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Friday, December 27, 2013

Kaunakakai Harbor, Molokai

Tuesday, December 24

We had a second enjoyable stay in Kaunakakai, though not as much fun as our first visit because we didn't have the loan of a friend's car this time. Exploring the island end to end was the highlight of our last visit. We were happy to be able to get back and forth to town on our bicycles but our days were mostly routine.

John began the chore of spiffing up the doors and brightwork outside the companionway, getting a few coats of varnish on everything while we had a little down time. I stuffed my backpack full of laundry and rode to the nearby Friendly Isle laundromat for a quick wash, bringing it all back to the boat for line drying. Splitting it up over a couple of days made it feel like less of a chore.

I hung out at the charming little library where the only drawback is the lack of electrical outlets for charging. A friendly librarian let me plug my computer into one of their power strips, but they have a posted policy of "no charging" and I didn't want to impose after the first time. Hilo is still my idea of the perfect library with an outlet at almost every table in the open air courtyard.

We thought we'd combine a night out with some "free" Wifi by going to Paddler's restaurant for their Thursday local music night. Our server bent over backward to get us seated where I could plug in (I swear I'm buying a new battery when we get to Honolulu!), and then it turned out that local music night had died over the slow summer and wouldn't start up again until after the holidays. But we ate a huge meal of shrimp and mahi mahi fettucine (complete with bread and a generous salad) for me and a hearty burger and fries for John.

After spending $4 on two soft serve ice cream cones from the pizza place we smartened up and bought pints of Dave's Hawaiian ice cream for $5 instead. The pre-packed pints were frozen solid and the clerk even wrapped it in newspaper for us so we could ride back and eat it on the boat. The Molokai Mud Pie was good and the chocolate Macadamia nut was a rich dark chocolate. Ono!

Our most ambitious outing was a bike ride on Saturday out to the Mile 16 marker at the east end of the island. The ride is mostly flat with several short uphill slopes and I only had to walk my bike one or two times. I love my rusty road bike from craigslist but it's an old 5-speed and I'm permanently stuck in second gear. This is great for getting me around on the flat parts of town, but is useless on hills that would normally be no problem for me. After Mile 16 we decided we'd had enough and turned around in front of a house with a beautiful shiny blue tile roof. We stopped in at Mana'e Goodz 'n' Grindz for drinks and took a beach break at Puko'o Harbor back at about Mile 13. The return ride was an easy downhill run with the breeze at our backs, which was a good thing because I was definitely done when we rolled into the Molokai Drive-In.

This is a great little local hangout with free Wifi in their air conditioned dining room. They also have covered outdoor seating at picnic tables and clean bathrooms. This place is so much better than any McDonald's or Burger King. We were also happy to notice that Subway is no longer in business in Kaunakakai. Molokai has done an excellent job of keeping out the generic chain stores you find everywhere else.

But one thing we don't really get is their opposition to small cruise ships like the Safari Explorer which docked at the pier while we were there. We saw many signs outside homes saying things along the line of "no cruise ships," and at one point a year or two ago the SE actually had to stop coming to Molokai for a time. I can understand wanting to keep out the mega ships - which wouldn't want to visit sleepy Molokai anyway. But with only 36 eco-minded passengers, the SE seems like the perfect fit for Molokai. People who take small ships are generally interested in more remote locations and are more sensitive to leaving small footprints in the first place. So where's the harm to the locals if these people spend a day touring Molokai? The Molokai Princess ferry can carry four times as many day-tripping tourists from Maui six days a week. What's the diff?!

The other thing that became a perplexing downer for us were all the No Trespassing, Keep Out, and Private Property signs seen posted everywhere. We not only saw these on the larger properties spread out along the highway (where it might be possible for a tourist to get confused looking for beach access or a hiking opportunity - maybe), but also in a densely populated local neighborhood where no tourist would normally venture. What's going on here? Do neighbors not know to stay out of each other's yards? It leads a visitor to think there's a significant petty theft problem on this island...

We attempted another bike ride out the west end of town but gave it up after only three miles. The hills were too steep and numerous for me, and the "ride" became a hot walk in the sun. Instead we explored some more neighborhoods, admired the very brand new looking fire station, and headed to the Drive-In for refueling.

After putting it off all week, I finally walked into the Kanemitsu Bakery the day before we left to ask about "night bread." But of course Monday is the only night they don't sell hot gooey sweet breads in the alley after 8 PM because the bakery is closed on Tuesdays. Look it up on yelp if you're curious - I can't write about it until we've done it. Next visit for sure!

