Sunday, July 13, 2014

Last day in Hawai’i

[Maryanne]With no obligation to make the most of having a car, we had planned a later start to today - unfortunately the full moon celebrations had fireworks at 5am on the beach. OK, we're up!

[Kyle]Begonia was pretty much ready to go to sea. Our last day was spent tying up a few loose ends. We took the dinghy into the river, gave it a good hose down, and filled our last water jugs to the tippy-top. We took long, cold (well, lukewarm) showers at the beach and then headed out for our last shore meal for a while.

I had wanted to have a Mai Tai at Tahiti Nui since we got here. It’s kind of a dive, but it has a certain tropical charm to it, helped along by scenes of George Clooney there in "The Descendants". We lucked out because Andy and Robin have a couple of friends who live here, Chris and Daryl. They used to have a 40’ mono-hull and have sailed with Andy in the BVI when he was doing that sort of thing, before discovering the joys of power boating. Daryl had just got home from the mainland the evening before after being away for a while, it was amazing that they were able to find the time to meet up with us for lunch at Tahiti Nui before we left.

Well, the Mai Tais were very every bit as good as I had hoped as was all of our delicious food. My Panko and Furikake Encrusted Ono was especially marvellous!

Along with being great company, Chris and Daryl were kind enough to drive us to the market for a last bag of groceries before driving us back to the dinghy at the now crowded river/beach park, where they saw us off. Oh, Hawai’i, we will miss you. Now we’re back aboard. It’s time to put the Pudgy in lifeboat mode and hoist it, rig the jacklines and other safety gear and pre-do as much of the checklist as we can. {We've also installed the cockpit enclosure which we'll appreciate at sea as we head north - right now it is hard to appreciate a greenhouse in the tropics and I'm sure all our neighbours thing we're crazy!}. We’ll get a good night’s sleep and we’re off tomorrow, sailing by the Na Pali coast for one more look before turning north into the open ocean.

Begonia - ready to go! Next stop California?

The Marathon Continues…

[Kyle]It was time to return the car. We could have slept in and then drove to Lihue, but noooo, there was more stuff to see.

We started by driving to Ha’ena. This is where we anchored the first night in Kaua’I and the official other end of the road that goes to the Pu’u o Kila lookout. We then stopped at the Kiluea Lighthouse before driving up the Wailua valley to see Opaeka’a Falls and take a hurried hike on the Kuilau Ridge trail before rushing to return the car.

An early departure from Hanalei Bay, and last minute sightseeing with the rental car

Whew! In spite of the scenery, we both nodded off on the bus ride back to Hanalei.

We weren’t done yet. Hanalei Bay is a busy place on weekends. This weekend was a fishing tournament plus the usual outrigger canoe races. Begonia’s perfect spot in the anchorage was right in the middle of the race course and had to be moved or else. (Or else they climb on and move it for you!) We ended up way out in 50’ of water in the boonies beyond the newly arrived fishing fleet, too far from the race for a front-row view. That was probably for the best. We needed a good night’s sleep and didn’t really want to be in the middle of the action.

Waimea Canyon, Kaua'i

[Kyle]After four hours of sleep, we got up, loaded up the dinghy and headed for the rental car. It was still dark. The tide was even lower than before. In a couple of places, I had to jump out, which lightened the load enough to allow me to tow Maryanne and the dinghy across the sand in calf-deep water {Yes, he is my hero!}. At the bar, the water deepened, but was running so fast we had to use full power to make headway through it before shooting out the other side.

We were on the road by sunrise, heading for the farthest spot we could drive from Hanalei, the Pu’u o Kila lookout in Koke’e Park. There we got a view through the mists of the dramatic Na Pali coast far below, where a steady stream of helicopters were showing a few lucky people the vista.

Top: One of the views from the many look outs on the way. Bottom: Our first sight of the Na Pali coast from Pu’u o Kila (all these beautiful views are readily accessible by car alone!).

