Honolulu Christmas

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The Last Leg

Free at last from our increasingly cosy working relationship with US Customs, Dave and I set sail for Honolulu. NOAA was calling for 10 - 15 knot SW'ly winds so we figured we have a brisk beam reach to Honolulu as soon as we rounded Upolu Point on the Big Island. Winds were much lighter, only about 5 knots out of the SE, but there was a huge swell running and the spinnaker wouldn't stay inflated in the troughs so we spent all afternoon working out way along the east coast of the Big Island and out into the lake formerly known as the Alenuihana Channel. The channels between the islands have a fearsome reputation as wind funnels, and Alenuihana, between the 13,000 foot volcanos of the Big Island and Maui, is supposed to be the worst.

For us, it was a long slow slog across to Kahoolawe, a small island east of Maui which is used by the armed forces for gunnery practice and is thus off limits to the general public, not so much because of current bombardment (it would do wonders for Waikiki. Just think, expensive Hotels could let you shoot back...) but because of all the unexploded ordnance lying around. Trying to hang onto a port tack, we rounded the western end of Kahoolave somewhat more closely than was legal, but were not shot at. We had a brief burst of wind out of the SW (spinnaker up!) before the wind quit (spinnaker down¡) for the night.

We spent all night chasing 3 and 4 knot variables and finally gave up and fired up the motors in the early morning's glassy calm. By mid morning we were rafted up in front of the HYC. Our first dock since New Caledonia and it was oh-so-close to the yacht club bar. It was grand!

Honolulu

It was a good thing that I had a gentle re-entry to American Society in Hilo because Christmas in Honolulu was full catastrophe. A storm surge of holiday shoppers battered against the retail riprap of the Ala Moana Center. Tiny Japanese ladies, shouldering outsize loads of brightly coloured bags from Bally and Dior teetered through the crowd like tipsy stevadores. Large teary-eyed crowds gathered to watch christmas hula performances and eat buckets of caramel corn. Various groups of teenagers coalesced, phoned their friends, slouched despondently amongst the potted palms. Evidently, there was still nothing happening.

Noticing my reflection in one of the shop windows I realized that I did not fit in. My appearance - sunbleached shirt, oil stained shorts held up with a piece of rope - gave me instant cred on the dock as a "seasoned cruising yachtie", but, in front of Nieman Marcus in the Ala Moanna center, came across as simply as "bum." The friendly smiles from the beefy Hawaiian security guards were not "aloha sailor", they were "we don't want any trouble, now, do we?" Dave and I had a few Mai Tais at the Mai Tai Bar and then went out for a pizza at the California Pizza Kitchen. It is so comforting when everything is clearly labeled. There was no trouble.

Hawaiians have lousy coffee. Great bales of Kona peaberry drenched in rasberry-vanilla-(glottal spasm)-lilikoi syrup but no espresso roast. Hilo was hopeless in this regard. I was down to my last quarter key of ridiculously expensive Robert Tims, purchased in Samoa, when I finally found some "normal" espresso coffee in a dusty stack in the back of a coffee shop in Honolulu.

All across the South Pacific the coconut tree is both a symbol and a staff of life, used in a thousand different ways. In Hawaii, it is a menace to the tourist economy. Most of the coconut trees here are emasculated, their coconuts cut off lest they fall and strike the unwary tourist. I thought this was overcautious on the part of authorities until I saw the following scene next to the Ala Moana parking lot. I noticed, how shall I say it, a dorky looking guy (ie. brand new surf trunks with underwear, new "Island Style" tee shirt, expensive sandals, excessive sun screen), with a backpack gaping at the green coconuts imprudently allowed to remain on a smaller tree, a tantalizing 5 or 6 feet out of his grasp. I could almost see him thinking: "How to obtain a nifty free souvenir? Hmmm.." I could distinctly hear the mental gears grinding. A resourceful soul, he quickly decided that the most plausible way to dislodge a nut was to use a projectile, the handiest being his own backpack. That's thinking outside the box. He backed off a pace, hefted the pack a couple of times, took careful aim and let fly. The backpack missed the coconut by a considerable margin, completed the graceful arc of its parabola and landed in a mud puddle with the sort of crunching plop which suggested that its owner might have forgotten about some delicate piece of electronic gear.

