A Circuitous Route To Maui In Search Of Humpback Whales

Like most people, our travels and interactions have been severely limited by COVID, and often we are just hanging out and doing routine activities like working out, maintaining Ticket to Ride and eating at home. But Frank and I wanted to make a trip from Oahu to Maui to see the whales that migrate there every year.

We have some college friends who live in Hawaii and they expressed a definite desire to sail with us, so we invited them to join us on our little jaunt. 

Inter-island travel in Hawaii requires COVID-19 testing, so we found an accepted location and scheduled our first ever Coronavirus test to coincide with completion of provisioning and a good weather window. Happily the test wasn’t terrible and the results were negative!

Our route from Oahu to Maui.

Gloria, Dave, Frank and I set out to make a leisurely trip to Maui with a few stops along the way, assuming the weather predictions were accurate. The tentative plan was to stop first on the southwest side of Molokai in Lono Harbor for a night or two, next visit Needles or Shark Fin on Lanai depending on swell and wind. After Lanai we would explore a few spots on Maui and if the weather presented, we would take a day trip to Molokini.

Leaving the calm, protected waters of Kaneohe Bay.

We set off from Kaneohe Bay with one reef in the main sail plus the genoa. The wind was mild even though the channel between Oahu and Molokai (Ka’iwi Channel) can be quite sporty. It was a casual sail of 51nm and we arrived at Lono Harbor in late afternoon.

A glimpse of the calm trip to Molokai.

Lono is a man made harbor with a narrow opening that can close out if the waves build, so we were careful to choose a weather window that promised small swells for an easy entrance and exit. In the picture below, notice how flat the water is in the harbor and the entrance.

This gorgeous sunset also shows the narrow and very calm harbor entrance.

Although Molokai is referred to as The Friendly Island, we have heard that, especially during COVID, the locals want nothing to do with visitors to their island. We saw several individuals and a family fishing from the shore at Lono Harbor and we cheered for them from the boat whenever they landed a fish. There was plenty of waving and smiles and no feelings of ill will. 

We were quite surprised to see this fellow swim from shore to the rocky pier at dusk. We aren’t sure what caused his flight but we heard a dog barking and thought perhaps the dog chased the deer into the water.

Oh deer – you need to get our of the water!

Sunset was an array of vivid colors that we enjoyed while sipping cocktails. We relished the quiet of nature that wreathed this harbor.

Dave and Gloria toasting a beautiful sunset in Lono Harbor.

During the night Frank and I awakened to much greater motion on the boat, but attributed it to increased wind.  However, in the morning, the harbor entrance had a little surprise for us….. the swell forecast must have been wrong or incorrectly timed because we had waves that were 8 to 10 feet instead of the 2-3 predicted. The entrance was by no means closed out, but we needed to time our exit carefully and we wanted to leave sooner than later before the anchorage became uncomfortable.

These waves were not predicted!

After studying the waves for quite a while, preparing TTR as if she were a monohull, and putting on lifejackets, we upped anchor and waited for a break in the waves to motor quickly out of the harbor.

Thankfully our timing worked well and our exit was uneventful.  Frank and I were a bit too busy to get any pictures, but Dave caught some of the excitement on film. Though, as usual, film doesn’t capture the complete feeling.

Leaving Lono Harbor

Sailing from Lono to Lanai was easy enough and included a variety of wind but the sea state was mild. I think the shallow entrance at Lono significantly increased the swell at the entrance because the swell away from the shallows was insignificant.

Winter in Hawaii means the winds can come from any direction and as we moved toward Lanai, we were doubtful that either Needles or Shark Fin would be tenable for an overnight stay.

Approaching Needles.

As we neared Needles, we knew conditions would prevent us from staying overnight, but we enjoyed seeing the unique rock formations. From a distance, the Needles blend with the black rock of the shore behind them, but up close the rock formations define themselves. Originally there were five spires, but today only three remain.  Two are stubby protrusions of black rock but one looks like a large, tall tree stump with dormant grass on top.

Even the texture of this formation resembles tree bark.

Although it was a long shot, we sailed over to Shark Fin to see if somehow we could grab a mooring ball there to stay overnight. Once again the swell and wind were not in our favor so we pointed our bows toward Olowalu on Maui.

Olowalu has bunches of coral heads that are fun to snorkel. We don’t ever want to damage coral, so we hooked up to a mooring ball and enjoyed the steady breezes that flow between the mountains into the anchorage. 

Frank and Dave enjoying a breakfast burrito while watching for whales.

The next morning we awakened early, prepared coffee and breakfast burritos.  Then we launched our dinghy, Day Tripper, and motored into the channel for breakfast in the dinghy while searching for whales. We saw many whales and had one incredible encounter. We turned off the engine and were floating near two or three kayaks when we spotted a whale and baby heading our way. Turns out it was four whales and soon they swam inside the loose circle we created with the kayaks. The whales came much closer than expected but we never felt threatened. Up close it is amazing how gently and gracefully these whales moved through us. Though we have seen some breaching that I wouldn’t want to be near!

Whales from our dinghy.

We spent the remainder of the day in and out of the water, spying on the fish and looking at the coral.

Next we decided to find a mooring ball in a little spot called Coral Guardens. We had never been there, but we knew there were mooring balls and we wanted to explore the coral there. Since Coral Gardens is so close to Olowalu, we motored over and hooked up in less than an hour. After scouting the swing room from the mooring ball, we decided TTR would be safe there overnight and once again we spent the day relaxing and getting in and out of the water to look at the marine life. It was great to be back on Maui where the water was clear and warm enough for us to swim!

Fortuitously we had an excellent weather window to sail to Molokini, a small crescent shaped island about 10 miles southeast of Olowalu.  Molokini is a favorite stop for day cruise boats but it is often too windy to stay there in the afternoons when the winds kick up.  We had a pleasant sail to Molokini then spent most of a day tied to a mooring ball. 

We snorkeled along the interior of the crescent and saw a nice variety of fish. Then we enjoyed lunch on the front of TTR and watched others snorkel the path we had already taken.  It was a really nice change to see day cruises in operation and visitors enjoying the delights of Hawaii. Though the day charter boats are not carrying full capacity, they are making a go of things and showing a few visitors the beauty of Hawaii.

Clear weather allowed us to see the details of Maui’s mountains from far away.

