Monday, April 30, 2012

Kealakekua: Captain Cook's Bay

19° 28.444N, 155° 55.316W

I arrived in Kealakekua on April 26th, just after 11am.  I wanted to arrive early as the anchorage has coral with patches of sand and the sand patches are easier to see in good light.  I ended up anchoring three times.  The first time I dropped the anchor in a sand patch in 25' but after letting enough chain out I ended up in 17' of water with the chain draped over some coral.  So I raised the anchor and motored around again.  The second time I found a large spot which had the distinctive light color of sand, so I again dropped anchor, let out enough chain, set the anchor and thought I was done.  I then dove on the anchor to take a look and found that the bottom was a mixture of sand, rock and dead coral with sand lightly covering everything.  The anchor had wedged beside a small rock but the bottom wasn't what I wanted.  I then put my swim fins on and swam around the area looking for a good sand patch.  I finally found a large one with a nice sand bottom.  I took a few bearings, got back in the boat, raised anchor etc and finally ended up in a good spot.  Anchoring in areas where there is coral is definitely more challenging than what I encountered in Mexico or mainland.  While I was here on separate occasions different local's swam out to my boat and looked at the anchor and chain - they seemed to approve of it.  I spoke with both of them and they were interesting folks just looking out for their area.

There are two big draws to this area.  Captain Cook was killed in 1779 in Ka'awaloa Cove, which is on the north side of Kealakekua Bay.  There is a monument and a plaque which indicates the spot he was killed.  The other big draw is snorkeling in Ka'awaloa Cove which has a healthy stand of coral with the fish to go along with it.

Captain Cook's monument
From the monument back into the cove.
A path to a trail
A trail which goes for miles and miles along the coast
My dingy and how I had to land
The guide book I have mentioned that you can land dinghy's on the old pier below the monument.  The commercial operators don't like you to do this and I understand their point.  On the days I was visiting there was a small swell in the area, 3' from the south.  This was enough to mean that a dinghy tied up to the only cleat at the pier would be pretty badly bashed.  Also, the cleat is in an area where most people exit the water.  The spot I found was suggested by one of the commercial operators and is to the left of the monument as you look at it from the water.

The dock at Captain Cook's
The guidebook also mentions that the dock that is beside the anchorage area can be used to land dinghy's, but again, the area is pretty much occupied by the commercial kayak operators.  Tying a dinghy up here wouldn't work as the swell was a lot of surge in this area.  A dinghy could possibly be pulled out of the water...  Anyway, its a problem.

The following day I went back to the cove and snorkeled around for hours and hours.

Kealakekua Bay was more comfortable and friendly than the other anchorages I have been to on the leeward side of the island.  There is swell in the area, but it wasn't as bad as it was earlier.  There is a pretty steady stream of kayakers who rent a kayak in Captain Cook's and then paddle over to the cove to see the monument or snorkel.  There were also stand up paddle boarders and swimmers around.  Each day I was in the anchorage people would stop by the boat and say 'Aloha' and have a little chat.  It was nice.  I'm starting to realize how starved for company I am.  I had expected to arrive in Hawaii and be surrounded by the sailing cruisers as I have been on the west coast and in Mexico.  There just aren't any sailboats around!  Again, I was the only boat in this anchorage and I didn't see any other sailboats go by.  Perhaps Maui, O'ahu or Kaua'i will have more sailboats and cruisers around.

Again, there was no AT&T coverage, so no phone or internet.

I left this anchorage on April 30th heading for Kailua - Kona.  I had big expectations for my next visit - my first real city on the leeward side of the island!  More on that in the next post.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kauhako Bay (Ho'okena): swimming with the dolphins

19° 22.630'N 155° 53.825'W

I motored in light wind from Honomalino to Kauhako Bay.  The cruising guide gave a GPS waypoint for an anchorage location which I motored to.  I liked the position although I thought it was too close to the rock wall for my comfort so I moved over some and anchored.  I dove on my anchor found the sand patch I anchored in was extensive - you could fit several boats here easily.  During my four day stay I again did not see any other sailboats.  The anchorage was empty when I arrived and I was the only boat there for the entire stay.

After Honomalino Bay this bay was busier - there were people and occupied houses on shore.  There is a campground on shore behind the beach with room for 8 or so tents, maybe half occupied.  There is a small village here, although no shops or restaurants.  There is a small non-profit tent which sells a few touristy items as well as microwaved cheeseburgers or burritos.  This was not exactly the food I was seeking, but as it was all there was on offer I had lunch on shore a few days in a row - enjoying that someone else was making my lunch, not me.  There is an open air fresh water shower on shore, although you can't use soap as the water drains directly onto the beach.  You can also drop off garbage which was handy.

The boat was anchored close enough to shore for me to swim in again.  When I got there I looked at the shore evaluating it for a dingy landing and thought that it was doable but that it might get messy.  There was a 3' swell rolling into the anchorage the whole time I stayed there.  The spot my cruising guide recommended for the dingy was beside the old wharf (only the pilings remain.)  This spot had some rocks which the swell was breaking on which made it tricky.  The beach on the extreme east side has no rocks but has the largest waves - this might have been the place I landed the dingy if I needed to.  Its where I swam into and from.

The biggest attraction in this bay ended up being the dolphins, they are simply amazing.  Either the pod I met in Honomalino Bay followed me up here, or an identical pod was resident here, but there were 16 or so dolphins here each morning, swimming slowly around.  There was a small sign on shore explaining that spinner dolphins feed at night and rest during the day.  They find small shallow bays like this one to swim around slowly and rest.  Every now and then they will take off in some direction, checking something out and you can get a sense of how fast they can move when they want to.  Their slow swim around the anchorage is definitely a resting state for them.