How to recover? Well there's really no way. This being Waikiki, coconuts are best obtained from supermarkets where they can be had (already husked) for a trifling 6 or 8 dollars. However, my protagonist was not about to quit. Retrieving his sodden backpack, he spotted a fist-sized rock. "Now, by god, this damn primitive nut is going to feel the hurt." As the spectators ran for cover, our hero grunted like a shot putter, concentrated every ounce of rage and frustration into his wind up and let fly. Defying all expectation, the rock struck the target nut squarely and rebounded back down its inward trajectory, with a remarkable store of kinetic energy intact, It struck the thrower squarely in the solar plexus. Since the time of Cook, lapidation has been a traditional Hawiian greeting so perhaps this experience was particularly authentic.

You see, life in the tropics is not a simple as people think.

Of Plans and other Things subject to Change and Revision

Oddly enough, my original plan for sailing east across the Pacific was quite good but for none of the reasons which caused me to produce it in the first place.

For one thing, we had no heavy trade winds, and very few days with any wind over 15 knots. From Samoa to Penrhyn was all very light with the wind only coming above 10 knots in squalls. We had a few squalls over 20 knots, and the convergence zone between Penrhyn and Hawaii gave us a night (never a day) of wind to 30 knots.

Fortunately, Endless Summer sails very well in light airs. We were able to sail effectively in a 3 knot breeze as long as it wasn't too variable in direction. We don't make much progress in those conditions, just 50 or 60 miles a day, but the sailing is very comfortable. Ten easy days for a 600 mile passage would have been no problem, but we usually seemed to pick up a bit more wind at the beginning or at the end which did wonders for the average speed without wearing us out too much. Our fastest leg, Penrhyn → Hawaii was also our longest and featured 4 days close to 200 miles. Assuming we slow down a bit at night, a 200 mile day means that we keep the boatspeed up around 10 knots for most of the daylight hours. That's pretty exhausting, but worth it for the rapid reduction in distance remaining to waypoint.

For the trip from New Caledonia to Hawaii, we used about 180 litres (47 gallons) of diesel, mostly for generating electricity. We could have done it on one tank.

Nothing that I saw in the South Pacific left me much inclined to recommend it as a cruising destination. Anchorage ranged from poor to marginal, so it would be hard to leave the boat for any duration, and there just wasn't that much to see that couldn't have been better seen from land. I'm glad to have done it, but I don't have any hankering to sail back to, say, Penrhyn for a month, nor any regrets about missing Tahiti.

For me, and I think for many other people, Australia and New Caledonia are just head and shoulders above anyplace else for cruising. There are lots of high-quality anchorages, marinas if you want to leave the boat for a bit, civilization when you need it and wilderness just a short sail away. We have met so many cruisers who have been around the world twice and are planning to sail around the OZ/NC/NZ triangle for "the forseeable future."

Farewell to Dave

In Honolulu I said good bye to Dave - briefly, because he doesn't like an emotional scene.

I think he is best memorialized by some of his log entries:

1100 18° 47.1 S 177° 03.2 E
cream spill in refrig → soy sauce spill while cleaning oops...
1600 16° 07.8 S 177° 19.1 W
right down the GC to Samoa!
Tea time w/ refrig. Tim Tam
2200 15° 51.0 S 176° 48.1 W
C065T +/- to clear Zephyr Shoals
Light rain under cloud
flying fish into cockpit & flops around → thrown back
1300 13° 58.8 S 172° 21.5 W 2nd pineapple
1200 14° 28.4 S 168° 36.7 W
Scott steering.
Legs: 20min each side until tender.

Farewell my friend.

頂 き ま す

Itadakimas, literally "I gratefully receive it" is what one says just before eating in Japanese. I had been meaning to learn Japanese on this trip (finally just started), and Dave, having studied Japanese in college teased me with little bits of it. "Itadakimas" became something of a running joke, with adaptations such as "Itadingymas," for departing in the dingy, or "Itawinchymas," for grinding in the jib sheet.

Back Together Again

A few hours after dropping Dave off, I was back at the airport picking Karin and the kids up. They had completely lost their tans and Tristan was sickly with something. What one gets from traipsing of into the depths of a European winter in shorts and sandals. A few weeks of hiking and swimming set everything right.

In addition to re-visiting our favorite spot near the groin on Queen's Beach, we did touristy things like climbing Diamond Head and visiting the Arizona Memorial. As Tristan has entered his jaded travel writer phase and refuses to be considered a tourist, he accompanied us only to preserve family solidarity.

