Monday, May 28, 2012

Anchored at Kalama Nui, Lana'i

20deg 47.795'N 156deg 56.402W

My stay at Lahaina came to a close this morning as I left my mooring and headed toward Lana'i. I enjoyed my three weeks in Lahaina greatly. I met some mighty fine people and felt I could have easily spent much more time here. Looking back at my time I don't have a long list of accomplishments or tourist sites I visited and can now cross off my list. But it was a good time, relaxing and social. I found a local pool (50m, there were always lanes free, it was free!) which helped me get into a little better shape. The folks at the Lahaina Yacht Club were awesome - members and staff were super friendly and it was one of the places I hung out virtually every day. I also bumped into a number of locals, sailors and non-sailors, who became part of my little social scene. I recommend a stay at Lahaina for any visiting yachties - my only reservation is that the mooring field is rolly at times. This can be annoying...and depending on your own tolerance levels you may want to stay for a shorter period of time.

Thanks to everyone for their hospitality!

I left my mooring at 6:45am with the winds forecast as East 20 as I headed SW, looking to round Lanai's southern point clockwise. My destination was Kaumalapau Harbor, 25 miles away, which looked like an easy anchorage in a harbor with not very much going for it. But the harbor is on the leeward side of Lana'i and I preferred a downwind sail to heading NW upwind parallel to the Pailolo Channel to my earlier alternate planned stop. The Pailolo channel was forecast as East 30 knots - and I would be heading upwind into it briefly. I don't mind being beat up by wind and waves if that's what is needed, but if I can plan a way around it, then I do... As I left the mooring, the wind was virtually calm and it remained that way for the first few hours. Some wind finally filled in, but it was a SW wind which was a little surprising to me. When I got to my initial destination I found two other sailboats (small, local, definitely not offshore boats) in the anchorage which was tight. I looked around for a good spot and could have fit in, but the longer I spent in the harbor the less I wanted to be there. There is not a lot going for Kaumalpau Harbor - it would be a safe place to get out of the wind, but it is not a scenic place. There is another anchorage three quarters of a mile further north called Kalama Nui, which is used as a snorkeling destination by some of the local charter companies. I decided to try that anchorage - when I arrived it was empty and its been empty ever since. I expect company as the charter boat arrives tomorrow, but its a much more scenic spot and I'll stay a few days.

I have a short list of things I need to work on, simple boat projects that I neglected while in Lahaina (washing all the accumulated dirt off my topsides, clean the hull, etc.)

For now, I'm out of cell phone and internet contact.

Its 7pm, its 78deg, the sun is setting and its been sunny all day. Life is sweet.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Lahaina

My last post had left me in Nishimura Bay, on the northern tip of the Big Island.  Since then I've crossed the Alenuihaha Channel, stayed anchored off of Big Beach for three nights and moved along to Lahaina.

The crossing of the Alenuihaha Channel was about what I expected - there was lots of wind and waves.  Leaving the lee of the Big Island I saw wind in the 15-20 knot range a little forward of my beam.  This veered around to end up on my starboard quarter after strengthening to 25-33 knots.  The waves were 10-12 feet.  I started the crossing at 5:30am and had crossed the channel by noon - it was a nice sail, my first for a while.  Once I had crossed the channel I started to head north along the coast with my destination being three miles north of the southern tip, off of Big Beach (Oneloa.)  The wind died as expected and by the time I was in the anchorage area there was roughly 10 knots of variable wind around.

Oneloa "Big Beach", Maui
There are large sand patches scattered around this anchorage.  Its a beautiful spot, although its completely open to the waves and swell.  Being so close to the Alenuihaha Channel, there is some wind and waves generated which make their way here.  The anchorage is subject to strong variable winds.  There were times when I would see a wind line approaching from the south and soon after be hit by 25 knots of wind/waves.  Then after a bit it would calm down, become variable, and then switch to a strong north wind.  It was a little wild.  I was anchored in 32' of water with 160' of chain out - and there were times when I would be lying to my anchor all the way in one direction followed a little while later by lying to my anchor all the way in some other.  Remarkably my Rocna anchor held in these conditions. The winds were strong and reversing multiple times a day, but diving on my anchor I could see it well set in the sand bottom without any trace of it having reset or dragged.  Nice.

