Monday, June 30, 2014

Honolulu's Historic District

[Kyle]We were up early for a long walk to see ‘Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil. Hawaii’s last non-Kamehameha monarchs, King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani, governed from here before the U.S. government annexed Hawai’i.

'Iolani Palace - home of the last Hawaiian Royals before they were quite illegally and unreasonably overthrown by the American military in support of American commerce (not such a proud piece of American history!)

The palace was stunning. Both monarchs had really embraced European-style royal opulence on which they modeled their positions and it was apparent in every corner. Most impressive to me was the magnificent Throne Room.

Afterwards, we walked over to Chinatown. Chinatown in Honolulu seems less well defined than in other places. It seemed more of an Asiantown with ragged edges. A highlight was the Lei making district, where tiny shop fronts are home to crowds of ladies making leis (those beautiful flower garlands) so unmistakeably Hawaiian. There were several Chinese groceries, but other than that, most of the businesses were Filipino or Thai, with the occasional Italian or French restaurant.

Honolulu's China town - Home to Wo-Fat (remember Hawaii Five-O?) among the classic Chinese stores and you can find almost anything (including Leis and chicken feet - just in case you were feeling peckish)

We were hungry and looked in vain for a Chinese restaurant before finally buying an especially delicious Thai lunch at a big food court, once refuelled, we headed out to the Foster Botanical Gardens nearby. There, we found a serene, park-like setting amongst a great collection of giant trees, including my new favorite, the Painted Gum. {Maryanne: There was such a variety of fruits and spices, just so many amazing plants in the Gardens. Including tiny 100 year old palm trees and giant fruits, coffee, black pepper and beautiful flowers....}

We made our way back home by heading back through Chinatown to the waterfront. Chinatown is not really the best area, but the part of Honolulu between there and the Ala Wai is distinctly worse. We ended up getting through okay. It was broad daylight, though. I would be pretty scared to go there at night. Its a little grubby and with a very large homeless population, often with shanty homes set up in the parks and even on the sidewalks; there is also quite a bit of very obvious prostitution of various types (more skanky than pretty; quite eye opening!).

It turns out the Ala Wai sits right at the border between the nice and not-so-nice parts of town. There are all sorts of stories going around about how dangerous and run-down it is. We have seen a hint of that here and there, but overall it seems fine, we've witnessed no threatening behaviour towards us or other passers by. Begonia is on a nice new floating dock and we haven’t had any problems with security or felt unsafe. We have certainly been worse places. It’s a big place, though and some of the other areas seem a little sketchier.

No visit to Honolulu can be considered complete without a trip to the top of the 'Aloha Tower' where we bump into (yet again) the luxury Mega-Yacht "A". After enjoying the views from atop, the walk home via the Magic Island beaches was tempered with rain, but also provided another Hawaiian rainbow for us to enjoy back at the marina

Stepping foot in Honolulu proper

[Kyle]We had a reservation for the next few days at the state run marina at Ala Wai Harbor. Before that, we decided to cool off with a snorkel at one of the sites off Waikiki. There didn’t turn out to be much there (coral wise), apart from lots of triggerfish and a few turtles, but it sure felt good to have a swim. Maryanne spent the longest time in because she had elected to be the one who went in in search of the underwater moorings.

This snorkel site (Turtle Canyon) is known as a cleaning station for the Green Sea Turtles, they arrive and the smaller fish come along and eat off any growth from their shells, etc...

We spent most of the day dong boring stuff. Maryanne went through the long and rather frustrating check-in process, and then marched into town to do a giant load of laundry. I stayed behind and scrubbed Keehi’s mud into the Ala Wai. It turns out our boat really is mostly white underneath.

With everything, including us, all nice and crisp smelling, we headed out for a walk along Waikiki Beach. The very next thing that happened was the weekly fireworks show at the Hilton, just on the other side of the Ala Wai parking lot. Magnificent!

The nearby Hilton, aside from having a semi-private lagoon, also has fireworks every Friday night for us all to enjoy - what a welcome!

After that, we spent a couple of hours watching the spectacle of the jam-packed waterfront. There were lots of people just hanging out, enjoying the weather. There was an endless wall of outdoor restaurants, many of which had live Hawaiian music. We know it was being done for the tourists, but it really makes an instant atmosphere of paradise. We even saw a guy doing an impressive performance using all manner of things on fire (just for tips).