We didn’t have time for nearly enough, so we took a couple of representative hikes. The first was the Awa’awapuhi trail to the lookout of the same name. This trail started by winding its way through the forest before coming out along a ridge, which allowed us our first views of the steep valleys to either side. Then it descended more steeply in switchbacks into the valley on one side. Notice I said ‘descended’. One of the disorienting things about many of the mountain trails in Hawaii is that they start at the top. It’s important to turn around for the uphill slog to the car well before getting too tired, instead of the other way, where you can pretty safely figure that if you had enough energy, water, etc. to make it UP there, you can always get through the downhill trip back.

A long, hot, hike along the Awa’awapuhi trail for some stunning views of the nw coastline

In the case of the Awa’awapuhi trail, the big turn-around point was 3.25 miles of steep trail below the car. It was definitely worth the hike, though. The trail ends dramatically at the intersection of two valleys that are disorientingly steep. There are barriers warning of all sorts of nasty (but quick) death for going beyond. I watched a few idiots go to the very end of the pinnacle. When a couple that looked older and more cautious than me went and returned safely, I gave it a shot. Maryanne stayed behind “to take pictures for the insurance company”. What insurance?

The trail was fine, with only a couple of narrow spots with sheer drop-offs to either side of the three-foot wide path. Others before me hadn’t done it, but I made a point of always having three good points of contact before moving the fourth as I crossed. It would have been scary in rain or high winds.

The view from the little dinner table sized perch at the end was totally worth the scramble. The ground dropped steeply on all sides, leaving me feeling like I was standing on the open air itself. Seeing helicopters below me at half my height enhanced this effect. It was like being the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

Kyle goes beyond the "don't go there" signs and survives!

We drove through the Waimea valley on the way back, stopping at every other lookout point along the way. We went for another hike near the southern end of the Waimea Canyon State Park on the Kukui Trail. Like the Awa’awapuhi Trail, this one also started at the top, but it was much more relentlessly steep the whole way. In only a mile, we lost more height than before. We were pretty wiped out by then, so turning back uphill afterwards was especially deflating. It was also totally worth it, though. Kukui has better views all along the descent of a big section of Waimea Canyon. They call it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific (everyone claims that it was Mark Twain that gave it this name, but he can't have been the first to do so!). We shrugged that off as marketing until we got here, but really does look and feel like it. The place is vast and gorgeous and was made even more beautiful by the late afternoon light.

Waimea Canyon - wow!

We didn’t make it home by dark. Those trails had been harder than we had anticipated. It was another bumping low tide ride across the Hanalei River bar before we collapsed into an exhausted and happy sleep. Maryanne later (like just now as I wrote this) figured out that we had now seen all of Lonely Planet’s top ten sights in Hawaii. (The others are: Volcanoes Park, Hawai’i, Waipi’o Valley, Hawai’i, Road to Hana, Maui, ‘Iao Needle, Maui, Haleakala Park, Maui, Waikiki Beach, O’ahu, Diamond Head, O’ahu, and Kaluapapa Park, Moloka’i)

On the way home we stopped by 'Glass Beach' and discovered that the described boulders of glass were mere chips and beads - but pretty in the light of the setting sun

Branching out from Hanalei

[Kyle]We rented a car from the airport in the island’s main town of Lihue, several miles to the south. This meant we had to get the bus for the hour and a half ride from Hanalei. The schedules were timed in such a way that it turned out to be no faster to wait for the connection to the airport and then get the rental car shuttle than it was for us to just walk the mile and a half through what seemed to be the auto repair and thrift store district.

As strange as it may sound, walking a mile and a half in the noonday tropical sun was a nice break from what was to come, and anyway, it also provided a nice stop at a very pleasant coffee shop! Renting a car always turns out to be a marathon to maximize our opportunity.

Wailua Falls in the Wailua River Valley of Kaua'i

We headed first up into the mountains to Wailua Falls, made famous in the opening scene to Fantasy Island (American TV series of the 70's and 80's). From there, it was back to town to stock up for the passage at Costco. We had purchased most of our provisions in Honolulu, so we didn’t need too much. I was a bit nervous at the end as we left the store. My Mom says the people checking receipts at the door are really there to make sure you don’t leave without spending at least three hundred dollars. We’re usually nowhere near that, but this is the first time I can remember being BELOW it. They let us go with a warning, telling us to pick up a 94 pack of Cheez-its on the way out next time.

