Saturday, June 11, 2011

Maui: The Passage, an Aloha Welcome and Paradise

As we had planned, we left Hilo about noon on Friday, June 3. The trade winds and sea state were predicted to die down, which would make the passage across the Alenuihaha Channel to Maui more comfortable. We motor-sailed into light winds and confused seas for the first three hours. Then, once we cleared Hilo Bay and headed northeast, we picked up 15 knots of wind allowing us to beam reach on a starboard tack with full headsail and main. Unfortunately the seas also increased and remained confused, causing us to pitch and roll. Although I had taken some Dramamine before leaving, I had my head over the side by late afternoon. After an hour in the bunk, I was back in the cockpit, ready to do my watch, and managed for the rest of the trip.

Lumpy seas

I kept my mind off my discomfort by watching the stunning northeast coast of the Big Island passing by. We gazed as Mauna Kea slipped by and even saw the observatories at the top. I wondered how many people were lucky enough to see them from our perspective. From this vantage point we could see the full extent of the volcano – the view we had missed when coming in to Hilo three weeks before. The night was clear and the stars clustered and blanketed the sky. The lights of the houses and villages along the shoreline twinkled and the wind vane kicked up phosphorescence in our wake. As we neared the northern tip of the island, the wind began to accelerate and we began to take down sail. We crossed the channel in the night with reefed headsail and main, wing on wing. North of Maui, lightning illuminated the dark sky, giving us periodic glimpses of the island’s outline. I fretted that the weather may be coming our way, but it never happened.

Dawn - you can just see the southern shore of Maui in the distance

At first light, we were close to the southern shore of Maui and the wind picked up even more. Now we were in steady 25 knot winds with gusts over 30. We reefed down more and worked to keep Ka’sala steady in the short, choppy seas that were probably 8 feet, 8 seconds apart, but with a cross swell, which caused the occasional disconcerting roll and wallow. It was not the predicted comfortable ride and we were glad to turn the corner north at La Perouse Bay. We had thought we would anchor there, but the wind came around the corner enough to make it untenable. We continued on to the next two anchorages, Oneloa Beach and Makena, on either side of the cone shaped Pu’u Ola’i, but, much to our surprise, found the wind had shifted to the north. Although the waves had decreased, these remote anchorages did not appeal. We continued on.

This overall map gives you the perspective.  You can see why the wind accelerates at the south of the island when it is helped along by such steep hillsides

Molokini - we passed by this famous dive spot in the early morning - the anchorage was packed

An aerial view of Molokini clearly showing the reef in the old crater and the south of Maui in the background

We had not got much sleep during the night and were pretty tired. When the first three of our anchoring choices didn’t work out we were left wondering what to do.

Looking north toward the cone of Pu’u Ola’i

The next anchorage our guidebook indicated was at Ma’alaea, but we had been told that the wind usually howls through there as it is by the flat land that connects the peaks of South and West Maui. There were other anchorages farther up the coast, but many of them were roadsteads, so we decided to head for Lahaina where we had been told we could pick up one of the Lahaina Yacht Club moorings.

The incredibly shoreline of West Maui - notice the verdant valley in the cleft of the mountains

Doug thought he would try his luck with the Harbour Master and, fortunately for us, he offered us a space in the harbour behind the breakwater. We gladly accepted and motored four more hours in a calm and windless sea, arriving at 12:30, approximately 24 hours after leaving Hilo.

Entrance to the boat basin at Lahaina

The first thing we noticed was the surfers.  There is a reef all along the shore and we had to look closely through the break to find the bouys marking the narrow harbour entrance.

Looking out the entrance - at certain points we have seen the surf cross the entrance

Inside docks line the basin, but all the boats are either stern or bow tied to mooring bouys. There are no docks between the boats, only fenders keep them apart, as the surge rises and falls. Our slot was at the back and we slowly worked our way in, gently parting the boats on either side.

Ka'sala's first berth, we later moved to the other side

I was in the bow with a dock line, getting ready to make the leap over the pulpit, when a man came along to take the line. He started talking to me in what I thought was English, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. I was tired, not always great at hearing at the best of times, and thought I was an absolute idiot to keep saying: “Pardon me” and “What did you say”. Then it occurred to me – he was speaking Hawaiian pidgin!

While Doug went ashore to check in with the Harbour Master, I tried to take in our situation. Our bow was facing a breakwater that was only a foot or two above the docks. The waves were rolling in and crashing on the rocks, setting up big sprays of warm salt water. The rollers were swarming with surfers of various abilities – tanned, fit and rugged. The sunlight sparked off their boards and bodies as they hooted the pleasure of their ride. To the east, the island of Lana’i loomed up, providing a green contrast to the spectacular translucent blue of the water and the foamy white of the wave crests, while the boats on the moorings bobbed and rolled in the swell.

