SAILING FROM BIG ISLAND

Alinuihaha Channel, you lived up to your reputation and I shall never forget you. The crossing of the Channel was boisterous with tremendous winds and waves experienced just before arriving at the southern tip of Maui.  The trip is not to be taken lightly, the first part up to the tip of the big island is along a lee shore with no possible shelter available.  Then, when committed to crossing the channel there is little room for bailing out other than running south to the west coast of the Big Island.

Maalaea Harbour Entrance.Truce Anchored in Lono Harbour.PHOTO Ray Penson
Maalaea Harbour Entrance.Truce Anchored in Lono Harbour.PHOTO Ray Penson

We made the one-hundred-mile trip from Hilo to La Perouse Bay in seventeen hours.  It could have been much faster but I was trying to keep the speed down to reasonable levels, at one stage I had nine point five showing on the GPS, which is too much.

By one in the morning Truce was anchored in La Perouse Bay, gently pitching and rolling to the low southerly swell entering the bay.  When we arrived at La Perouse bay it was pitch dark and the shore line couldn’t be seen.  I could hear the breakers crashing on the rocks but couldn’t tell how far off they were.  It was a relief at daylight to see that we had found the right anchor spot.

Truce Anchored in Lono Harbour.PHOTO Ray Penson
Truce Anchored in Maalaea Bay. Truce Anchored in Lono Harbour.PHOTO Ray Penson

La Perouse Bay is quite scenic but not much happening there, unless you are into snorkelling.  The water is crystal clear, I could easily see the anchor on the bottom in ten meters.  The Bay is surrounded with volcanic basalt type rock, a bit like Rangitoto in New Zealand but on a bigger scale.  After breakfast, I decided to move on the Sugar Beach in Maalaea Bay.  I had good reports about the place, cafes, restaurants, farmers market, bus into town, nice beach etc.

Upon arrival at Sugar Beach, at two in the afternoon, the wind was howling, about twenty-five knots from onshore.  I anchored, the anchor held.  Now I am sitting on board listening to the wind howling in the rigging as Truce bobs around the anchor.  I can’t go ashore, it’s too windy to leave the boat and I am sure the rubber duck would be blown over the horizon in no time.  So, frustration has set in, I can see the shore, I can hear the shore, I can smell the shore but can’t get there at the moment.

The wind is expected to reduce as the sun goes down and the land cools.  By ten in the evening we can expect calm conditions and the cycle repeats itself the next day with wind building from ten in the morning.

During my time here I have only encountered two other cruising boats.  The lack of sheltered anchorages and ports means that cruisers mainly avoid the place.  Hawaii is a major crossroads on the cruising circuit but it seems most go the established marinas in Honolulu where there are full facilities and services before sailing onwards.

NO MORE BACK TO WALL

Strong winds and rain in the early hours is becoming a tiresome habit.  This morning at one the rain squalls came through the harbour and the anchor must have dragged through the soft mud, leaving Truce far too close for comfort off the harbour wall.  Fortunately, the wind decreased and everything remained safe until daylight.  Now I know how it feels to have your back to the wall.

After suffering interrupted sleep two nights in a row I decided that I had enough of Radio Bay and Hilo.  In the early morning I made preparations to leave.  The forecast is for strong North Westerly winds, twenty-five to thirty knots.  They will be aft of the beam so nothing too strenuous.

I have decided to make the jump across from the Big Island to Maui.  It’s one hundred miles to Maui and entails crossing the Alinuihaha Channel, a notoriously windy place where the trade wins are funnelled between ten thousand foot mountains on one side and five thousand foot mountains on the other.

By eight I was clear of Hilo harbour and motoring up the north coast of the Big Island, no wind but a lumpy sea and big swell.  By eleven the wind had set in and we were sailing in beautiful conditions along the coast.  What a lovely coastline, the vegetation is vivid green, houses dotted on the hillsides, some large houses with well-manicured gardens and lawns.  As the land rises back from the coast it is covered by clouds, nothing can be seen of the mountains beyond.  Further up the coast we passed the Waipio Valley, a spectacular stretch of high rugged coastline.

