Mark II.

When the Mark III came along in 1973 (four years into the production run) it had a new keel with lead ballast and a shorter chord. The lead ballast was necessary because the keel was smaller, which gave it less wetted surface. It also put the ballast lower to accommodate the six-foot taller mast with its higher-aspect rig and 5 percent more sail area.

Rudder differences

Standard Mark I and II rudder.
The optional, skeg-hung rudder on a Mark I looks different
 from the Mark III.

The Mark III rudder was redesigned as well. Instead of the scimitar-shaped balanced spade on most of the Mark I and II models, it has a skeg-hung rudder. I say "most" of the Mark I and II boats because Columbia offered a skeg-hung rudder as a option for the earlier models. Some owners of these boats assume, because it has a skeg-hung rudder, it is a Mark III. It ain't necessarily so.

Bow differences

The Mark I bow on my boat Oceanus.
The bow on the Mark I and II sweeps upward in a beautiful line typical of Tripp designs until it gets to within six inches of the deck, where it goes vertical at the hull and deck joint. I don't know why it was designed and built this way. It could be to keep the boat a half-foot shorter and thus make it rate lower under the CCA (Cruising Club of America) rule, or to make the hull and deck joint easier to build. For whatever reason, the beautiful line of the bow looks broken at the top.

The Mark III carries this line to its logical conclusion, thus lengthening the base of the foretriangle (and the total length of the boat) by six inches. While this improves the aesthetics of the boat, the real reason was to increase headsail area, thus making the Mark III more competitive under the new (at the time) IOR (International
The bow of Magic Woman, a Mark III based in Monterey, Calif.
Offshore Rule). Which brings us to...

The rig

The rig on the Mark III is closer to an early IOR rig than a CCA rig. The headsail area is larger because of the six-inch extension of the bow and a six-foot taller mast. Columbia shortened the boom on the Mark III to give the mainsail a higher aspect favored by the IOR rule. The total rig change increased the sail area of the Mark III from 810 square feet to 852 square feet, or about 5 percent. The lion's share of the increase was in the foretriangle.

Different deadlight

Distant Dreamer, a Mark III based in Japan, shows the two portlights on the cabin sides.
The Mark I and II had the trademark long Columbia deadlight on the 43's small, gun-turret-style house. Most, but not all, Mark IIIs have two smaller rectangular opening portlights on each side.

What remained the same?

Just about everything: Same deck layout, same interior, same construction methods (except for the lead keel), same hull shape, same headroom, same cockpit configuration, in short, all the things that made the Columbia 43 the best selling of Columbia's big racing boats.


Encore heading for the finish in the 1971 Transpac Race where it was the overall winner.
Columbia wanted a great race boat when it commissioned Tripp to design what became the Columbia 43. Specifically, Columbia wanted a boat that could win the Transpac, which starts in Long Beach, Calif., and ends in Honolulu, Hi. That's exactly what they got. In 1971, Encore (a Mark I), won her class in Transpac, and was eighth overall in the fleet. In 1973, after the IOR replaced the CCA as the official rating rule, Columbia introduced the Mark III to keep the model competitive a little longer.

Now that most sailing competition is handicapped under the PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula) the boats are again winning silver. The Mark I has a PHRF rating of 102 and the Mark III has a rating of 96.

Which of all the three models makes a better boat? It depends on its intended use. Since most Columbia 43 owners use their boats primarily to cruise I would venture to say the Mark I gets the nod because of its smaller headsails, shorter mast and the longer, stronger keel. But many owners love cruising in their Mark IIIs. All three variations are on the mark.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sailing the Kona coast on the Island of Hawaii

The sunset from beautiful Kealakekua Bay.
We could have stayed forever in Honomalino Bay, but there was no place to get water, so we headed to the next anchorage, Hookena.

As we entered the bay, a long rock wall with white letters spelling “Aloha” greeted us. We anchored next to a tall cliff riddled with holes and caves. The noise of the water echoed off the wall and back to us. Adjacent to the cliff is a beautiful beach with a popular campground and a dozen or so homes up from the beach.