We got back to Hanalei well after dark right at the lowest tide of the day. Using our headlamps, we managed to pick our way over the bar only bumping a couple of places.

Hanalei Bay, Kaua'i

[Kyle]We were up bright and early the next day. Okay, not really. It was 10:00. We had no real plans, except to see what’s what in the town and to fill our water jugs for topping up Begonia’s tanks.

We landed on the beach next to a lifeguard tower and dragged the dinghy through the soft sand to way above the high tide line. We filled the water jugs, and then wandered into the town center where we found a selection of restaurants and shops selling souvenirs. We found a fruit stand and were given a tip about a farmers’ market a couple of miles up the road that was about to start. We were now on a hunt for mangosteens, our favorite item from the Puna farmers’ market on Hawai’i.

The market had a good selection, including lots of tasty lychees, but no mangosteens. We were told the season was over. Ah, we’ll have to appreciate the ones we had even more now!

Back at the beach a few hours later, we dragged the dinghy back down to the water (marginally easier than up) and got her afloat. Maryanne was behind. I was forward in thigh-deep water looking back at her. I was about to jump in when Maryanne told me to wait first for a wave to pass. The pudgy rose up and fell and I pulled myself in. Then the WAVE hit. It was a huge ten-foot (well, OK, maybe two-foot) breaker. It landed on my shoulders and exploded into spray that filled the dinghy ¼ with seawater and another ¼ with sand. I was then turned sideways and subjected to three more in rapid succession. One of them rolled the dinghy onto one of our oars and snapped it. What had started as a slightly wet beach launch had rapidly turned into a terrifying beating. With help from a couple of sympathetic sunbathers, we pulled the pudgy back out of the water and let her drain as we used a kid’s beach bucket to slosh the sand out.

Our second launch went better. Maryanne used the remaining oar up front as a paddle while I used our emergency backup paddle on the opposite side canoe-style. We arrived at Begonia shaken, wet and covered in sand.

A quick rinse and a change of clothes and we were good as new. We got out the Torqueedo electric motor, mounted it on the dinghy and headed out for a trip up the Hanalei River. Starting at the busy beach, we passed paddleboarders and kayakers in decreasing numbers until, for the last hour, the whole river was ours as it meandered through the trees past fields of rice fringed with coconut palms. We got to the bridge at the main road, turned around and retraced our course at twice the speed with the current behind us.

The tide was significantly lower at the bar (where the river meets the sea) and we had to tilt the motor up so that only the bottom half of the propeller blade was in the water to keep it from digging into the sand. We got home just in time for sunset. We had run the Torqueedo continuously for most of the afternoon and it was still at 70% charge. Crossing the bar could be a little exciting, but not nearly as much as launching through the surf. Even though it was farther, keeping the dinghy in the river for the day seemed like a better deal for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


[Kyle]After a good rest under the backdrop of Ha’ena, we motored a few short miles upwind back to Hanalei Bay. Many of the boats sailing back to the mainland call at Hanalei as their last stop in Hawai’i before setting off. Because of this, the place seemed much more active than it would seem looking at a road map of Kaua’i.

Cliff's catamaran Rainbow anchored in Hanalei Bay

The anchorage had two dozen or so boats tucked into the protected eastern half of the deep bay. We picked a spot in shallow water right at the edge of the buoy line delineating between the anchorage and the swimming area on the beach.

Halfway through the process of putting out our chain, we noticed that we had anchored right next to Cliff on his catamaran Rainbow. We had first seen him in Hilo and later in Lahaina. There are a lot of Catamarans in Hawai’i doing day tours with their decks packed with tourists. We have seen only three other boats out cruising the islands this year and Cliff’s is one of them.

He swam over and we spent the evening catching up. He has generally done longer sails with fewer stops than we have. To add to the challenge he is also a solo sailor on these long passages (huge kudos). He has already been in Hanalei Bay for three weeks and will probably stay a week or so after we have gone, as many of the competitors of the Solo TransPac race will pass through here from about the time we leave. Cliff has completed in this race in the past and was a wealth of information on the area (and San Francisco). It was good to be able to pick his brain about the ins and outs of the place.

