Day 3

8/3/2014: Pokai Bay, Oahu – Hanalei Bay, Kauai

At 6 am we pulled anchor from Pokai Bay with a hung over crew and motored out for a few minutes to clear the breakwater in light wind. We then unfurled the jib, put up a full main and tried to sail in the fluky winds under the lee of Oahu. Normally I like to stay true to sailing and not run the motor, but with a long crossing ahead we saved hours by motoring through a few glassy sections until clear of Ka’ena Point and into the normal trades. Just before clearing the point we saw a long line breakers ahead in the distance where they had no right to be, along the extended line of the point. We checked charts, but it was deep water! Upon double and triple checking we determined the breakers were just a weird reflection of the clouds on a glassy section of water right on the horizon. I still see those breakers in my head, they looked so real!

We kept a NW course to stay high on the wind until clear of the point, then fell off to maintain a beam reach running as fast as we could with a quartering swell preventing the self steering vane from functioning well. The steering line kept getting over powered and slipping on the helm’s wheel. After a few hours of experimenting with different sized steering lines, tying the lines to the wheel, and adjusting directions and sail trim to reduce helm force we finally gave up. Human steering for the rest of the crossing.

Upon reaching mid-channel (coincidentally, within a few miles of discovering water above the floor-boards on the San Francisco attempt a couple weeks ago) we fell off the wind as far as possible while keeping the jib from becoming blanked from the main. This was a course directly to the west.

While at the helm, something caught my eye on the port side which turned out to be an old, muddy, disgusting-looking fishing net. Genevieve and I were on watch with Natalie and Mike cuddling below, and I told Genevieve there’s gotta be fish under that thing! So we tacked back in 20 some knot winds, full jib and double-reefed main flogging loudly and missed stays. Oops! Gotta pull that lazy jib-sheet in quick in those stronger winds to keep way through the tack! We regained our speed, made a successful tack, got the debris back in sight and made a close pass with the fishing line out. Closer, closer, along the port beam, behind us… and… BAM! Fish on!!! With all the commotion, Natalie and Mike were awake and just heard the word “bucket” in all the noise, but from Nat’s previous sailboat fishing experience she knew immediately that meant fish. A glimpse of yellow and green told us it was a Mahi. All hands on deck, Adam steering and trimming sail, Mike grabbing the vodka and fish bucket, Nat and Genevieve wrestling the fish in, then a quick douse of vodka in the fish’s mouth to still its wild flopping and into the bucket it went. Well, half of it anyway. After unhooking the line we shoved the Mahi into our fish cooler (kept in the cockpit, NOT the fridge) with a block of ice from the fridge and waited for the flesh to firm up for filleting. The fish barely fit, perfect size.

We let the line back out and continued on our way.

A few hours later, Genevieve dozing in the cockpit and myself at the helm, I saw a bird pile ahead in the distance off the starboard bow. I bet Genevieve we’d get another fish in that pile which showed all the characteristics of fish. Swirling boobies and terns were diving constantly and in two places they were on the water fighting madly over something in the middle of the scuffle. We turned upwind, trimmed in the sails and aimed right for the center of the pile. Closer, closer, birds all around us squawking loudly, and then BAM! Another fish on! “All hands on deck!!!” Genevieve tried pulling in the fish but it was strong enough to feel a bit dangerous. Our fishing gear is very basic, bought for a grand total of $60 and is simply a hook tied to a leader tied to heavy-duty monofil tied to Dacron line tied to a 4 foot rubber bungee tied to an aft cleat. The Dacron threatened to cut through Genevieve’s hands so we let the fish fight for a while and tire itself out. We couldn’t tell what it was, but it wasn’t Mahi. It was darker in color and fought for about ten minutes before finally giving up and lay flat, skimming across the surface at our 6 knots of boat speed. Pulling it in we discovered it was a tuna of some sort, but all of us were beginner fisherman and didn’t know what kind. We looked it up in our “Fish of Hawaii” book and it matched “Aku.” What a fat fish! It wasn’t very long, but it sure could pull against the line when fighting! We gave it the vodka and tossed it in with the Mahi to cool.

On our current westerly course we would pass Kauai pretty far to the north, so once Hanalei was directly down-wind we change course, gybing the jib to fly wing-on-wing. We also tried an experiment and poled out the jib using the spinnaker pole. It was a lot of work getting the spinnaker blocks, topping-lift, down-haul, guy, and sheet set up and running fair, but it was worth it. We ran hour on hour downwind with the main preventer holding the boom solid and the spinnaker pole holding the jib solid. A few hours later, “Land HOOO!” We had been out of sight of land for way longer than I expected and it was nice to see a faint ridge line showing itself ahead. I had lived on Kauai for two years and though I recognized King Kong rising above Anahola. We held the course as long as possible as the sun came down. We debated taking the pole in early while there was light, but we were cruising so quickly on such a perfect course we let greed overcome the conservative choice and continued on towards the coast, planning on gybing the main over to allow us to clear the point to port.

Once downwind far enough to allow a quartering reach, we gybed the main in lighter winds, but with the swell rocking the boat it managed to throw the boom over in a lapse of the helmsman’s concentration (yeah, that was me, oops.) The boom slammed moderately, but enough to cause the main sail to fall down onto the deck! What? Why? We bundled up the main to keep it out of the water, tied down the main sheet to secure the boom as it swung viciously overhead and found a frayed scrap of main halyard tied to the head of the mainsail. It had snapped, but it was nowhere to be seen. Oh no. It didn’t suck up into the mast did it? Of course it did. It had snapped near the knot and the weight of the halyard tail had sucked it over the mast-head sheave and into the center of the hollow, aluminum mast requiring a trip to the top to re-lead the sheave. I guess we won’t have a main sail for the rest of the crossing; It’s just too dangerous to climb up in this swell with the mast head swinging crazily above. So onward ho, quartering tailwind, full jib guiding us to Hanalei in pitch dark.

We followed the coastline, black against the deep blue-grey sky comparing the shore lights and GPS. We passed the Kilauea lighthouse, saw the Princeville resort ahead, passed the point and made the turn into Hanalei Bay. The wind died down, but plenty to maneuver under jib only. We skirted the shallows off our left, saw some anchor light ahead and entered the mooring area. There was enough light to see a few boat lengths ahead and we maneuvered through the anchored yachts, some with anchor lights and some scary ones completely dark, keeping the engine off but ready to go just in case. Why wake the neighbors at 10 pm if we had wind and a jib? We explored the edges of the mooring area and found an open spot with plenty of swing room, dropped anchor and swung-to in six fathoms. Made it!

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