About 3 pm we released the mooring ball and had a truly delightful sail to Mala Wharf on Maui. Of these five days of sailing, this one was the best one.  The winds were consistently 12-15 knots at a 120 degree true wind angle. We enjoyed champagne sailing at 8-10 knots as we moved along and searched for whales. We spotted many whale spouts as we sailed but we didn’t get close to any of them. 

It was fun just to see the whales surface and watch the clouds created by their exhales.

Bouncy weather was predicted so we dropped anchor near Mala Wharf and enjoyed a final dinner with Dave and Gloria aboard TTR.

The forecast showed we were in for a day of rain and wind, so we dropped our friends off early, spent a quiet, rainy day on Ticket to Ride and planned our next move to Honolua Bay, just a few miles up the Maui coast.

****Special thanks to Dave and Gloria for allowing me to use some of their photos!

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit our blog. We hope you are staying well and sane as this pandemic continues to test all of us. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.

Our Take On Sailing Hawaii Via Latitude 38 Magazine

In December, we were contacted by the editor of Latitude 38 Magazine and asked to write a quick article about cruising in Hawaii.

TTR moored at Shark Fin, Lanai

If you are interested in reading it, please follow this link to read our write up on page 86. I hope you enjoy it.

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Although the magazine heading mentions Long Beach, we are actually nomads without a land home.

Right now we are spending time anchored off Maui. The weather is keeping us on our toes as we have to move around for incoming weather systems. But we are enjoying the water, whales and friends in between storms.

Thank you for stopping in to read our blog. I have not had enough cell/wifi to post blogs but I hope to soon. If you want to hear from us more often, please visit us on FB or Instagram.

FIRE on the beach – Christmas Tree Burning

**UPDATE: I have received a message from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources explaining that fires of any type on the sandbar are illegal. In addition, the message states that most of the trees are shipped in from the mainland and they have pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Please look at the full response from DLNR in the comments on this blog to understand the extent of law concerning this event.**

Once a year, in January, on an evening when the tide gets particularly low, an unofficial event takes place at The Sandbar in Kaneoha Bay. Quite by accident we were able to witness this event because we had decided to anchor at the sandbar and enjoy a quiet evening or two on the hook.

Saturdays are often crowded at this local hangout, but this time there were quite a few boats and people making the trek to the edges of the shallows.

Walking to the burn site as the tide continues to fall.

Well, it turns out that every year, after Christmas, an underground communication takes place and discarded Christmas trees are gathered for a huge bonfire. I don’t know how many years this has taken place, but the news travels quickly and quietly. Friends, families neighbors and pets gather early in the day and play in the water until dusk begins to settle and the tide has rolled most of the water off of the sand.

Tommy and Frank stake claim to their “islands.” Apparently Frank needs more land than Tommy.

It is in the twilight, just before dusk truly begins that one or two pontoon boats, piled high with discarded Christmas trees, arrives at the sandbar. With jovial hellos, folks grab the trees and one by one carry them to a dry spot on the sandbar. Volunteers toss the trees haphazardly in a pile, as others form a loose circle around the trees.

Circling the trees before the lighting.

As we approached the the pile and saw groups of people were gathering in the circle, Dr. Seuss’ song, “Welcome Christmas” which the Who people sing on Christmas morning, was playing in my head as I watched the smiling people. (The lyrics are quite nice if you take a listen.)

Can you see TTR way in the background far from any possible ashes?

One minute before the lighting of the tree, a single Roman Candle firecracker was shot into the air.

Sending up the one minute warning firecracker.

One quick flame to the tree pile sparked a huge bonfire. It literally took only moments for the trees to become a heatwave of fire. The speed of the combustion made me realize how Christmas tree fires cause such destruction in homes!

The trees have been lit!
Just minutes after the trees were set on fire.

In this contained and safe environment, the fire was beautiful and enchanting as it danced and devoured the branches. Though we were standing in only ankle deep water, the night air was chilly and the blaze dispersed warmth and light that were welcome.

The fire was itself was pretty and created beautiful reflections on the water.

I was truly amazed by how quickly the fire burned through the trees! I would estimate that an hour after the fire started, the majority of the trees were gone. The remaining debris was washed away as the tide rose and today there is no evidence that the secret burning ever occurred.

Flames created controversy.

In the days after the tree burning, there were complaints on-line about the event as some believe the fire creates mess and debris in the water. For myself, I thought the event was very safe and I saw no mess created. We walked the sandbar the next day and found no trace of the trees. Plus, if any branches do drift off, they are natural and can decompose in the water.

What does surprise me is that people were complaining about the mess of the Christmas Tree burning while not complaining about the mess created by the fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve. I posted a video of midnight fireworks in Kaneohe Bay which were beautiful and more abundant than I have ever seen! I absolutely cannot imagine all the bits of trash left on the streets from that event!

But everyone has his own “hot” button. (See what I did there? hehe) I’m a visitor in Hawaii and we are simply fortunate to see both the New Year’s celebratory fireworks and the Christmas Tree burn.

FYI, those of us on TTR tried to keep a 6′ distance from the others on the sandbar. Even though we were outside and standing upwind most of the time, we did our best to keep distances. We also had our face masks with us if needed.

Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope 2021 has begun in a positive way for all of you. If you have comments or questions, we would love to hear from you. Be sure to visit us on Instagram or Facebook if you want to hear from us more often.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou ~ Happy New Year!

Well things on Ticket to Ride are unusually quiet and we don’t see that changing even after we ring in the New Year.

Thanks to COVID, this is the first time in 29 years that we have not spent Christmas with our kids. Well, there was one year when Hunter was in Spain, but Clayton was with us on Let It Be in Florida…. that’s a pretty amazing record that I was sorry to see broken. But, as stated earlier, we think staying home was the wiser decision.

TTR resting comfortably at the beautiful Kaneohe Yacht Club.

Once again we are enjoying the delightful hospitality of the Kaneohe Yacht Club. We have taken advantage of the dock time with spa days for Ticket to Ride, or as Frank calls it, “boat love” days. This includes cleaning up stainless steel, waxing the topsides, which is all of the outdoor white surfaces that are smooth and not non-skid. Well, I guess this is just our equivalent of spring cleaning. But TTR is looking quite sparkly and fresh.

Nighttime view while docked at KYC.

Soon after the new year, we will sail to Maui to see the whales that come each winter. We want to explore Maui and perhaps Lanai for a few weeks, assuming the weather cooperates. The sail to Maui is upwind, but at least we won’t be avoiding a hurricane like we were the last time we made that trip!

We are also thinking about sailing to the Big Island and taking a look at the recently active Kilauea Volcano in Volcanoes National Park.