View from our cockpit- Lani'i in the background - looking west

When I turned to look to the stern of our boat, I found myself looking at a beautiful harbour front. Sandy beach, swaying palms, colonial buildings, an old hotel, and giant banyan trees laid out in front of several steep, cone shaped mountains covered with lush green foliage and topped with a ring of cloud. I must have looked pretty silly there on the bow with my mouth hanging open, arms slack at my side as I slowly turned in 360 degree circles trying to take in the reality of where I found myself. When Doug returned he told me we could stay a couple days, so we cracked a couple of beers in celebration, then hit the bunk for a few hours. The sail from Hilo had been challenging and we were happy to be safe and sound again.

Later that day, Doug called a contact in Lahaina. When we were on the docks in Port Townsend, Washington, he had met a man named Bunt. Bunt was interested in Ka’sala and our plans and as they parted he said: “If you ever come to Lahaina, be sure to look me up.” Bunt remembered Doug and invited us to his home that evening for sundowners.
Bunt and Doug

Bunt, and his wife Ann, live in a beautiful, ocean front home that once belonged to the now defunct, sugar plantation. Built in the early 20th century they had upgraded and added to it without compromising its charm. The whole front of the house opens on to the ocean where we could hear and smell the ocean in every room and feel the breeze that keeps the place cool.

Bunt and Ann's beautiful home is open to the sea

Ocean porch

Sunset view over the anchorage in front of Lahaina

A flowering tree trailed on to the open porch and each large, high ceiling room blended into the other giving a feeling of space and light.

We sat in the little garden in the back sipping Mai Tai’s and watched the sun set as the waves crashed into their retaining wall and arced into the yard.

Bunt and Ann are gracious hosts. We quickly found out we had a great deal in common and enjoyed similar things in life. We had so much to talk about and, although we had just met, felt like we were just catching up, as though we had only been apart for a while. Later, Bunt and Ann took us to dinner at their favourite Thai restaurant, the Thai Chef, where we were treated to several spicy and delicious dishes.

At the Thai Chef
The next day, Bunt invited us to join them to watch a live theatre production in Kihei. We drove down the coast to watch “Greater Tuna” – a two-man production which takes an ironic, dark comedic view, of the lives of people in a small Texas town. The actors were professional and they presented at least 20 different roles, which they did in a very convincing manner. It turned out Bunt is involved in local theatre and we were able to meet the cast as well as several of their friends.

Afterward, we piled back into the car, and were taken along winding roads through sugar cane fields to the north shore.
North Shore beach with sugar cane in the background

We stopped in Pa’ia, a famous surfing town, for some ribs at a bar frequented by Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Famous surfer beach on the north shore

 We were very grateful for this escorted driving tour, realizing we would not have seen it or learned about it without them.

On Monday, when we were supposed to leave the harbour, Doug asked if we could stay longer. We were amazed to be offered a berth for 28 days – primarily because there was room for a smaller boat. We signed on for 10 more days.

Tuesday night we were invited to Bunt’s home again, this time for a potluck. We felt quite honoured to be welcomed by many of their friends. Most of them are long time citizens of Maui, and we learned about the island from them – something we could never have achieved through guidebooks. I have to say: It’s a pretty good life!!

Maui life - a celebration of Ann's birthday with a hilarious rendition of Swan Lake

Bunt and Ann left a couple days later for a holiday, so we would not get the chance to see them again. We are sincerely grateful for their hospitality. Thank you!

Being moored downtown makes getting to know Lahaina a lot easier. Right across the street from us is the courthouse with all the information a tourist needs to find out about the history, culture and customs of this place – and Lahaina has lots of it.
Lahaina courthouse

When King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands in 1795 he decided to make Lahaina his home base and it remained the capital until 1845.

Statues of Kamehameha the Great are found in many places around the Islands

Kamehameha I

What a gorgeous place it must have been when the American missionaries arrived in the 1830’s! The missionaries built coral blocked houses right beside the hales (Hawaiian houses) and went about trying to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity. At the same time, the whaling industry took off in the area. The protected western waters of Maui are the birthing place of Humpback whales and it didn’t take long for them to be hunted almost to extinction. In the meantime, the combination of the natural culture of the natives, the high morals of the missionaries and the wild behavior of the whalers made Lahaina quite an exciting place to be.
Lahaina in 1848

Later in the 19th century, when the whaling days were over, the island was developed agriculturally for sugarcane and pineapples. Asians were imported to labour on the plantations and the cultural face of Lahaina changed and evolved again. Today, it is a tourist centre and the main road in town is lined with trendy shops, art galleries and restaurants where the fish markets used to be. The streets are full of predominantly white-skinned tourists, many of them young, enjoying all the area has to offer. It seems like a romantic destination as many people walk hand in hand and we’ve heard it is a destination for weddings. Underlying the superficial tourist industry is a strong culture of surfers, service industry workers, professionals and retirees. In a third layer are the long time inhabitants who can trace their family’s genealogy to the previous century.

