Monday, December 12, 2011

Lovely Lana'i

Tao in Nanahoa anchorage, western Lana'i
Lana'i from Moloka'i
As December rolled in, the winds were finally forecast to decrease. Just before 1000 Thursday morning the 1st, we sailed south off the anchor, directly downwind out of Kaunakakai Harbor en route toward Lanai. As we poked our nose out into the Kalohi Channel, the light winds began to veer easterly (the tail of Pailolo Channel winds dominate here) and then continued to veer to the south so we put full sail up for an upwind sail. A check on the AIS alerted us to an eastbound tug-towing-barge that had already passed ahead. A half hour later, another glimpse at the AIS showed a second eastbound tug-towing-barge, this one headed toward Tao. At first this raised our anxiety level, but they were far enough away that we were able to eventually sail out of their path and they passed to our stern. Clear of traffic, we then noted a squall over Molokai to the NW. We could see white caps and a sheet of moisture headed our way, so we completely dropped the main just in time for the wind to shift and increase. An hour later the squall had dissipated and we were again under full sail rounding the NW edge of Lanai for 5-nm of gorgeous sailing in 12-knots of wind with calm seas in its lee. As we neared the island, winds vanished, we dropped sail and motored in to check out our hoped for anchorage: Nanahoa, named after the male fertility god of Hawaiian legend.

Chart showing the channels between islands


Nanahoa pinnacle

 Nanahoa anchorage, also known as Five Pinnacles, is a leeward island anchorage along steep cliffs of western Lanai, tucked in just north of several sea stacks jutting out of the water. It was a bit disconcerting to be anchoring as a small swell rolled in creating a massive blowhole just ashore. However, after diving on the anchor to check it was solidly buried in sand and deploying the roll stabilizer, the  magic of this place was palpable as the setting sun lit up the cliffs and spires surrounding us. Although we surmise from guidebook descriptions that it is usually a bit calmer (there was a 14-ft NW swell rolling into Kauai only showing up at Lana’i as 2-4-ft because of the protection of all the older islands to the NW), it was indeed gorgeous! The next morning we had fun exploring the area where water meets land from Fatty.

Sunset at Kalama Nui
With a few more anchorages that we wanted to explore on Lanaduring this lull in the winds, we decided to move on to the next anchorage that afternoon. We quickly motored in the calm conditions to Kalama Nui anchorage, less than 2-nm away. This little secluded cove is located at the base of one of the few deep valleys in cliffy western Lanai. It is tucked between walls of layered lava and known to have flat, clear waters. Though beautiful and safe, the conditions when we were there were not welcoming for swimming. This was intensified when out for a row in Fatty, Chris sited a 12-14-inch tiger shark fin in the cove a mere 300-ft away. So, instead, we sailed Fatty less than 1-nm south to Kaumalapau Harbor, the only commercial barge harbor on Lanai. We had planned to anchor there one night, but as the harbor was quite small with another sailboat already at anchor, we decided to keep Tao in the protected waters of Kalama Nui a second night.
Kalama Nui anchorage

Kaumalapau Harbor

Tao sailing away from Kalama Nui
On Saturday the 4th, we sailed out of Kalama Nui along stark 1600-ft cliffs called the Kaholo Pali toward Palaoa Point, the SW tip of the island. Just before rounding the point is a sacred cove, commonly known as Shark's Fin Cove after a large lava rock protruding the water surface. It was a favorite fishing ground of King Kamehameha I, with the site of the ancient Kaunolu Village above, and also the site of Kehekili's Leap where warriors demonstrate bravery by leaping off the 80-ft cliff, out 15-ft past a rocky base into the cove in only 20-ft of water. Two sources told us that there was a pull mooring among these towering cliffs that we could use overnight if no one else was on it. After a bit of searching, we discovered the submerged float in a surreal spot that we could never have anchored. Through the extremely clear water, we could see a beautiful rocky coral ground 50-ft below. With our flopper stopper working overtime, we were grateful to be able to watch the sunset from the cove and early the following morning, we sailed off the mooring to slowly make our way 6-nm along the coast to Manele Bay small boat harbor on the SE edge of Lanai.


Tao in Manele Bay harbor
Manele Bay, the only all weather harbor on Lanai, was indeed small and we were lucky to find space at a dock, for 4-nights of nice flat calm sleep. Soon after we tied up, the clouds opened for an unexpected 10-min downpour, which we learned it rarely does there. We considered it a good omen. This tiny harbor was peacefully relaxed with brief busy periods throughout the day when boatloads of people arrived and left via the Lahaina to Lanai ferry. A quick stroll from the boat took us to Hulopo’e Bay with a large sugary white sand beach flanked by lava bed reef tidal pools, and a secluded eroded volcanic cone with another offshore sea stack called Sweetheart Rock, Pu'upehe Islet of Hawiian legend. Early one morning, we caught a shuttle up to Lanai City, the islands only town, where all 3K residents of the island live. The town has a distinctly Pacific northwestern feel with Cook Island Pines lining the ridges catching fog-drip to provide critical water resources for this otherwise arid island. We enjoyed talking to people at the Lana'i Culture and Heritage Center and learned a bit about the islands rich, well documented history. Although known as “The Pineapple Isle,” after a time when Dole owned most of the island, pineapples are no longer grown here. Instead,  it is now nearly all owned by one entity (Castle & Cooke) and the dominant industry is tourism with two mega resorts run by Four Seasons who lease the land. Back in the harbor we met Norm and Lori from cruising catamaran, Falcor, recently arrived from Queen Charlotte Islands Canada. We decided to stay an extra night to enjoy Manele Bay more and celebrate Lori’s birthday with appetizers which turned out to be an amazing 5-course meal with the finale being a chocolate cake with lemon icing that we managed to make in the pressure cooker (since our oven needs some replacement tubing). We thoroughly enjoyed our time visiting this island and would love to explore more- though to get around anywhere else, it is either necessary to do some rigorous hiking or have access to a 4WD vehicle.

Lahaina, Maui rainbow
With the NOAA forecast calling for an increase in the trade winds, we decided to make haste out of Manele early December 9th moving to leeward Maui to await a weather window for jumping back across the Alenuihaha Channel to the Big Island. Between Lanai and Maui was a frustrating sail that turned into a motor as we crossed the Auau Channel. Winds piped up early and gave us enough boost to reef down our main, but when we tacked back into the lee of Maui West Mountains, winds disappeared leaving uncomfortable mixed seas. Having seen a few whale tails off shore from Lanai, during the 14-nm trip we searched in vain for a close up glimpse of the humpback whales that come here every season to mate and give birth. When we reached Lahaina mid-afternoon, we decided to take advantage of the gracious offer of the Lahaina Yacht Club to use its moorings for free for up to 2-weeks. After Chris dove on it and seized an open shackle, we were greeted by spinner dolphins, rainbows, strong winds and strong currents. After watching the sun set followed by full moon rise, we set our alarms for 4am HST and awoke to see the full lunar eclipse. These moments, when we feel so close to nature witnessing its grandeur, are one of the sustaining factors in our cruising adventures.

1 comment:

  1. What beautiful pictures. I loved reading about your adventures. Not sure if we will be stopping at Lana’i or not, but know where to go if we do.

    Thanks for looking out for Moondance for us. We appreciate it. Cruisers make wonderful friends and neighbors, don't they?