Sunday, April 22, 2012

Honomalino Bay

19° 10.222'N, 155° 54.495'W

The main cruising guide I'm using while I'm in Hawaii is "Cruising guide to the Hawaiian Islands" by Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy.  It has chapters on each of the islands and covers many anchorages on each island.  The cruising guide starts out by saying this about Honomalino Bay:
Honamalino Bay is one of the great destinations for cruising boaters in Hawai'i.  It has it all: Isolation, great sand bottom for anchoring, protection from the waves that sweep into other anchorages, lovely coral bottom for snorkeling, large, private beach, and dramatic, clear water.  What more could any boater ask for?
It was fantastic arriving in Hilo after having made the passage over from Mexico.  However as I pulled into Honomalino bay and looked out across the beach, palm trees and looked down to see clear water, coral and sand, I felt that I had finally arrived for the start of the cruising that I had been expecting.  Also, it wasn't raining, which was nice.  I have now been here for over a week and will be moving along on Monday to continue my exploration.

The sail here from Hilo was most excellent.  I left Hilo April 11th just before 10am.  There was very little wind in Hilo harbor so I motored out for an hour where I found a little wind and started to sail.  My first target was to round Cape Kumukahi, the first cape to the south east from Hilo, and after sailing upwind all day I arrived there at 5:30.  I was then able to ease off into a beam and then broad reach making a course almost parallel to the shore but slightly offshore which I held until 4am when I jibed and rounded South Point later that morning, in the daylight.  The wind was then from the east and I was sailing downwind.  As I rounded South Point the wind veered with me so I ended up sailing north along the coast, still downwind toward my anchorage.  This couldn't continue of course, eventually the wind gave way from 25 knots to 2 or 3 from random directions within 10 minutes.  I sailed in the flukey winds for an hour at which point I was 6 miles away and ready to anchor - so I turned on the engine and motored the rest of the way arriving at 1:30pm.

My first few attempts at anchoring ended up with my dropping the anchor on a rocky seabed.  After a few attempts I was able to figure out which colors below were rock and which were grey sand.  I was pretty tired after having sailed for 29 hours almost without sleeping, as I was too close to shore to enter my sleep pattern.  I had a few 20min naps overnight, but there wasn't much sleeping going on.  Once I felt like I was safely anchored and my anchor alarm was on, I started to slow down realizing how tired I was and was snoozing within an hour.

The next morning I got my mask and snorkel out and got into the water.  From the boat I could look down and see the bottom of the bay easily in 25 feet of water.  The water here is very clear but as the surface is constantly in motion its hard to see clearly, its like looking through rippled glass.  Once in the water with my mask on I was astounded at how clear the water was.  I swam in some clear water in Mexico, but this was both clearer and warmer.  Nice!

There are no services in the bay.  The road in is suitable for 4 wheel drive only and most of the people I've seen on the beach would walk the 4 miles from the main road.  There are a few homes in the bay which are mainly unoccupied.  I've seen most of them occupied at one point or another during my stay, but normally only for a day or two at a time.

The beach is maybe 400' away and I've been swimming in rather than getting in my dingy and rowing to shore.  Its a pretty nice lifestyle.  In the morning I get up and dive in the water, swimming around for a little while to both wake up and enjoy the water.  I then go through a selection of: reading, boat project, snorkeling, going to shore, eating, having a coffee, standing around looking at where I am, etc.  I have managed to get a few things done while I've been here, but I've gotten a lot more reading done than anything else (I'm currently reading The Instructions by Adam Levin, recommended.)

I've been seeing a pod of dolphins here in the anchorage from time to time.  They aren't that active, just slowly swimming around and as I watched the from the boat I was remembering more active pods I have come across in my travels which would jump and frolic.  A few days ago on my swim into the beach I was looking around at the coral and sights beneath me as I swam to shore and suddenly there was the pod of dolphins beneath me, slowly circling each other 50' away.  It was amazing!  They knew I was there but neither seemed that interested or bothered by my presence.  I was able to watch them swim around close to me for 15 minutes at which point I continued my swim to shore.  There are 16 dolphins in the pod, a mixture of what looks like full grown adults and youngsters.  Seeing them in this clear water while being so close to them was incredible.  Its not quite 'swimming with the dolphins' but it was the next best thing.

If anybody reading this is considering anchoring in Honamalino Bay, note that the cruising guide's chartlet for the sand/rock bottom seemed a little misleading to me.  The GPS coordinates at the start of this post are a pretty good spot to anchor.  That spot is south and east of the rocky seabed.  From that point to the rocks at the south and east of the bay is sand.  The guide mentions that there is room here for 5 or 6 boats.  That seems pretty generous to me.  Having said that, I've been here for 11 days now and the only sailboat I've seen came in last night and left this morning.  The sailor on the other boat, Scott, mentioned he seldom sees a boat in this anchorage and was surprised to see me here.

While being here, the wind has general been weak, the most common forecast being 'variable less than 10 knots' while South Point 30 miles to the south has 'east 20' or greater.  The wind in the anchorage is often weak from the west, north west or north.  Over a couple of days the swell increased to 8 or 9 feet which created an amazing display of waves crashing into the rocks on shore 200' away - the waves were crashing above the tree line.  But even on those days, the wind was weak.  While the boat rocks here in the waves and swell, with 120' of chain out my anchor has been very secure.  Its nice to be able to visually inspect your anchor and rode every day.  Doing so has started to give me a feel for what the chain does on the seabed as the wind changes direction and strengthens and weakens.  For example with 120' of chain out, around 20' of chain from the anchor back has not moved at all after it was set when I arrived.  The remainder of the chain has swung across the sand bottom back and forth - but the weight of the remainder of the chain seem to be sufficient to not involve the anchor in the movements I've under gone.  Neat.

Tomorrow morning my destination is 12 miles north, Kauhako Bay.


  1. Been in Calgary doing another book launch. this time the book store sold out! Very exciting! I'm so glad your trip is sailing you into warmer waters. Just what you were looking for. Happy snorkelling! and luxuriating in the green and beautiful world.
    love, mum

  2. So how is Kauhako Bay?
    xo Mum