We are aiming for La Perouse Bay on the south side of Maui.  This is the first sheltered anchorage after crossing the Alinuihaha Channel from the Big Island.   All being well we should be there in the early hours of Saturday morning, safely anchored.  I am looking forward to Maui, everyone says it’s a beautiful place.

MORE WANDERING IN HILO

My wish for an uninterrupted sleep didn’t materialise.  In the early hours of the morning the wind woke me and I found the yacht alongside was coming a bit close.  I checked the moorings and all was OK and an hour later the wind had subsided.

Hanging out in Reeds Bay, Hilo Photo Ray Penson
Hanging out in Reeds Bay, Hilo Photo Ray Penson

Later in the morning I finished the mast work and headed ashore in the Rubber Duck.  I caught the local bus into town and had a good scout around.  The market had shrunk in size from yesterday – they have big market days and small market days, today was a small market day.  I bought some nice Papaya and some veggies.

The town is quite run down.  A few tourist shops along the front street and then a lot of vacant buildings in the streets behind.  A couple of miles up the road is a big shopping centre with Sears, Macey’s, Walmart, Safeway, Target – all the big brand stores.  The shops in the town obviously can’t compete and are closing.  Sad because the old town has a nice quirky feel to it.

I didn’t get my Hawaiian shirt today – just didn’t see the killer design I am after.  No hurry.  Lunch of spicy fish curry was taken at Pineapple restaurant.  Nice fresh food washed down with draft Castaway IPA.

This evening the American couple Nick and Taylor came over for sundowners.  Then a British guy, Ben, turned up from nowhere on a paddle board.  He has a boat anchored out in the bay.  All up I had a nice relaxing day.

Thoughts are turning to moving on towards Honolulu.  The winds around Hawaii are notoriously strong. Particularly in the channels between the islands so good planning is needed for an easy passage.  Saturday seems like a good time to head off towards Maui according to the local forecast.  I must leave Radio Bay tomorrow as my mooring runs out.  I will probably anchor around the corner in Reeds Bay which is closer to town – and free.

WANDERING IN HILO

Last night I had a beautiful sleep.  The sleep you get when you are tired and the job has been done.  No interruptions, no wind shifts and secure in the knowledge that Truce was securely moored fore and aft.

I got off to a late start this morning, I must have switched to Island time during the night.  Anyway, I got the rig tensioned up properly as far as I can tell.  The mast wedges are also looking good but I want to put a bit more pressure on the starboard side.  As it was lunchtime I decided to go ashore and finish the mast off tomorrow. Besides a job like this always benefits from some more thinking time.

I caught the local bus, that rattled and shook its way into town.  One of the things I had to do was get a money order to pay for mooring.  The port does not accept cash or credit card, they only accept cheque or bank draft / money order thing.  I finally got what I needed from Pay Day Loans for a cost of eighty-eight cents.  With money order in hand in made it back to the port before they closed and handed my paper over to the clerk.  What a performance and waste of precious time to explore Hilo.

Hilo town is an interesting place and there is a great open-air market that I will explore further tomorrow and stock up on fresh fruit and veg.  The variety of colourful shirts on offer is almost too much to take in.  Real loud Hawaiian shirts in the worst possible taste – I want to buy them all.  Spoilt for choice, I ended up buying nothing.  Tomorrow is another day.

Just outside the port gate I found a bar having the vital combination of cold beer and Wi-Fi.  The local brew, Castaway IPA, is to be recommended.  So, after a day doing a lot but not seeming to achieve much I returned to Truce for sundowners and a chat with my French neighbours.  Early in the evening we had a rain shower, cooled things down nicely.  I am listening to Norah Jones greatest hits on the Bose, nice mood music that fits the night well.  Now I am looking forward to another peaceful night’s sleep.

ARRIVED IN HILO

Since yesterday we have had very little wind.  At noon yesterday we had 77 miles to go and at midnight thirty three remained.  By five thirty in the morning in had managed to reduce that to seventeen miles.  The small breeze we did get was from the passing rain clouds.  So, an executive decision was made to call on Mr. Yanmar to get us home.