Kilauea Volcano, image from volcanodiscovery.com site.

Halema’uma’u crater, part of Kilauea, erupted on December 21st. Apparently there was interaction between a pool of water inside the crater and a new lava flow which caused a huge steam cloud to shoot up 30,000 feet for about an hour. Later it was reported that lava was shooting up about 165 feet inside Halema’uma’u Crater and the water had been replaced by a lava pool. About an hour after the eruption, a 4.4 earthquake was felt by some people on the the Big Island, although no damage was reported.

So we hope to go visit Volcanoes National Park if the air quality is good enough. It should be interesting to see if we can get anywhere close to the site. My guess is that the web cams are better than trying to actually go to Kilauea, but we haven’t explored the Big Island, so it might be an adventure.

Wow, just when we think 2020 is heading into the rearview mirror, Halema’uma’u crater begins rumbling so we see yet another phenomenon occurring nearby. Everyone is saying we look forward to having 2020 in hindsight…. I hope we don’t look back at 2020 and think it was an easy year!! (Ohhh, no, get that pessimist off this blog post!!)

It is almost impossible to believe that in March we sailed to Hawaii instead of French Polynesia and that we were thinking we would be here for a couple of weeks until this “little issue” of COVID was contained!

TTR anchored off the Revillagigedo Islands, MX before sailing to Hawaii.

Looking back it is interesting to see how few nautical miles we have accumulated in 2020 compared to how many miles we traveled in 2019 even though we crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2020. I estimate that in 2019 we logged about 7,500 miles in California and Mexico. In 2020, our Pacific crossing was about 2,300 nm, yet we have only logged a total of about 4,000 miles this year in Mexico and Hawaii.

Ironically, we never even considered Hawaii as a cruising ground and now it is the longest we have stayed in any one place. Although technically it is a group of islands rather than just one place.

We certainly hope that 2021 will allow us to better accomplish our longer term travel goals!

Our current plan is to hang around Hawaii until we are able to have a COVID vaccine and we are free to travel internationally. We truly hope we will have the “all clear” by April. If we are really lucky we will even have the opportunity to apply for and receive another Long Stay Visa for French Polynesia before we leave Hawaii. That very desirable LSV is obtained from the French Embassies which are currently closed. But we remain hopeful!

Just another beautiful sight while driving in Hawaii

As we say goodbye to 2020, we remain thankful that we have the opportunity to enjoy Hawaii, see many pretty places, meet a myriad of wonderful people and remain healthy. We can hope that the worldwide forced isolation has created in us a little more appreciation for our fellow man. And maybe we have a glimpse into some changes we can make to help restore our planet.

As we welcome 2021, we are hopeful that the we really are overcoming COVID-19 and that healing from this pandemic has begun all around the world.

From Ticket to Ride, we wish each of you a healthy, healing and happy 2021.

Finally! Lē’ahí State Park is Open ~ Diamond Head Here We Come.

In response to COVID, Hawaii shut down or restricted access to many State Parks. The iconic Diamond Head State Park has been closed since late March – the whole time we have been in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian name for the crater is Lē’ahí but the common moniker of Diamond Head dates back to the late 1700’s when Western explorers mistook the calcite crystals in the rocky slopes for diamonds.

This panoramic sort of captures the circumference of Diamond Head .

On Thursday, December 17th, I saw that the park was reopened and the very next day Frank and I went to hike this famous landmark…. no moss growing under these feet! Plus we wanted to go immediately just in case Diamond Head is closed again.

Geologists believe Lē’ahi was created in a brief, single eruption about 300,000 years ago. The crater is wider than it is tall and includes about 350 acres. 

This view shows the large area the crater encompasses.

The extraordinary view from Diamond Head’s summit makes it the perfect place for coastal defense of Oahu. The Federal government bought Diamond Head in 1904 for this purpose. In 1908 construction was begun for the Kapahulu Tunnel through the north wall of the crater as was construction of gun emplacements.  Four artillery batteries were built at Diamond Head between 1910 and 1916 and a fifth was built in 1943. Long range guns were installed along the outer walls of the crater, but no guns have ever been fired from Diamond Head during a war.

From the summit, one could see enemy planes and ships a long way off!

The hike to the summit was shorter than I thought it would be; less than one mile from the start to the top of the crater, and it took us to an elevation of 761 feet. That certainly isn’t like hiking a fourteener mountain, but the the top was high enough to allow us to see much of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean.

That first Bay of Waikiki is where we anchored TTR for a few days.

Looking toward “town” we could see boats anchored off Waikiki Beach where we had been anchored just a couple of weeks ago. When anchored off Waikiki Beach we had a unique view of looking at the skyline from the water. Now we could see that gorgeous blue water from Diamond Head.

The park had strict rules about wearing a mask even though we were outside hiking. The trail was more crowded than I expected it to be, but compared to pictures of the trail in non-covid times, there was no one there. I thought the sheer number of visitors was the reason for the mask mandate until we arrived at the tunnel.

Image credit Wikimedia and linuxhacker.ru

As you can see from the picture above, the tunnel is quite narrow . The tunnel is so narrow that it is necessary to turn sideways to pass anyone. The passage is less well lit than this picture portrays or perhaps it just feels darker when entering from bright daylight. Regardless of the lighting, this narrow throughway is probably why everyone was required to wear a mask!

The hiking surface to the summit of Diamond Head is combination of old lava flow, concrete paths, concrete steps and a tunnel. This isn’t a difficult walk, but it is an interesting one and the views are worth the time and effort.

My pictures failed to convey the perfect circle of the Diamond Head crater, but Tim (#kitesurfingspud) posted an amazing picture he took of the crater the same day we were there hiking it. When I reached out to Tim, he very graciously allowed me to use his picture so you can see what a truly spectacular formation Diamond Head is. Thank you, Tim!!!

Tim’s image allows you to see the complete circle of the Diamond Head Crater.

If the Instagram name #kitesurfingspud seems familiar, it might be because Tim is the person who captured the awesome footage of TTR sailing in Kaneohe Bay! Check out his Instagram as Tim has an excellent eye and his photos are stunning!

Diamond Head Lighthouse – favored sight of TransPac Racers a.k.a. the finish line.

From the summit we were able to see the Diamond Head Lighthouse. It is so hard to believe that we toured that lighthouse back in June! When we set sail for Hawaii from Mexico in March 2020, we never expected we would be in Hawaii 9 months later. But we are very lucky to be where we are and we know there is much more of Hawaii for us to explore. We are surprised, but we have not complaints and we are very grateful for the new friends here who have made us feel so welcome.