While here we have visited the Courthouse with its interesting historical photographs and the Baldwin House, home of the missionaries whose descendents went on to own most of the island and control its economy.

Canons recovered from the sea in front of the courthouse

Baldwin House - the hearty missionaries who lived here took 160 days to get here from the States - we took 23, but then again, we didn't go around the Horn!

Hawaiian entertainment on the Baldwin House steps

We also visited the Hale Pa’ahao, the prison where rowdy sailors were kept if they didn't make it back to their ships at the end of the day. One story is told of a whaling captain who was imprisoned for drunkeness.  His crew demanded him back and when the governor didn't comply, they fired on his house!  The captain was freed.

Gatehouse of the prison

The prison yard is now a beautiful garden - the wall was made with coral blocks taken from the old fort

Doesn't look like a fun place to sleep it off!

I found the Ho Wing museum, social and religious centre for the Chinese, fascinating, as well as the adjacent cookhouse where we saw some of Thomas Edison’s early moving pictures of Hawaii.

Ho Wing Museum

Upstairs shrine

We also walked around town in the many little parks and courtyards where the thatched Hawaiian hales used to stand or have been recreated.

This traditional hale can be viewed in a shopping centre parking lot!

The centre of town is marked by an incredible Banyan tree which covers an entire block. Planted in 1873, this tree is so significant to the town its birthday is celebrated each April.

This banyan tree is enormous!

Of course, who can resist the shops? One night we were walking back to the marina after dinner and we saw Sir Anthony Hopkins in one of the galleries – his gruesome artwork was on display and he was smoozing with the crowd (or were they smoozing with him?)

Although I have managed to stick to window shopping, the temptation to buy is huge.

Hula Girl - statues adorn the town of Lahaina

Sailor boy
But I did settle for a sweet smelling plumeria lei - made by senior citizens raising money for the local high school.

Aromatherapy - Hawaiian style

A few blocks away from town is the “gasoline alley” with box stores and chain restaurants. We wandered up there to look for the laundrymat and ended up in the Barnes and Noble. Oh, oh!! The last B&N I had been in was San Diego, a week before the NookColour hit the market. I admired the potential of this eReader and would have bought one at the time if it had been available. Now they were. It didn’t take much sales pressure for us to buy ourselves one each. It is a remarkable and powerful device – much more than a way to read books – it accesses the internet, plays movies and music and will read books to you. Cool.

We’ve also been out to a few restaurants, patronizing the Lahaina Yacht Club twice – once with Craig and Barbara off Sequoia, and once with Jane and Tim off Midnight Blue.

Tim and Jane at the Lahaina Yacht Club

By showing our yacht club card, we enjoyed a reasonably priced dinner on a white tablecloth, overlooking the ocean and magnificent sunset views. We also had a meal at an Outback – my first Australian restaurant – and chomped down on an excellent fire-seared steak .

It’s hot here, so we’ve been to the beach a few times to play in the surf.

Beach beside the boat basin in Lahaina

The water is incredibly warm and playing in the waves is a lot of fun. Afterward we shower off in the cockpit. Craig and Barbara rented bicycles and offered them to us for an hour.

Craig and Barbara on the smooth rides

There is so much to see and do we aren’t getting much boat work done. Each evening we spend some time in the cockpit enjoying the sea breezes, the balmy weather and the stars. Indeed. This is paradise. I may never go home.


  1. Ola
    We (you may not remember us) we met in San Francisco & La Cruz have been following your blog and your passage to Hawaii. Glad you have found paradise! Also pleased to hear you have connected up with Barb and Craig on Sequoia...Please say Hi for us. We are back home in BC... a little too cool & wet but improving slowly. We will spend the summer sailing with a friend to Haida Gwaii before returning to Mexico next fall. Fair winds and safe passage home Dick & Anne "Full & By"

  2. Aloha Doug and Lynieta, Reading your blog is such a pleasure. Keep up the postings as you continue on. But for the time being, love having you at our Aloha Dock at the Hawaii Yacht Club.
    Chris Laletin, GM