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 092014
 
The Hilton lighting off fireworks for my return to Hawaii

The Hilton lighting off fireworks for my return to Hawaii

I don’t know why I thought it might have been different this time. I waited for a month in Fiji for a decent weather window to get to American Samoa. I was “stuck” in Pago Pago for 3 weeks and Christmas Island for 2 waiting for parts. I’ve now been in Hawaii for almost 3 weeks. I hadn’t been ready for the first two, but for a week now I’ve been all provisioned up and ready to go. Patience is almost as import as skill for an offshore sailor, but mine is starting to wear thin.

The North Pacific High, which I need to be as far south as possible, has been hanging out all the way up in Alaska meaning that I’d have to sail nearly to Juneau before heading back down to Seattle. Now the high has disappeared all together with 5 different lows surrounding Hawaii. Two are tropical storms, but they pale in comparison to the big systems that are already steaming up the Aleutians to Alaska. I could just get out there and see what I get, but there’s been a big wind hole 500 miles across just north of here, which would have me spending half my fuel in the supposed trade wind belt. All I can do is wait.

That's a whole lot of no wind north of here surrounded by certain unpleasantness on all sides.

That’s a whole lot of no wind north of here surrounded by certain unpleasantness on all sides.

On the bright side, I’m docked right at the beginning of Waikiki. I’m getting a little tired of all the noise from the restaurant band across the street and the endless parade of passers by. Still it’s an epic spot to be docked in with some world class people watching.

Mainly I’ve been hanging out with the crew at the old fuel dock. The dock itself has been sold to a Japanese firm that wants to turn it into a wedding chapel. In the meantime, there’s about 8 boats that have their own little private marina in the middle of Ala Wai. They have to use their own anchors and med-moor to the wall, but it’s a sweet setup. Garrett has a Downeaster 32 named Mary Jane. He plays guitar and is fully into paragliding. Chris and Leyla live have cruised the South Pacific on their Hans Christian 33 Privateer and Chris just happens to play guitar and banjo. You can see where we might have hit it off.

The Fuel Dock Compound

The Fuel Dock Compound

The most epic moment of the last 3 weeks came last Friday. Garrett asked if I’d wanted to go with him to the other side of the island where he’d be doing some paragliding. I grabbed my camera rig and jumped at the opportunity to get out of town for a bit. Little did I know that I’d meet Maui Doug over there and get in a 90 minute long tandem flight over Makapu’u Head. Truly one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done.


So now I’m looking at the North Pacific High not forming back up for at least a week. In the meantime, I’m going to try and get a little cruising in. I’m not sure where, but I’m definitely ready to get out of the city.