Friday, June 17, 2011

From Maui to Molokai and on to Honolulu

Leaving Lahaina, Maui, was not an easy thing to do. It is a gorgeous place with friendly people, a small town with plenty of culture, a climate both warm and inviting, a place surrounded by mountains and ocean. The connections we made with the locals made us feel we could make a place like Lahaina home. But our other home, far to the north, was beckoning and the tradewinds were promising to increase in a few days so, based on our refreshing sail from the Big Island in supposedly “light” tradewinds, we decided to leave earlier than we had planned.

Leaving Lahaina

After breakfast on Sunday, June 12, we slid out of the Lahaina boat harbour intending to go to Honolua Bay at the north western tip of Maui. We had been told that Honolua was a great anchorage and an excellent jumping off place to cross the Pailolo Channel for Molokai Island. Sequoia had gone before us and reported it a good anchorage in sand around coral, with lots of tourist activity during the day, but quiet at night. However, when we were a couple miles off Lahaina, we had a change of mind. Why go north, just to go west? The winds seemed favourable, so we decided to sail directly for Lono Harbour on Molokai – the destination we planned to go to the following day.

The first 3 hours we motor sailed into light winds, but as we got further into the channel, we noticed white caps in the distance. NOAA reports had expressed winds of 15 knots, seas of 7 feet – an easy sail. However, when we crossed the wind line we were plunged immediately into 20 knot winds increasing to 25.

The rugged shoreline of Molokai

By the time we arrived at Lono Harbour, we had seen winds gusting over 30 knots with 8 foot, confused, accordion waves. Luckily the wind was on our starboard quarter and we ran along under double reefed main all the way on very exhilarating surf. We had been told to be concerned about the channel, and the winds were strong there, but we hadn’t taken into account the acceleration effect of the eastern trades along the steep south shore of Molokai. Later I read a description of the Transpac Race between Los Angeles and Honolulu - one of the advertised challenges is the final sail along Molokai before reaching the finish line - like a hill at the end of a marathon. These were famously challenging conditions.  I, for one, was very glad to see the welcoming breakwaters of Lono as they appeared in the late afternoon.

Entrance to Lono Harbour looking out from the anchorage - I was too busy to take the picture coming in!

Lono Harbour is interesting. The breakwaters had been built in the late 50’s to accommodate tugs and barges as they loaded up with soil and sand for the Waikiki waterfront on Oahu. In 1975 the government made it illegal to remove the aggregates and the harbour was abandoned.

Cliff at the base of the harbour - broken piers at the water's edge

All that remains is a broken down pier and an excellent mud holding basin for anchoring. There are no houses, the only inhabitant being Chuck, an older man living on a catamaran and fixing up an old Spencer 35 for future adventures.
Chuck's Place

There is a broken cliff face and, on the other side of the breakwater, a sandy beach.

Sandy beach on the other side - notice the marker to the right (there is another behind it) - when approaching the harbour you line them up for an easy entrance through the coral

There is a dirt road that connects Lono to the more urbanized eastern side of Molokai. We dropped our anchor in 8 meters and let out 30 meters of chain. The wind could still be felt inside, but the water was flat. It didn’t take us long to don bathing suits and dive in for a refreshing swim.

Freedom at anchor in Lono Harbour

We spent two nights there and noticed that the winds seemed to weaken in the early morning hours, so we decided to time our passage to Oahu – and across the Kaiwi Channel – to accommodate these calmer conditions. We got it right because we left at 5:30 and enjoyed a 6 knot run in front of 20 knot winds all the way to Honolulu. We sailed under a full yankee and Ka’sala’s helm was as light as a feather. The sea state was confused, steep and increased as we approached Oahu. Ka’sala and crew took it all very well, admiring the translucent crests of the highest waves as we surfed down them at 7 and 8 knots in brilliant sunshine. Later, when Sequoia arrived at Honolulu they described their passage as even more exciting with winds gusting at 41 knots and seas even higher.  Sailing in Hawaii is not for the faint of heart!

First glimpse of Oahu

Once we cleared Diamond Head, everything calmed down considerably and we were able to enjoy gazing at the Wakiki waterfront as we glided by.