Big Beach
I ended up being here for three nights.  I had expected to arrive at Big Beach and quickly make my way up the coast to a second anchorage I had found.  But the cruising guide mentioned my second pick wasn't as good an anchorage in strong winds and this in an area the wind is meant to whip through when the trades are blowing.  I had two other anchorages selected beyond that one, but again they were both open roadstead anchorages recommended for light conditions.  So I decided to move along from Big Beach to Lahaina, and wanted to arrive on Monday.  So I spent three nights at Big Beach, swimming in the water around the boat but not making it into shore.

Molokini from Big Beach
On Monday I left the anchorage off Big Beach in a light south wind.  Motoring north I encountered first variable light wind, then stronger variable wind, then steady north wind, then 25-30 knots, gusting higher, from the north (where I was heading.)  This was pretty much a repeat of my trip across the bay north of Kona, and was about as miserable although for less time.  Eventually I reached the northern shore of the bay, turned west and followed it toward Lahaina 10 miles away and after a while the wind moderated and then fell off.

Some of the Maui coastline, south of Lahaina
I picked up a Lahaina Yacht Club mooring.  LYC has 8 moorings which they keep open for transient cruisers.  (LYC is one of the yacht club which organizes the Vic-Maui yacht race, the race ends here.)  If you're a member of a yacht club there is no charge for the mooring.  I'm not a yacht club member so the charge is $10/day which I am happy to pay.  I dove on the mooring and it is in good shape and has beefy hardware.  It feels like I can start to relax here.  The mooring field is a roadstead and is so fully open to swell and waves, and there is some swell scheduled to arrive over the next few days (south 3', then mixed south 3'  + north 3', then north 3' for a while) but the town seems interesting, its a beautiful area, its sunny!  The maximum stay on a LYC mooring is normally 14 days, but as this is the low season the folks at the LYC have agreed to allow me to stay longer.  Sweet!  The folks at the LYC seem very friendly and its nice to be among sailors again.  They have a bar/lounge which serves food and drinks and they've provided me with a visiting yachtsmen membership which allows me full use of their facilities.

Making power in sunny Lahaina.
I think I'm going to like this place!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nishimura Bay

20° 11.326' N, 155° 54.203'W
(Note the waypoint given in the cruising guide is wrong.)

The distance from Kona to my first stop on Maui, which is near the southern point of the island, is roughly 70 miles.  The channel between the two islands is called Alenuihaha and the trade winds funnel between the two islands in this channel creating more wind and seas than normal.  According to my cruising guide: "The Alenuihaha Channel has the reputation of being one of the world's worst channels."  (I'm already across it as I write by the way...don't worry.)  By breaking up the journey you are able to choose your crossing time more flexibly.  The cruising guide has a couple of spots which could be used as an intermediate point, I choose Nishimura Bay and think I lucked out in my choice - its a beautiful spot with great anchoring.  Nishimura is 30 miles away from Kona, as the crow flies.

The sailing on the leeward side of the Big Island had been difficult as there has been so little wind, and what wind there is is often highly variable.  On the journey between Kona and Nishimura there was often some wind, but it was still highly variable.  Leaving Kailua you head north west until you round Keahole Point which is maybe 8 miles away.  From there the coast line heads back north east to Kawaihae (20 miles) and then heads back north west and then north to the tip of the island.  Nishimura is, oh, say 3 miles south of the northern tip of the island, on the leeward side.