It's hard to imagine now, but a century earlier Hookena was the major port in south Kona with regular visits from steam ships. We could see the remains of the old wharf and landing. In 1889 Robert Lewis Stevenson came to Hookena to escape the noise and confusion of Honolulu. While we were anchored here I read one of his short stories set partly in Hookena.

We visited the week before school started. There were lots of local families camping there, enjoying their last week of freedom. People are naturally curious about us when we come ashore. We often get peppered with questions. The most common is “What do you eat?” followed by “Do you sleep on your boat?” “How long did it take to sail here?” and “Are you scared?” We answer their questions and, if we like them, them to swim out and visit us, but this rarely happens.

The morning of our second day at Hookena, we looked out and saw three preteens (a brother, sister and the brother's friend) swimming to our boat. We recognized them as questioners from the day before and invited them aboard. We fed them cookies. The next day their older sister and mom swam out to visit us. It was a fun!
Although found on reefs throughout the topical Pacific, yellow tangs must like Hawaii the best. There are so many of them Kona get's its nickname "The Gold Coast" from their great numbers.
We enjoyed snorkeling every day at Hookena. The predominant fish is the ubiquitous yellow tang. There are so many on the Kona side of the Island of Hawaii that it is often called the Gold Coast. We even saw a rare color variant of a yellow tang that was mostly white. Some people call these ghost tangs.
Ghost tang.
We went scuba diving one day with our friend Garry and two of his guests, Ginger and Grant from Texas. We started at the old ruins of the wharf and found interesting rock formations including an arch near the point. The coral is healthy and abundant and so are the reef fish. Virginia saw a reticulated butterflyfish, an octopus, a pair of lined butterflyfish the size of dinner plates and other of our favorite rare fish. Diving the Big Island is always a treat.

Most mornings we were greeted with a pod of dolphins swimming around the boat. They usually stayed a couple of hours jumping and spinning around our boat. Brandon would don fins and mask and join them in the clear water. He would stay in one spot and let the dolphins swim past him. Virginia usually preferred to watch them perched on the deck box. She felt she could see more of the action that way.
Swimming with wild dolphins a Kealakekua Bay.
Some people are weird about swimmers in the water with the spinner dolphins. We are strongly against chasing or harassing them in any way. If you quietly stay in one place the dolphins usually come to you. They seem as interested in us as we are in watching them. A couple of locals who frequent the beach told us that last winter the park was closed because of an outbreak of Dengue Fever in the area. They admitted sneaking in while the park was closed and said they never saw the dolphins come into the bay to swim. Their opinion was the pod wasn't interested in visiting the bay when there are no swimmers to play with.

The Big Island is strict about staying anchored in the same place for more than 72 hours. We pushed our luck and stayed five days before we moved on.

The base of the Capt. Cook monument. 
Our next stop was Kealakekua Bay, best known as the place where Captain James Cook was killed in 1779. The main attraction to this bay is the Marine Conservation District in the north part of the bay and the monument memorializing the spot Cook died. The bay is rightly famous for its coral heads and many varieties of reef fish.

The first morning we were here, Virginia paddled over to the monument on the kayak. Brandon hung on to the back of the kayak for part of the way and swam part of the way from where we were anchored to the monument, about a mile. The effort was worth it. The coral and reef life near the monument was the most beautiful we have ever seen. Snorkel boats and guided groups of kayakers filled the water, but even that couldn't spoil the splendor of the surroundings.

You can't anchor or land a kayak anywhere in the marine conservation area near the monument, so we took turns: one of us staying with the kayak while the other climbed a badly-corroded steel ladder to view the Cook memorial.

Up to this point we hadn't encountered any other cruising boats in Hawaii, But we did meet an ex-cruiser while anchored at Kealakekua Bay. One afternoon, after returning from visiting the monument, a woman named Gretchen swam up to the boat and introduced herself, She said she cruised the South Pacific for a couple of years about a decade ago. We invited her aboard, handed her a towel, and had a wonderful visit. She now lives nearby Kealakekua, but she was born and raised on Kauai.

