Sailed Hawaiian Inter Islands from Oahu, visiting Molokai, Lani and Maui. (Part 1)

Alternative to the trade winds, Hawaiian Islands experience “Kona” winds, which are mostly Southerly winds that are created when a High pressure moves to the West of the Islands. Depending how South the High drifts and the amount of its pressure varies the wind. When the Kona’s arrive it can be a good time to travel easterly to the other Islands without fighting the trades. Taking advantage of a light Northeasterly wind after a Kona wind pattern, Dolphin crossed the channel between Oahu and Molokai known as Kaiwi Channel or Molokai Channel. Since the passage to Molokai from Oahu is generally an upwind passage sailing to Molokai is best achieved by hugging the Southeastern shore of Oahu before entering the channel. Sailing above Hawaii Kai near Koko Head I set a course well above the southwesterly point of Molokai, La’au Point, there can be a heavy current setting your boat below Molokai as you approach from Oahu. While sailing on this passage two large nuclear submarines surfaced appearing to be heading to Pearl Harbor. Submarines traverse the channels of the Hawaiian Islands perhaps doing drills, it is always an event to see these one of these vessels.

Sailing pass La’au Point the winds shifted to onshore or Southeasterly, with flat water from the lee of Molokai , Dolphin sailed in perfect conditions past the Halolono Harbor that was used to load barges with sand destine for the shores of Waikiki. Haleolono Harbor has a short and narrow channel to enter a small sheltered water from its breakwater walls. The anchorage is remote to citizens of Molokai, made via a long dirt road that is often rough before it is graded again. There is enough room to anchor and swing 360 with adequate scope, but only for a few boats. As with many anchorages in Hawaii they can only support a limited number of boats, staying on the sand patches to avoid damaging the coral. The harbor has a sandy bottom with water that is not clear by Hawaiian standards.

Still enjoying a flat water sail on the Lee of Molokai many Whales could be seen, entering a Whale preserve or Marine Managed Area, as shown on the charts for the area. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created by Congress in 1992 to protect Humpback Whales. The Sanctuary, constitutes one of the world's most important humpback whale habitats. There are many whales in the waters surrounding Molokai, Lani and Maui channels, during the whale season from December to March. Both Blue and Humpback Whales were seen in these waters.

Continuing on and enjoying a pleasant sail along the south facing shores, making way for the largest port in Molokai, Kaunakaikai. It is also the largest town on Molokai, with many supporting businesses for the small population of Molokai. In the mid-1800s, King Kamehameha V would spend summers in Kaunakaki. The area is generally dry; the harbor entrance is wide and well marked. There is a reef on both sides of the harbor that offer it good protection from a south swell, as well as the shadow effect of the Island of Lani. A ferry leaves and returns a few times per day from Molokai to Maui (Lahaina), from this jetty/pier. Surf could be seen on both sides of the Harbor entrance. Anchoring just outside the channel between the jetty (drive-able to a boat ramp) and a coral over sand mount, the boat sat in perfectly still water.

The boat is currently sailing out of the Honolulu area. Below is a update as published in Latitude 38 Sailing Magazine.

...... Outside Bandaras Bay, I nearly ran into a pod of humpbacks. They surfaced only a few yards off my port side on a collision course, I put the boat into the wind immediately and started the motor. .... there is less chance of a conflict with the whales; they hear you a whole lot better with the motor running. Anyway, it scared the hell out of me as humpbacks are more “active” than other species, and after they crossed ahead of me the bull in the group turned toward the boat surfacing escorting me away from the rest of the pod.

The wind was out of the West leaving Bandaras, just the heading I needed, so I tacked out and sometimes I’d be laying a line for San Felipe on the Port tack. Using the windvane and sailing as tight as I could, I found myself heading directly at Roco Corbintina, if I had not been alert the boat would have sailed on it dead center, which seems odd since there is so much ocean in every other direction.

On Day 4 I was anchored off Isla San Benedicto, the night before lying hove-to after the boat took a few “launchers” and deadly crashes at wave bottom. Alone in the anchorage well protected with a good holding sandy bottom I saw more than one giant Manta Ray. They cast a big wing span over 20’, making your dinghy look a little short.