I was hoping to see the Big Island appear on the horizon at daybreak, much as Captain Cook must have seen it.  It was no to be, the rain showers and low cloud meant that we didn’t see the land until a couple of miles distant.  At nine in the morning we rounded Hilo Breakwater.  By ten thirty Truce was Mediterranean Moored in Radio Bay and all secure.

In the Tropics, Hilo, Hawaii. Photo Ray Penson
In the Tropics, Hilo, Hawaii. Photo Ray Penson

The couple from the boat next door helped me tie up and then brought over a beautiful Papaya.  Very welcome and disappeared down the hatch in no time.  I then checked in with Boarder protection, an easy process here and it was time to relax.

In the afternoon I went for a walk. The road into town is busy with trucks, noisy, hot and dusty.  It’s also a long way into town and I didn’t make it. I got distracted by an area just past Reeds Bay, Liliuokalani Gardens, and the walk along Banyan Drive.  Nicely laid out parks and people making good use of them in a relaxed manner.  It’s hard to think this is America.

All the walking in the hot weather was taking its toll, but fortunately I found some place where I could refresh myself.  What I have seen so far of Hilo is good, the people are very friendly and relaxed, reminds me a bit of NZ.

The plan tonight is to have a couple of sundowners on the boat, go ashore for an open-air shower and then have a good sleep without interruptions.  Tomorrow I want to get the rig tensioned up evenly and fix the mast wedges.  Once that is done I will feel happy to put on a bit more sail.  Then I want to have a tourist experience of Hilo and visit a Volcano, as recommended by a local.  Voyage distance 2,114 miles.

STILL ON EASY STREET TO HILO

I don’t want to jinx my good fortune but we are still running with Jib poled out to port directly down the track to Hilo.  If the wind holds true we will be arriving early on Tuesday morning.

This morning I turned again to bread making.  I used a new method I thought up that’s easier when we are rocking and rolling at sea.  Turned out wonderful, nice fluffy bread with a crisp crust.  The galley gets pretty hot with the oven on, not a place to hang around in.

I had the first sign of outside human life for over week this morning.  On the VHF radio channel 16 part of a broadcast from US Coastguard in Honolulu came in.  Must be a rebroadcast from Hawaii I guess.  There are a few more seabirds around today but still no other ships to be seen, either visually or on AIS.

I checked out the local VHF radio and AM radio but stations coming in yet.  Maybe later I will pick up something after sunset.   Everybody on board Truce is willing Team NZ on in the Americas Cup, I would love to wake up and hear the news we had won on the radio from Hawaii.

When searching around for food at lunchtime I came across a tin of spam.  It looked alluring at me from the corner of the cupboard – it was saying ‘go on you know you want me’.  Yes! I want you and am going to have you I thought.  As soon as I stripped off the top of the tin I knew I had fallen into the spam trap again.  The sickening pale pink colour and the slight whiff of Pedigree Chum dog food reaffirmed my mistake.  I will split it 50:50 with the fishes.  Voyage distance 1,929 miles.

SAILING INTO THE TROPIC OF CANCER

Looking at the log book for last night I see I was having a hard time.  Sails up and down, in and out, tacking, gybing and engine on.  Sometimes reducing sail as going too fast and others just no wind.  I was surprised to find we had covered 109 miles noon to noon, a commendable effort in such trying conditions.  It must be good for you, good exercise in the fresh air.

Since midday it has been easy street.  Sailing with just the jib poled out to port, making a steady five plus knots in sparkling weather directly towards our destination.  Also, an opportunity to catch up on some sleep from the night before.

Waikiki beach, Hawaii. Photo Ngozi Penson
Waikiki beach, Hawaii. Photo Ngozi Penson

Today we crossed the imaginary line into the Tropic of Cancer.  This line marks the furthest point north the sun will get before heading back to the south again.  If you stood on the line at midday of the summer solstice the sun would be directly overhead at noon.  The word tropic is derived from a Greek word meaning to turn (that’s what we learned in navigation).

The Greeks were quite good at maths and figuring out what the planets were doing.  The ancient Brits were also up to speed on all that stuff – just that being illiterate they couldn’t write it down – they had to explain it in big stone circles

Entering the Tropics. Ray Penson jpg
Entering the Tropics. Ray Penson jpg

This time last year Truce and I were in Sitka Alaska.  Sitka was a really nice place, one of the best towns in Alaska.

