Cruising in the Hawaiian Islands

26 Jan

At anchor in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

We’ve been living and sailing in Hawaii for more than a year now. Petter and I moved to Oahu in October 2016, after finishing up our jobs in San Francisco and taking a little cross-country motorcycle trip from San Francisco, California to Alexandria, Virginia where we have family. We left the red Ducati Multistrada with his brother and flew back to San Francisco, then Hawaii.

Petter had already single handed Bella Marina from San Francisco to Ko Olina, Oahu the year before, and we re-joined our floating home in Paradise and got to work cleaning and organizing it. Most of our ‘stuff’ was moved back to the boat from the Sausalito apartment, minus some heavier winter clothes, riding gear and the yellow Ducati 999 which were left in our trailer, conveniently parked at our old apartment.

We got the opportunity to join dear friends from Seattle on Maui for Thanksgiving 2016, and decided to sail over instead of catching one of the easy inter-island flights. The trades were blowing hard and we had a rather bouncy sail over in 35 knots of wind and confused seas in the channel between Oahu and Molokai. Lesson 1 of sailing in Hawaii: the trades can be unpredictably strong at any times, the channels accelerate the winds and the waves, and the offshore sailing can be rougher than the idillic images of palm trees swaying in the gentle (leeward) breeze will suggest. The lesson was learned, and the 2017 Thanksgiving was spent on Big Island with the same friends after an easy 45 minute flight on Hawaiian Air.

Looking back at 2017, we spent most of our time building our new yacht tech company and shipping our yacht management product, Quartermaster. We’re having a blast and truly enjoying combining our biggest passions, boating and technology. If you are a boater, check it out, we think it’s pretty awesome!

We also took some time to cruise around the Hawaiian islands, in particular Oahu, Maui, Lanai and Kauai. If I were to sum it up in a phrase, I would say cruising in Hawaii is challenging but rewarding.

Drone Shot Skinny
Sailing reefed under the Rainbow: the perfect metaphor for cruising in Hawaii

Challenging, due to the rough weather and offshore conditions everywhere you sail (see Lesson 1), difficult inter-island passages, a shortage of comfortable anchorages and a lack of good boating facilities and services. The reality is that the majority of the anchorages are rolly because the Hawaiian islands have no fringing reef, and most good natural harbors, like Pearl Harbor are restricted by military activity. If you are lucky enough to pick a low swell day, the conditions can change at any moment, and on certain sides of the islands you have to keep an eye on the offshore buoys that announce the big North, North-West or South swells arriving, depending on the season. The islands are not yachtie friendly and most marinas are run down, bureaucracy rules, some harbors are too shallow to enter for a boat with our draft, boat yards are rare, expensive, and have a terrible reputation, and diesel is difficult to impossible to obtain if you are not on Oahu. There is one shining exception to this and it is our home marina of Ko Olina, which offers all facilities us spoiled mainlanders from California are used to, at California super-prices of course.

Setting off on a challenging overnight passage from Oahu to Maui

On the rewarding side, the islands are insanely beautiful and often times you will find yourself in unspoiled anchorages in the lee of spectacular sea cliffs with no other boats in sight, anchored in clear turquoise water with turtles, dolphins and whales frolicking in the watery vicinity. There are many good snorkeling sites with great visibility and amazing sea life, especially in the less populated and touristy islands like Molokini, Lanai and Kauai. The turtles are making a comeback to the islands after being protected for years, and you will often see them in anchorages checking out your boat.

Or, how cool is it to just anchor off Waikiki, one of the most famous and beautiful beaches and surf spots in the world and watch the world go by?


Sunset with Turtle, because this is how we roll in Hawaii

The culture is awesome too, and I’m not talking about the commercialized Aloha that most tourists get. There is a gentleness and inclusiveness side of the true Aloha spirit that permeates most encounters here.

At anchor in one of our favorite local anchorages on Oahu, Poka’i Bay

Last but not least all of this is under the umbrella of being in the US, without having to worry about passports (if you come from the US mainland, that is), immigration, boat papers, cell signal, access to boat parts, and the over-stocked stores. West Marine, Costco, Target, Ace Hardware, Starbucks, Whole Foods are within reach on Oahu, and even Amazon Prime ships here. It’s a tropical Paradise, with all the conveniences of American availability.

We are currently gearing up for a Puddle Jump to French Polynesia in April 2018 so we are double and triple appreciating all the conveniences of stocking up on Amazon and at Costco for the crossing.

More posts on Hawaiian favorite anchorages, adventure cruising on each island, weather and seasons coming up soon. Aloha!