We enjoyed two beautiful sunsets and a very protected anchorage in Kealakekua Bay. There was almost no motion at night, almost like being in a marina -- not like most of the other anchorages that are open to waves and swell.

We weren't about to push our luck with the 72-hour rule at this anchorage and only stayed two nights then sailed on.
Sunset at Kailua Kona.
Our next stop was the busy town of Kailua Kona. We anchored just out of the harbor and next to a popular swimming lane. All day local people swam by our boat. Many of the swimmers would stop and visit with us. We enjoyed talking with them and several of them told stories about other boats who anchored without regard for the coral. They were impressed that Brandon always dove on the anchor to make sure it or the chain was not a danger to the coral.

Kailua Kona is the tourist hub of the Big Island and we enjoyed walking around this cute shops and historical sites. We ate some pretty good fish 'n chips at a restaurant with a great view of our boat. We also called our Uber girl, Gigi, and arranged for a Costco run and to pick up other supplies.

At anchor in rolly Kailua Kona.
The anchorage is well known for being one of the most consistently uncomfortable anchorage in the islands. We are pretty tolerant of rolly anchorages and were comfortable for the first four days. Then the wind and waves started coming from different directions and we soon learned why no one stays long in Kailua Bay. We decided to leave the next morning.

Alas, our charmed life turned against us. Our engine didn't want to work well. We messed with it all day and got it to function well enough that we could leave the next morning. It wasn't working perfectly, but we were able to get out of the harbor, put up our sails and head to Nishimura Bay, which is on the north end of the Big Island.

There we would wait for fair winds to cross the Alenuihaha Channel. This small bay had a rock wall and beautiful trees amid big lava rocks. Underwater was beautiful as well with plenty of coral and fish. We wished we had taken a picture but we didn't. The wind howled the two days we were anchored so we didn't dare go ashore or snorkel. We were safe in our little bay: while the water was calm in the anchorage, just outside we watched the white caps and big waves march by.

Short drying time in windy Honomalino Bay.
We finally met another cruising boat. They were a California couple who sailed their Hunter 45 sailboat to Hawaii four years ago. They now keep it in a Honolulu marina for most of the year while they are home in California and cruise the islands for a couple of months in the summer. They were headed to Hana on Maui. The day they left the winds looked wicked.

The U.S. Coast Guard warns the “channel is generally regarded as one of the most treacherous channels in the world because of strong winds and high seas.” The channel creates a venturi effect between two of the world's tallest mountains – on Maui, Haleakala and on Hawaii, Mauna Kea. The current generated by 2000 miles of trade winds is forced to funnel in between the two islands making for a strong current.

Our fair winds showed up the next morning, Aug. 16, and away we went. Like many of our passages, we were told how bad it would be. Once again, nothing evil happened and we actually enjoyed the windy sail to Maui. After all, why have such a great sailboat if you can't have wind to sail? Five hours later we dropped our anchor in a big sand patch at Big Beach on the south end of Maui.
Crossing the Alenuihaha Chanel was a blast!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cruising isn't all sunshine and pretty fishes

Virginia takes advantage of windy Nishamura Bay on the
Island of Hawaii to dry a batch of laundry.
We often have people tell us, “you are living my dream!” Sometimes it feels like we are living a nightmare.

Blogs abound about the glorious sunsets, islands and fabulous experiences of cruising. No wonder it is a dream of so many – sailors and non-sailors alike – to sail away. But we want to tell the truth. What is it really like?

There is a saying that cruising can be defined as fixing your boat in exotic places. Things break... all the time. While most things we can fix, we have been frustrated for nearly two months with an engine that has stubbornly refused to work. Each time we thought we had it figured out, the fix didn't work. Our mechanic friend, Henry, did his best to analyze the problem over the phone. We appreciated his effort and knowledge, still, nothing worked. At one point we would have traded the boat for two one-way tickets home. Stuck in bouncy, murky anchorages is discouraging and not what we signed up for. (The engine saga continues in future posts. We think we've almost got it fixed.)