For the initial leg out to Keahole Point, there was little wind, and so I motored.  After rounding the point some wind arrived so I raised the sails and started to sail.  After a 1/2 hour the wind quickly veered 90 degrees so I was heading back toward where I had come,  I tacked and held that for a few minutes when the wind changed again and dropped to near zero.  Then the wind came back from the opposite direction.  I realized this might not be a good sailing day after all, and so got pointed back to my destination (to the opposite side of the bay, 8 miles south of my destination) and started motorsailing.  Having the sails up helped, I gained a little speed and the boat motion was better without the sails slatting or chafing.  The waves in this area were a constant 3 or 4 foot short period wind waves.  As the wind was so variable and generally light, I was curious how these wind waves were being generated - as they were coming from the shoreline ahead of me, they weren't trade wind waves wrapping around the tip of the island.  Of course, if there are wind waves which are of a constant height and they are coming from a constant direction (exactly from where I was heading to) then there is likely to be wind ahead.  It took a while but once I was within 10 miles of the opposite shore the wind started to become steady and strengthen.  It ended up being E - NE 25 to 30 knots, steady, on the nose.  I wanted to be at the anchorage early enough to be able to evaluate the holding and be able to change my destination if required, so I continued to motor.  I ended up motoring 8 hours this day, which was unfortunate, but I arrived by 2:30pm which was good timing.

When I arrived at the anchorage it corresponded closely to the description from the guide book.  There are two large patches of sand, with the one in the middle of the bay being larger.  I choose to anchor in the larger patch and was able to let out 160' of chain without coming close to any coral.  The winds ripping through the anchorage were 25 to 30 knots but the anchor was firmly set and as I dove the anchor I saw that the sand was deep and extensive.  Score one major point for this anchorage.

Nishimura Bay is a beautiful spot.  There is no sand beach anywhere on the shore which is too bad in terms of landing on shore but works out well for the clarity of the water.  The water here was extremely clear.  Swimming around the bay gave great views of the bottom - while I didn't approach shore very closely it was still good exercise and its always nice to be in the water in this area.

Me!  Happy to be here!
The wind blew all night and the next morning it was still blowing, so I decided to take a day of rest and perhaps leave the next day.  The area has AT&T coverage so I was able to use my internet connection, sweet!  I swam, watched a movie, looked around, did a few chores and generally relaxed.  As the day progressed the wind fell off almost to a calm, which was not forecast.  Between the solar panels and my wind generator I had excess power here, which hasn't always been the case on the leeward side of Hawaii.  I had my inverter on all day charging up all my devices, I made water for around 5 hours, I was trying to find ways to consume more energy but wasn't able to use it all.

The next morning, friday, I got up at 4:40am, saw the wind was east 10 knots.  I used the computer to check the two forecast areas (the channel and Maui's leeward side) as well as the grib data for the area - and decided to leave.  I was out of this anchorage by 5:45am having stayed two nights.

If you find yourself heading from the Big Island to Maui, I can recommend this as a stopover.  Based on my one whole time being of course use your own judgement given the weather etc.  But its a nice anchorage and the sand patch here provides good holding.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kailua Bay (Kona)

I arrived in Kailua Bay at 11:30am after motoring over from Kealakekua.  I have two cruising guides: Charlies Charts and the guide by Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy.  Charlies Charts only describes Kailua briely, saying that anchoring here is not recommended.  The Mehaffy guide mentions two anchoring spots, one I didn't like and one I never found.  While I was there, there were several moorings which appeared to be free however the harbormaster was unable to allow me to tie up to either of them which is fair enough.  I ended up anchoring here six times, and there were people complaining about where I was after every attempt.

The harbormasters phone number is different from the one given in both cruising guides, I understand they changed their phone numbers recently and the change isn't yet reflected by the web sites I found via google as I was searching for it.  Their new number is (808) 327-3692.

This post is a little negative and whiny.  If you only want to hear about the good aspects of cruising, come back in a few days and I'll probably have a positive feel good post you can read (as where I am at the moment is awesome.)

