Oct 112014
 

It’s been a whirlwind 3 weeks here in Hawaii. I feel amazingly fortunate to have slid into life here so well. My last blog post found me undecided, trying to figure out my plans for the Winter. I’d moved over to Kaunakakai, the main town on Molokai where I had good internet access. My first option was to try and get some work on the mainland. I had two prospects, but neither one turned out. Fortunately they got back to me quickly, so I was able to rule out that plan for the Winter right away.

The next step was dust off the old resume and start looking for jobs in Hawaii. I turned to Craigslist and found 8 different captains jobs, mainly on Oahu. I emailed my newly polished resume and got 3 interviews setup within a day. I’d wanted to do a full circuit around Molokai, but alas it was time to be a grown up and find a job.

I started the long motor back to Oahu just before sunrise. The trades had broken down and there wasn’t a lick of wind. It would have been a perfect time to visit the rugged north side of Molokai, but instead I listened to my Suzie Diesel all day as she pushed Bodhran through a silky blue sea.

I pulled into my old slip at Ala Wai Harbor with only 20 days left of my annual 120 day allowance. My mission now was to find a job and find a place to live. Amazingly Gary, a friend who I’d not met yet, tried pulling into that same slip not 30 minutes after I got in. We’d both called ahead of time and were give the same slip assignment. Fortunately the slip right next door was free, and Gary just checked off to park his Endeavor 35 there.

Gary had been at the Fuel Dock before, but had run into some personal problems with a few of the folks there and had to leave. I’d been scoping out the Fuel Dock myself. My friends Garrett on Mary Jane and Chris and Lila on Privateer live at the Fuel Dock and I’d been over for a few BBQs/music sessions.

The Fuel Dock is alas part of the past here in Honolulu. It used to be the place that incoming cruisers went to when making landfall before they got a slip assignment. They had beer, sandwiches, laundry, wifi, a book exchange and would even have concerts. There was always room for about 10 boats to med moor to the surrounding pier while the face was kept free for boats taking on fuel. The property was bought out by a Japanese consortium who purportedly intend to turn it into a wedding chapel.

The Fuel Dock has now been shut down leaving 800+ boats with a long voyage down to the Keehi Lagoon to refuel. The old store has been turned into a clubhouse for the boats that are still med moored around the pier. It’s basically a marina inside a marina where everyone knows each other and it’s not part of the overwhelming bureaucracy that is the Hawaii DNLR. It took two weeks of Gary, Chris and Garrett lobbying for me, but I was able to move in last week. The only hitch is that construction on the new wedding chapel or whatever they build here might start in the next few months, leaving me homeless in Hawaii again, but for now I’m trusting in the mind numbing bureaucracy to work in my favor and keep me in.

While the Fuel Dock story was going, I was also looking for gainful employment. The interview I had up in Kaneohe fell through. They seemed pretty flaky on the phone, so I wasn’t too sad when they didn’t get back to me with directions for where I was supposed to meet them. I did interview for and was offered a mate position delivering the Spartan Queen, a 65′ luxury catamaran, down to Fiji. It would have been a good gig, but would only have lasted 3 weeks. My final position that I didn’t take was running a wildlife tour cat out of Waianae on the west coast of Oahu. It probably would have been a good job, but I wanted to stick around Honolulu and my group of friends here.

I went to a BBQ at (a different) Chris’ house the night after I interviewed with the Spartan Queen. I was all set to take the job when Lili from Privateer mentioned that they needed captains at her job. Lila is a photographer for the various beach catamarans in Waikiki. She gave me the contact info for the manager at the company with two of the cats the next morning, and a few hours later I found myself out on a booze cruise on a 45′ catamaran off Waikiki to see if I liked the job. There wasn’t much of an interview process. 36 hours after Lila had mentioned it, I’d been hired. I’ve been working almost every day since.

The job entails taking up to 49 people at a time out for a 90 minute booze cruise off the beach in Waikiki on either the 45′ Na Hoku II or the 43′ infinitely more fun to sail Manu Kai. That all sounds great until you realize that means driving a 45′ catamaran, renown for their lack of turning ability, through throngs of swimmers and beginning surfers, out through surf that has been up to 6′ feet high on my biggest day. Oh yeah, and you have to do it through an unmarked channel through the reef, that’s a couple hundred feet wide, but is only a few feet deep at low tide and you don’t have right away over anybody. It’s basically terrifying. Even worse is coming in when everyone is looking toward the beach (away from you) and you’re trying your best to keep the boat going slow so you don’t surf a wave and take out everyone in your way, but keeping the boat slow means that you can’t really steer, especially with the rudders kicked up to deal with the shallow water coming through the reef.