The passage was as expected a beat, reach then run. There is no specific wind line or predictable pattern for each change, eventually the North wind becomes more consistent than the Northwest. They struggle for dominance during the day and night which keeps you on your toes. Once the North wind is victorious the Northeast pops up to say hello, you eventually say good bye and finally greet the East wind.

There were several boats making the crossing, lined up ahead and some behind, I was in good company. Checking into the Seafarers Net each day with a position report let my family know I was still ok and they could plot my position each day.

About midway, I thought to tighten the bolts holding the windvane to the transom, when I sheared a bolt it occurred to me I should stop going to the gym. How that was possible with a “stubby” wrench and a 3/8 inch bolt located so I did yoga to tighten it I’m not sure. However, hove to about 1,000 miles to Hawaii and 1,300 to Mexico I watched in fright the only other bolt holding the lower windvane bracket looked as though it was none too happy to do the job of two bolts. As I tried to position a new bolt though the windvanes lower gudgeon lining it up with the hole in the transom while hanging over the side seeing my hands and tools disappear as the waves washed against the transom. I gave up threading another 3/8 inch and went to a hardened ¼” bolt; after more than two hours (not bad) I was on my way again I’ll be it with a little less sail than before. While in Hilo I pulled the whole windvane off and moved to ½” bolts.

That was the only drama. I caught plenty of Dorado to keep me in fresh fish. Played my guitar, sang to no one (when was the last time you belted it out) and pretty much hella enjoyed it. It took me 21 days to do the 2700 NM, including the stopover at Benedicto.

Hilo is the logical port of entry on this passage, to clear back into the states. Radio Bay is quite and provides a great place to rest while taking sojourns around the Big Island. I sailed around S.Point notorious for wind, it was as advertised 30-40knts, but isn’t always after those type of passages there is a reward, mine was the southern lee side of Hawaii. I anchored at Cooks Bay the only cruising boat content on again being in a beautiful anchorage. I found no other cruising boats south of Kona and only a few north of that where I caught a 5 foot Wahoo. I felt like king for the day, at the next anchorage handing out 5lb chunks of fresh fish to fellow cruising boats.

I waited out the wind for the passage between Nishimura Bay, Big Island and La Perouse Bay, Maui; the Alenuiha'ha channel well known for its demand on sailors. I left before light on a forecast of winds to 25knts in the channel, a reduction from the maelstrom that had been going on for days in the channel. The wind was 25knts before long, with higher gusts and I could see how you could get in trouble here, short period steep facing waves waiting for the unwary sailor. In La Perouse I surfed “Voodoo’s” on a south swell, with only a few guys out, it was there diving my anchor a pod of adult dolphin swam within arm’s reach of me, a soulful glance from a dolphin I will never outlive. .......

I arrived at Isla Benedicto on Day 4 in late afternoon. The island appears several miles off the eastern shore. The tallest peak, Bárcena, rises to a height of 1,089 feet near the southern part of the island. It forms a volcanic crater. The island is apart of Mexico's Revillagigedo Island chain also known as Mexico's Galapagos. Benedicto is uninhabited, after sounding the two anchorages on the island, both protected from the trades, I choose the S.E. Anchorage, with a sand bottom. During the sounding I viewed more than two Giant Manta Rays about 10 feet below the surface swimming along a volcanic rock wall. These Giants reach more than 20' in wingspan. The log reads:

17:00 / Position 19.18.64N; 110.47.81W Anchor Down @ Isla Benedicto

The boat was tidied up and made ready to sail before going down for the night. After a restful sleep I awoke to the spectacular view of Barcena and its topography leading to the blue water surrounding the boat. Without any sign of wind I prepared a few quick meals and mostly relaxed in the remote anchorage. The log reads:

12:20 / /Weighed anchor for Hilo

While motoring from the anchorage I made the anchor fast to the roller and made the windless water tight. With a boat on heel for long periods and water coming over the bow, seawater can migrate outside the chain locker aft and into the boat. After having good winds to date on the passage it went light and variable leaving Benedicto. I sailed mostly due West with wind off the Starboard bow from 45% to 60%, until the wind just died altogether. Log reads:

18:12 / Position 19.34.07N; 112.48.04W/ Bar 1011/ M Course 267 degrees / Sea State 2-4 L-P / Wind 0 -1 knts/ Boat speed 4 knts / Engine Oil 50 psi/ Water 150 degrees/ Notes: Ocean glassy with long period swell

I had decided to fire up the diesel to make some way with plenty of fuel, the more West I made the quicker I would find wind; at 23:15 the motor was secure and would not be used for propulsion until entering Hilo, Hawaii. The motor was run for an hour ten of the remaining fifteen days to charge the batteries and or make fresh water. Many days the sky was grey overcast limiting the amps from the solar panels mounted on the bimini. The total diesel consumed for the 2700 NM sail was less than 17 gallons. Settling into a beat with the apparent wind at 45% off the Starboard bow the boat moved nicely, the further west the boat traveled wind veered right and the East wind began to take precedence over the North Northwest.

There is no definite wind line or shift from one predominant wind to the other, but they play back and forth during the day eventually the East wind wins over the North. At 122 degrees West, the wind still has a North component but mostly East, the boat sailing on a broad reach at M 270 course. West of 149 degrees the wind is more East than any North, a position 120 miles west of the first squalls which generally occur during the late night hours.

After Day 7 the boat did mostly high 6's and low 7s (knots). There is a balance between being underpowered (boat not as comfortable, harder on rig) and being too aggressive. It is a long way for help in the middle of the Pacific. With that in mind after running the boat for a day in the mid 8's and some 9's, although I was having a great time, I choked the sail plan down and for the rest of the trip kept it around 7.

West of 150 degrees the remaining sail is mostly a run. Set up wing on wing with the wind around 160 degrees Starboard the boat was jibed a few times through the remaining 5 degrees of West necessary to make Hawaii.

After 20 days the Big Island of Hawaii was clear on the horizon, the smell of land in the air. The top of Mauna Kea unveiled itself, showing the green mountain range leading down to the town of Hilo. I sailed into the harbor the log reads:

16:15 Anchor Down Radio Bay, Hilo, Hawaii / Position 19.43.88N; 155.03.16W.

The boat is currently in Oahu, after visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, Maui and Molokai.

The passage from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Hilo Hawaii, took 21 days total with a stop at San Benedicto Island, one of the islands considered Mexico's Galapagos. San Benedicto is known for its Giant Pacific Manta Ray, with a wing span of over 20ft.

The passage was as expected a beat, reach and run. While on a beat, the boat was put in a hove to position west of 109 degrees at 0300 hour waiting for the seas to moderate then proceeding on at 06:30, the log reads:

07:03/ Position 19..28.67 N; 110.00.57 W/ Bar 1011 / M Course 242 degrees / Sea State 4-7 M-P/ Wind 18-22 @ 40 degrees S./ Boat Speed 4.5 / Engine Secure / Notes: Running with double reef main and deep reef in jib, wind is moderating.

The first day of more easterly trade (continuum) winds began on the fifth day of sailing west of 114 degrees, the log reads:

12:00/ Position 19.22.12 N; 114.11.24 W/ Bar 1015 / M Course 250 degrees / Sea State 1-3 M-P/ Wind 8-10 @ 45 degrees S./ Boat Speed 6.0 / Engine Secure / Notes: Wind veering right the East wind is beginning to be stronger at higher wind speeds-strong north at moment.

Weighed anchor from the point at Punta Mita, Puerto Vallarta for Hilo, Hawaii on Saturday, April 23rd

Hilo is the only Port of Entry for the Big Island, and is welcoming to US flagged boats arriving from a passage bound out of Mexico. Boats are allowed 30 days either anchored or med moored to the quay inside Radio Bay, plenty of time to see Hilo and plan for a weather window when sailing to the next anchorage in Hawaii.