{GMST}21|05.035|N|157|01.707|W|Molokai|Kaunakakai Harbor{GEND}

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Maui to Molokai

Tuesday, December 17

We were motoring along in the calm hours of the morning, anxious to cross the Pailolo channel between Maui and Molokai before it got too windy. About an hour before reaching Lahaina I saw something yellow floating in the distance. At last, we'd found a kayak! It was only a short, hard plastic, kid's kayak but maybe it could float me. John fished it out of the water and it fit perfectly on Nakia. I began to have visions of paddling around quiet anchorages when John made a call on the VHF radio in a half-hearted attempt to find the owner. A charter operator came back with the possibility that it had come from a nearby camp. John Googled the camp name on his phone and gave them a call. He was routed to their kayak guy who said it wasn't theirs but it might be his buddy Chris'. John called Chris who correctly identified the kayak and agreed to meet us at the Lahaina harbor entrance by paddling out on his SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard). While John stressed about being delayed an hour over the whole thing (and running into too much wind in the channel) I was excited about the happy ending of reuniting the wayward kayak with its anxious owner.

The wind did pick up and we had a good sail across with the added bonus of a pair a whales breaching and crashing back into the water with splashes you couldn't miss. We ended up sailing right out of the wind line and motored into the familiar waters of Kaunakakai Harbor. I was dismayed to find four tired looking sailboats (one dismasted) on permanent moorings plus a large orange mooring buoy reserved for the Molokai Princess ferry. But three of them were far back in shallow water and we managed to tuck into a spot between S/V Koa Kahiko and the MKP ferry buoy.

We took the bikes in to lock them up on shore and to check things out. The harbor master's office was already closed for the day but John took one of the self-pay envelopes back to the boat with us. One nice surprise was to find that anchoring at Molokai is still a bargain at .10/foot plus $2 per person per night, or about $2 less than it costs us to stay at Radio Bay. On the downside the public bathrooms are worse at Molokai and we obviously can't run water or electricity to the boat at anchor like we can at RB. When we got the seldom used checkbook out to pay we discovered that the last check we wrote was also to DNLR for anchoring at Molokai on 1/4/11! It has taken us seven years to write 24 checks...

{GMST}21|05.035|N|157|01.707|W|Molokai|Kaunakakai Harbor|{GEND}

Maui Lite

Monday, December 16

Well, Maui has never been high on our list of islands to visit by boat and this time was no exception. We pulled into La Perouse Bay just before sunrise and John found a patch of sand for the anchor. We didn't plan to go ashore but it looked like an interesting place with several people driving in to take a look at it. Unfortunately, after breakfast and a morning nap, conditions had deteriorated and we weren't comfortable rolling in the swell.

We left La Perouse at Noon and motored around the back side of Molokini for a look at that. The snorkeling side was already choppy so we gave it a pass and continued on to Point McGregor. We ended up too close to some rocks to the left on our first anchor set, but after a second try we were satisfied with our position directly below a ridge of wind turbines. This anchorage has absolutely nothing to recommend it. There is no place to go ashore and it's right under a busy highway. But John put up our Christmas lights and we probably made a lovely sight for people not used to seeing a sailboat anchored in the middle of nowhere. If you don't plan to visit Lahaina before continuing to Molokai, then this is probably a more protected spot to spend the night - but that's all I can say in its favor.

We saw several humpback whales throughout the day - spouts, a baby breaching clear out of the water, and lots of fin waving and tail fluking. Maui is great for whale watching this time of year, but I recommend taking one of the early morning tours. After the wind came up by late morning we overheard VHF radio chatter about passengers getting sick when one boat went looking for whales out in the rougher waters between the islands!

{GMST}20|35.425|N|156|24.998|W|Maui|La Perouse Bay{GEND}

{GMST}20|46.595|N|156|31.477|W|Maui|Point McGregor{GEND}

Hilo Wrap Up (on passage to Maui)

Sunday, December 15 - night watch

It's finally time to leave Hilo and we are midway into our overnight crossing to Maui. John found calm weather for us to transit the locally infamous Alanuihaha channel. Thus far the weather has been so calm that we've motored most of the way. But it's either that or a hairy sail in boisterous seas - no thanks!

Regarding our stay in Radio Bay, I forgot to mention that the Harbor office no longer accepts any form of payment other than a local check or a money order. Every cruising boat we spoke with, especially the foreign ones, were confounded by this archaic method of payment, especially since it requires a tedious bus trip to Walmart or the Post Office and then another visit back to the Harbor office. They are adamant about payment in advance which for us meant several trips to Walmart for money orders as we extended our stay from week to week.

I also didn't make it clear that Security will no longer escort you from your boat out to the main gate. Instead you are required to land your dinghy on the beach. We eventually found it easiest to land in the extreme right hand corner of the beach to avoid grumbling from the members of the private Palekai canoe club, none of whom seemed to know that we had no other option for landing.