What a contrast sailing into Hawaii.

I am getting quite excited by it all now and really looking forward to getting ashore in Hilo, only three more days to go.

A small rum and coke will be appropriate for sundowners today, we are in the tropics after all.

Voyage distance 1,816 miles.

RESORT TO MECHANIC POWER

All through the night and up to one this afternoon we had a beautiful sail.  Steady wind twelve to sixteen knots and running very comfortably towards Hilo at between five and six knots.  Then suddenly the wind stopped blowing.  We went around in circles a few times and then nix, nada, nothing.

By four in the afternoon I gave in trying to sail.  On came the Yanmar engine and we resumed a noisy voyage to the south.

I am disappointed as the wind was forecast to be steady and at this time of year should be blowing trade wind style day in day out.  Oh well, no use complaining, can’t beat nature.  One thing you learn quickly when sailing is patience.  The wind will return in its own time.

In the meantime, life on board goes on.  The usual daily routines and checks.  The usual long debates about what I will eat.  I have no fresh fruit or veg on board now, it’s finished.  My thoughts are turning towards Hawaii, what to do, where to go and fresh food.  Anyway, mustn’t get ahead of myself, need to get there first.

In view of health and safety and the increasingly warm temperatures experienced, beer o’clock has been moved up to midday.  The need to keep hydrated has necessitated this move.  Five o’clock will now be called sundowners or cocktail hour as appropriate.  Voyage distance 1,707 miles.

RUNNING DOWN TO HILO

This morning after breakfast I rigged up the spinnaker pole and flew the jib out to the port side.  We are now sailing on a course of 240 degrees direct for Hilo.  If the wind holds good we will be there in a few days.

Sailing downwind with the jib poled out is very relaxing.  Once set up there is little to do apart from checking for wear and chafe.  The wind vane takes care of the steering and as long as the swells are not too big it’s a comfortable ride without too much rolling.

Once we were settled on course I got into the galley and turned out some flat bread.  Better than the last effort but still room for improvement.  But morning smoko was good with fresh coffee and bread and jam taken al fresco in the cockpit.

Beer o’clock yesterday turned into an anti-climax as Paddy’s tip for cooling beer didn’t work for me.  I am obviously doing it wrong and don’t have a muslin bag.  I will wait until we are in port and have Wi-Fi for the next stage.  In the meantime, warm beer is better than no beer.  Voyage distance 1,587 miles.

RUNNING DOWNWIND

A beautiful sunrise this morning over a rumbustious Pacific, blowing strong from the north east with large swells running through.  The sunrise turned into blue skies, fluffy Simpson clouds, sunshine and sparkling seas.

A morning round of the deck revealed no flying fish aboard.  One did fly into the cockpit last night and I flipped him back over the side.  He wasn’t very big but would have been painful in the face.  When I was a cadet, I was on a ship that had a black cat.  The cat belonged to the second mate.  Both cat and second mate were psychotic.  The cat would go down on deck and pick up a flying fish, bring it back to the wheelhouse and eat it.  A little later the cat would be sick and regurgitate the hardly digested fish on the wheelhouse deck.  Guess whose job it was to clean up the mess.

The waves continued to pester us as we ran off downwind to the west.  One wave slopped into the cockpit (a rare occurrence) and another hit us bang on the stern like a cannon shot and picked up the wooden boarding ladder.  Fortunately, I had a lashing on it and I managed to hold on to it.

The predict Wind weather routing advises turning to the south in the evening for a relatively clear run down to Hilo.  I am looking forward to that.

At beer o’clock this evening I sat in the cockpit, waves sparkling all around and listened to Jon Bonamassa ‘an acoustic evening at the Vienna opera house’ album.  I had it loud – there is a big ocean to share it with.  I tried wrapping the cans in a wet cloth and leaving them in the sun as suggested by Paddy.  The beer may have been slightly cooler – maybe I need to leave it out for a few hours, I will try again tomorrow.  Its all in a good cause.  Voyage distance 1,366 miles.