As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog! Your comments are always welcome. We wish you a Mele Kelikimaka (Merry Christmas) and we pray you have a happy and healthy 2021!

“Boatships:” Fun Friendships that are Created Because of a Boat.

Photo courtesy of the crew of s/v Wasabi

One aspect of our ownership of Ticket to Ride has been the amazing people we have met. As we mentioned in a previous blog, TTR garners attention and folks tend to chat with us about our boat. This has led to some very fun friendships and some really great pictures of Ticket to Ride under sail.

During the contract and building process of TTR, we formed an excellent relationship with Gino Morrelli and the rest of the crew at Morrelli and Melvin.  Once we arrived in Long Beach, we were delighted to get to know the whole Morrelli family and we now consider them dear friends. Since the Morellis seem to know people everywhere we travel, they often introduce us via email to people in our current location.

Joey and Yana toasting with a bit of champagne.

When we arrived on Oahu, Gino and Laura Morrelli introduced us to Yana and Joey Cabell via email. We could not have anticipated how incredibly generous and welcoming Joey and Yana would be!  Readers may recognize Joey and Yana’s names from Joey’s prowess on the world surfing stage in the 1960’s (Temple of Surf Interview with Joey.) as well as their ownership of the Chart House Restaurant in Waikiki. We had the pleasure of eating at the Chart House Waikiki twice before COVID temporarily shut the doors and we look forward to being able to enjoy the great food and atmosphere there soon!

Frank and I on the deck of the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

Joey and Yana have been amazingly gracious to Frank and me during our time in Oahu. They have demonstrated true “aloha spirit” and opened their homes and lives to us. We cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed this gracious couple, their kindness and the experiences we have shared with them. Among other generous gifts, Yana and Joey were responsible for setting up our amazing tour of the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

The whole group gathered on TTR (thanks for taking the pic, Rose!!!)

A couple of weeks ago, we learned the Morrelli Family was headed to Oahu for a vacation and we were anxious to spend time with them. Joey and Yana hosted us all for dinner one night and at that time we hatched a plan for a Saturday of sailing and swimming.***

A nice drone shot of Hokule’a

The weather for Saturday was perfect for the guys to go for a blazingly fast sail on Joey’s catamaran s/v Hokule’a while some of the others chose to relax on Ticket to Ride.  

A side view of Hokule’a and her big rig on a casual sailing day.

Hokule’a is a unique catamaran that Joey built some 50 years ago. Recently Joey upgraded the rigging and sail plan on Hokule’a and I won’t be surprised if he has additional plans to modify his sailboat. Joey may not be riding in surf competitions these days, but he is all about maximizing the speed on his sailboat and man can he surf the waves from the helm of Hokule’a!  

While several people went sailing, others chose to hang out on Ticket to Ride where she was anchored off of Waikiki Beach. Floats, drinks and music were launched and we all kicked back to enjoy some relaxed time in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Floats, snacks, drinks…. let the flotilla begin!
Yana, Mary Grace and Laura enjoying some quality float time.

Mid afternoon the sailors returned and anchored Hokule’a close to Ticket to Ride, so we dropped Day Tripper and dinghied over to pick up that crew. (Special thanks to Tommy for acting as transport captain so I could stay in the water.

Tommy chauffeured people to TTR on board Day Tripper.
Why Netty, is that champagne you are offering?
Look out Gino and Netty, Gio is sneaking up on you!

We grilled burgers for a late lunch/early dinner and swapped sailing stories, caught up on jobs and events, enjoyed good food and great conversation. The sunset even included a green flash!  Several folks on board had never seen one so that was a special treat for the end of an excellent day.

Frank’s excellent grilling skills compliments my burger making mastery.

That Saturday was full of joy and was more special than usual for several reasons: we were able to gather with good friends; “mainlanders” were able to travel to Hawaii and enjoy a beautiful vacation; we experienced an event that felt “normal” and the special appreciation of seeing friends during COVID when so often we have to be isolated.  Although we are all tired of this Coronavirus, it has taught us to relish and appreciate the times we get to be with friends and family. 

Hokule’a and TTR happily anchored off Waikiki Beach.

Thank you Morrelli Family for sharing your vacation time with us! Yana, thank you for making every gathering a special occasion. We look forward to the next time we can all get together.

***Lest you think we have been COVID irresponsible, you should know that of the 10 people gathered on Saturday, four had negative tests just prior to travel, three already had and recovered from the virus and the other three have been very careful about exposure. Combine those factors with an outside gathering and we felt very safe.

P.S. Thank you to our guests who took the majority of these pictures…. I was wearing my hostess hat instead of my photographer had.

As always, thanks for dropping by to read our blog. We hope it brings a bit of entertainment and that you will let us know if you have questions about our posts or suggestions for things we “must see” while in Hawaii. We expect to explore Hawaii until international travel becomes somewhat normal again and we are confident that traveling to other countries won’t create a burden for them or a risk for us.

Cruising With And Without A Dog On Our Sailboat

We moved onto our first sailboat in 2015 and our dog, Captain, was right there with us for the transition and adventures. Cap went everywhere we went and we fully intended to have her share our adventures on Ticket to Ride.

A good picture of our beautiful girl, Captain.

Unfortunately, Captain died while in the care of a pet sitter I found through Rover.com. I have not shared the details of her unexpected death as they are too awful to dwell on. Since Captain is no longer on the boat with us, we have experienced cruising with and without a dog and I thought I would share some of our thoughts.

Captain was six years old when we moved on board Let It Be and she adjusted pretty quickly to life on a sailboat. There were many aspects that she absolutely loved;

  • spending more time with her humans than when living on land
  • dinghy rides – anywhere, anytime
  • swimming
  • running on the shore
  • walks with ever changing smells
  • greeting people who went past or stopped at the boat
  • spying for dolphins
  • wind in her fur while sailing
  • sitting at the helm with us
  • first cleaning of dinner dishes (to save water, of course)
  • chilling on the floating lounge chairs with us
  • breezes coming up through the trampoline where she liked to nap
Captain liked to help with the helming.

There were also things Captain never learned to like:

  • going to the bathroom on board (even though we praised her a lot)
  • when we caught fish (I think she was a pacifist.)
  • noises associated with sail changes

As for actually living on our boat with a dog as we sailed from country to country, here are a few of our thoughts.

