Friday, June 8, 2012

Midnight in the Channel of Doom

The channel between the Big Island and Maui now lies behind me. I had heard monster stories about it from before I got here and all through the week while I was in Hilo. Captain James Cook had lost his masts here, after 4 circumnavigations and many more Cape Horn roundings. The Hawaiians then promptly ate him for the mistake. Because the islands sit in the middle of the trade winds, the wind blows around them more fiercely than out in normal seas. They block the wind in one part and then it is amplified as it goes around the corners. This channel is about 40 miles wide and the current can go any which way it likes, often strongly, and the wind is always up. So I was apprehensive about taking on the job, but I had to get to Maui, so I did it.
I left in the late afternoon in order to make the distance to the channel in the night and then at daybreak cross, but the first thing I noticed as I got out of the breakwater was that the waves were just about the worst I have ever seen. It wasn't as big as when I was coming in to Hilo, but this time I was trying to go against the waves and their rebound counterparts from the cliff shore, and the wind had also died down to nothing. I cranked on the “deathtrap” engine, but the waves kept my speed at very slow. Finally after a long time the wind gave me a boost to make the corner of Hilo Bay, and then I was in the trades again.
Everything was going well in the evening, except that as I approached midnight, the winds grew stronger, so I decided to roll in the Genoa and put up the little jib. Then I noticed that the Genoa was not about to be furled, as the furling line was caught around the bottom of the contraption, and I would have to go out to the end of the bowsprit to fix it. Now I had been feeling a bit old all day, since that morning I went surfing with a friend from here and landed on the reef. I had a big wound on my back and right next to my tailbone, making sitting up or working leaning over quite painful. In fact, everything was hurting. So I tied myself into a line and got my vise-grip pliers to hold up the sail while I worked under it, and swore quite a few times to the unsympathetic winds. The boat, of course was bucking around like an angry bear and I was getting thrown with it. Then the vise grips came off and when “plunk”, whereupon I learned some new words to yell.
When I was finally hoarse and the sail all tucked away, I took off the line and went to take a nap.
Its hard to sleep when the boat is underway and close to land, so I didn't get more than 10 winks in before the channel came alive with other boats all on collision course with me. That lasted until dawn and the winds were not awe inspiring, and the waves even were small. It was much worse just outside of Hilo. I was able to make good speed through the choke point of the channel. On approach to the corner of Maui the winds came up. The waves stayed nice and small, but the wind came up to 30, then 35 knots and might have hit 45 knots at the end. I had the nose of the boat nearly underwater with the force and I was flying along! Now I am in the “bay” of Maui and it is flat calm and nice. I'll go to Lahaina tomorrow.

So I wrote that  yesterday, and now I am in Lahaina.  It is very nice here, with calm seas and nice views of the hills and islands around.  This morning I went over to Molokini, a tiny island shaped like a crescent.  In that little bay is the clearest water I have ever seen.  I saw the bottom at 72 ft while on board, and I think the vis is something like 100 or more.  Super clear.  So I drove on in and looked for a place to anchor, but then looking at the other boats, I saw they were tieing to moorings that were under water.  So anchoring was probably "verboten".  I found a mooring, stopped the boat (mostly) and dove in to get down to it and attach a line, but a tourist boat came over and told me that someone was coming to take this one, I should leave.  I tried another, and then another boat came to shoo me away, and finally I got one over in the corner.  It is packed in there, with 20 tourism boats all over shouting at me.  I found out later that the custom is for private boats to go after 11am, and it was not that time.
Still, the water was beautiful, and I will have to go back.  In fact, I think I'll spend a night there. 
Because of the coral, there are a lot of off limits places here, I am trying to find out the rules, but it might take a little time.

1 comment:

TazUltimate said...

Maui is a beautiful place. If you need recs on places to see let me know. As for molokini the crater i believe is a designated preserve or park so i dont know if coast gaurd will let you spend the night there. I know you are not allowed to set foot on the land itself. Just a heads up.