Our Hawaii decision was a difficult one because our crystal ball is cloudy. Pandemics are new to us. Our original plan was spend the 2020 cruising season (May thru October) re-exploring the Cook Islands, Western Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji before dropping south to New Zealand. Now we were committing to a significant covid-induced detour.
The 2000 mile trip from the Marquesas to Hawaii is not a difficult one. SE trade winds typically offer a tail-wind up to the equator and into the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the doldrums where NE trades meet SE trades. This zone is characterized by light and variable winds and rain squalls, often with gusty winds. Commonly, the ITZC is a narrow, well-defined band that can be seen on satellite images – frequently only 100 miles wide. A day and you’re through. Sadly, the zone was poorly defined, wide and slowly drifting northward in the first half of April. For 3 full days, we sailed slowly with spinnaker by day and motored through the nights to get through the squally weather. Then, much to our disappointment, the North Pacific High was southeast of it’s normal parking place north of Hawaii. This means that we further suffered with SE trade winds instead of the East or NE winds we expected – more downwind light air sailing. The winds, in fact, had so much south in them that when we finally arrived at South Point on the Big Island, a notoriously windy patch of ocean, we had no wind at all. Even the dreaded Alihuihaha channel between the Big Island and Maui was windless. We motored all the way from South Point to the Molokai Channel, sailing only the last 60 miles into Honolulu’s Alawai Basin.
Good friend Skip Sims had coordinated our Hawaiian entry thru the port of Hilo on the NE side of the Big Island. Radio bay offers a wonderfully protected harbor inside an extensive breakwater. The harbormaster offered an easy entrance. After much deliberation, however, we opted to continue on to Honolulu where good friend Jim Maynard had arranged a slip for us at the beautiful and convenient Waikiki Yacht Club. The problem with Hilo was that our arrival would require a 14-day quarantine on the boat and inter-island travel was prohibited to restrict the spread of Coronavirus. Therefore, until further notice, once at Hilo, always at Hilo. If we were to be stuck somewhere, we preferred Honolulu where we could work on projects and return to the mainland if and when the coast was clear.
With cell reception restored about 25 miles from the Islands, we were able to ring the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to notify them of our impending arrival. They were waiting on the dock at the yacht club, presenting us with “aloha” face masks to set the tone for our quarantine. For two weeks we were to remain primarily on the boat and on club grounds; grocery runs were allowed… with masks. We asked if we could be credited with our sea time to meet the 2-week quarantine requirement. Sorry, no exceptions. Every arrival quarantines. The club kept a loose eye on our movements over the next couple of weeks. We made a trip to the auto parts store, rationalizing that this was groceries for our girl J. In the second week, we made a few visits to nearby beaches and even a walking tour of ghost-town Wakiki beach. The two-week confinement passed quickly with projects and sufficient internet to stay tuned in. We stayed a 3rd week at the WYC before setting off to explore the Island of Oahu by sea.
Eventually brighter minds prevailed – recognizing that a 2-week quarantine was really not necessary for healthy crews who arrive in Hawaii after 2 weeks at sea!