Countries: By far the most challenging part of having Captain on our boat was making certain we had the correct paperwork for every country we visited. Each country has its own requirements and finding the latest, accurate list of requirements took time and decent internet. We had to prove Cappy was up to date on shots and often a current rabies titer test from an accredited veterinarian was needed. This meant we had to find a qualified vet, get Captain to the vet for blood tests and get the results within a specific time window. Not always easy, especially when you don’t own a car and many taxis or Ubers don’t want a dog in the car.

I was responsible for the pet paperwork. At every port of entry, I was nervous that we wouldn’t be allowed into the country because I had missed some piece of paperwork. Fortunately, we did not run into any problems while traveling in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Turks and Caicos or the Dominican Republic. However, we chose not to sail to some places, like St. Kitts, because we had heard of issues with dogs.

Cappy always assumed the lookout position in the dinghy.

Once we knew we were heading to the South Pacific, I began researching how to get Captain into various countries. What I found was that the difficulty in having a dog accepted was much greater in the Pacific Islands than on the Atlantic side. Many Pacific islands are rabies free and as a result they are very strict about receiving any dogs from a country with rabies. Several countries have long quarantine requirements for pets upon arrival. I was extremely concerned about how I would manage to get Captain into the places we hoped to visit.

If you are cruising in only one country and have a dog, the complications of pet ownership are significantly reduced.

Accommodations: At this moment, we are living the perfect example of how a dog can complicate things. We cannot live on TTR while it is on the hard, so we had to find a place to rent. We are in a small efficiency/hotel-like room in a great location that is close to the boat yard. This place does not accept pets. My search for a reasonably priced place to stay in Hawaii would have been much more difficult with a dog. When we were on LIB, we had to haul out twice and both times we could not find accommodations that allowed dogs. Instead we had to find a kennel where Captain could stay during the haul out.

Travel: Seeing our family is important, so we want to fly back to the U.S. on a regular basis. Flying with a dog is nearly impossible unless they fit under the seat. If you want your dog to fly in cargo (very mixed reviews on how safe this is), there are temperature restrictions for heat and cold indexes. Since we are usually in a tropical area, the dog might not be allowed to get on the plane because the temps are too high. What would we do if our flight was taking off and we learn that Captain had been taken off the plane due to temperature restrictions? Instead of taking that risk, we had to leave Captain with sitters a couple of times when we traveled back to the States. After our last experience, I don’t know where I would be comfortable leaving my pet if we wanted to go back to the States without her.

Trimming Captain’s fur in an effort to reduce shedding.

Shedding and bilge pumps: Almost every dog sheds and Captain definitely shedded a lot. Living in a smaller space with a dog made the shedding much more noticeable than when we lived in a larger home. I used to joke that the cause of death on my certificate was going to read “hairball in throat” because of the amount of fur floating about. But the bigger issue with shedding is the bilges.

If you own a pet that sheds, please be certain to do routine bilge pump checks. Somehow fur manages to fall to the lowest places in the bilge and it can clog up your pumps. We routinely check our bilges now, but when we had a dog on board, the checks were made more often to make sure the pumps were clear to run.

Potty Training: Some dogs manage to transfer habits to the boat without a problem. Not Captain. Regardless of how much we praised her, she still didn’t like “going” on the boat. In fact, on her first long passage, she waited 48 hours before going to the bathroom. After the first 24 hours, every hour or two we walked her on a leash all around the boat giving her the command to “go.” No luck. That was very stressful for all of us. Captain improved on passages, but she never liked that aspect of travel.

Frank pulled Captain on this float so she could be with us while we snorkeled.

Food: When traveling with a dog in foreign places, the dog foods change and knowing what you are buying is difficult. Constantly changing foods can be hard on a dog. Instead of buying local dog food, I bought a dehydrated dog food called Dr. Harvey’s Canine Good Health which I could order on the internet and have shipped to us. I thought it was a high quality brand of food and I could easily store enough on board to last six months to a year. This dog food had to be rehydrated with hot water, then I added a protein source. I chose Dr. Harvey’s because the dehydrated food took up less room than standard kibble and I didn’t want to store kibble in the bilge and possibly attract mice or bugs.

Cappy napping on the trampoline.

Island Dogs: Although the rules were restrictive for getting a dog into the islands, very often the local dogs roamed free. On the whole, the dogs left us and Captain alone but there were times when walking the dog was difficult because local dogs were aggressive or numerous. Of course we didn’t want Captain to be harmed by another dog or cause harm to another dog, and that never happened. But be aware that on some small islands there is not a vet so if your dog is injured or sick, you will not have immediate veterinary services.

Ambassador: Having a dog on your boat is a bunch of fun. Captain was an excellent ambassador and she was often the reason people stopped to talk to us. In fact, it was common for someone to know Captain by name but not have any idea who we were. We met a lot of people who were much more interested in meeting my dog than they were in meeting us. If we spoke different languages, Captain helped us connect with few words.

Protection: This one is obvious but worth mentioning. I think a dog is the best protection available on a boat. If someone is going to commit a crime of opportunity, they will not choose the boat with a dog on board. Furthermore, many people have a slight or significant fear of dogs and even serious thieves will avoid a boat with a dog. Although we feel safe in our travels, Captain added an extra element of safety, especially if I was alone on the boat and an unknown person stopped by. I really miss having Captain keep me company and protect me when Frank is away.

Walks: Dogs like to get out and explore and having Captain on board insured that we walked every day. Rain or shine, she wanted to stretch her legs and get in a few sniffs. Cappy especially loved walks when we lived on the boat because we were always in new places with new smells. Being forced to walk everyday was a positive for all of us.

Captain after immersing herself in the sand.

Fun and love: Although dogs require effort, energy and commitment, the fun and love Captain added to our boat/lives far outweighed the planning, adjustments and cleaning. There was something so joyous in Captain’s running along the beach or digging in the sand that simply watching her made us happy. The unconditional love we received was precious and we dearly miss the smiles and happiness she caused. I firmly believe that, for me, a dog adds to my contentment and well being.

Cappy congratulating me after I finished my workout.

Silly Things: When Captain and I would go for walks, I didn’t take a phone or radio. Instead when we were finished, I would give Cappy her command to “speak” and she would bark. Frank could easily hear and recognize her bark, so he would know to come pick us up. Of course, Captain figured out that when she barked Frank picked us up and the walk was over. Often she would look at me and need a second, firm command to bark because she wasn’t ready to end her exploration.

Captain at the computer working on a blog post.

