March Madness

March has been quite the month and there is still more excitement to come. I want to share just a few short stories from the past 20 days. I’ll make it as brief as possible. 

To start, I turned 32 on March 2nd. I had been living up in Hale’iwa, on the North Shore of Oahu. It’d been sweet living in a quieter place. The North Shore is fantastic and Hale’iwa is likely my favorite part. There has been plenty to see and cover on the North shore but it doesn’t come without it’s own challenges. The biggest challenge is transportation ( a common theme in Hawaii it seems). Luckily, I have a good friend in Hale’iwa, a former (and likely future) Charlestonian. My friend up there has been my “saint of wheels”. For months, I’ve had liberal access to his old Toyota Land Cruiser, and then an old Honda Passport motorcycle that we got up and running after two years resting under a blue tarp in his car port. A set of wheels make the Northshore. I spent my birthday on the cycle, touring around before meeting up with some friends for the afternoon. 

I’ve met a whole lot of great people since I’ve been here. After some time in Honolulu, I had built a few strong friendships with folks down there. While on the North Shore, the same became true. One of those friend’s is Kiera. She happens to have a background in film, marketing, sustainability and marine biology. I had been looking for an extra set of hands sailing J. Henry through the Hawaiian islands. Kiera was up for the gig. Kiera will be part of the crew until mid-April. She moved aboard on March 4th. A few days after that, we set sail for Honolulu and then from there on to Maui to visit a Hope Spot and interview the folks who are championing it. 

The Hope Spot we documented in Maui is the Olowalu Reef; a thousand-acre coral reef located on Maui’s Southern coast. The Olowalu reef is a critical and absolutely beautiful marine environment which has a strong cultural significance on Maui. Olowalu is a “Pu’uhonua” , or sanctuary, where people can gain refuge, reflect and heal. The reef itself is now in need of that refuge and healing. Luckily there are passionate people who are working to protect this reef. We had the opportunity to learn about and document the reef itself as well as the work being done on-shore to build a healthier environment up hill and upstream. What really struck me with Ololwalu, was how seamlessly culture, community and environmental preservation is coming together to build a promising future for this Hope Spot and really for Maui as a whole. 

There are plenty more stories from Maui but I have to share a bit about sailing here and I am sure whoever is reading this has places to be. So, sailing in Hawaii…IS HARD! I think people forget that Hawaii isn’t really like the Polynesian islands we have sailed through in the South Pacific. For starters, Honolulu lies 21 degrees off the equator, for a reference Papeete is 17 degrees and Atuona (in the Marquesas) is at 9 degrees. Every degree of latitude makes a difference! Generally the ocean is much more mild around the equator, weather tends to gain intensity as your reach the higher latitudes. Secondly, Hawaii is in the North Pacific, this bit of ocean lies South of Russia and Alaska, which means that sailing here in the winter can be a bit more challenging as winter storms tear up the waters to the North of these islands. The biggest challenges, however are the wildly strong winds and heavy seas that whip up as the trades and swell hit the high, and sometimes snow covered, mountain tops of the Hawaiian islands. The bitter icing on this seafarer’s cake is that there are not nearly as many good anchorages and safe harbors here as I have found in other places. When you’re out there, you’re out there. 

When we headed for Maui, we took a very light-air weather window since we were headed East (against the trades). Although we weren’t hindered by strong head winds, we got our fair share of heavy rains, mild wind and pesky swell from the south west that made our first couple of anchorages wet and bumpy. Sleep was a fictional concept for me for a couple of days while we were anchored in Molokai on the way to Maui and then for one long night in Honoloa Bay, on the North West side of Maui. Much thanks to friends and friends of friends, we finally found a slip in the town of Lahaina on Maui. I finally found sleep. Although we had our share of challenges, we also had some nice sailing and sunshine on the way. With the flat seas and bits of sun, we saw more whales than I can really describe. Every time I looked at the water there was a whale! Breaching, diving, swimming along the surface… mothers, calves and some outgoing males showing off as well. From my experience, 20% of Maui’s water is made up of whale. 

After about a week in Maui, we had to make it back to Oahu. There’s a boat here that I had to come back to meet the owner of. That will have to be a story for another time. This past Friday, our permit for our slip in Lahaina was up and there was what looked like a decent enough weather window heading back West. We were predicted to have 20 – 22 knots of down-wind trades all the way home. Instead we had steady 30 – 32 knot winds with gusts up to 40 knots and heavy seas….Hawaii. 

I have met a lot of sailors here who, before coming to Hawaii, had never sailed before. I have often considered folks who have started sailing later in life and who have less than a decade of sailing under their belt to be a bit green. This is my own prejudice to sort out, but I will now quickly say that people who have learned to sail in Hawaii are bound to be quick learners, skilled and absolutely made of grit. I have a lot of respect for the sailors here. 

I feel that I have already rambled on for too long. I will try to keep the updates and stories coming more frequently. This coming week I’ll be touring a very special boat, interviewing some interesting and active folks in Honolulu and preparing for another departure to the outer islands of Hawaii. Thanks for reading and please stay tuned! 

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