We have to fix things no matter how hot it is or how much the boat is bouncing around. We have lots of bruises most of the time. They look great with our tan.
Virginia sews a zipper on the bimini so we can put up our cockpit cover. The zipper was ripped off by the wind during tropical storm Darby. Note the seasick bands. Even at anchor she sometimes gets seasick.

Filth. There is a whole new degree of filth you need to accept. Water is scarce, so showers are usually limited to about a gallon and we use our solar shower almost exclusively now we are in a warm climate. Laundry either is done by hand (which takes hours) or toted a mile or more to the laundromat. We often find ourselves smelling our clothes to see if we can get away with wearing it one more day!

Two six-gallon jugs of water weigh nearly
100 pounds.
Water is an almost daily chore. In Hawaii, at least it's free and easy to find. We often anchor off beach parks. They usually have water. We drag a couple of our six-gallon jugs to the beach in the dinghy, fill them up, then row them back to the boat and lift and pull the 48 pounds of water onto the boat. Then we siphon the water from the jugs into our water tank.

Daily life doesn't stop just because we are “livin' the dream.” Floors still get dirty, cupboards still need to be cleaned, engine oil needs to be changed, composting head needs attention. On a boat all these tasks are a little more difficult. No room for broom and mop closets means sweeping the floor with a whisk broom on your hands and knees. Same when its time to mop. Cupboards are replaced by lockers on a boat and they are usually deep, inaccessible and awkward to clean. The “engine room” is tiny, cramped and very hot most of the time. Food needs to be cooked no matter how much the boat is moving.

Years ago at the Seattle Boat Show we saw shirts for sale: The woman's shirt said “Quit Yelling At Me!” the man's shirt said “I'm Not Yelling!” That sums up bad days.

Boredom is a problem sometimes. What! In Hawaii!? Some days the wind and waves make it difficult and even unsafe to go ashore. So we are stuck on the boat. We are currently in a murky, tiger-shark-infested anchorage and can't snorkel. So we read, or pace, or read, or go crazy. This is harder on Virginia (think border collie) than Brandon (think tree sloth).

We have to (get to?) walk everywhere, usually lugging something like laundry, groceries, gas or diesel jugs. I don't think we would recognize each other if we weren't carrying something. We are to the point where if our destination is only a mile away we think "Score! That's close." The upside is that we've both lost 30 pounds since we left Newport in February.

A friend traveling from Oregon to the tip of South America on a motorbike told us that traveling is not the same as vacationing. We try to remember that.

It's hard work, this sailboat life. Would we do it again if we knew then what we know now? You bet!
A rainbow over Lahaina. Sometimes the view is so beautiful it takes your breath away.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Riding out DARBY in Honomalino Bay

Oceanus anchored in beautiful Honomalino Bay. The bay could easily accommodate six cruising yachts, but we didn't have to share.
If Honomalino Bay were anywhere else in the United States it would be continually overrun with cruising boats. It has clear beautiful warm water, perfect depth and a sandy bottom for holding an anchor, good protection from prevailing wind and waves, great snorkeling, coconut palms, and a black sand beach. Most days there are only a few beach goers. There were a few fishing boats that came into the bay for an hour or two, but for the most part, the eight days we anchored there we had this gem of a bay to ourselves.

Reticulated butterflyfish in Honomalino Bay. 
We really enjoyed the snorkeling here. The number and variety of reef fish are as good as anywhere we've snorkeled. We saw fish we have been searching for in ten years of Hawaiian vacations: reticulated and saddleback butterfly fishes. Our Hawaiian fish identification book call both of them “very rare” in the islands. I also saw another favorite rare fish, the black morph of the long-nose butterfly fish, a fish we've seen in only one other place.
A saddleback butterflyfish; another rare find in Honomalino Bay.

We felt well protected in this bay and we put it to the test. One day, we motored over to the tiny fishing village of Miloli'i to get water. While there, some people Virginia met talked about the tropical storm Darby about to hit the island. “What storm?” she said. “Oh don't worry,” they said. “Hurricanes and storms never come to the west side because of the volcano.”