New Friends

We spent more than a month on the "aloha dock" of the HYC, rafted up in various creative ways. There, we met a couple of other cruising boats, the Tamarack II (John & Sue) from Canada and Let 'Er Buck (Ev & Susan) from the bustling port of Cody Wyoming. Life rapidly degenerated into a vicious circle of mutual invitations, excursions, sundowners, etc.

The Tamaracks are getting ready to go to Australia so we had lots to talk about.

Let 'Er Buck is an authentic wooden boat - bronze winches, the whole nine yards - with actual vermin (to date, rats and centipedes) of which the Let 'er Bucks seem inordinately proud. I mentioned thinking that I had seen a cockroach aboard ES when we were in Apia, but no one was impressed.

A Change of Plans, Things Break

After telling everyone that we were planning to go to the Maui-Lanai-Molokai area, we decided to follow the Let 'Er Bucks to Kauai. The plan we formulated was for Let 'Er Buck to leave Tuesday afternoon for an overnight passage with forcast 10-knot SW'ly winds which would then build to 10 - 15 knots Wednesday. With that windspeed we would be able to average 8 - 10 knots and the whole trip would take us 8 or 10 hours and we could leave Wednesday morning and get in that evening. I had figured that winds would either be lighter than forcast, in which case we'd have an easy overnight, or as strong as forcast which would make for a put us into Nawiliwili harbour at night. As usual the weather managed to come up with a combination plate that was worse than anything I had come up with.

The only hitch with our departure plans was a new fuel transfer pump which I had on order. We had planned to receive the new pump Tuesday, install it and leave Wednesday at 4am. The pump finally arrived Wednesday morning. By the time I had installed it and verified that it indeed did fix the problem with the starboard engine it was 1pm so it was 1:30 before we left the fuel dock and motored out the Ala Wai channel into the 5-knot westerly which had answered NOAA's forcast for a 10 - 15-knot SW'ly. Actually, the wind was west close to the south shore of Oahu and then bent due south as soon as one got a bit further south so it was frustrating for us to tack south to clear the restricted military waters around the entrance to Perl Harbour only to find ourselves aiming SE after a short while. Tacking back west only brought a short spate of progress before the wind bent again and aimed us NW.

Adding to our sailing problems, we soon found ourselves hemmed in between a destroyer and a submarine trying to run into Perl Harbour and the exclusion zone around Perl Harbour into which we were not supposed to trespass. We radioed the destroyer, which answered, rather primly, as "Warship 90," and arranged to tack and duck their stern and were ourselves contacted by the submarine to formalize a starboard-to-starboard passage. An awful lot of military hardware blundering about off Perl Harbour.

After that, progress was slow, with the winds settling on WSW at about 5 knots and light rain squalls. Off Barber's Point the sky cleared up and the moon came out and I left Karin on watch as ES jogged easily along towards Kauai at 5 knots. I was rudely awakened at 11 by a flapping thump and Karin's shout:

"Scotty, the main's come down!"

For no very good reason, I took this to mean that she had sighted whales rather nearby and was thus somewhat disappointed when I stumbled out on deck to find that the main had indeed come down. The headboard had parted company with the block for the 2:1 main halyard so at least I knew that the problem was with the block, not the new main halyard. We had another block on the screecher halyard that we could use, but somehow the main halyard had to be retrieved from the top of the mast.

We could, of course, use the topping lift as a main halyard but that would make reefing awkward as there would be nothing to hold the boom up. To fix the problem, somebody (me being the only candidate) would have to climb the mast, either at sea or somewhere in Barber's Point Harbour after we motored back. The sea state was pretty moderate and Otto was driving OK under jib, so I figured that climbing the mast at sea would be worth a try.

Hanging on was a bit of a trick as the top of the mast was whipping back and forth pretty good. Having one hand too few, I used a combination of hands feet and teeth to get the halyard down. I did collect a few bruises which were good for sympathy later. With the halyard down, it was just a few minutes work to swap in the block on the screecher halyard and we were on our way. And just in the nick of time too as the wind came up enough to necessitate a first reef shortly after we started sailing again.

Progress was rapid and uneventful until dawn when we arrived off Nawiliwili harbour on the eastern shore of Kauai to find an Army ship (?) and a tug-and-barge exchanging amicable salvos of intentions. We waited our turn and then motored in to the harbour, finding anchorage right next to the inner breakwater in about 2 metres of water. Let 'Er Buck was there and had the coffee hot so we ate our brekkie and swapped sea stories about the passage over.