Blogging: Captain was extremely smart and would occasionally write our blog posts. Those posts were always the most popular ones and I loved using Captain’s voice for a creative outlet. It was far more fun to write from Cappy’s perspective than to simply tell you about our activities.

Cruising without a dog: We have been without Captain for two years now and we still miss her terribly. If we could have her back, there is NO question that we would, regardless of the hoops we would have to jump through to get her into various countries. Having said that, traveling without a dog is easier. Here are some of the reasons cruising without a dog is easier:

  • one less “person” to worry about
  • eliminates vet visits
  • less expensive
  • eliminates paperwork to enter countries
  • gives us freedom to stay off the boat without arranging dog care
  • allows us to fly home without finding a sitter or kennel
  • reduces how often I have to vacuum the boat
  • keeps the bilges clean and free of dog hair
  • allows us to ride in any taxi or Uber
  • means no potty patrol on passages
  • leaves us without a welcoming committee when we return to home
  • means less love and less laughter

If someone asked me if he or she should get a dog before moving onto a boat, I would say the decision has to be based on where they are traveling. By far, obtaining permission to bring a dog into countries was the most time consuming, stressful and costly aspect of having a dog. One must consider where he will be traveling and how difficult pet entry is in those countries. In my opinion, quarantine is hard on the pet and the owner, so I would not recommend a dog if you plan on visiting countries that require a quarantine.

My research showed that obtaining permission for pets to enter islands in the Pacific Ocean was more difficult than in the Caribbean, so I would think very hard before committing to a dog if traveling in the Pacific.

Captain on watch at sunset.

If I were getting a dog or puppy for my boat, these are traits/tips I would think about:

  • a dog prone to motion sickness (car sickness) is probably not a good fit
  • consider a puppy or young dog that can be potty trained on board
  • I would train my dog not to leave the boat without a release command
  • train your dog to speak on command so you can make people aware that you have a dog.
  • conversely, teach the dog a “quiet” command so he doesn’t bark incessantly – you don’t want to be “that” boat.
  • make sure to have an excellent recall because all the new territories are very tempting to explore and new smells are distracting to a recall command.
  • a confident dog that handles new experiences well will probably adjust better to cruising than a timid or fearful dog.
  • make sure it is a breed that swims (some breeds like bulldogs, pugs, etc don’t swim)
  • consider your boat and if it is dog friendly – example: can a dog get up and down the companion way on its own?
  • is this dog big enough or small enough to get into the dinghy from your boat and back onto your boat from the dinghy?
  • will you need lifeline nets to keep the dog from going overboard while sailing?
  • will you leave the boat to fly home and how will you accommodate the dog?
  • do you have the time and budget to invest in entry requirements for your dog?
  • during boat yard times, are you willing to put your dog in a kennel or find a place that accepts pets?
  • Buy a collar with your dog’s name and your phone number or boat name stitched into it as dangling tags can get lost or rusted.

We are by no means dog experts, but these are some thoughts based on our experiences while traveling with Captain between 2015 and 2018. Maybe you will find this information useful or perhaps the tips will give you some things to think about. If you have traveled west from the U.S. and visited islands along the way to Australia and New Zealand with a pet, I would love to hear your experiences with gaining entry permission for your dog. If island entries have relaxed, maybe we can have add canine crew!

For those readers with dogs, give yours a few extra scratches from us…. we still miss loving on our Cappy-girl.

Thanks so much for reading our blog. We hope you are staying well and patient during these unusual times. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check out our Facebook page where we post more often. We also have an Instagram, but we post there less often than on FB.

Kauai By Sea, By Land and By Air ~ Part III

***Warning: This blog has a lot of pictures!

This final post about our sea, land and air travel in Kauai is about our helicopter tour. I had never been in a helicopter and I was a little nervous at first, but our pilot, Russel, was excellent. When I told Russel I was nervous, he assured me we were out for a tour and not an amusement park ride, which allayed my fears completely. True to his word, the flight was smooth and I could relax and enjoy the bird’s eye views.

Frank kind of looks like a pilot, don’t you think?

This was Frank’s third time in a helicopter, including when he was able to fly with our son Hunter as the pilot, so he is an old pro! Frank also gets credit for many of the photos from our tour as I was fighting my hair for much of the trip. Although I had my hair in a ponytail, the elastic band kept slipping out and I spent my time holding my hair and replacing the pony. Tip to others – wear TWO elastics in your hair as it is windy!!

Hair aside, we had a great flight! We chose the no doors option so our views were completely uninhibited by glass or door frames. Russell told us that in non-COVID times, Mauna Lau Helicopters fly 7 or 8 tours per day and that there are usually 15 to 20 helicopter tours flying at all times. Russell said some days there were so many copters up that it was like a dogfight! The day we flew, we were Russell’s only flight that day and one of only two that week! Quite the opposite of a dogfight and we were very fortunate to have the skies to ourselves.

We took off around 11 am from the southeastern part of Kauai near the airport and during our one hour flight we saw many of our land and sea spots from the air. In addition to seeing places from a different perspective, we flew over land that is inaccessible any other way.

Just after take off – you can see the fertile land.

As we flew, we saw dramatic landscapes that were sometimes sheer faced and variegated with plants and rocks then altered to hillsides with plants and flowers. Some areas were dry and desert-like while others overflowed with waterfalls, but each offered a unique beauty of its own.

A lovely look along the coastline of Kauai.

Our day began with a few clouds but for the most part visibility was very good and we could see a long way as is evidenced by this shot looking down the Nā Pali Coast. We did encounter some clouds and rain over the peaks but the change in weather made me feel like we had a chance to see yet another aspect of Kauai’s many faces.

One really cool thing we saw was Open Ceiling Cave from above! You may remember from this post that we explored the Open Ceiling Cave in our dinghy, so we saw it looking up into the opening. Our helicopter tour allowed us to see that cave from the air through the hole in the ceiling and into the water!

Open Ceiling Cave from above!

When we made our hike to the Alakai Swamp Trail, the rain prevented us from seeing Hanalei Bay but on our helicopter tour, the rain cleared and we were able to get the view from above that we missed when on foot. While anchored in Hanalei Bay, we appreciated the beauty of the bay, but seeing Hanalei from the air showed how absolutely stunning it is as a whole!!!

Can you see TTR floating in gorgeous Hanalei Bay?

Remember in Part I of this series when we hiked along the Kalalau Trail and ended up at that fresh water river that exited onto a white sand beach and into the Pacific Ocean? Well here is an aerial photo of that lovely beach!

