La Peruse Bay is a welcome refuge after crossing the Alenuihaha or when waiting for a break in the weather to get across the channel. The holding is good and the lava cliffs, standing about 50’ tall, block the wind at deck level while the wind instruments at the mast head tell the channel’s story. From anchor, we could see the water boiling outside less than a half mile away. The following day, with the wind still piping, we sailed with a reefed mainsail westward across the bottom of Maui to Molokini, a small caldera (crater) that offer’s some of Maui’s best diving and snorkeling. Dive operators have set several secure moorings in the caldera to protect the coral and allow hassle- free comings and goings for the many, many dive boats frequenting the site. Once again, COVID smiled on Pazzo. We had our choice of moorings and enjoyed the snorkeling all to ourselves. In fact, Hawaii’s marine biologists have reported that without tourists flooding the waters, marine wildlife numbers are growing markedly.
After enjoying Molokini all alone, we used up the last of the wind and motored thru the lee calms of Maui, past Lahaina, and on to beautiful and well-protected Honoloa Bay.
Lahaina, on the SE corner of Maui is a popular tourist town with a small boat harbor and good-holding sand bottom. It’s a roadstead anchorage with no protection from foul weather, but the NE trade winds leave this area alone. Lahaina is the terminus of the Victoria-Maui yacht race, held every odd year. It’s a serious party town when the race yachts arrive! We skipped Lahaina on this trip but returned the following year.
Honoloa Bay on the western end of Maui is a small horseshoe shaped bay with several charter boat moorings and is normally abuzz with charter boats carrying swarms of pasty-white tourists slathered in sunscreen and donned in snorkel gear. Our experience was otherwise. We shared the bay with only a few other cruising yachts (some appeared to be quite settled). We found many green sea turtles, lots of coral, many fishes, although not too colorful, and a few hungry barracudas snacking on their favorite prey. It’s an addictive place to be sure. In fact, during the height of COVID when inter-island travel was banned, several yachts anchored in Honoloa and stayed for months – angering the local property owners.
After a couple of days enjoying the tranquility of Honoloa Bay, Team Pazzo set out across the Auau channel to the Island of Lanai, until recently, owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle fame. Lanai is a quiet island with only the famous (and very posh) Manele Bay resort to attract visitors. We put our pick down outside the breakwater at Manele Bay as instructed by Joelle, the harbor master. Apparently the harbor can’t accommodate vessels with 6’ draft. In the bounding swells, we launched our dink for the short trip into the harbor to meet Joelle for a “health check” where she asked a few questions and took our temperatures. With this formality out of the way, she gave us permission
to anchor in the tiny commercial harbor of Kaumalapau on the west side of the island. Like many of Hawaii’s commercial harbors, Kaumalapau is known as a barge harbor, accommodating only tug boats and their barges. We found a snug anchorage stern tied to shore well out of the way of any barge traffic that might arrive. From this well- protected retreat, we hitch-hiked into sleepy Lanai City, the only town on the island. Nothing to report – not even ice cream! The best part of the adventure was hitch- hiking. Even during COVID, every passing car stopped to either offer us a ride or apologize for not picking us up!
Officially, Hawaii allows 3 days free anchoring/mooring in each port jurisdiction before requiring $7/day for the boat and $10 per person per day – $27 USD per day – to anchor! No amenities, no services. At least in Bora-Bora, our $30/day got us a mooring, garbage service, and sometimes ice as well!
We paid for anchoring in Nawiliwili harbor and for a week in Hanalei bay on Kauai but not again until we arrived at our next port: Molokai’s Kaunakakai Harbor. We paid Harbor Agent, Jerry, his $200 for a 10 day visit to his Island. As we had arrived just before an inter-island travel ban was imposed, we confirmed with Jerry that we were free to roam his island without restriction or quarantine. We had an accord!
With Pazzo comfortably anchored in good-holding mud in Kaunakakai Harbor, we rented a car from the only rental agent on the island and quickly discovered that Molokai isn’t for tourists. While part of Maui County, Molokai is an unfriendly place where visitors are tolerated but are not welcome. We found some upscale developments on the west end of the island where “howlies” have developed gated communities but we didn’t see any integration with the locals. The local population appreciate their quiet island and have successfully resisted development.
Upon our return from our rental car adventures around the island, we were met by a young woman enquiring about “oohaha” our dink chained to the dock. Would we be willing to help her and her mates unload a bunch of gear from their trimaran which was stuck on a nearby reef? Apparently, they had missed the entrance to Kaunakakai and put the boat on the reef during the preceding night. The authorities demanded that they remove batteries and fuel tanks ASAP before an environmental disaster resulted. We spent the next two hours ferrying gear from their stranded yacht to the nearby wharf. Slow and chilly work, but eventually, we had emptied the yacht of much of their gear. We later learned that the owner paid a local contractor to re-float the boat and take it ashore for repairs. Nothing further heard, but we suspect that the boat was subsequently abandoned.
Unwilling to get cast into a deeper role in the “shit-show,” we exited stage-left early the morning of August 13 for the rugged north shore of Molokai. This counter-clockwise trip around Molokai demands an early departure to avoid the funneling easterly winds that get started mid-mornings. The Pailolo channel with Molokai to the west and Maui
to the east is perfectly lined up with the NE trade winds, so it’s a thrash to windward unless broken up with a stopover at Honoloa Bay.