Fire dancing performer - just one of the things that entertained us on our walk along Waikiki beach our first night having escaped the yard

[Maryanne] All so much nicer than being in the yard... We're loving it!

Oh, the Fun’s Over Now!

[Kyle]We left the quiet paradise of morning on Waikiki Beach for the noise and grime of the Keehi Boatyard. The staff was ready to go at our appointed time and we were soon hauled out and blocked over what seemed to be the only mud puddle in the yard.

We removed the old starboard rudder, which had done double duty for an amazing total of 4,405 nautical miles. Some of the paint had worn off, but otherwise it looked no worse for wear.

We then removed the remainder of the port rudderpost. It broke just above the lower bearing about three inches into the tube. It had some growth and some rust staining. There seemed to be a defect in the material that slowly developed into a crack. Once water got in, corrosion started and it was just a matter of time. Even so, it made it thirteen years and over 20,000 miles before it finally broke off.

Begonia being hauled out - and the culprit! The sheared rudder post that made such a mess with our plans and our bank account.

Our rudders made it just in time. Actually, they had arrived the previous Friday, but the yard had refused the shipment on the basis that they had no idea who we were in spite of our many emails and phone calls leading up to it that specifically dealt with the rudder delivery.

The yard was weird. They were efficient about getting things done when they said they’d be done, which is great if you’re on a schedule. The staff is hard working and couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful when we needed anything at all.

Management was another story. The office staff was also nice, but the paperwork had a very adversarial tone to it. We had to sign form after form with long lists of dos and don’ts as if we were checking into a Catholic boarding school and there were little fees for everything. I’m surprised we weren’t required to weigh our trash and pay for its disposal by the pound. Most irritating was that there were no showers provided and we were absolutely not allowed to use the Keehi Marina showers next door. We were told that was because we were supposed to be working in the yard, not living, even though it cost a LOT more to be in the yard than in the marina and they were the same company. Well, I’m sorry, but if I’m splashing through the mud puddle under my boat while doing hot, sweaty work covered in full-body protective painting gear in the tropical sun all day, I am NOT getting into bed without at least two showers first! We did what everybody else did and snuck off to a corner with a hose and a bar of soap at the end of the day. Same story for laundry.

Rudders arrive and undergo various stages of attention before FINALLY they are back on Begonia and we can return to the water

Once we were out of the water, the usual boatyard misery began in earnest. The engines, which still had a surface temperature of 55°C (131°F), needed oil changes, as did our saildrives (the long underwater units that connect the engines with the propellers). The paint on the hulls, saildrives and propellers needed sanding in preparation for painting. The new rudders looked great, but of course they were new. We had to remove all of the gummy tape they had used to attach the packing materials, then we had to remove the mold release wax used in manufacture, then they each got four coats of a special sealant and primer before we could even start with the antifouling paint. There were also lots of other little miscellaneous jobs we figured we might as well do while we were out of the water. It was all miserable, hot work. Begonia quickly became covered in dust and mud and her interior was soon a two-foot deep pile of tools and spare parts, which had been brought out for the occasion.

That was day one. On day two, Maryanne “escaped” by renting a car so we could divide and conquer (she is severely allergic to bottom paint so it is important that she keeps out of the way while it is being applied). I spent the entire length of daylight that day in dark blue coveralls breathing the steamy air through a respirator. In between, I drank five gallons of Gatorade, which still wasn’t enough.

Maryanne says she got the better end of the deal that day, but I’m not so sure. She spent the whole day running around chasing up every possible thing we might need between Honolulu and California. She arrived home after 9pm with a car stuffed to the ceiling with hundreds of pounds of groceries, all of which had to be carried up the ladder and put inside for the night out of any potential rain. She spent most of day three packing things away, including all of the tools and parts we no longer needed. Apart from the floors, Begonia looked even better than when we hauled out.