Approaching Diamond Head - Honolulu in the background

We were absolutely amazed at the clarity of the water and, at one point, Doug said: Look down! I could see a big patch of white sand and we were in 20 meters of water. Wow! A few minutes later I looked back to see a white submarine surfacing. OMG! We had motored right over it and we wondered what kind of safety precautions this tourist “view the reef” business incorporated. There were numerous catamarans and other pleasure craft about. As we got closer to shore we could see the surf breaking and crested with the ubiquitous surfers. It took us a bit of searching to pick out the bouys showing the entrance to the Ala Wai, but once locked on we just scooted through the reef and into the harbour.

Waikiki - red bouy to the right is off Diamond Head

First we tied up to the fuel dock to buy our first diesel since Puerto Vallarta – 40 US gallons - $180.00 worth. I guess that is cheaper than flying from the mainland to Honolulu!

Entrance to the Ala Wai looking out - fuel dock to the left

A few minutes later we were tied to the Aloha Dock, in front of Witte Raaf, at the Hawaii Yacht Club.

Ka'sala on the Aloha Dock at the Hawaii Yacht Club

We were welcomed by the manager, Chris, who came aboard to take all our information, then led us on a tour of the club. It was obvious to us he takes pride in the facility. We met a number of people, a couple cruisers passing through, and several yachties who live on their boats nearby and use the club, as Chris described, as their “living room”. Everyone was very warm and friendly, welcoming us to Honolulu and offering assistance if we needed it. ( (Our profile in their newsletter:

The club is very active and has great facilities. Upstairs is a bar and restaurant which flows into wrap-around decks overlooking the ocean. Live music happens on the weekends and there is a dance floor. Downstairs is for the yachties. There is a large gathering room full of tables and chairs, a library, washrooms with excellent showers, a fully equipped kitchen and another bar. The sliding glass doors lead to a grassy area with outdoor seating and barbeques. The slips surround the club and the Aloha dock is right in front.

The Hawaii Yacht Club

What impressed us the most upon arriving was the vital young sailors' program. We watch many happy kids in little sailboats learning the ropes in the little basin in front.  Considering the winds that funnel through the hills and tall building behind, this must be the training ground for future top-notch sailors!

Intently following the lesson

Getting ready to launch

In the harbour - Honolulu skyline in background

 There are race nights and regular sailing events. In fact, the club is currently in the throes of preparing for arrival of the Transpacific Racers from Los Angeles.

The first night we took advantage of the facilities and enjoyed a nice dinner on the upper deck with Jan and Janneke from Witte Raaf, as well as their crew, Guisse. We were lucky to catch them as they were to begin their passage to Alaska a couple days later.

Guisse, Jan and Janeke wave Aloha! as they leave Honolulu - next port of call: Sitka, Alaska

We had heard from Sequoia and knew they would be joining us in a day or two. Freedom, a boat we had met in Lahaina and again in Lono, arrived a day later. Robert, Kalita and young friend, Ray will be leaving for the mainland around the same time as Sequoia and us. We also learned that three other boats had left within the previous few days to begin the passage north.  Looks like we won’t be alone when we cross the Pacific one more time!

Over the next couple weeks we will be busy getting Ka’sala ready for the return voyage. There are chandleries and marine stores here, so Doug has made up his shopping lists. He wants to refine the preventer system he has created and add another antenna for our radios.  By installing the second antenna we will have a back-up to the system already in place, but additionally we will be able to replace the masthead trilight with an LED bulb - easing the strain on our electrics.  We have ordered 2 deep-cycle batteries to replace the batteries we bought in Mexico which didn't work out. We are expecting Tony, our crew, to join us the last week in June, so we want to make sure he will be comfortable aboard. 

We hope to have time to do some sightseeing as well. There is certainly a lot to see and do in this vibrant place. In the meantime, we will try to enjoy our last days in the tropics resting up for the next 2500 mile passage. Aloha!

The sweet smelling plumeria

1 comment:

  1. Aloha Doug and Lynieta,
    Great blog and photos. It's a pleasure to host you at our Aloha Docks.
    Chris Laletin