The north shore of Molokai is a foul place when northerly swells roll in or when the trade winds are enhanced. There are few places to hide from the trades, but Noodle has documented them well in his “Notes.” In our experience, visitors are not welcome ashore on most of the island, but notably so along the unsettled North Shore. Our first stop was a wonderfully protected but very small chink in the shore known as Keawanui. While generally nondescript, Keawanui features a solitary house perched on a tall, narrow cliff. Hawaiian Activist Joyce Kainoa and her husband built the house, accessible only by small boat in settled weather or helicopter, to raise her family away from the influence of modernity. The family lived off the land, growing fruits and vegetables, fishing, hunting, and raising livestock. Joyce’s husband, Mike, built boats on the property and transported the finished product down to the sea via a home-built cable car with a winch driven by a truck engine. Joyce and Mike passed away years ago leaving the property to her children. Certain family members discourage visiting yachts from anchoring in the small bay, but Cindy and I befriended Joyce’s nephew, James, and his mates by taking them snail (hihivai) hunting up a river in nearby Pelekunui Bay. While the weather was moderate for Pazzo, it would have been dangerous for the folks to make the journey by kayak. So, off we went in search of adventure, plucking small black snails from the underside of rocks in the chilly river. The adventure ended with a lovely sunset enjoying good food, cheap wine and a stunning view with new friends at Joyce’s cabin at Keawanui.
The anchorage at Keawanui is reserved for the intrepid. The small notch in the coast line is protected from the trade winds by a tall rocky cliff. The anchor is set amongst huge bolders in 60 feet of water. Then at least one and preferably two long stern lines hold the boat in a narrow crease of deep water. Not 500 feet away, the wind whips the waves into a froth. 30 feet off the starboard side are pools that fill with very high tides and then warm all day in the sun – natural hot-tubs!
After a few leisurely days, we hauled in our tackle and continued our exploration of Molokai’s north shore. Our next anchorage, Waikolu, was a bit rolly, but well protected behind a huge rock situated narrowly off shore. James advised us that the shore was restricted as an extension of the Kalaupapa National Park where the last remaining leprosy survivors are allowed to live out their lives beyond the view of prying eyes. A large swath of coast line including the entire Kalaupapa Peninsula is off-limits to visitors except for select guided tours.
In the 1860s, King Kemehameha V designated Kalaupapa as an isolation colony for sufferers of leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) – then thought to be highly contagious and incurable – until the advent of antibiotics. Over 8500 lepers were exiled to the colony over the decades.
While anchored in Waikolu, a couple of small boats came by – one with a few friendly fishermen who proceeded to the river to hunt snails – and another with two gals and 2 guys. One of the gals waved while the driver kicked up his biggest wake and circled Pazzo a couple of times about 20 feet away all the while glaring at us and making menacing hand gestures as if to say “get outa here!” And then they were gone.
The following day, August 23, we continued along Molokai’s rugged north shore, passing near the north tip of the Kalaupapa Peninsula and taking pictures of Father Damien’s Church where he ministered to the lepers for over a decade before contracting the disease himself. By noon, we were around Ilio Point on the NW corner of Molokai and proceeded down the western shore a few miles to find good-holding sand behind a headland at the north end of beautiful Papokaku Beach.
The trade winds continued to blow day and night (Hey! They’re called trades for a reason!) but the waves are much reduced along this shore. It was here that we noticed more difficulty with our reverse gear. Ugh! Some of you may recall that we lost our reverse gear in Ushuaia (Patagonia) and had a grand adventure getting it fixed. Well, we appeared to be re-living that nightmare. I spent a few hours making some adjustments, but it became clear that our transmission problems continued. A new gear box was in our future.
But, Papokaku Beach is a gorgeous spot – even with technical difficulties. So, we rested and took a short stroll on the beach. The following day, we walked the entire length of the long beach and as we returned to “oohaha” dink, we were intercepted by the Molokai Police advising us that we not allowed ashore without first quarantining for two weeks on the boat. We calmly explained that we had arrived on Molokai before the quarantine requirement was implemented and that harbor agent Jerry told us that “we are free to roam “his” island without restriction.” To confirm, the police put Jerry on speakerphone… and Jerry sang a different tune. His “free to roam” endorsement, apparently, applied only for as long as we were anchored in his harbor at Kaunakakai. Once we left “his” harbor, we were required to serve a 2-week quarantine period – because the act of leaving one harbor on “his” island and arriving in another harbor (also on “his” island) constitutes a new arrival and therefore subject to a 2-week quarantine. Yikes! Can you say, “shit for brains?” We were literally surrounded by idiots!
The following day, another call to Jerry confirmed that we were, in fact dealing with idiots. Rules interpreted and applied without thought or reason. We can’t stay here!
So, by noon, anchor’s up and away. With the wind and waves behind the beam, we blasted across the Molokai channel, back to the sanity and hospitality of Waikiki Yacht Club in Oahu’s Alawai Basin.
Well, 10 weeks after departing Waimea on Oahu’s north shore, we had visited Kauai, Niihau, Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, Molokini, Lanai, and Molokai – a fair tour of the Islands. We had visited most of Noodle’s recommended anchorages. We skipped the windy sides of The Big Island (Hilo) and Maui (Kahalui), but otherwise gave the chain pretty good look. We found plenty of fine anchorages, spectacular scenery, a lot of great sailing, OK fishing, and tons of friendly (and a few sour) folks. We made new friends, learned a lot about the Islands and their rich history, and had grand adventures.
Is Hawaii a good cruising destination? ABSOLUTELY! But it’s not easy cruising. Anchorages can be rolly. Most of ‘em are windy. Marinas are very limited. Channel crossings can be “sporting.” And, you’ll have to slog your way thru a fair bit of bullshit with Hawaii’s DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) that makes and ministers the myriad anchoring rules. Bottom line: life’s greatest rewards… don’t come easy.