After the sun set, all of the activity on the beach stopped and people went home. We were left in a quiet little bay with only the lights of a few houses and a small constellation of anchor lights as the only signs there was even anybody else around.

Kaua’i Island

[Kyle]We left Makua just before sunset for the overnight sail to Kaua’i. Kaua’i is just a bit too far to sail during one period of daylight and is also too far away to be visible from Makua. It was the first time we have sailed at night or out of sight of land since arriving in Hilo two months earlier.

It went really well. The wind drove us a little crazy until we cleared the lee of O’ahu, but then provided a nice strong trade winds the whole way. We put an extra reef in each sail just to keep from having to go on deck in the night and still made great speed across the Kaua’i Channel, regularly seeing 10kt.

Maryanne sailed the first watch. When she handed over to me at 1am, she pointed out a tug and barge slowly converging on us going about the same speed. I spent the next hour in a neck and neck race with them, gaining in the gusts and falling behind in the lulls. When we were about two miles apart, the Captain called me to make passing arrangements. At that point, it looked like we would pass slightly ahead, but only if the wind held out. I decided it would be best to turn and pass behind them. Their course was strange. Maryanne and I were headed for the northeastern corner of the island. There is nothing beyond there but bays and coves for boats. The only commercial harbor on the island was at Nawiliwili way to our left. The tug seemed to be headed for Alaska.

Once we crossed, Begonia picked up some wind and we left the tug behind. They just got over the horizon when the wind dropped down and our speed halved. At about six miles apart, they altered course to the left and started converging on us again, this time heading for Nawiliwili. An hour or so later, the tug called me again wanting to know my intentions for crossing. My intention was to keep sailing a straight line (ever heard of it?), but I offered to pass behind once again. Perhaps he was stalling until morning; perhaps it’s bad to pull a barge at certain angles to the waves.

Rainy and cloudy has the benefit of a morning rainbow, and eventually we get a first glimpse of Kauai

We rounded the northeastern corner of Kaua’i at daybreak and sailed along its northern shore. We passed Hanalei Bay and anchored behind the breakers off the reef at Ha’ena Beach. Ha’ena, like Makua, is also very near the end of the road. There were a few cottages on the beach, and then the landscape to the west gave way to the unspoiled and dramatic Na Pali coast, where the only infrastructure is an eleven–mile long footpath to the next road. The sea cliffs rose into green spires more than a thousand feet above. We were worn out from not sleeping much to get there, so an afternoon nap was pretty high on our list of priorities. With the warm breeze and the sound of the nearby surf, it would have been hard to think of a better place for it.

[Maryanne]We spent the time at anchor relaxing and swimming, and returning to normal sleep patterns, but mostly enjoying the stunningly jagged scenery.

Makua (Oahu)

[Kyle]From Poka’i, we made a short trip up the west coast of O’ahu to Makua, the very last beach before rounding the corner to the north shore, the first several miles of which was a prohibited military firing range. Practically, it was about seven beaches away, but it took us a while to make our way there in the fluky winds.

By road, Makua is right where the pavement ends after driving past many many other places on the way out of Honolulu. If you live in the city and want to go to as remote a spot as possible for your July 4th holiday weekend, you go to Makua. It seems that many people had the same thought and the beach was lined from one end to the other with tents and sun shelters. There were people playing on all manner of water toys during the day and campfires and picnics at night along with several amateur fireworks displays, and a wonderful smell of freshly caught fish on the barbecue.

A great place to spend our last night on Oahu

The beach was backed by a huge bowl of towering mountains sloping upwards at increasingly steep angles until rising vertically to a ridge that seemed barely wide enough to stand. It seemed to be Hawai’i at its most primeval.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Pok’ai Bay

[Kyle]After leaving Ala Wai, we anchored for one last night off busy Waikiki Beach before leaving Honolulu and sailing to the west coast of O’ahu, passing Pearl Harbor along the way.

We had less wind than expected, so we had a slowish trip along our route, which took us fairly far out in order to avoid Pearl Harbor’s many restricted areas. We were in no hurry so it was a stress free sail, with even a little competition along the way. We didn’t get back to within sightseeing range until we passed Barbers Point on the southwestern corner of the island.