By Thursday, all of the paint had dried. The yard lifted the boat up nice and high to make room for the shafts and we got both rudders installed and working properly. We finished up the last of our jobs and by nightfall we were ready to hose off and treat ourselves to a celebratory night out. Despite being in an area that is, oh… not nice, there is a really nice restaurant at the marina with a lovely tropical Hawaiian atmosphere. It was such a much-needed escape from the yard. In the yard we'd met up with some Turkish sailors we'd first chatted to in Hilo. They were just about to leave, so the four of us dined together and celebrated their imminent escape from the yard.

We were back in the water first thing on Friday, filled the fuel tank and the spare jugs and headed back to the main part of Honolulu in a boat that seemed so much more responsive on the helm.

{Maryanne: After almost a week in the yard, hard at work, doing a job that seemed cruelly forced up on us rather than scheduled maintenance, we were very ready to leave. Not to mention we needed to get a shower soon so we could feel properly clean again.}

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Waikiki Beach

[Kyle]It is as cool as it sounds.

We had skipped a couple of our planned extra days along the way to Kawakiu Nui on Moloka’i in order to work with the weather rather than against it. We didn’t have to be in Honolulu for the haulout to replace Begonia’s rudders yet, so we stayed for almost a week.

With the resort being in mothballs, there really wasn’t much to do except sit on the boat looking at the people on the beach who were looking at us. We snorkeled occasionally. I swam ashore and embarked on a long and ultimately fruitless search for a trail to the top of the big cliff at Make Horse beach. My choices were to crawl through thorn bushes on a goat trail or go around the back, leave the trail and wade through thigh-high grass in shorts and sandals. The latter seems like a good option until you remember that it’s the perfect habitat for Hawai’i’s dreaded centipedes. They are foul-tempered, venomous and can grow to almost eight inches long. No, thanks. I’ll walk where I can see my feet, thank you very much.

Begonia didn’t need much in the way of maintenance prior to the haulout, so there weren’t too many little jobs to keep us busy. We could get a marginal phone signal only a couple hours a day if we were pointing the right direction, so trying to use the internets to get anything done was pretty much all frustration and no results. We had little to do. It was nice at first to get some down time, but after a while, we started getting bored. We had plenty of sun and wind, so we were able to listen to the radio and play DVDs without having to worry about power. It seemed a waste of paradise to overdo it too much with that, so we spent the days stretching out what little there was to do. We knew we’d be overly busy with unpleasant jobs I the yard soon enough.

The Saturday before our Monday haulout, the trades, which had been howling all week, finally abated a little and we set sail to cross the Kiawi Channel for O’ahu at daybreak. In the lighter winds, we were able to fly full sail and made short work of the miles.

We rounded Diamond Head at noon and dropped anchor at Waikiki Beach. The party had just started. The Waikiki Yacht Club was having its annual Summer Solstice celebration. So far, it was just us and a nearby racing boat full of people anchored next to a big motor yacht with a loud cover band. Boats were streaming in from all directions, though. Within an hour, the whole place was full of every conceivable manner of water-borne fun. There were sailboats of various types, outrigger canoes, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, snorkelers, sailing dinghies, runabouts and the requisite floating spring break booze cruise, loaded to standing room only. There were even a couple of submarines doing tours a little further out; all of this in front of a city of nearly a million people. It couldn’t have been a bigger change from sleepy Moloka’i.

Great views of Honolulu and Diamond Head from our Waikiki anchorage

We spent the afternoon listening to the band and watching all of the activity all around us. When the music stopped, a few boats lingered for dinner, a few others for sunset. When we finally called it a day at nine o’clock, I took my customary walk around the deck and was astonished to find that we were the only boat left. I had figured a few boats would want to spend the night out on the hook, but Maryanne and I ended up being the only two people on the water that night.

Another memorable sunset

We awoke to a clear, calm day, still the only vessel around. In the glassy water, we could see our anchor chain as it snaked its way across the bottom. From ashore, strange wild animal noises made their way across the water from the zoo. It was quiet for a short time, and then the city woke up. By afternoon, we were surrounded by a dozen boats, all surrounded by swimmers. Tour boats sailed by, their decks covered with smiling patrons. The sounds of music and sirens made their way to us from the beach. We seemed perfectly positioned for another afternoon of people watching on our last night before the toil and grime of the yard.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kawakiu Nui, Moloka’i

[Kyle]Climbing up the big hill at Kaluapapa turned out to be a lot harder than we had hoped. The National Park Service requires a permit to be obtained from the private company (Damien Tours) that runs donkey tours down to the village, even if not riding a donkey. No problem, but you have to sign up to get a permit months in advance, even if we weren’t going into the town, just walking from the beach to the top of the hill and back. So that was scrapped.

