Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kailua-Kona and Kealakakua Bay

As always, we’re slowly adventuring along. After getting another chance to practice tying up med-style at the fuel dock amid the billfish tournament fish weighing, we quietly made our way out of Honokohau Harbor. Although it was only a few miles to our destination, Kailua-Kona, once out of the harbor, we put up the 80% jib in the light breeze and slowly made our way downwind in the right direction. As anchoring in Kailua Bay is a bit contentious, when we were close enough, we fired up Yannie to go in search of a suitable sand patch. Using the meager information gleaned from our guidebooks and the DLNR, we finally settled on the sandiest spot that we (Chris) could dive to and dropped the hook. As we were setting it, over speeds a power boat. Mark (who rents jetskis from a floating island in the middle of the bay) nicely (which we very much appreciated) informed us that we were in the “channel”. Not marked by any bouys, it is just common knowledge that the only nice strip of sand just outside of the reef was also off limits... However, he pointed us toward a spot we could anchor just barely outside of the cordoned swim lane (this is where the famous Kona Ironman Triathlon swim happens) and mentioned that possibly the parasail folks wouldn’t mind if we used their recently serviced mooring ball, one of the closest to the pier.

As we were pulling the anchor back aboard Chris waved the parasail boat, just heading out for a late afternoon session with customers, over. Jesse stopped by and was happy to let us use their mooring for the night (we’d read many of the mooring holders will happily let you use their moorings if not in use in order to protect the coral below). Usually we would much rather just set our anchor, but after perusing the available spot we’d been pointed toward and taking a GPS point of the best possible patch of sand, we decided to go with the mooring. Chris dove on it and found that all the shackles were in stellar condition so we set the flopper stopper and sat back to watch the bustling bay around us. People were everywhere; swimming, paddling outrigger canoes, aboard what must have been nearly the entire fleet of powerboats involved in the billfish tournament, and there was even a submarine there (we never got the story on that)! Happy with the mooring in the mild conditions, and so close to the pier we decided to go ashore for one last dinner out before the less inhabited southern Kona coast anchorages. We rowed Fatty ashore and tied him up using Jack’s Dive Shop’s nearly drowned dinghy’s mooring (on a previous trip to the pier from land we’d gotten the okay from one of their employees to tie up there). After a fruitless search for one of the several sushi restaurants in town, we watched the sun set and decided on a Chinese place as our hunger would wait no longer. Once back aboard, in the darkness the bright lights and loud music along Kona’s shoreline reminded us of several anchorages in Mexico. And when the wind vanished that night we experienced why many people don’t like this bay as we rolled around uncomfortably side to the incoming swell.

Not wanting to overstay our welcome on the mooring, after changing to our 100% jib for the light wind conditions in this area, late the next morning we sailed off the mooring and away from the busy city. The beautiful 11-nm light wind sail down the coast to Kealakakua Bay (aka Captain Cook’s Bay) took us several hours during which we watched motorized traffic zipping by all around us. In addition to catamarans power-sailing in and out of the bay we were headed for, we had to evasively maneuver to avoid a tiny power vessel waving frantically at us to go away but with no radio contact. We could only assume that in addition to their very poor boatmanship skills (as they did not respond to our repeated hails on the VHF trying to determine what their needs were) they had a fish on and were restricted in ability to maneuver. It looked like rain was imminent as we sailed into the picturesque bay with sheer cliffs on one side that we had hiked down 7-yrs ago and dreamed of sailing to. We were quite happy to find a huge patch of sand in the SE portion of the bay just off shore next to a moored outrigger canoe.

We have quite enjoyed this beautiful bay that Captain Cook found so many years ago and where he met his fateful end. It is off a tiny little town called Napo’opo’o apparently dominated by tourism. Each day hoards of tourists come to see the remains of the Hikiau Heiau (where human sacrifices were made) and rent sit-on-top kayaks to paddle (by our anchored boat) the mile across the bay to Ka’awaloa Cove, a Marine Conservation District at the NW end of the bay that houses Captain Cooks monument and world class snorkeling. Hoping to avoid what we thought might just be weekend crowds we decided to go for a sail in Fatty the other direction toward what we thought might be a surf break as we noticed the swell was picking up. Indeed a swell from the Tasman sea was coming in and by the time we got back to her, Tao was getting tossed around even with the flopper stopper and waves were more and more frequently exploding on the shore a mere 500-ft behind us. We discussed trying to find a spot to anchor further away from shore to avoid the waves refracted off the cliffs, but the sediment was kicked up and visibility so reduced we couldn’t even see the bottom below us any more. After listening to the weather radio and determining the swell was not forecast to increase much more, we decided to put out a stern anchor to keep us bow into the swell and be ready to leave if necessary.

That night our sleep was fitful, punctuated by exploding sets of waves reaching shore. Gratefully, the next morning the swell started to decrease as forecast. Still, it was a day full of exploding water and we noted several surf spots had materialized (including right off our port) and witnessed a double kayak flip and subsequent yard sale. We decided to spend the morning sailing over to the monument and enjoying the snorkeling, hoping there would be less traffic since it was no longer a weekend. We got there early enough to use one of the concrete slabs with a chain to tie Fatty to and enjoyed some amazing snorkeling with tons of fish swimming among thriving coral communities clinging to the steep underwater walls. However, when we got back to Fatty, we were quite overwhelmed by the number of tourists that kayaked in or were brought by motorized vessel for twice daily tours. We left much more quickly than we otherwise might have after Fairwinds (the motorized catamaran we had seen previously) grabbed the mooring ball next to us and all of its passengers (at least 100 person capacity) disembarked filling the already tourist-filled bay until it looked like little more than a community swimming pool.

It seems to be sunny here in the morning and then the clouds fill in falling from the steep cliffs each afternoon so we have been snorkeling from the boat each morning. Several times near Tao we have met a huge school of medium sized fish that travel in a large sphere (previously we’d only seen this animal behavior on one of the Blue Ocean DVD’s). We snorkeled to shore one day and hiked to the Keei surf break that we had previously sailed to in Fatty, and spent another day ashore visiting Elizabeth, a fellow Bikram yoga student that is living just inshore of Manini Beach on the S end of this bay (where 4 homes were washed away by a refraction wave off the cliffs caused by the Japan tsunami earlier this year). On shore there is much rebuilding happening and several cordoned crushed vehicles. When snorkeling the bright and varied coral reefs just off shore of this area, we noted several things likely deposited during the tsunami- most notably a double car seat! Though clouds tend to cover the sky for the afternoons, the sun has repeatedly broken through for gorgeous blood red (caused by the VOG escaping from the volcano) sunsets each night. Big thumbs up for this bay, it is comforting to know we can come back if no other sand patches are forthcoming as we continue south.


  1. Your aadventures continue to sound absolutely amazing! What experiences you're having in a part of the world so very different than the part I am familiar with.


  2. How was your voyage from the mainland? So curious. Congratulations on your engagement much peace and love Jeanne