Thursday, October 6, 2011

South Maui: Anchorages and Weather

With the mountainous lobes of Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lani, Molokini, and Molokai visible, views in every direction are each spectacular and distinct. We are surrounded by beautiful landscapes and ever-changing weather conditions as the light, clouds and winds change seemingly by the minute. Thus, it is no surprise that we have been closely observing the weather patterns since we arrived in Maui. Although the predominate winds are NE in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the land masses we're near create their own weather systems and since here in Maui, we have yet to sail in NE conditions. Winds appear to “bend” along land forms and have come from every direction sometimes suddenly and without warning.

Ignore this paragraph unless you want specific descriptions of winds... At the SE anchorages, winds were from the E and N as the NE was quite blocked by Haleakela. Through "the saddle", the low-lying connection between Haleakela and Maui’s western and older volcano Mauna Kahalawai, the NE trade-winds are funneled and accelerate, creating strong N winds each afternoon down Ma’alaea Bay directly into Molokini. On the SE side of Ma’alaea Bay the cindercone Pu’u Ola’i creates decent wind protection at Big Beach, though the wind and swells that travel down the bay bend around the cindercone during the afternoon making it a bit rolly (note that it does mellow out over night for comfortable sleeping). Just W of Ma’alaea, shadowed by the West Maui Mountains, winds are completely different. For the most part, we experienced W winds until far enough around Maui’s W side where N winds resume in the Pailolo Channel as the NE trades bend around the north end of Maui... Regardless, we've found several safe, comfortable and beautiful anchorages along the south side of Maui and we are indeed glad to have brought the flopper stopper (roll stabilizer at anchor).

La Perouse. We spent 3 nights here watching amazing stars, Jupiter and sunrises and sunsets. La Perouse Bay has Haleakela to its E, is surrounded by lava to the N and S, and has stunning views of Kaho'olawe to the W. We enjoyed crashing waves on black and white lava and coral studded beach, a’a lava plus columnar jointing on the cliffs providing us shelter, a hike to the lighthouse and the King’s Trail with goats, sailing Fatty at its limit (really just too gusty for comfort), and joining spinner dolphins at the other end of the bay in Nature Preserve.

Big Beach. Just around the corner from La Perouse, Oneloa, more commonly known as “Big Beach”, is just that: a huge white sand beach with the foothills of Haleakela looming overhead with rainbows and clouds. We enjoyed views of Molokini and Kaho'olawe and Chris stumbled upon a clothing optional enclave at the N end of the beach. We spent a whole day here meeting Bay Area friends Marie and Laura who were on the island visiting family. They whisked us inshore and shared a little bit of an otherwise inaccessible-to-us inland trip to the beautiful Iao Valley as well as a stop at their condo for ice cold drinks, fruit and boiling hot freshwater showers and a delightful Indian lunch. It was very special to cross paths with them all the way out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Molokini. A remnant crater a mere 2-nm from Big Beach, this world class snorkel and dive site, is a Marine Preserve to 180-ft and the island itself a bird sanctuary where frigates abound. On our first attempt to get there we sailed out of La Perouse on slight early morning winds and finally engaged Yannie for the final approach. After slowly motoring around the deep south edge of the island, we found one of the state provided first-come-first-serve moorings on the E side of the crescent moon shaped bay just before 1100. Luckily we hopped in quickly because a mere hour later, the perfectly flat calm sunny and boat filled crater had been vacated by all the commercial charter boats and filled with swells that had rolled down from Ma’alaela Bay from winds blowing through the saddle in Maui. This made the previously placid area not only uncomfortable, but dangerous, so we quickly made haste out of the crater. No wonder all of the commercial boats had mysteriously disappeared around the time we got there… Not deterred, we just decided to make a focused motor boat trip of it for a second attempt as the winds just don't fill in early enough to sail there before the afternoon pick up. On the first of October, not having been able to talk Marie and Laura into joining us, we were underway toward Molokini by 0645, moored on the W side of the crater and in the water by 0800. For the next hour and a half we marveled at the colorful coral forests and swam with schools of unafraid black trigger fish and innumerable other species. The highlight of this morning was snorkeling over the steep drop off outside edge of the crater to see larger pelagic fish and even a large ray. An underwater camera might have captured what words can not. Although we felt like we could stay there forever, knowing the winds would soon fill in from the direction we hoped to go, we got underway again to the west side of Maui.

McGregor Landing. 9-nm due N of Molokini and just west of the windy lane of Ma’alaela Bay is a protected little cove called McGregor Landing. The steep rocky cliffs that surround this anchorage and the green-brown land jutting up toward the West Maui Mountains are beautiful despite the 2-lane highway atop the cliffs filled at all hours with vehicles hurtling by and huge white wind generators further up the slope. We spent a comfortable night here and sailed off late morning to work our way NW along the coast. A nice light breeze filled in from the W and we did one big pleasant tack to our planned anchorage, Olowalu, surrounded by well developed reef. The moment we got there, however, winds suddenly began to howl menacingly through the mountains from the N creating quite a wind chop in addition to the forecast building S swell. With so much reef and no one big sandy patch, we decided to continue on along the coast. Another mile NW and we finally dropped the hook at a roadstead anchorage dubbed Awalua Beach that gratefully was filled with a sandy bottom. After an hour of setting the primary and stern anchors (bow into the forecast S swell) as well as the flopper stopper, we sat back to watch the sun set, the swell build and enjoy a fresh baked pizza for our 10-year anniversary dinner (has a decade really already flown by?!).

Lahaina. Monday October 3, we sailed the last 4-nm to Lahaina. When we arrived, there was fortuitously space available in the small boat harbor (anchoring is not recommended due to only a shallow layer of sand over bedrock) so we decided to take advantage of its protection for the swell instead of the available moorings just outside the surf. With surfers swarming breaking waves to our port and starboard, we made our way in through the small channel seeing depths drop alarmingly to 6-ft and a shipwrecked sailboat just to port before we made it inside the breakwall. After a quick stop in the luckily vacant Lahaina-Maui ferry side-tie to check into the harbor office, we capitalized on the momentary slack winds and squeezed our way into the open space that somehow fits a powerboat larger than us. Once safely Med-tied (Tahiti-style) with our stern to the dock we watched how the continuous surge moved Tao and her sailboat neighbors and hung every fender we had. Since then, the S swell, one of the last of the summer seasons, has been breaking just outside the breakwall and has been loads of fun for Chris to surf. It is refreshing to find that here in Lahaina in the small boat harbor (as well as on the outer moorings and just north at Mala Wharf) there are several sailors. Though quite touristy, the main drag, Front Street, is close and most importantly, we can walk to Bikram Yoga Lahaina. We plan to spend a week here surging with the tidal changes in the harbor as the moon waxes toward full, enjoying the surf off our back porch and yoga just up the road, re-provision and then weather permitting, continue on up along Maui’s W coast.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously now, this is torture. :) We're planning a Hawaii trip either before or shortly after xmas...can't wait.