We were considering leaving the next day to go north, but after checking the weather we decided Honomalino Bay was the best bay all along the west side to ride out the storm. Darby was expected to make landfall on Saturday but we didn't see much wind. In fact we joked around about how vicious the storm was. We should have kept quiet.

That night Darby did what no one thought he would do, he turned left and blew right over the west side of the island. Right over our heads. At one point all was calm and we smiled until we realized the eye of the storm was right over us. Soon the winds picked up again. The winds probably reached only 45 to 50 knots in the bay, but the boat rolled all night so much we couldn't sleep. During the night the dinghy, which I should have hauled up on deck and stowed upside down in it's chocks, turn sideways, filled with water and banged against the side of the boat.

In the morning, the storm was well north of us heading up the Hawaiian chain. Virginia got two or three hours of sleep, by making a nest of settee cushions on the cabin sole. I stayed in the bunk and didn't sleep at all. At 6:30 a.m., our scuba-diving friend, Garry, called us  to check on us. He said he had never seen the winds blow that much on the west side. Darby was only the fifth named storm the hit the island since the government started keeping records in 1949.

Virginia considers the exotic plant life at the beginning of the trail to Miloli'i.
In spite of Darby, we really enjoyed our time here. Garry and his wife Susan really made our stay enjoyable. Gary drove us to the grocery store and, later, gave us 10 gallons of fresh water. They also let us use a house they own and run as a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) so we could wash all our dirty clothes and have a real shower. (There were no guests staying in it that day.) Garry also took us scuba diving a couple of times. These are great people! If you want a wonderful scuba vacation experience, check out their VRBO on the big island.

After our morning snorkel one day, we met a young lady on the beach doing her homework. Like most people, she was curious about how we got around and how we got food. We told her we usually walk, sometimes rented a car or used Uber. She volunteered to be our transportation while were were on the Big Island. We called her Gigi our Uber girl. The arrangement worked perfect; she got money and time to study while we did shopping and laundry and our feet got a nice rest. We also found her to be delightful and interesting company.

Most afternoons and evenings, after any beach goers left, we watched as a small herd of goats came down to the bay. They were black with brown markings around their faces and legs and blended well with the black lava-rock cliffs. We would watch them from the boat. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them, especially the kids.

Most mornings a small pod of spinner dolphins visited us.
Four of the mornings we anchored in Honomalino a pod of spinner dolphins visited the bay. We would watch from the deck or jump in a swim with them. One morning when we motored out of the bay in our dinghy to meet Garry for a dive, the boat drew the dolphins like a magnet. They escorted us out of the bay jumping and spinning just a yard or two in front of the dinghy.

In addition to our dinghy, Virginia has a sit-on-the-top kayak. It comes in handy for many tasks, like recovering our stern anchor after the rode parted during Darby. Paddling it around is fun too.
We wanted to stay longer, but we needed to get to a place where we could refill our water tanks. We were also eager to see more of the Kona Coast.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rounding scarey South Point

Leaving Hilo. You can just make out the observatories on Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on earth.
While we weren't exactly dreading rounding South Point, we were both looking forward to it with trepidation. This passage is infamous for its difficulty because of the strong winds and currents that are usually present. The winds are so consistently strong that the trees grow sideways away from the prevailing winds.

A wind-blown tree at South Point, Ka Lae in Hawaiian.
Virginia watched the weather reports closely and it looked favorable on July 13 so we decided to make a run for it. We wanted to pass the volcano in the dark so we could see the lava flow at night. We figured leaving at around 11 a.m. would be about right. The total passage to Honomalino Bay looked to be about a 23-hours. We decided to do our watch schedule of four-hours on, four-hours off. The wind was almost perfect the minute we got outside the breakwater. Off with the engine and up with the sails.

Smoke and steam mark the path of lava down the Kilauea Volcano to the sea.
We always underestimate how fast Oceanus goes. We wanted to be at the Kilauea lava flow after dark, but sailed past late in the afternoon, good for seeing the steam, but not for viewing glowing hot lava. What was beautiful, was the reflection of red from the lava on the underside of the clouds.