My saving grace comes in the form of the two deck hands, armed only with conch shell horns, who direct people out of my way and tell me to back hard when I’m about ready to run over someone. Oh yeah, that’s right there are up to 49, often drunk, people all between me and the bow of the boat while I’m executing these maneuvers. We try to keep them out of the middle of the boat so I have one clear lane to see through, but I have three different line ups that I have to see to make sure I’m in the channel. The deck hands are there on the bow to be my eyes coming in and tell me when I need to make a correction, and God bless them for it.

I spent 9 days training on both boats with the three other captains. I feel comfortable on Manu Kai and have worked a few solo days on her now. Na Hoku II is a bit more of a beast and I don’t quite feel confident I could get out of trouble with her. I need a few more training days with big surf or low tide, but will soon be running that boat as well. The days are long. We get to the boat at 7:45am and don’t get back to the dock until 8pm. Fortunately my commute consists of a 10 minute bike ride from Ala Wai Harbor, through Ala Moana Park, to Kewalo Harbor. I’ll probably end up working 4 days a week, through 3 would suit me better. That’ll still give me time to get some projects done on Bodhran and enjoy Hawaii for the winter before setting sail for Seattle in June.

Feb 072014
 

As I mentioned in the last blog post, Mélanie met Richard and Denyse along the beach by Cousteau Resort. They’d rented a house on the beach for 3 weeks as part of their year long trip around the world (flying not sailing). They left for Nadi this morning, but we’ve all been hanging out exploring the area together for the last few weeks.

I hadn’t spent any time in the interior of Vanua Levu, so when Richard and Denyse rented a car and offered to take us along, Mélanie and I jumped at the opportunity. Savusavu was a madhouse with a Princess cruise ship in town, so we figured that a trip up to the national park for a nature hike seemed like a good plan.

It only took 45 minutes to drive up to Waisali National Park with it’s one trail. We pulled into the parking lot right behind a bus from the cruise ship….Doh! We quickly scurried in front of them to the ranger station to pay our fee and get on the trail.

The trail was in good shape even after the recent rain. The signs pointing out various local flora and fauna were badly sun damaged and mostly illegible. The highlight of the trip was the creek at the valley floor with multiple waterfalls and a nice pool to go swimming in, after doing the obligatory cannonball of course.

After the park, we were supposed to meet up with Tia at the Copra Shed to go up to a waterfall. Tia never showed, but we all enjoyed all the cruise ship people watching and the band while we sat on the grass and played cribbage.

The next day we set out towards the western tip of Vanua Levu. After about an hour we ran into road construction. After 20km we saw a construction worked eating lunch and asked how much longer the road was torn up. He said that we had another 60km to go to the beach and that the road was under construction the entire way…..we turned around. We then tried going out the Hibiscus Highway towards Viani Bay to the East, but were again turned around by road construction. Oh well, some things just aren’t meant to be.

Then the big day finally came. Superbowl Monday. I’d been waiting around Savusavu ever since the 49er’s game to make sure I’d be able to watch. Richard and Denyse met us at the Yacht Club where we joined a spattering of other Seattle fans and one lone Bronco who had just quit her job and flown to Fiji. I remember mentioning during the pregame show how much more nervous I’d been about the San Francisco game 2 weeks earlier. As everyone now knows, I had nothing to worry about as Denver didn’t show up to play.

With the game being over and my life/schedule being my own again, I took Richard and Denyse out for a sail towards Koro island. It was a good opportunity to test my compression post reinforcement in a 15-20 knot breeze. The post didn’t flex a bit as we bashed into 3-5 seas with a reef in the main. It definitely gives me confidence as I start making my way back home.

We got one good strike on the fishing line while we were out past the point. Mélanie wore herself down to the nub reeling it in, but the fish spat out the hook when it caught sight of the boat. Our fishing record during cyclone season continues to be abysmal.

After our day sail, we anchored off Richard and Denyse’s house where we’ve spent a few days snorkeling and enjoying being out of town. Yesterday we borrowed a couple of kayaks and paddled out to Cousteau Resort’s private island a half mile past the point. It was a beautiful sunny day and I had my camera along, so we spent a lot of time playing in the water and doing some gymnastics on the beach. Fun, but my back is killing me from a pretty good tumble. I think I need to practice a bit more.

We’ll be off to Namena tomorrow, hopefully with a couple of German boats that we’ve also been hanging out with in tow. It should prove for some epic snorkeling and diving as long as the weather cooperates.