Instead, I did something almost as fun: I rebuilt the secondary fuel filter assembly on our starboard engine. The ring that tightens the filter bowl is hard to tighten because of its location. Since we changed the filter the last time, it has had an annoying leak. It really needed to be unbolted completely to get it tightened up. I figured I might as well just redo everything since it was now in my lap. Fun! No more leak, though.

So, having enjoyed the view, thus exhausting what we could get out of the anchorage, we set sail the next morning for the west coast of Moloka’i.

With the wind behind us, we had a quick sail in seas that grew the further we got from the protection of the Kaluapapa peninsula. As the waves got bigger, we started spending more of our time surfing down their faces. By the time we rounded Ilio Point and turned into the flat seas in the lee of Moloka’i, we were spending most of our time comfortably above ten knots flying only a single-reefed mainsail.

Kawakiu Nui: beach, rocks, and a cliff

We anchored along the beach at Kawakiu Nui behind the only bluff along the shore at a place the locals call Make Horse beach. The bottom composition is less than ideal, so it took us a while to find a spot that looked like sand. When I dove on it later, we discovered the bottom was just a huge slab of lava covered by about 3mm of sand. The tip of the anchor had a firm hold on a 3” hole. We both had long reconnaissance swims and could find nothing better. Well, the wind was forecast to be steady for a while, so we should be fine. Plus, if we dragged, we’d have a couple thousand miles to sort it out before we would hit anything.

We spent a full day and a half aboard in windy conditions before we decided to chance leaving Begonia unattended for a few hours while we went ashore to see what was around.

It seemed a little odd that this beach was so quiet

We started on the reddish/tan beach. The first thing we noticed was that the beach below the surf line was very steep and made up of very deep, soft sand. Dragging the pudgy above to the flat sand above was quite an effort. From our landing point, we wandered past tide pools in the a’a lava breaking up the beach. Some even formed natural salt flats, where crystals were accumulating.

After taking the dinghy ashore we spent some time scrambling about in the rocks and found plenty of natural salt pools - easy pickings

We scrambled along a little further. We were looking for a path to the top of the bluff at Make Horse beach. We couldn’t find one, but located a very rough four-wheel-drive road leading away from the shore into the countryside. We joined that and walked into hot grassland punctuated with stunted looking trees. It looked like the kind of place where we wouldn’t have been surprised to see an elephant picking through branches in the distance.

The road never even went off in the direction of the bluff. Instead, it went way around the back, taking maybe a mile and a half to deposit us just on the other side of the bluff from where we started. We continued on toward the only infrastructure in the area, referred to in our guidebooks and on Google Maps as the Kaluakoi Hotel and Golf Club.

Looking for the road to the hotel... Hmm, it doesn't look like we are on the right trail

We passed a few people on the beach, but not nearly as many as we would have expected from such a large complex. Perhaps golf really was the main focus of the clientele.

As we got closer, things started to seem definitely strange. There was almost no one around. We walked into a complex of mostly boarded windows, with a few others revealing rooms full of dusty furniture arranged willy-nilly. The place was closed down. Then we saw a couple sitting on their balcony eating breakfast, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the units on either side of theirs had their doors falling off. We were now in Scene 3 of a Stephen King movie.

We probed further and found a perfectly functioning pool with clean, bubbling water next to a clubhouse apparently owned and operated by an extended family of spiders, judging by the cobwebs visible through the grimy windows.

Further along, we found a well-stocked convenience store existing seemingly oblivious to an almost total lack of customers, apart from the breakfast couple. We couldn’t resist asking the friendly guy behind the counter what was going on. We got a whole history.

Those poor palm trees - an early sign that the hotel complex was no longer being cared for

The whole complex was built in the early ‘70s as a Sheraton. Ten years later, the Japanese bought it, just before their economy collapsed. It was shut down for a couple of years before the Moloka’i Ranch bought it. Their plans for the property raised the ire of the locals, who felt they were being denied access to important spiritual and cultural sites. The golf course was last maintained in 2008 and all but a small portion of the property was closed down. All that apparently remains is the convenience store and the unit of the one couple on earth determined to get the full value out of their time-share.