Each morning a few people would swim out from shore and watch the dolphins at rest.  The dolphins do not seem to mind our being here.  The anchorage I was in was quite large and the dolphins would swim slowly in circles but would continually come back to us.  You could see them looking at us as they passed by.

Some of the people from shore would bring out large leaves, about six inches in diameter for the 'leaf game' with the dolphins.  The leaves would be left underwater, a few of them scattered around.  When the dolphins see them they come over and pick them up.  By 'pick them up' I mean they swim by and hit the leaf in the middle with their fin.  The leaf is then pressed against the fin by the water pressure and the dolphin can swim along 'wearing' the leaf.  They would often adjust the position of the leaf on the fin once it was picked up by making small movements.  I could only figure out two moves in the game.  The second move they would do would be to pick up the leaf with one of their forward fins, adjust it properly, and then drop it back to their tail fin.  This is a pretty tricky move and I saw it successfully accomplished many times, only missing a few attempts.  When one dolphin was done with their leaf they would drop it off and another dolphin would pick it up - perhaps circling around behind the pod to go back and pick the leaf up.

One time I was watching the game being played and I laughed into my snorkel, underwater.  Upon hearing the laugh a few of the dolphins came closer to me to investigate.  I made a few more talking noises under water and they replied with a few squeaks of their own.  It was a pretty amazing experience. Swimming with the dolphins.  Wow.

There was no AT&T coverage in this bay, so no email or internet.

I left Kauhako on April 26th heading toward Kauhako Bay, more on that soon.

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.

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!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Passage to Hawaii: its a wrap

Since arriving in Hilo, I've had time to update the posts I sent while underway and make a few small adjustments.  I have added some of the weather fax's I received while underway as they may be of interest to other sailors to see what type of quality is typical of what you can receive while underway.  On this passage I concentrated on only receiving three surface analysis every few days - the 24, 48 and 72 hour forecast.  The quality of the faxes in the previous posts are biased toward being good - as if the reception at the time I was trying to receive them was too poor, I would simply stop the process and shut things down.

I've had a few days to try to summarize the passage, and am having a hard time.  You had to have been there.  I consider this my first ocean passage, as after doing this trip I now consider my previous passages as being coastal.  This does not reduce those passages in any way and in fact the Neah Bay to Drakes Bay trip I did remains my most difficult so far.  After having left Neah Bay in Sept, I got to a maximum of around 140nm offshore.  That's by no means close to shore, but I was never further away than I could have motored back to if necessary.  While off the Oregon coastline I was far off, but it was still a coastal passage.

While sailing from Mexico to Hawaii I appreciated just how far away from everything a sailor on the ocean is.  You need to be completely self sufficient in a way that you seldom need to be in life.  I didn't publish very much about the preparations for the trip.  There was the provisioning of course, and examining the boat in as much detail as possible.  I climbed the mast, polished the stainless and generally worked on the boat while always looking for anything wrong or out of place.  The other preparation was getting used to the idea of exposing myself and Luckness to any risks that might have come up along the passage.  There is a gulp moment when you leave the coast and start heading west.  I tried to minimize the risks for the passage as much as possible through preparation and timing but the risks never go to zero.  But I also felt there was a risk in my not doing this passage.  Luckness is a very seaworthy craft and a lot of work has gone into her.  The timing for the passage was good.  As I continue to have aspirations to this cruising lifestyle and am hoping to continue along this path for many years, I felt it was time to do the passage and in effect, hope for the best.  I felt that not doing the passage had more lifestyle risks than going.

This turned out to be a fantastic passage.  I've read and heard of others who were faced with much more wind, and with much less, I was lucky with the weather I encountered.

Having said all of this, I do not wish to talk anybody else into doing a passage like this.  You need to decide on your own whether or not you do this type of sailing.  There are lots of rewarding places to sail without doing an ocean passage.  Although having said that, I'm looking forward to my next passage, and the one after that...

I compiled a little video of the trip.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Passage to Hawaii: done!

Date: Mar 31, 2012
Distance remaining: 157 Previous 24 hour run: by GPS: 161

Date: Apr 1, 2012, Time: 10am Hawaii time
19° 52' N 154° 47' W
Wind speed: 17 / wind dir: 102 (E), Heading: 243, Speed: 5.5
Barometer: 1020, Water Temp: 73
Log: 5266.1
Distance remaining: 18 Previous 24 hour run: by GPS: 141

Final: Apr 1, 2012, Time 2:15pm.
19° 43.939' N 155° 03.165' W
Log: 5285.6
Distance remaining: 0!
Total time of passage: 19 days, 2:45 hours.

I've arrived safely and am at anchor in Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii. Its overcast here, the clouds started gathering around the island 8 miles out and I finally shouted 'land ho!' when I saw a tiny speck of trees and shore when I was 13 miles away. I still really haven't seen the island, the clouds are very low and all I can see is a the lower shore area. When I sailed to within 3 miles of the Hilo Bay breakwater, the wind started being very variable, in speed and direction. Rather than fighting for the last 3 miles, at 1pm I lowered sail and motored into the bay from there.

I have some things to do here to get the boat in order, but thought I would pass along this news. I'll send more soon.

Yippee! Yay me!


March 31.  24 hour surface
March 31.  48 hour surface
March 31.  72 hour surface