The left side of that beach is where the river escapes across sand to the ocean.

Lastly I want to share this picture taken on our helicopter tour because I think the face of the coast on Kauai is so compelling. In this last photo you see a richly green hillside over a tall cave that opens directly into the Pacific Ocean. If you look closely, the water is clear enough for you to see rocks in the sand floor of the ocean. Doesn’t this make you want to grab your mask and fins and explore?

I so want to snorkel near this cave!

The sixty minute flight went by in a daze of extraordinary views. Initially nervous about the flight, I was really sad to see it end! We thoroughly enjoyed the helicopter tour and highly recommend it if you have the time and inclination. Seeing Kauai from the sky was a very interesting way to cover a lot of land in one hour and this was definitely icing on the cake for getting a complete view of this island.

The helicopter tour was a great way to see Kauai from a distance and quickly, but she is a stunning place and if you have the opportunity, be sure to explore on foot and by boat. Kauai is definitely worth the effort!

There isn’t a lot of unique information in this post, but Kauai is very special to us after spending so much time there and meeting so many wonderful, welcoming people. We wanted to make sure we have a good journal of our time in Kauai and we hope you enjoyed the photos.

As always, thank you for reading our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, please visit on Instagram or on our FB page. We hope you are staying well and sane during these interesting COVID times. All the best from TTR.

Why Buy a “Ticket to Ride” When We Could Just “Let It Be?” or Why We Bought a Performance Cat.

Fairly often we are asked why we sold our 44′ Fountaine Pajot catamaran, Let It Be, and bought our Hudson Hakes 55′ catamaranTicket to Ride. The follow up questions are usually “how different are the boats?” and “was the change worth it?”

Well the answers are pretty involved, but we must begin by saying that Frank and I would probably not have ordered an HH55 unless we were certain the cruising lifestyle worked for us.  I have read that as few as 30 percent of couples who decide to live on a boat for an extended time actually complete their plan. That means about 70 percent of the partners who begin this journey do not enjoy it enough to continue as long as they planned. Before investing in Ticket to Ride, we had already learned that we enjoyed the cruising lifestyle and that it would be a long term choice for us.

Let It Be was a trustworthy boat and clearly capable of the circumnavigation recently completed on an FP 44′ by our friends Amy and David of s/v Out Chasing StarsSo obviously our decision was driven by other factors.

Rather, we were in search of three things: more space, more speed and more sailing. Plus there was a strong “why not?” factor.

Recently I read a well written blog about a couple who found cruising just wasn’t for them . The main complaints were that their boat was slow, they were the last to arrive at a destination and their motor use/sail use proportion was 73 motor/27 sail. That would be very frustrating.

The difference in how often we sail Ticket to Ride versus Let It Be is tremendous, especially because now we can sail well to windward. Clearly having dagger boards rather than mini keels is a huge advantage in sailing to windward. Combine the excellent design of our hull and dagger boards with the piercing bows and significant sail plan on TTR and we find that we sail much more than we motor. At wind angles that allow sailing, TTR usually sails faster than she can motor. Overall on TTR, I would estimate that we sail 70-80 percent of the time and here in Hawaii that percentage has risen to about 90.

TTR sailing off Long Beach, CA.

I remember a particularly frustrating day when we were sailing Let It Be from Barbuda back to Antiqua. The day was beautiful but the sail was upwind and we had to tack and tack and tack because the best we could point on LIB was about 73 degrees true and 52 degrees apparent.  At those angles we also suffered from side slipping so achieving our destination was time consuming and frustrating.

Later we bought some very nice North 3Di sails for Let It Be and we improved our apparent wind angle capability by about 5 degrees (68 true/47 apparent) but those angles still didn’t allow us to head to wind well and often we used our motor(s) to help.

The angles I’ve mentioned are probably pretty standard for production cats with mini-keels, so there is no shame in those numbers for Fountaine Pajot. We thoroughly enjoyed our Fountaine Pajot and are very glad LIB was our first sailboat.

TTR sailing at a TWA of 60, and AWA of 28, boat speed 6.9 in 7.5 knots of breeze.

Sailing Ticket to Ride is completely different because even in ocean waves we can sail at 47-50 degrees true wind angle with an apparent wind angle of about 29-30 degrees. Combine those tighter wind angles with the dagger boards which keep us from side slipping, and we actually sail where we are pointing.

Clearly pointing better allows us to sail much more directly to our destinations without using engines and that reduces frustration and improves our arrival time. 

When we were route planning on LIB, we would hope to average 6 to 6.5 knots but on passage our average number of nautical miles per 24 hours tended to be about 140 or 5.8 knots of boats speed. I’m certain others with a FP Helia have better speed averages, but we were conservative about sailing a socked assymetric spinnaker at night, so that lowered our average speeds.

On this sailing day in Hawaii, TTR has boat speed of 23.1 in 24.4 knots of wind.

On Ticket to Ride, we route plan anticipating an average boat speed of 8.5 to 9 knots but we usually have better speeds than that and end up arriving earlier than expected. On TTR a 200 nm day (8.3 average) is casual and routine sailing and we have had several comfortable 250 nm days (10.42 average).

The really nice thing about the faster speeds of TTR is that what are overnight sails for many boats often become long day sails for us. This means we don’t hesitate to “pop over” to anchorages that on LIB would have required an overnight or partial night passage. Faster sailing brings more opportunities and willingness to explore additional anchorages.

The other obvious advantage of sailing faster in TTR is that our passage time is shorter so our exposure to weather is shorter. Although we do our best to avoid bad weather, if we encounter systems, we have a better chance of outrunning or avoiding storms on Ticket to Ride than we did on Let It Be.

In the article I referenced above, my take away was that two of the main frustrations were first how slow the boat sailed:   “It’s pretty demoralizing to be passed by every boat on the sea, especially when it was rough out.”  The second frustration was that they only sailed 20-27 percent of the time and the rest was spent motoring or motor sailing.

I completely understand how frustrating that would be and I think I would also want to throw in the towel or move to a motor cat if we were always using the motor and our speeds were slow. 

The standard rigging on the HH55 is more sophisticated and precise than it was on our FP.  One example is that the HH55 rigging uses Karver Hooks for reefing the main sail. Karver Hooks are fixed to the boom and attached to the mainsail through a designated loop. The benefit of the hook is that the reef is always in the same place and the reef in the sail is clean and properly aligned every time.**

On Let It Be, we had the standard 2:1 main halyard held in place with clutches and, while we could reef from the helm, our reef point varied depending on how tightly it was pulled and how well the line ran. Our reefs on LIB were not always clean and well aligned, especially at night when we could not see well.