The western side of O’ahu is rugged and arid. I called the Anterim Coast of Northern Ireland Green Arizona. This place is somewhere between the two. The steep hills are green, but not necessarily lush.

In the lee of O’ahu, the wind started acting crazy, adding a couple of extra hours to our day’s sail before we were finally able to anchor in Pok’ai Bay off the village of Wai’anae. The bustle of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach had given way to a much more sedate village life.

We arrived at the start of an outrigger canoe race, and did our best to keep out of their way

Maryanne: After the crazy rush of yard work, sightseeing, cleaning, and provisioning in Honolulu, we are finally able to spend some time again at rest; with nothing more than a little swimming and reading to occupy our days (and I'm sure Kyle will want to to tinker with the engine at least once to justify it all).

Luau in Oahu

{Maryanne: I've been keen to get to a traditional luau (Hawaiian festival/feast complete with entertainment) since we've been in Hawaii.. We seriously considered one when we were in Lahaina but the ticket price and the long walk had us stalling until it was too late. I was determined not to miss what may well be our last chance - billed as a starlight luau, here was one within a short walk from the boat and it sounded Idyllic, I even tried to book the more expensive ticket with better seating (unfortunately they were already full, I was too late).}

[Kyle]After our big hike up and around Diamond Head, we spent most of the day doing boring stuff nearer to home. Since we live here, we have to find time during the big vacation that is most of our lives to get things like banking and trips to the grocery store done.

We topped the day off, though, with a luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. We couldn’t believe we’ve been in Hawai’i for almost two months and haven’t yet made it to a luau, but they are pretty expensive, so we needed to treat it as a one-time thing.

I’m sure almost everyone who comes to Hawai’i for the first time wants to go to a luau, so it’s a pretty big part of the tourist industry. There are luaus everywhere every day. Ours had a permanent home on the rooftop of one of the complex’s buildings. We thought that would be pretty cool with Waikiki Beach as a backdrop. It was also convenient to Begonia.

Well, the rooftop luau turned out to be on the rooftop of the five-story parking garage, which was by far the shortest of their buildings. We could see people’s balconies on the surrounding towers, but no beach. Hmmm… not only do you have to read the fine print, you have to read between the lines.

I got to make an orchid lei bracelet, and play with some native instruments

It must be hard to create a personal experience for hundreds of people every single day. They did okay, but there were times when we felt like they were phoning it in.

The experience started by queuing up in a big crowd/line for seating, which had the feel of entering the stadium at a football game. We were seated at a long table with eight other people and offered mai tais in plastic cups. We tried engaging in conversation with the other guests, but they seemed to be in pretty heavy mainland mode and all we could get out of them were short, grunted answers. Perhaps they were self conscious about how horribly wrong their plastic surgeries had gone. There was a noticeable relief when we were excused to the buffet. Now, mouths would be to busy eating to talk.

The luau proper started with the cheesy host singing a song, ala TV variety shows in the ‘70s, along with pitches to buy stuff on sale in the hallway. It felt like we were at a wedding on a cruise ship. I was starting to think we were in for an evening to endure when the dancers came on stage.

Lots of costume changes and different Polynesian dances were performed, pretty cool actually

Our luau was organized as a series of dances from various regions in Polynesia, with a little explanation and a song by the host in between. The dancing was incredible and very high energy. It was interesting to see the different styles and elaborate costumes of each island group. The grand finale was a fire dance from Samoa, which was impressive on its own and made even more so since it was done using the same troupe that had already done all of the evening’s other exhausting dances. Also cool was that the area around the stage filled with the smell of burnt white gas as the dance went on. Oh, yes, the fire was real.

We left with smiles on our faces, although I could have done without the rest. I think I would rather have just gone to see a dance demonstration and skipped the cheesy cruise ship part.

Although, it was quite long, so it would be nice if they fed us. They would also have to do something with the dead air during the dancer’s costume changes. Okay, so maybe it was fine after all. If they had called it Dances of Polynesia instead of a luau, I would have entered with a different expectation. If you go, do that and you’ll have a great time.