The Sailing Vessel Sapien and her crew of two set out once again on the Ocean Blue.
At 1600 hours on Friday the 13th day of April in the year 2007 we tossed off the mooring at the Honokohau Harbor (position: 19°40’08.30 N, 156°01’61.44 W) with our bow pointed at 300° NNW.
We motored on that heading across glass water for 10 hours with not a breath of breeze. The change came quickly. At 0200 on Saturday morning we hauled all yards in a perfect 15 knots of steady ocean wisp. At 0230 we put the first reef in the main and by 0245 the second reef came down and we hauled in the jib to a five foot storm reefing. Within 45 minutes the winds went from 15 knots to 40 knots with the seas pounding us with a 10 to 20 foot chop! We had entered the ‘Alenuihāhā Channel.
Between the island of Maui and the Big Island of Hawai’i to the South lies a channel that is only 12 miles wide, 40 miles long and 12,000 feet deep called the ‘Alenuihāhā! The winds, waves and currents in this channel are notorious to sailors the world over, in other words, she kicks up a bitch on a daily basis.
Now, the crew of the S.V. Sapien was well aware of this viscous strait of ocean before we took off on this leg of our global circumnavigation but being “aware of” and being “prepared for” are two totally different ways of thinking, to be sure!
Let me be more specific: We got our asses kicked and licked for 10 hours and there is nothing that can prepare you for that kind of a beating.
Speaking of beating, that’s exactly what we did for the first four hours of the sail through the channel. We beat into the wind and waves and never in my life have I experienced a word that so perfectly expressed what it was that we did! We got beat up, we got beat down, we got beat in, out and of course ALL AROUND! And at the end of those four hours of beating we were, yes, BEAT!!! My wife Dena, drenched to the skin and geared up to the max in her Seattle-bought foulies came below decks to tell me that she had had enough and was turning tail to run with the weather, so that we did. At 0600 on Saturday morning from my cozy bunk before the mast on the S.V. Sapien, I felt the sudden change from “all’s hell” to “all’s well” as Dena changed our course from 300° NNW to 240° WSW. She struck the jib and let the double reefed main far out and just like that it was “Tea Time in the Cockpit.” We went from 3.9 knots beating to 6.5 knots running. The way we saw it, as long as we made a westerly heading at some point we would come in lee of Maui and the winds had to change, right? RIGHT!?
I can’t believe I almost forgot to tell you about Dena’s totally kick-ass, leaning over the transom repair job on our Monitor! The stopper knot at the lowest (of course) part of the unit just blew out at about 1000 hours. The end looked shredded, even though we had wicked and burned it like we have so many other lines in our sailing lives. The Monitor was working hard in the following seas, though, and it busted loose that knot with a crack. I was on shift, so I took the helm in the Pilothouse while Dena peered mournfully – and more than a little sleepily – at the aluminum tube through which she was going to need to thread the line. Luckily we have a thin orange line with some stiffness to it, and she was able to make two bends within that tube and still fish it out at the end! The knot tying and monitor adjusting was homey in comparison to the line running. She had the whole project completed in less then 10 minutes so she sleepily gave me kiss and went back to bed… She’s such a super-hero!
At 1100 Saturday morning during my 0800 to 1200 pull at the helm we made the lee of the island of Maui and the winds subsided to 15 perfect knots once again and the seas seemed to smile! We couldn’t see Maui through the clouds but we knew she was there protecting us from the evil ‘Alenuihāhā. All day long we sailed in the quintessential Pacific Ocean, happy as clams and naked as jay-birds. We ate P-B&J’s with a can of “Husband Please’n” beans and laughed like a couple of life drunk sailors.
The weather stayed delicious until about an hour after sundown when we entered the Kaiwi Channel between the islands of Moloka’i and O’ahu. We put two reefs in and pulled the jib a few feet and skimmed along at a powerful 6.5 to 7.2 knots in a 20 to 28 knot breeze. The seas were choppy, no doubt, but workable and we maintained a course of 330° NNW with just our Monitor Windvane at the helm. As we raised the city of Honolulu on our bow in the dark, the choppy waves took on the appearance of crazy little goblins running across our bow. Every once in a while we’d get hit by a “big’n” that would slap our broadsides with a loud sloppy “CRACK” and drench me through to the pink-stuff.
At 2400 Sunday morning Dena took the helm and all of Honolulu was in view and took up the entire horizon. I went below decks to grab 40 winks and ended up sleeping like the dead until Dena called me from the cockpit to tell me that we were getting close.
The approach and land fall in the middle of the night from offshore in a 20 knot sea breeze to a marina that we had never seen before with a huge city behind it was completely uneventful. Dena brought us in with a “Red Right Return” to Ko’ Olina Marina at 0200 and we made our moorings on the N-dock with a starboard tie. We coiled our moorings and washed the salt off Sapien for the next two hours and at 0400 Dena and I fell into each others arms in the forepeak of our ship at our new home port located at Latitude 21°19’46.14 N and Longitude 158° 07’12.3 W.
An entire lifetime’s adventure in only 32 hours and once again, we lived!