Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sailing the Kona Coast

Many sailors complain of not enough wind along the west side of the Big Island. However, we have enormously enjoyed the Kona Coast likely because Tao is a very responsive light air cruising sailboat and we have kept an open schedule (i.e. we're okay with moving slowly). No, there is not much wind, but the upside to that is that we are able to anchor in relatively open areas. And yes, we have had to use our engine more than ever before. Still, with patience we have thoroughly enjoyed slowly sailing down and back up this beautiful coastline over the past 3-weeks. Of course, we are not experts on the area, but what we observed was that south of Keahole Point (the Kona airport, or the beginning of the Kona Coast) currents and winds abruptly shifted. North of the airport, winds tended to be gusty and strong through the notch between Mauna Kea and the Kohala Mountains. From there, heading south along the island we tended to be sailing with light NW winds and a moderate current. During the evening winds would slacken and shift to light offshore until the sun came up and winds shifted back in a daily cycle. Coming back up the coast line, we tacked into the light winds and currents and with each tack toward shore were rewarded with up close (because depths were more than 400-ft a mere football field from the shore in many places) views of ancient lava flows that built this island. Yes, several days we were unable to make more than 10-nm, but relatively safe anchorages so close were welcome stops.

After slowly sailing off anchor in Honomolino Bay, we tacked our way up along the coast line for a relaxing 8-hr (just over 12-nm as the crow flies) light wind sail. As we drew closer to our goal, we were surprised to see another sailboat anchored in Kahuko Bay off Ho’okena. It turns out 'Uhane (Soul) is a trailerable 27-ft Vancouver and is being refitted at Honokohau Harbor. From sunset through dawn we enjoyed dark clouds and rainbow producing precipitation which was a nice change from the common hazy vog in this area and reminded us hurricane season in Hawaii is in full effect. In the morning we went for a hike along the cliffs above Tao and stumbled across an entrance to the lava tube we saw from the water. We feel fortunate that we were able to explore this incredible geological and cultural wonder.

Yet another small world story to report. While in Ho’okena we were returning to Tao from snorkeling, when two snorkelers appeared along side. After chatting a moment and inviting them aboard it turns out the woman, Mari, just finished a hatha yoga teacher training based in Ho’okena (Hale Kai) and the man, Daniel, was our yoga friend Elizabeth(who we visited in Kealakakua Bay)’s research advisor at CIIS. We also met the owner of Hale Kai, Deborah as she snorkeled past and finally her husband David when we made our way to their property when we were again anchored in Kahuko Bay on our way back up the coast. Deb, David and Mari kindly spent a whole afternoon with us showing us around their Bali-style, ocean front, off-the-grid property with open air circular yoga space in the middle surrounded by an abundance of fruiting and flowering trees. They generously invited us to stay for dinner and the next morning we offered them all the opportunity to sail with us 6-nm up the coast to Kealakakua Bay. We were pleasantly surprised when all 3 of them made space in their day to join us.

It turned out to be an amazingly perfect day. The three of them snorkeled out to Tao from the Ho’okena Beach and Chris ferried their gear in Fatty. The winds were quite light, but the 5 of us (and Griz of course) were all appreciative to be able to share such a beautiful day on the water. It was exciting for us to have crew aboard to share this adventure with. David, a lifelong outdoor adventure photographer, took some shots of us sailing off anchor (we’re excited to see them), Deb valiantly fighting motion sickness showed us all sorts of yoga poses we could do on deck, and Mari, a natural sailor, spent much time at the helm learning and also managed to make pizzas from dough Shawn had started early in the sail. As the sun set, we sailed onto the hook in now semi-familiar Kealakakua Bay. We turned on Yannie to set the stern anchor to keep us safe from damaging any coral and enjoyed Mari’s pizzas by candlelight as the sun dipped below the horizon and stars and phosphorescence came out.

We passed the next day relaxing in the sunny, clear (you can see coral 30-ft below us clearly through the water) and much calmer Kealakakua Bay and again visited our friend Elizabeth for a yummy lunch after which Chris performed the manly task of hanging several things in her newly painted space. The following day we felt it was time to continue north and ever so slowly made our way up the coast. When we called to check in, Honokohau Harbor informed us that there were no available spaces. This deflated both of us as we had been looking forward to some relaxation in a safe harbor, but grateful that alternative safe (though admittedly less comfortable) anchorage was reachable, we set our course for Kailua Bay. Just before we reached it, we tried the harbor one more time to check for availability and by miracle a space had opened up, so we high tailed it the extra 3-nm and Chris did more amazing acrobatic feats with Tao and Yannie to get us safely med-tied once again. With a sigh of relief at the lack of motion, we took ourselves out for dinner at the harbor restaurant and then slept hard. We plan to be here for another week or so, recovering, doing yoga, surfing (Chris has already gone out once with the folks from Hale Kai) and re-organizing for making the committing jump across the Alenuihaha Channel; portal to the rest of the Hawaiian Islands.


  1. Hey guys!
    I'm glad that you got a few days tucked into the marina before your next leap. Thanks for the beautiful post--I miss you guys heaps!!!

  2. Sounds like moving slowly suits you all. Do enjoy the relaxing pace when you can; I'm trying to relish the peaceful slowness, too. thanks for sharing your adventures.