I will be posting video soon of the passage, and updating this log with accounts of the passage, beginning with; somewhere there is an unwritten law about getting wind on the nose when leaving or arriving. Sure enough not wanting to hang around any longer and with no serious weather reported, Dolphin sailed west into westward wind tacking out of Bandaras Bay, first pointing to Cabo then when pushed down to well inside the Sea of Cortez, tacking over on the other side playing the shifts until a steadier northwest arrived later in the day. I know we did good because I spoke via VHF to a nearby boat seen motoring out the bay in the morning, nearly at the same position as Dolphin by late afternoon and still motoring to gain Westing. Here is a little of the log entry for Day 1:

13:38 / 20.50 N; 105.34 W / Bar 1011 / M. Course 220 / Sea State 1-3 SP /Apparent Wind 10-14Knts@45 degrees starboard / Boat Speed 5.5 / Engine Secure / w/ current strong header going; tacked over for two hours

16:23 / 20.46 N; 105.43 W / Bar 1010 / M. Course 245 / Sea State 1-3 SP /Apparent Wind 10-12Knts@40 degrees starboard / Boat Speed 4.5 / Engine Secure / had tacked twice finally on port tack headed to 340 degrees tacked back to starboard

16:55- Note; crossed group of Humpback whales on collision course they showed only 50 yards from the boat (started motor) hopefully motor let them hear me - one circled back to follow scary started to pray and speak to the whale- 6 miles ENE of Roca Corbetena

18:18 / 20.43 N; 105.52W / Bar 1010 / M. Course 260 / Sea State 1-3 SP /Apparent Wind 10-12Knts@35 degrees starboard / Boat Speed 4.5 / Engine Secure / GETTING LIFTED TO MARK - GOOD!!!!

At the end of Day 1 time 23:43 log shows position 20.42 N; 106.15W, so we had to dip down a little to make our Westing but we only motored to let the whales know where we were.

More to follow

Never leave on a long passage on Friday; I've done that before and its bit me good. So I sit here at anchor the boat ready for the second time to make a passage for Hawaii. I had planned on weighing anchor for Fanning then on to Hawaii, near the 28th of March which would have provided a full moon for the approach to Fanning. I had the boat ready with the exception of provisioning only a few days prior to departure when the Head Gasket for the diesel failed. I was able to pull the Head after a day and half's work, the first machine shop did mill the Head but did not pull the valves, just said they were OK. So, the Head went to a second machine shop which pulled the valves only to learn they should be replaced due to wear (no taper left). After learning it was going to be difficult to find the valves in Puerto Vallarta, they were brought in from the U.S. Once the valves arrived everything moved along nicely, and the upper end of the motor was reassembled (by me) and is running good. So, tomorrow Saturday the 23rd I plan to depart directly to Hawaii.

Today, I went up the mast while at anchor at Punta Mita, for a good look at the mast fittings and general maintenance. Going to the top and working down checking the mast track while lubricating with a dry silicone, and tightening any loose screws on the track. Also, looking to make sure all retaining pins are in place, no obvious problems with blocks, sheaves, tangs, wire chafe, halyard chafe, electrical connections/chafe to steaming, spreader, anchor lights, and radar. With anticipation of using a light air nylon sail for hours on end during the passage to Hawaii, I look for signs of chafe on the halyards at the sheave or block(s) points at full hoist. Running an extra Spinnaker halyard for a chafe thru event is a good idea. All looks good and ready to go.

On Thursday the 10th, I went through the Perkins Diesel while at anchor at La Cruz. Engine maintenance included; checking the transmission oil for clarity, color and fill, changing the motor oil, replacing with new V-belts for the water maker and engine alternator/water pump, replacing the fuel filter between the main tank and day tank. After completion of all work, I run the engine and view to check for any obvious problems including water or oil leaks. All looks good and ready to go.

On Dolphin we routinely practice skills that are invaluable at sea. One skill that is often talked about but rarely practiced is placing your boat in a hove-to position. The hove-to position can be used at sea to rest, regroup, take care of any necessary boat work, make a meal perhaps with more comfort and more importantly; waiting for sea conditions to be more favorable especially going to windward, waiting for a weather front to pass, for better light to make a reef pass or wait for daylight to enter a harbor or anchorage or for any other reason that makes sense to stop the boat.

