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.