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.

Sep 182014
 

Even my mom guessed it. Bodhran’s in Hawaii for the Winter. Normally late August/early September are a good time to sail back from Hawaii to the West Coast, but El Nino threw a hitch in that giddy-up. The storms started marching across Alaska two weeks ago and there’s no sign of them abating until Spring. Even if there had been wind north of the islands, I’d have been hit by two low pressures systems a week the whole way home. That and the prospect of a long cold Winter in Seattle makes this an easy decision to make.

I now have decide on one or a combination of three options:
1. Find a place to leave Bodhran and come home and work for the Winter
2. Find a place to live aboard Bodhran and find a job in Hawaii for the Winter
3. Cruise Hawaii for the Winter

The problem with Hawaii is the lack of boating facilities paired with a lack of all weather anchorages. It adds complications to any of the above options. Ala Wai marina is well located, allows liveaboards and cheap by Hawaiian standards, but transient boats are only allowed to stay for 120 days a year. I’ve already used up 100 of them. I can go back in January if they have room, but for now I have to find someplace else.

La Mariana Sailing Club in Keehi Lagoon has berth space for me, but they don’t allow liveaboards. They’re actually cheaper than Ala Wai. The plan here would be to leave Bodhran and go home and work/spend the holidays with family before being able to come back and stay in Ala Wai until Spring. Of course I could still come and go and get some cruising in around the islands. This is my preferred option.

Another option in Keehi Marine Center right next door to La Mariana. It’s a nicer marina and allows liveaboards, but require work history, letters from your bank and a survey before you can get moorage. It’s also $900 a month. If I was working, I could stick around a place like that, but it seems like such a hassle and living under the runway at the airport/air force base isn’t worth spending the premium.

I don’t really like the idea of sailing around Hawaii by myself for 6 months. I could probably get some folks from the mainland to fly out and visit, but I’d have to find some buddy boats to hang out with. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a cruising community in Hawaii, but who know I might find something.

In the meantime, I’ve left Oahu in search of more peaceful climes. I left yesterday morning and took advantage of a northeasterly wind to get across the Kaiwi channel to Molokai. It started out light, but turned into a ripping good sail beating into 15-20 knot winds by the time I reached the lee of Molokai and motored the last few miles into Haleolono.

The wind was from the NE but there’d been a big swell from the south for a few days. The surfers in Waikiki were loving it, but in made for an intimidating entrance to Haleolono. The anchorage is inside a jetty from an abandoned quarry. Coming from the West, it looked like surf was breaking across the entire breakwater. I began to think that the big swell had closed out the entrance, but once I got the very prominent range marks lined up it was clear that there were no breaking waves in the channel. Still it was an intense ride in with no buoys, a 6+ foot following swell and lots of surge making it tricky to stay in the middle of the 150′ wide entrance.

I tucked into the far east corner where the big swell caused quite a surge, but the water was Calm. I hadn’t dropped the hook since Christmas Island. I probably should have checked it before I left. As I went to drop my chain immediately hung up somewhere down in the chain locker. The wind was blowing and there was lots of surge, so I had to hurry. I ran down to find that the chain had shifted pounding into 10’+ waves for days before I reached Hawaii and had ended up a tangled mess. I quickly decided that I’d need time to clean it up, so I popped up to the cockpit, motored back into the center of the anchorage and dropped the stern hook for only the 4th time in 8 years. It took a good 20 minutes to clean up the anchor chain. With the stern hook already down and the limited room for swinging, it seemed like a good idea to let some slack out and motor up to the skinny part of the bay and drop my primary Bruce anchor.

As I was getting my anchor situation figured out, a truck came and started setting up porta-potties which seemed a bit odd in this uninhabited, remote corner of Molokai. I rowed ashore and started exploring and ran into Moku, who was running security for the boats that were already staged on the beach for the weekends 6 person canoe races from Molokai to Waikiki. Moku was cool enough to give me the lay of the land as well as a ride up to the viewpoint overlooking the abandoned wharf. I’m going to be in the way of the 100 or so escort boats for the race if I stick around till Thrusday, so I’ll probably only spend two nights in this sweet little spot before I head off to points further East on Molokai or South to Lanai. I think that I’ll try and get back to Oahu in a week or so and see about figuring out what the next 6 months have in store. In the meantime it’s damn nice being away from the hustle and bustle of my old slip in Ala Wai.