They say practice makes perfect. When the going gets tuff you want to know you have the skill and are confident to make the maneuver. In large seas if you put the boat in irons as you try to get her settled in the hove-to position, and it starts to travel backwards (while in irons in large seas) you may damage your rudder or steerage. In strong winds it is often necessary to ease the main sheet significantly just prior to bringing the boat into the wind, if not you may find yourself with the rail down and the crew doing a balancing act. It is best to control the main sheet like you would during a jibe in windy conditions, controlling it; (sheeting in as you round up towards the hove-to position).

The following is a ships log entry made by Crew member Bert W.:

20:20; N21.20.93; W108.29.45; Barometer 101.5;Course M. 83 degrees; Sea State 2-3 Medium Period; Apparent Wind Speed 7 Knots @ 100 degrees Port; SOG 5 Knots; Engine Secure.

To continue the weather discussion with regards to offshore passage making there are generally a few ways cruising sailors check weather prior to departing. First, the basic season is considered, most sailors will plan to depart on any off shore voyage during the months that do not have a record of hurricanes/cyclones. After which, an offshore sailor may consult pilot charts for historical weather within each block of Latitude and Longitude, over an anticipated course. This is no guarantee, but some idea of anticipated weather including wind direction and speed along the course is determined with a percentage of gales.
Today's offshore sailor may consult with a professional weather router, a trained professional which advises the sailor of a good weather window(s) to depart on the voyage. These routers are available to the sailor dependant on available communication for weather updates during the passage, or for any strong weather advisory. Prior to and during an offshore passage sailors may receive high frequency radio faxes, that contain all types of weather reporting tools, grib files, sat images, NOAA weather faxes.

As a follow-up to the last log entry regarding weather reports: A crossing of the Sea during this time of year should take into account any strong "Winter" high pressure. The wind on the Sea of Cortez is affected during the winter months by strong High Pressure Systems located along the Colorado Plateau. These high pressure systems deposit downward airflows into the Colorado River Valley, then into the Sea of Cortez. This wind is channeled down the Sea of Cortez from the mountains on both the Mainland and Baja side. The winds are cold, often called "Northerners" and can create steep waves.

Dolphin is currently anchored at in Bandaras Bay, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Bandaras Bay has some of the best sailing conditions. It is an excellent area to work on any sail handling issues prior to any offshore work. Many boats in the bay along with Dolphin will be heading west at the end of the Southern Hemisphere Hurricane season. A morning routine on board Dolphin is checking the weather reports. There are many Ham and SSB radio nets available for weather information. In this area the most popular may be the Amigo Net on 8122 USB beginning at 14:00Z and or the Sonrisa Net 3968 LSB at 14:30Z. Listening to either of these nets allows the captain and crew to learn of conditions other boaters are experiencing real time along the Mexican coast and or in the Sea of Cortez. Also each net provides a weather forecast for the extended areas surrounding the Pacific side of Mexico, California and in the Baja.

Dolphin makes light air crossing from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta; posted new video Leg 2 Review please check it out. The passage took us approximately 50 miles off the rumbline to the south, as no northern winds off the Sea of Cortez were found until day 2 of the crossing. The favored side of the rumbline is the southern side as Puerto Vallarta is south of Cabo. We had only light air (most often less than 8 knots) and deployed "sail before motor" by keeping the boat moving comfortably (without slatting / saving gear) with less attention to rumbline until we could gain more apparent wind over the bow as our course moved further south than east of our mark. More updates to come, stay posted. Check out the schedule for availability on the coming Legs, where we will teach you "sailing before motoring" -stay posted.

If you haven't seen the new video posted, a review of Leg 1, check it out. Also view the latest video log.
Coming up on Leg 2 beginning this Sunday, the boat has been washed, cleaned and scrubbed ready for the next Expedition. The watermaker has topped off the tanks, the water is exceptionally clear this year and warm.
Once the crew arrives they will spend some time getting sea legs before heading across the Sea of Cortez where it meets the blue Pacific. This passage is an offshore experience with the full fetch of the Sea some 800 miles long. The crossing itself is about 325 miles, definitely an offshore experience.