In addition to the noises of the container terminal we also discovered that the Coast Guard ship Kiska often performed some sort of training drill at around 0430. They started the outboard motor on their tender mounted on the rear deck of the ship, ran it for a bit, and then shut it down. This was only mildly disturbing to our sleep because Ziggy is usually pestering us to wake up by then anyway.

One evening John was sitting in the cockpit after dark when he heard a screech and located an owl perched on a tall structure. From then on if I heard the screech, I ran out to see the owl flying across the sky, illuminated by the Harbor flood lights, either on its way out to hunt at night or returning to roost somewhere before sunrise. We identified it as a barn owl by its size, color, and its unique call.

This is one of those things you hate to admit, but we were enchanted by the nightly Coqui chorus. After a day trip to Costco and Kona with Fabio and Lisa of S/V Amandla we stepped out of the car in Hilo to the familiar sound that meant we were home. The Coqui frog is a non-native species that has overrun parts of Hawaii, and drives the locals absolutely bananas. Until just recently there was a government program attempting to control the problem, but it has been discontinued as a lost cause. You can hear them doing solos during daylight hours, but it's at night that they sing loudly and in unison. We apologize profusely for loving the happy sound of "ko kee'" repeated ad nauseum!

One day we rode our bikes to Uncle Billy's General Store to use their Wifi. As we were surfing the web a tsunami siren began wailing away. We immediately started to shut down our computers, ready to race back to the boat, when we realized that no one else appeared to be concerned. Hmmm. We asked a local about it and learned that the sirens are tested the first Monday of every month. Yup, it was 12/2. Having been through three tsunami evacuations we take the warnings very seriously no matter how far away from our location the quakes occur.

Ziggy and I began a new activity which I hope to resume in the calm waters of the Ala Wai Marina when we get to Honolulu. At the end of each day he waited for me to return from my shower, eager to jump into the dinghy and go for a row around the harbor. I used the opportunity to get in a few licks with the cat brush while he was otherwise distracted. He hates being brushed but whenever he became agitated by it I dropped the brush and began to row again. That immediately shifted his focus and averted any aggressive behavior. As we approached other boats he was brave and appeared ready to jump ship. But when we got too close to shore or any unfamiliar object he slunk down and crawled under my legs, yowling with concern. I'd row us back to Nakia where he could leap to the safety of home. I'm sure we were a source of amusement to at least a few of the cruise ship passengers I could see watching us from high above. It's not often you see a cat perched on the bow of an inflatable dinghy!

Late one afternoon we came home after a long day off the boat. I climbed down the steps to the salon and was puzzled by small grey bits of something on the carpets. What had Ziggy found to tear up? It wasn't until my eyes adjusted to the dimmer light down below and traveled up to the rug opposite the nav station that I saw the bird wings - which were all that remained of what had probably been a sparrow. That and some downy grey feathers tumbling in the breeze. We sprang into action rolling up the carpets and shaking the debris into the water. John saw what looked like vomit sink through the water so at least Ziggy had already gotten it out of his system and we didn't have to worry about him throwing up later.

For an "indoor" cat he really does get to enjoy more of the great outdoors than a true house cat, and without most of its hazards. We are hoping to find him a permanent land-based home here in Hawaii, and I thought it would be great to find a rural place far from cars where he could roam and hunt. We met a very kind man who is convinced that a boat is no place for a cat. He's read the same books I did when we first moved aboard in which some very famous cruisers lose cats over the side. But when I start thinking about Ziggy being "free" on land I think of him picking up fleas, getting abscesses from fighting other cats, being chased by vicious dogs, or getting hit by a car. On the other hand I can't imagine him being cooped up in a house without access to the sounds and smells of life outside. I think he actually has it pretty good with us, and it will be hard to let him go should that day ever arrive.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Tuned in to Radio Bay

We have obviously been enjoying our stay in Radio Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii very much since we've now been here for one month. It isn't for everyone - indeed, most cruisers seem to dislike it - but we're willing to put up with the negatives in exchange for the positives.

First of all, if you are noise sensitive, you will not like staying here for very long. We are tied up to a concrete wall with big wooden ladders mounted on the face of the wall. The wall is actually the edge of a large shipping container storage area/parking lot which is part of the Port of Hilo. We are separated from the semi-trucks and containers by a chain link fence, and harbor security will no longer escort us across the property to the gate through which cruise ship passengers transit. In addition to the rumble and back-up alarms beeping from trucks moving containers, there is a storage silo which periodically emits a startling burst of pressure, something like "ch!" or "pssst!" But after awhile all of this is only white noise for us. Besides which we spend most of our days off the boat and things are usually quiet at night. I actually get a vicarious thrill at the sight of a cruise ship docking just across the pier from us. It's fun to listen to their on-board announcements and watch the people on their cabin balconies looking down and perhaps wondering where our snug little boat has been. We share this moorage with the Kiska, a small Coast Guard ship home-ported here. Their daily ritual of "Call to Colors" before raising flags in the mornings brings back fond memories of living in Alameda, CA across from Coast Guard Island. The early morning arrival of the young men and women serving on the ship reminds me of my own youthful years served in the Air Force.