So, now we know we’re not going to be blowing all of our money on mai tais at the club.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kaluapapa, Moloka’i

[Kyle]The anchorage at Wailau Valley was beautiful, but it was starting to get a lot of swell as the wind picked up and moved a few degrees further north of east. We decided to leave in order to spare us having fitful nightmares about dragging onto the beach at night.

We planned to move a few miles along the coast to Okala Bay, which seemed like it may offer a little bit more protection behind a couple of giant rocks protecting the little indentation. It was only five miles away and we could see it from the anchorage at Wailau Valley.

There wasn’t enough time to even shut down the engines between anchorages, so we unrolled the jib to help with our speed and fuel economy as we motored, leaving a reef in for gusts. We hugged the bottom of the world’s largest sea cliffs (about 4,000’, 1,600m). Overhead, several helicopters flew by, darting in and out of valleys that looked like where they filmed the opening scene for Jurassic Park III. Wait a minute; this is where they filmed the opening scene from Jurassic Park III! Well, that’s just super cool!

Enjoying the stunning views of the worlds tallest sea cliffs and this beautiful, wild, coastline.

Along the way, Maryanne got a signal on her phone for the first time since leaving Maui, and was able do download her email. We got half a message from Fountaine Pajot. Our rudders were finished and ready to be shipped, but it was unclear whether they actually had been or not. We got a tracking number from DHL, but the message also said the charge didn’t go through and they were holding the rudders for shipment.

Ugh! Our credit card company is always trying to protect us when some suspicious charge comes up from some weirdo location. The thing is, that’s the only kind of charging we ever do. Apparently other people don’t buy groceries a thousand dollars at a time, or place charges from multiple states and even countries on the same day. The card companies have been pretty good lately. They seem to have finally figured out we’re in Hawai’i, but now somebody has tried to buy a jet ski or something from some boat company in France, so they put a stop to that. They actually have an automated system that calls us within a few seconds and asks if the charge is legit but, of course, we had no signal to receive the call.

All of this meant our nice downwind sightseeing tour was put on hold as we rolled up the jib and turned upwind into the waves trying to maintain our elusive cell phone signal. We both did a lot of standing on tippy-toes on the cabin top waving our phones way over our heads with no effect.

We tried for a while and then gave up and headed back downwind to Okala. We figured we might be able to get a message out on our ham radio later to at least keep the rudders headed this way.

The anchorage was gorgeous, with a big valley curving up and away behind the beach and several towering rocks to seaward. We stopped and hovered for a bit. There was a lot of swell here, too. The anchorage was smaller and the bottom looked like it had only patches of sand here and there. We wanted to stay, but decided it would be more prudent to skip this one and head to the next one at Kaluapapa, which lay on the west side of a two-mile long peninsula that would be sure to protect us from the swell.

We were not allowed to land at Kaluapapa, so we continued on and tucked ourselves as far as we could into a deserted sandy beach just beyond. We found flat seas, plenty of sun and wind and long views of Moloka’i’s northern cliffs as well as the village of Kaluapapa.

Landing at Kaluapapa is restricted because it still houses a number of patients with Hansen’s disease, formerly called Leprosy. The town used to be a colony. Now the Park Service runs it and even today is only accessible by aircraft or a very steep mule trail that switchbacks up the cliffs behind and then only with a permit.

As I tidied up after our sail, Maryanne found a weak phone signal and was able to sort out our rudder problem. It appears they had been sent even though the charge had not gone through. That was very good of them to do. The same thing happened when we gave them the initial deposit for the order, so I’m sure they think it will be sorted out quickly like the last time.