The following is a log entry at 2145 hrs, noted by crew Tom K.; Heading to the mark outside Turtle Bay, in the lee of Cedros Is.
Final tack to Mark-dropped pole, jibed main reset genoa
Position 24.46.56 N; 112.36.86 W; Barometer 101.6;Course 50 degrees Mag.;Sea State 2-3 ft Choppy; Wind Speed 13-14 knots @ 140 degrees port; Boat Speed 6.2 SOG; Engine Secure
Check out the schedule for availability on the coming Legs, where we will teach you "sailing before motoring" more on this later stay posted.


To maintain a sailboat in good condition you generally will keep a list of projects to complete, there are as many ways to organize the list as there are boat owners the important thing is that the list works for you and the boat is maintained. I have seen "lists" broken down in many ways: 'bow to stern', 'sunny, cloudy, raining' or in an order of "priority" or a multiple of the previous.

Below is a previous notes portion of the log dated 05.29.09

Weighed anchor at Cabo San Lucas for San Diego (2nd time), 0640; calm anchorage last night. Motored just off the Arch set sail and go, 22knts Dolphin doing 8.5 knts SOG into large short period waves; wind increases to high 20's later in the afternoon; pointing at 37 degrees apparent. Quiet in cockpit other than wind and waves.

Officially entered Dolphin in the 17th annual Baja Ha Ha; the 157th boat to join the event this year. Readying the boat for the upcoming season, I will be sailing to San Diego later this month. Dolphin has reservations for a slip at Sun Harbor. Once there Chris Catterton, a professional rigger in the area with many years of experience, will service the rigging. All sails will be removed and taken to Ullman Sails loft for inspection and service. The canvas will be removed and serviced at Murphy's Canvas who originally designed and built the dodger and bimini. Preparing a boat for passage is a test of your organization skills. All replacement parts, spares, tools and supplies should be logged to establish; 1. That you have them onboard. 2. That you know where they are on the boat. 3. That you'll have an adequate supply for your passage.

Returned from a delivery of a 53' sailboat from Bahia San Bartolome (Turtle Bay) to Ensenada, Mexico. The passage north during the last week of July was relatively benign weather wise. The weather forecast held seeing mostly light winds, with the exception of the north end of Cedros Island having winds in the high twenties. A passage north along the pacific coast of Baja in late July a vessel generally will encounter reduced wind speeds of dominate Northwest winds than earlier in the year, when most boats leave the Baja prior to the official hurricane season start date of May 15th.

Dolphin sitting nicely on her mooring; all seacock ck, Perkins Oil/Water/Belts ck, watermaker ran 30:00 min., radar, autopilot, chart plotter ran, bilge/b. pumps ck, mooring pennant lines ck. serviced winches ck. Made a cup of hot tea and relaxed.

Below is a previous notes portion of the log dated 05.27.09

Early AM at Cabo San Lucas fuel dock; 0830 leaving arch to starboard 4 other boats left earlier (possibly fueled earlier); Radio contact made with two sailboats (Baja bashing) returning back to anchorage stated 30 knots at Cabo Falso; third sailboat heading offshore (Hawaii bound) reports 50 knots of wind 13 miles outside, radios returning to anchorage; decided to return and wait for a better weather window, anchor down before noon.

Arrived at Dolphin to create Video Log and to exercise all systems; diesel, watermaker, windless, radar, refrigeration, etc. Like our bodies I've found boat systems like to be exercised, systems like people tend to freeze up with no use.

Below is a previous notes portion of the log dated 05.12.09

0730 Anchor up from Ballandra for Frailes - slow motor making water thru San Lorenzo Channel; passing very near Bajo Scout Light (starboard channel marker) water visibility good viewing bottom as rounding in +20' of water; sails up first sign of wind (fighting flood current; note to check next time to avoid if possible); hard on wind and current; good chart plotting on tack lines as accurate; solent sail working well...Dolphin doing nicely 7knts in 15knts AWS inner blade working best with clew to outbound track w/second haul down on clew. Working against S.E. wind + current to Bahia Ventana tacked up against Isla Cerralvo gained flat water in lee ... sailed on port tack to Punta Gorda (no safe anchorage not sufficient protection from the South) short tacking to Ventana; anchored at dusk behind Punta Arena de la Ventana with radar and depth; found two sailboats at anchor.

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