I've been trying hard to avoid dropping my anchor on coral and also trying to find a large enough sand patch so that as the boat moved around at anchor the rode won't hit adjacent coral.  I found a great sand patch in the bay 600' away from the pier where this was possible.  This is probably the best sand patch in the bay - the sand is deep so the holding is good and its also large.  The spot is 600' feet SSW of the pier and 300' west of the northernmost mooring.  None of the commercial operators of the larger boats complained about my being here.  One person, who ended up being the harbor masters agent (agent of the agent, AA) mentioned that he though I was in the way of the other commercial operators although personally he had no problem with where I was.  None of the other operators had said anything and would wave as they went by.  After finally finding the harbor masters phone number, we spoke and he wanted me to move but gave me conflicting advice.  He said I could move 100' further south (into the coral as it turned out) and also to follow the advice the AA gave me.  The AA advised that I move much farther away, but also gave me conflicting advice.  There was a cruise ship arriving on Wednesday and they both felt that the tenders which serve the ship would have trouble getting around me.  I've been in harbors where these tenders operate and they are much smaller than other boats which had been successfully operating at the pier without any problem.  So I ended up moving.  I found another smaller but large enough sand patch further from the pier, farther east and south.  Lots of space between me and anything else around - at least 400' to the nearest mooring and 800' to the pier.  The AA came by again and asked me to move again and clarified his earlier advice.  So I moved again, finding a small 'sand bunker' as the AA called it, which is basically a small sand patch where you can drop your anchor while your rode drapes over the neighboring coral.  The AA liked the spot I ended up in, although he felt it was too close to the swim lane.  At this point I was getting fed up, not liking where I was at all.  It was 3pm on Tuesday and I decided to go to shore to eat, provision, and then move along the next morning.

The next morning (Wednesday) the harbor agent called at 5:50am and asked me to move as he felt I was too close to a lane the cruise ship might use for their tenders.  There was over 800' SW from me to the mooring field, it was ridiculous.  The agent described a location where he thought I could move which was between two boats in the mooring field.  I asked if there was a sand bottom in that area as there is dense coral throughout most of the bay - he had no idea what the bottom was like.  I spoke with him longer and he admitted that basically his goal was to move me out of the bay to Honokohau, about three miles north.

One more aspect to the bay of interest to cruisers is the dinghy dock. The only space I found for landing my dinghy was to moor it bow/stern to a mooring ball and a cleat on the dock - there were two spare mooring balls when I was there that were available.  The rest of the area is reserved for commercial operators.  This worked out fine once I realized what the solution was.

The anchorage is rolly.  I experienced the worst rolling here at anchor that I found on the leeward side of the island.  This isn't just during the day when boats are moving around, its at night as well.  There were several times when I found myself laughing out loud at the motion the boat just took, thinking "that was ridiculous!"

One last point, the harbor agent mentioned that boats which anchor here need to apply for a temporary mooring permit and pay a daily fee.  This is normally done personally at their office in Honokohau (three miles away.)  Both cruising guides mention the first 72 hours are free and a different agent I spoke with at the office mentioned that the state changed their procedures recently and she had basically stopped issuing temporary mooring permits as the money they generated wasn't worth her trouble - she said I wouldn't need one.  When I spoke with the agent as I was getting ready to leave he waived the money I owed, along with the 5 pages of permit he had wanted me to fill out.

The Kona pier from my final anchoring spot
My view of the cruise ship  from the same spot as above.  Its stern is pointed at the pier.
The final complaint from the harbor master was that the tenders between the cruise ship and the pier would have trouble with where I was anchored.  In the photo above, note the distance from myself to the nearest row of moorings.   Also note that the tenders would being going back and forth in a line from the cruise ship to the pier behind it.  Its a straight line along the side of the ship's port side to the pier.

My conclusion is that they don't want sailboats here and will hassle you until you realize that.  Coming here was a frustrating experience.  I had plans to stay in the bay for a week, enjoying being in a city again.  In the end I was here for under 48 hours.

To other cruisers: you may have a totally different experience than I did.  If you could get onto a mooring, then everything would likely turn out just fine - but the harbor master wasn't really open to that idea when I spoke with him.  Or perhaps you can find a place to anchor which everybody likes and again have a good time here.  It looks like a visit to Kona would be worthwhile and I'm sorry I missed it.  If you can get into Honokohau it looks like it could be a good long term spot which would let you explore the area by land (assuming the bow/stern mooring you end up on is free for as long as you want it, as I believe there are no moorings reserved for transients.)

Next up: I move to the north side of the Big Island to stay briefly before moving along to Maui.