The interesting part was the smell. A month earlier, when we were out in the middle of the ocean, we talked about other people's experience of smelling the land before you could see it. We were looking forward to smelling Hawaii because everyone knows how wonderful Hawaii smells. Imagine our disappointment when all we could smell was, what we thought was, petroleum. We never could figure it out until we passed the spewing volcano. There was the smell: an odd petroleum, sulfur-like smell. Lava.

The winds were holding up. We were going about 7 knots and it was pleasant sailing. Virginia had the watch from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., which put her at South Point near the end of her watch. She was a little nervous because of the horror stories, but she said it was the easiest passage ever. In fact at 1 a.m., while approaching the point, she was so bored she considered calling her night shift nurse friends at North Lincoln Hospital in Lincoln City. Then she realized it was 4 a.m. in Oregon—a really busy time for night shift.

She woke me up around 1:30 a.m. because she needed help changing tacks as we rounded the point. I took over since I was already up.

The 14 wind turbines of the Pakini Nui wind generation project on South Point are each topped by a bright red light, which all blink in unison. Those lights, combined with the blinking white light from the Ka Lae (Hawaiian for the point) lighthouse, made for an enjoyable, ever-changing light show and stayed visible from the boat for almost an hour.

The winds got lighter and Oceanus slowed down, which was a good thing since we won't enter a strange anchorage—any anchorage, really—in the dark. The sky was clear and the ocean fairly smooth. In the waning darkness I saw a green navigation light dead ahead. It didn't seem to be moving, but Oceanus' speed was only about 2 knots by this time. I wasn't worried, but I also kept close tabs on the vessel. I figured it was a fishing boat waiting for daybreak. I was right; at first light she began moving and set a course south and out of my path.

Virginia relieved me a short time later. I dropped into my bunk and seemed to fall instantly to sleep. It didn't last long. About an hour later I felt Virginia shake me awake. She had started the engine, which usually gets me on deck as quick as I can pull on my pants, but not this morning. I came on deck groggy as she peppered me with questions. Finally I had to beg for a moment to get my bearings. According to the GPS, we were outside our planned anchorage, but where exactly it was wasn't clear.

Virginia at Honomalino Bay.
We consulted the cruising guide, but still weren't sure. Finally, after searching the shoreline with binoculars, the instructions made sense. We slowly motored past the rocky reefs and carefully felt our way into Honomalino Bay about 7:30 in the morning.

From the bow of the boat I could see the bottom nearly 80 feet below us. By the time we reached a good anchoring depth of 25 feet I could clearly see the ripples in the sand patch in the middle of the bay. We dropped anchor and set it. I slipped on my mask and fins and dove into the clear, warm water to check the anchor, which was buried deep in the sand.

Beautiful palm trees, black sand beach, sandy bottom perfect for holding an anchor, protected from wind and waves: it was a perfect anchorage and we were the only boat and people in sight.
Oceanus anchored in Honomalino Bay.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hanging in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii

We anchored in Reeds Bay at Hilo on the Big Island for almost a month while we waited for parts and fixing things that broke on our 22-day passage. We found the bay to be a good anchorage and comfortable most of the time. We were also impressed with the great holding. (More about that later.)

We got to know Hilo pretty well. It didn't take long, it isn't that big, but I can't think of any city with a more distinctive character. Once we figured out the bus system, we could easily get downtown to a laundromat, grocery store and a great bookstore.
Hilo is also the home of the visitor's center for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Designated in June 2006, the monument encompasses the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from a little northwest of Kaua'i to about Midway Atoll, covering 4,500 square miles. The coral reefs inside the monument are among the healthiest reefs in the word and 90 percent of Hawaiian green turtles nest on its islets. A national monument has the highest level of protection of any designation, so it requires special permits to visit this area. We enjoyed the exhibits in the visitor's center, especially the 3,500 gallon saltwater aquarium.That the visitor's center is located in Hilo is kinda funny since Hilo is about as far away from the monument as you can get and still be in the Hawaiian islands.