Sitting in the cockpit afterwards, we spotted a line of horses and donkeys walking along the beach carrying what appeared to be guides and a few tourists. They were starting the journey back up the hill toward the road that runs along the ridge. Way at the top, I could see through the binoculars where it emerged at a scenic pullout, where people were standing on the edge snapping photos. I may have to try to figure out how to get up there…

Visitors leave the settlement on foot, or in this case on donkey/horse to climb back up the mountain. All were gone by Sunset.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wailau, Moloka’i

[Kyle]The weather forecast for crossing the Pailolo Channel between Maui and Moloka’i was not the best. The prediction was for 20-25kt winds and nine-foot seas. A small craft advisory was being extended every half a day for another half day. I really wanted to pass by Moloka’i on its rugged northern side, but I wasn’t sure any of our planned anchorages would offer sufficient protection from the weather.

As a strategy for dealing with this, we decided to leave during the daily lull in the winds that occurs before sunrise. This would also give us enough time to pass by any anchorage we deemed unsuitable and continue to the next, and then the next, continuing all of the way to the island’s protected lee on its western end if necessary, before running out of daylight.

We planned to leave Honolua Bay around five a.m., but we were awake and ready at four, so we decided to just get an early start since we knew the route into the channel was free of hazards and could be safely navigated in the dark.

The anchor came off of the bottom. I put Begonia’s engines into reverse to back away from our anchor trip line floats and CLUNK! The starboard engine failed. I had wrapped the trip line around the prop. I put the port engine into forward, hoping to get enough speed to make the starboard rudder effective, but into the wind, all that happened was we turned toward the beach. Reverse would turn the bows away from the beach while still backing us toward it. Alternating forward and reverse was only succeeding in zigzagging us closer to danger that we could not see in the dark.

Maryanne saved the day by jumping in with a headlamp and a knife and cutting the line free. I restarted the starboard engine, putting us back in control, but it was a hair-raising few minutes while we inched our way back into water we knew for sure was sufficiently deep.

{Maryanne: Since the loss of Footprint we always going to have extra stress attached to such a situation, we had to do something fast, we needed the boost of the 2nd propeller so I stripped off and dived in (glad of the dark!). The problem was solved quickly and we were soon out of any danger, but it was a while before we both really lost that feeling of high anxiety, it felt like way too close a call. Hopefully I redeemed myself after my inaction after hitting the whale.}

We cleared Maui and entered the unbroken wind in the Pailolo Channel. It wasn’t so bad. Our early departure had kept it relatively mild. The rain came shortly thereafter. It was a cold, soaking rain that came in waves, falling about two thirds of the time.

Moloka’i first appeared as a slightly darker gray blob emerging from a gray sky. Often, even though we were only ¼ mile away, we couldn’t even see the island at all. We would get hints of its majesty from the height of the blob, which would be regularly interrupted with the white line of foaming waterfalls.

We reached our first intended anchorage off the beach at the base of the Wailau Valley (Wailau translates to water crater). The big ocean swell was slightly attenuated by the rocks jutting out from Lepau Point, but the sea was still pretty active in the little indentation along the coast. Compounding the problem was that we had no hope of seeing the bottom structure in either the low light of morning or the heavy rain and choppy sea surface. We hovered for a bit to get a feel for the motion and decided we would give it a try. The depth sounder seemed pretty steady, so we tried the anchor in a random spot. It held fast the first time. When I dove on it to check, all I could see was a uniform layer of dense sand. The anchor and the first 100’ of chain were completely buried. Sand is our preferred bottom because its holding power is only surpassed by sticky clay, but clay is much messier when the anchor comes up.

A damp and misty passage, has us arriving in this idyllic little cove surround by stunning cliffs and a glut of narrow, high waterfalls

We went for a nap to make up for the early start. When we awoke, we were stunned at what we saw. Cliffs from a Norwegian fjord had been plopped down behind the beach. Huge sides of impossibly sheer mountains towered overhead with waterfalls plunging out of the thick carpet of green. A couple of the bigger ones would occasionally be blown completely into mist by the winds whipping by outside our cove. The beach had half a dozen or so makeshift three-sided shelters. A small boat was leaving and three people were now taking shelter in one of them. I thought they might be fishermen, but on closer examination, it looks like they may be some sort of eco-tourists {we eventually decided, with no real evidence at all, that they were most likely locals from the very hard to reach but nearby town of Kalaupapa} . I hope we aren’t spoiling their view. What am I saying? We were here first, at least today. I’m sure they’ll outstay us, so they’ll have the place to themselves soon enough.