Our access to this part of the shore is confined to: one working electrical box, water faucets, and a bathroom/shower building adjacent to the parking lot for the Coasties. There used to be a second electrical box which would give hours of juice for a quarter. That may be why it has been dismantled. But $.25 for one hour at a time is fine for our basic needs. The covered picnic table, trash cans, and shelves for a trading book "library" are still next to the bathrooms. As with our previous visits the bathrooms do not get much attention beyond the emptying of trash and replenishment of paper products. But I appreciate knowing I can luxuriate in a long hot shower, just steps away from the boat, whenever I want, especially if we've been out riding our bicycles around Hilo.

Making my way from the boat to the ladder using a stern line

Climbing the ladder to the top of the wall

Made it! Now it's time for a shower.

Having a bicycle since we've been cruising is nothing new to John. He had a used bike to get around Mazatlan during his 2012 summer there when he was house-sitting and working on the boat every day. So he was very anxious to buy another one as soon as we arrived from French Polynesia. He found an inexpensive mountain bike at Walmart, and we bought a used road bike from an ad on craigslist for me. I am astounded by how much more flexibility we have with the bikes. They have freed us from the tyranny of the local bus system.

When we visited Hilo in 2009, 2010, and 2011 the buses were free. The route we use most often runs in a circle from the beach parks east of Radio Bay, past the Port of Hilo, along the waterfront to the downtown bus terminal, up through town with stops at colleges and high schools, to the Prince Kuhio shopping center, then down towards the bay, past the airport, past Radio Bay again, and terminating at the end of the beach parks road. It's a long circuitous route if all you want is to go to the grocery store. But we were content to put up with it when it was free to hop on and off as many times as we needed. In fact, we thought it was a pretty great deal.

But free rides don't usually last forever so we weren't surprised when friends wrote us that the bus was now $1. What shocked us was arriving in Hilo to find that the fare had doubled to $2 as of July 1, 2013. This still wouldn't be out of line if it allowed you to make multiple stops along your route, as I've experienced with most mass transit systems in the U.S. But many of the island bus routes run so infrequently that a 2-hour transfer is often not enough time. And that's assuming you can even get a transfer. Apparently you cannot use a transfer to reboard and continue on the same bus route. Instead you have to transfer to a different route (some of them cover the same territory). Transfers are one-use only and the date and time are laboriously handwritten as you wait to exit the bus. Seriously! On the plus side, the fare is $2 no matter how far you're traveling on a particular route.

So we are happy to have our bikes safely secured and waiting for us on shore. While most of Radio Bay is taken up by Port of Hilo operations, there is one small corner which is shared by the private Palekai paddle club and the park in which it resides. We row to this stony shore and lock our dinghy to an exposed tree root out of the way of the larger beach where the big canoes are launched. We wanted to keep our bikes locked to a post under the covered club picnic area to protect them from the rain. After some complaining from guys who hang out at the club drinking in the afternoons, John bought a truce with a six-pack and we moved the bikes over to the Port's fence.

It is so very nice to have only a short row over calm, protected water to come and go from Nakia. I don't have to stress out about getting salt spray splashed on my town clothes, John doesn't have to hassle with the outboard motor, and we're only steps away from a gorgeous walk or bike ride along one of the most interesting stretches of coastline in the area. There are half a dozen different beach parks connecting the shore, each with their own personality and facilities. Most of them are very kid friendly with natural or human assisted shallow wading pools. Some have outdoor showers and no bathroom; others have bathrooms complete with changing rooms and showers. Most provide picnic tables and one has thoughtfully placed each table under its own gazebo for shelter from the sun and rain. Based on our brief tours I would say each one of them offers the sight of green sea turtles feeding on "grass" covered rocks below the water's surface.

On a long day of riding, with multiple stops at various beach parks, we easily saw more than one turtle at each site. There were even turtles popping their heads up inshore of a crowded surf spot. We've also seen humpback whales outside the breakwater, and we sat and watched spinner dolphins swimming with snorkelers 150 yards off shore. Flocks of egrets fly west over the boat at sunrise, returning east at sunset. Colorful finches fly up out of the grasses. The foliage seems even more exotic and varied than that of Tahiti but, as John likes to point out to me, that's probably due to the many non-native species introduced here.

While we spend much of our time shopping, running errands, and making use of public places with free Wifi, we are definitely enjoying the natural beauty and refreshing climate of Hilo. We will eventually be moving on to Honolulu but, for now at least, we're in no hurry to leave Radio Bay!