We enjoyed a whole afternoon of poking our heads into the t-shirt and souvenir shops, not to mention the candy shops. One standout was Moonstruck Patisserie, a little French bakery where Virginia had passion-fruit cheesecake and I had the best croissant of my life. It really was love at first bite.

A big highlight during our stay at Hilo was seeing our friends Jason, Renee and their daughter Elli. We visited their beautiful property outside of Hilo where they are building a house. One weekend Renee and Elli spent their Saturday taking us to the Kapoho tide pools to snorkel, followed by hamburgers at their place. We really needed that outing since there are no good snorkel spots within walking distance of our anchorage, that we know about, anyway. Renee also generously lent us her car two different weekends to run errands, go to church and sight see.

The waterfall at the Hawaiian Botanical Garden.
One of the unforgettable places we went was the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens. If you ever go to Hilo this is a must see. It was started by a couple who bought 17 acres of undeveloped, garbage-strewn valley on Onomea Bay and spent six year hand-clearing the sight. They turned it into a garden of Eden and opened it to the public in 1984. Tropical plants from all over the world grow here. It's now a self-sustaining non-profit nature preserve and has expanded to 34 acres, much of it held in reserve for future conservation and protection.

From our boat we could see a restaurant called The Ponds. We fantasized for a few days about eating fish and chips there before we finally walked over and tried the place out. Yes, the fish and chips were everything we hoped they would be. We ended up going there twice during our stay.

For the Fourth of July we celebrated by going out to breakfast at Ken's House of Pancakes. It is mentioned in every travel guide and was an easy walk from the bay. It is justifiably famous for the food. We had huge omelets and pancakes with passion-fruit syrup. We left stuffed and waddled back to the boat. That night we watched the firework show over Coconut Island from our boat.

We made friends with Chris, the owner of a little store not far from our boat called All Kine Stuffs. She was nice enough to let us have our replacement alternator shipped to her store. Her store also carried pink wintergreen mints my wife calls headache pills. These candies that are like crack cocaine to her and they are next to impossible to find. (Call her and she can tell you why she calls then headache pills.)
Some of the Bonsai at the Hilo gallery.
We found an interesting round building on one of our walks and decided to check it out. It is the Wailoa Center, a gallery run by an art organization for local artists. We enjoyed the paintings from several different local artists. Most of the paintings were land or seascapes from the Big Island's west side. The following weekend the gallery had a Bonsai show. We walked the two miles to the gallery and saw some of the most beautiful Bonsai I've ever seen—many of them 50 or 60 years old.

Everyone says that all is does in Hilo is rain. We didn't find that to be the case. Maybe because we are from the Pacific Northwest where rainfall of 90 inches a year is no big deal. While it did rain almost every day, it didn't rain all day, just two or three intense downpours, mostly at night. A cruise ship moored in the Harbor every Tuesday. The first Tuesday we were there was the only time I saw it rain nearly all day. It was raining so hard we could hardly see the cruise ship from our boat. We felt sorry for the people on board.
Cruise ship leaving Hilo.
We enjoyed watching the cruise ship coming and going, but not as much as the canoe club races, which took place nearly every evening. Most of the canoes were six-person outriggers, but there were also some sleek one-person outriggers as well. Some mornings canoes full of students would paddle past our boat and stop for a visit.
Lili'uokalani Park.
Every time we walked to downtown we passed the Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. This 30-acre Japanese gardens is beautiful and felt like something out of a storybook. The park's site was a gift from Queen Liliʻuokalani and was built in the early 1900s. It is one of the largest such gardens outside Japan. The gardens contain Waihonu Pond as well as bridges, koi ponds, pagodas, statues, torii, and a Japanese teahouse.

We planned to leave July 5th but when we tried to pull the anchor up it wouldn't budge. I dove in and discovered it was tangled around a large barnacle-encrusted piece of machinery. No wonder the holding was so great! I also found our prop to be completely encrusted with barnacles after just a few weeks in the bay. The next day I strapped on my scuba tank and untangled the anchor chain and scrubbed and chiseled the barnacles off the prop and other places. Then we waited for a couple more days for favorable winds to get us around South Point. We had heard scary stories about this passage, but that's for the next blog.