Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hilo, Hawaii

I arrived in Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii on April 1st.  The harbormaster's office was closed as it was a Sunday, so I anchored out in the bay.  When I arrived, Radio Bay was pretty deserted.  There were no other cruising boats in the bay and the coastguard cutter that I thought may be here was missing as well.  I didn't really want to do anything on that day except eat a meal, clean the boat up a little, and sleep - which is what I did.

On monday the 2nd I phoned the harbormaster's office and started to get the scoop on where I was.  It seems that since the cruising guides I have were published, the port here has undergone a few changes.  I believe it was in 2009 that the port had to start following the new homeland security regulations regarding having the port area be secured.  Radio bay is behind the port, you need to walk through a locked gate beside the anchorage and then through the port to get to the main gate where the harbormasters office is.  Outside the main gate is the customs/immigration/agriculture office.  So what happens is that every time I want to get out of the port for whatever reason, I need to call the gate security folks (808-935-5025) and request that an escort meet me at the gate and walk me through the port to the main gate.  The people at the security gate are very friendly and are happy to do this, but its a bit of a hassle.

Checking into the country here was painless.  There is one stop for customs, immigration and agriculture.  One person dealt with all the details and it was a very relaxed atmosphere.  I didn't have to throw away any of my food and the whole process only took around 5min.

Hilo downtown is something like 2 miles away, I've been walking back and forth most days.  I bought a large (civilian) backpack at a army/navy store and have been hauling food from Hilo to the boat, just like a real cruiser.  This has been kinda fun.  I would be walking around Hilo like the transient that I am, backpack on my back.  Other backpackers give me the nod as I walk by as if I'm part of the gang, one of the cool folks living life on the road.  On the walk back I would be hauling 30 or 40 pounds of food, getting a bit of a workout which was nice after having been on the boat for so long.

There are several good places to eat downtown.  I say several as that's all I've tried, but they've all been good.  There is a nice coffee/kava bar along the front street called the Bay Cafe which also has free wifi I've been visiting.  If  you get here its worth a visit.

There is also a bus you can take from the port area down town, it runs once an hour or so.  It costs one dollar and from what I've heard it heads across town to an area which has a Costco, Walmart and lots of other big chain stores.  Its probably a provisioning dream over there, but I found a smaller supermarket in downtown Hilo which has suited me.  There is a healthy food store on the front street which sells bulk grains and I've been able to replenish my sprout supplies here.

Hilo has a lot to offer.  There are several nice parks close by, a waterfall you can walk to from downtown, the anchorage is very sheltered and only costs $10 per day.  The only downside to the area I can see is the amount of rain it gets.  It rains here constantly.  I've arrived downtown after walking 2 miles in torrential rain several times, arriving completely soaked.  That expression is often an exaggeration but not in those cases.  At least its a warm rain.  Hilo is the third rainiest town in America, after two towns in Alaska which get even more rain.  Its one of the rainiest towns in the world.  It rains here constantly.  There is a rainy season which lasts through April, and this town is living up to the season.  But Hilo is still a nice town, its been a good visit.

When you arrive here by boat you have a choice of anchoring out or tying up to the seawall, tahiti style.  I first anchored out, and then after a few days moved over to the seawall.  There were no other boats here when I moved to the wall, so I thought it was a good learning experience - if I couldn't manage to tie up to the wall then I could just move back to the anchorage.  It pretty much worked, although it was nice that there were no other boats close by.  I anchored and backed up to the wall, coming about 60 feet from it.  Then I tied two of my long lock-lines together to have one line about 150' long, tied it to my boat and then got in the dingy and took the other end of the line to shore.  The first line was the hardest, as you have to pull the boat's stern into line from where the boat has drifted to since you got into the dingy and rowed to shore.  Once that first line was on shore, I  pulled the stern into line, split the line, returned to the boat, tied the second line to the boat and returned to shore to tie it up.  It went pretty smoothly.
Luckness in Radio Bay
Shortly after tying up to the wall, a second boat arrived!  Yay.  Hans and Jeannette on Tauhara arrived from Mexico and tied to the wall as well.  I helped get their lines to shore and they were squared away pretty quickly.  Its been good talking with these two.  They have been cruising for four years in this boat, and earlier in a smaller one.  Here is a shot of the two of us, looking from the bay into the port side behind the boats.

I've been trying to not collect my own anchoring stories, but I picked one up here.  On Sunday I was over on Tauhara talking with the two of them, enjoying a beer.  It wasn't very windy, maybe 12 to 15 knots in the anchorage.  I was hearing Luckness' halyards slap the mast but as its a familiar sound I didn't think very much of it.  However Hans finally noticed that Luckness was closer than she used to be to Tauhara.  My anchor was dragging!  The bottom of the bay is soft mud and even that light wind was enough to pull the anchor out and start my boat slowly drifting sideways.  Hans helped me get things put together again - we attached fenders to the shorelines and threw them over, then motored forward and raised anchor.  We then reset it, backed up while Hans rowed to the wall to retrieve my lines.  I was glad to have Hans helping, as an experienced cruiser he's been through this type of thing before.  This episode kinda freaked me out.  I had been spending time in town each day and I started wondering to myself what would have happened if...

Anyway.  I currently have a 20kg Rocna anchor.  I believe I see a 25kg Rocna in my future!  A little birthday present for Luckness when we get back to Seattle.

I've now been here for 10 days and its time to move along.  I was going to leave on Monday, but the forecast was for 25kn of wind from the east.  When I leave Hilo, I want to head clockwise around the big island which means 20 or so miles of upwind sailing when I round the first point and start heading SE.  I didn't want to do this in 25 knots of wind, so I delayed for two days.  The forecast for tomorrow is for "east 20kn" which is better.  It means that when I leave, after having had the rain cleaning the boat for 10 days I'll go out and get her covered in salt water again which is what bashing upwind into 20 knots will do.

Hilo is a find place to land after having been at sea for 20 days.  Checking in is easy, the town is cool, Radio bay is protected.  I've started to notice that mildew is starting to grow in Luckness.  A couple of the cupboards are going to need to bleach/water treatment soon.  The humidity here is high and with the constant rain it seems to be an ideal environment for mildew.  I want to try to find some sunshine!

I'll probably pop up next in Honamalino Bay.  If there is no wireless connection I may not update the blog again for a little while as I may spend one or two weeks there.

See ya!


  1. If you're still in Hilo, places to try good food if you haven't: Cafe 100 (local diner home of the loco moco), Hilo lunch shop (plate lunch) Nori's Saimin Shop (Ramen), Seaside (fresh whole fish), Nihon (Japanese). All casual Hilo style places.

    And thanks for all the super Valuable info on the trip!

  2. Really cool man, thanks for sharing this. I pan on doing an SF to Hilo crossing early next year, so it is nice the get the lay of the land. Like yourself, I cut my teeth on singlehanded voyaging this summer on a voyage from Everett to SF.