Kauai

We rented a van with the Let 'Er Bucks and had a great time exploring Kauai, hiking, surfing and fixing the boats.

One of the most noticable things about Kauai are the wild chickens, "moa" in Polynesian. On all the other islands, the chickens were killed off by the imported mongeese (Tristan informs me that one should say "mongooses") but the story is that a mongoose bit one of the stevadores unloading the crate at the warf and the man was so angry that he threw the entire crate of mongeese into the water where they drowned.

Ev is something of a kindred spirit so I couldn't resist teaching him to surf. He loved surfing and he's big into authentic experience so I expect to see him along the California coast driving a 72 VW van with a "Don't laugh, your daughter might be in here" bumper sticker on the back.

Susan had to leave early (new grandson, congratulations) and so missed a daysail on Endless Summer and a really long hike above the Napali coast. Or perhaps she was happy to skip seasickness and blisters.

Surfing Hanalei

Finally some surfing content!

The kids have both become ardent surfers. Occasionally, I get to use a surfboard myself.

We've tried a few places around the island but Hanalei is our favorite spot because the beach near the pier is a perfect beginner spot. Intermediate-level surf can be found south of the pier and the reef off the eastern side of the bay provides progressively larger surf the further you paddle out along it. With a small swell, 8 feet at 14 seconds, the reef is a zoo. Many visitors, and many locals. One of the latter paddled a large board (no leash) standing up with a canoe paddle and caught every set wave. Sharing waves seemed to be the break's ethic so I only had one wave to myself. Felt a bit bad about the guy behind me on the last wave but, having two people in front of me, I couldn't leave him much room.

I did manage to catch it much bigger, The night before, swell on buoy #1 was 10 feet at 20 seconds. The crowd was much thinner, only about 20 or so at the first peak. Watching the break from shore, I noticed that most of the waves had an unmakable section and decided to attack the shoulder just after the section. It was a lot less crowded than the main peak and I'd be able to take off without worrying about a Menier's induced wobble killing anyone. I walked out the sandbar at the mouth of the Hanalei river, paddled out to my chosen spot, and found the waves to be sizeable but not too huge, solidly overhead, and just one other guy in the hunt. After just a few minutes of watching the action at the main peak, I saw the wave I wanted starting to shoulder up. I paddled two strokes towards the forming second peak, and snapped the board around. A quick look left revealed someone dropping in a the main peak, 50 yards away, with the section already feathering between us. Perfect! Three quick strokes... "woa! look at the reef way down there" ... and the board came on the plane.

I hopped up and the drop seemed to go on forever. The wave doesn't really break that hard so even though the face was huge, the speed built gradually and I had a great ride to the end of the wave. Too easy.

I paddled back to my spot figuring that I'd be able to get a wave like that every 20 minutes or so. More waves and way less stress than joining the main peak where 10 long-time locals would grab all the good waves. As usual when you think you've got everything figured out, the ocean doesn't cooperate. I'd seen set waves from the beach but the distance was such that I couldn't appreciate how wide the set waves could swing. Still, back at my spot I was doing everything right. paying attention, I saw the telltale lump on the horizon in plenty of time to make a leisurely paddle outside, perhaps even ride it. About halfway through my leisurely paddle, I looked over at the main lineup. They were, to the man, windmilling. Serious, full-on shark-on-my-tail, anerobic foaming at the mouth paddling. I increased my pace, but it wouldn't have mattered because the crest of first wave of the set was already feathering, 30 meters in front of me.

I had a few brief seconds of rabbit-like panic before the wave sucked me up the face and over the falls. It was a thoroughly respectable beating, but somehow not quite on par with a good Rockaway mauling. I think that because the bottom at Hanalei comes up quickly, the waves give up all their energy in one go and don't tend to drag one as far. Or something. After the thrashing stopped, I climbed the leash through the bubbles, and had 3 or 4 seconds to breath before the second set wave hit. Gotta love this spot.

OK. This was good. I'd survived and now I knew what set waves look like. But my rhythm was gone and I discovered that my first ride was just beginner's luck. You had to be positioned right on the break line to get in on the shoulder. Just a smidge too far outside and the wave wasn't steep enough to get in. After going underneath the next set (timing, timing), I decided to try to ride the set waves further in but I needed a set wave in order to find the line up, and the next set to come was bigger than all the others. I turtled and succeeded in chucking the board over the lip of the first wave but the second was even bigger. I tried the turtle manuver again and briefly, as I free-fell with the lip, thought I had succeeded. I was dragged inside again, and decided I'd had enough education for the day. I'd had a prime seat to watch the main peak and the local crowd was phenomenally cool and competent on the double-overhead drops at the peak.

Yachtie Details

Honolulu - Ala Wai - Hawaii Yacht Club

For a cat, getting a slip anywhere in Hawaii is a trying experience so the hospitality of the Hawaii YC was doubly welcome. At $0.45/foot per night it is a bargin that can only be explained by a huge concentration of aloha.

Larry of Art Nelson Sailmakers worked up a new main halyard for ES. The case of the old main halyard had frayed when the main inadvertently shared a fairlead with the spinnaker halyard. Because the rope was double jacketted (a Marlow creation, I think) it wasn't feasible to put a new cover on so we went with 60 metres of brand new Samson warp speed (which can be recovered if need be). Larry also took a look at all of our stainless and gave it a clean bill of health.

Spectrum Engineering came and checked out the diesels The Cyber Bite Cafe, 1917 Kalakaua, near the intersection with Ala Moana, was the closest internet access to Ala Wai, and, at $4/hr also the cheapest.

  • Ala Wai Harbour Master: 808 973 9727
  • Hawaii Yacht Club: 808 949 4622
  • Waikiki Yacht Club: 808 949 7141
  • Spectrum Engineering (Yanmar): 808 671 4588
  • Art Nelson Sailmakers

Aloha Shirts

Hawaii doesn't have malaria, but it does have a unique sickness, which strikes nearly all newcomers, namely the urge to purchase and wear a loud floral print shirt. Sears in the Ala Moanna center is the go here. They have a zillion different aloha shirts, most of the same brands peddled by trendier places, for prices that can't be beat. I scored a really tasteful silk number for $30.

The Butcher's Bill

For all you who wonder why I'm slow to update the website.

  1. clean boat inside and out
  2. engines
    • stb. oil leak in fwd. crankshaft housing (a lot)
    • port oil leak (crankshaft seal, no big deal)
    • 600 hour service (valve adjust)
    • change fuel filters
  3. new main halyard
  4. have rig stainless inspected
  5. re-seat aft hatches as they continue to leak
  6. alternator voltage now seems to vary (as low as 13.98). I seem to recall that it used to be steaady right around 14.4. What gives?
  7. need to decide to double-belt alternators or B-pulley, or, ...
  8. both of the cockpit windlass switches no longer function. Probably corrosion. Sadly, them seem to have been glued on.
  9. The windlass has shredded yet another flimsy plastic rope-chain fleming.
  10. Need a new winch handle to replace one lost OB.
  11. Utility lights in the anchor/fuel lockers no longer function. Probably corrosion.
  12. Snaps have torn out of the cockpit seat cushions. Need stronger backing material and new snaps.
  13. Sink cover snapped off. Need to order new plastic bolts from SMEV.
  14. Galley faucet drips
  15. Replace more of the Gebo hatch handles
  16. Need to replace propane tanks/regulator with new US-approved versions
  17. Stb. cockpit speaker doesn't work
  18. replace throwable PFDs and mount in a more throwable location
  19. Outside fire extinguisher is rusted and needs to be replaced
  20. VHF Radio (ICOM MC402) won't swich out of international mode. Need to find secret switch. International conspiracy?
  21. Port bilge is wet (salt water). Probably head related.
  22. Install washers in hydraulic fill fittings to prevent leakage
  23. Stb. head is not pumping well. Handle?
  24. Order and install new shorter pitch prop for dingy OB
  25. Tune-up & oil change for dingy OB. Spark plug is badly rusted and my spark plug socket is too thick.
  26. New frying pan as the non-stick has worn off the old one.
  27. Starboard aft staunchion (repaired in Nouméa after docking mishap) needs replacement. Chafe in lifelines on both sides.

UPS Hold For Pickup

UPS will deliver packages to "Hold For Pickup" at the local distribution center, usually near the airport. This comes in handy as the harbour master's office won't receive mail or packages.

NOAA Weather Radio

Perhaps it is just because we're having an El Nino year, but the NOAA forcasts around here seem wildly pessimistic. If they ever had an actual hurricane I think that they'd have to broadcast hyperventilation, having expended all actual words on lesser meteorological conditions. I've had the best luck looking at the charts as always and tuning into NOAA just for wind and buoy reports.