Another example of more sophisticated rigging is the use of halyard locks for sail lines. Once we raise a sail, we make sure it is engaged in the halyard lock, then release all the pressure from the line. The sail is held aloft by the locking mechanism rather than by tension on a line. Learning to use the locks took very little practice and the benefits are; our lines are not under load when the sail is up, we have a shorter halyard because it is a 1:1 ratio instead of 2:1 length ratio, and the diameter of the line is much smaller. Removing the load from the halyards also lengthens the life of the lines and clutches.**

TTR stretching her legs.

There are some performance sailboats that bring speed to the table but sacrifice interior space and amenities to make sure the boat remains light. We looked at a couple of performance cats that were longer overall than the HH55 but they had less interior space than our 44′ FP. The HH55 definitely has more room than our FP had.

The designer for this HH Catamaran, Morrelli and Melvin, has a long history of go fast boats including several Gunboats.  The Gunboats I have seen are fast and modern, but somewhat spartan inside.  Our HH is fast but also has all the luxuries we want for living aboard our boat. We think Morrelli and Melvin’s HH55 design is the perfect combination of speed and space still manageable for a couple.

When discussing the strengths of our HH, we must include the materials and manufacturing of the boat. This cat is made of carbon fiber which is strong and light.  The boat has very little flex and is extremely quiet under sail – no creaking in the rigging. We have greater confidence in the strength of this boat than we did in our fiberglass sailboat. Every part manufactured at HH is cut using a CNC machine so the fit of the parts is excellent and we have confidence that each part is made to the proper specifications.

“Why Not?” We bought the boat we really wanted.

Finally, let’s talk about the “why not” factor. Frank worked very hard to provide excellent care for his patients and have a successful business. We were conservative stewards of his income and, while we lived well, we rarely spent our money on flashy cars or a lot of extremely high end items. 

When considering a new sailboat, we definitely decided to let go of our circumspect mentality and buy the boat we wanted without regard to the statement it made. We sort of said, “why not” get what we want and not worry about how others perceive our choice. We decided the HH55 worked within our budget and we were going to go for it.

During a day trip down the Nā Pali Coast we anchored TTR while we explored land for a bit.

When looking for a new boat, we were at a point in our sailing where we could maintain our level of experience and buy a larger production boat; or we could step up the performance of the boat and our experience level by sailing a faster and slightly more sophisticated boat. We wanted to challenge ourselves and grow through the new boat.

I was more hesitant about the image of an expensive boat than Frank was, but we are extremely happy with our HH and wouldn’t change our decision.  Although I was concerned the boat might put people off, she has actually increased the number of people we meet. TTR is rather eye catching and folks tend to paddle up, motor up, or approach us dockside to ask about TTR. We love meeting new people this way and sharing TTR with friends.  With her ample space, Ticket to Ride is often the gathering place for sundowners or dinners and we like creating those memories and sharing our floating home. 

Pictures of just a few of our guests over the last 21 months.

One final “why not” note; we both feel the importance of “loving your boat.”  Big or small, mono or cat, white, pink or blue, when you approach your boat in the dinghy or welcome guests on your boat, we feel it is important to “love your boat.”  We liked LIB for introducing us to the cruising lifestyle and taking us to many beautiful places. However, having the opportunity to build our own boat that meets our personal cruising needs and even have it painted the color of our choice all added to our “boat love” category. 

We do our best to savor the sunsets.

Living on a sailboat is not all sunset cruises with umbrella drinks. Routine chores take much longer than on land and require more effort; like walking to the grocery and carrying your groceries on your walk home.  Power and water must be monitored and carefully used; no more 20 minute showers with unlimited hot water. Moving from point A to point B takes a long time and if you don’t learn to enjoy the process of sailing to get to point B, you will probably not enjoy cruising. If you are a “type A” person you will need to learn to let go of the reins; a schedule is your enemy.  Nature, not you, determines your timing.

This is what we like to see from mother nature during hurricane season!

Cruising is definitely more challenging than living on land and it takes some time to adjust to moving at a slower pace and expending great effort to do things that were so easy on land. 

For Frank and me, sailing has worked very well. We have learned to enjoy the slower pace and embrace the rhythms of nature that guide our decisions. We have adjusted to spending all of our time together and we have become a team, focusing on the same goals.

I hope this offers a little understanding of why we chose to move from our Helia 44 to the HH55. If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments and we will do our best to respond.

**These features may not be included in the 55′ Ocean Series or the HH50 Catamarans.

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Kauai By Sea, By Land and By Air ~ Part II

The drive from Hanalei Bay to Waimea State Park was about 2.5 hours but we had heard so much about the Waimea Canyon that we really wanted to make the trip.

Fortunately our friends, Katie and Kevin, invited us to have dinner and stay the night with them at their beautiful home on the west side of Kauai. Not only did we get to spend time with these fun people and enjoy Katie’s fabulous cooking, we were able to hike the Waimea Canyon two days in a row!

As you know from Kauai By Sea, By Land and By Air ~ Part I, our hike along the Kalalau Trail was stunningly beautiful. Our next adventure was on the western side of Kauai in the Waimea State Park.

Looking down Waimea Canyon.

Waimea State Park includes the Waimea Canyon which is sometimes referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Although this quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, others say the moniker became popularized by John Wesley Powell, an American explorer, who visited Kauai in 1869.

I don’t know who dubbed Waimea the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, but the name is certainly apropos.

The shadow of the clouds and the various color were pretty dramatic.

Waimea Canyon State Park encompasses 1866 acres of land and the canyon itself is 1 mile wide, 10 miles long and is 3000-3500 feet deep. I have seen a list of over 25 hiking trails within Waimea State Park and the adjacent Kokee State Park, so we had quite a selection for our two days.

For our first hike, we chose the Kukui Trail, a trail that traverses the side of the canyon and descends about 2000 feet. The drive time to the Canyon caused us to begin a bit late in the morning on this trail that is listed as “difficult.”

This drone photo gives you a sense of the walk.

I wasn’t feeling great that day so we only walked about 1.5 miles, then turned and hiked back up to the top of the trail. The Canyon trail felt completely different from our hike on the Kalalau Trail. The Canyon was much warmer and instead of lush greenery and water, the Waimea Canyon looks like parts of the southwest areas of the Mainland.

Although we only walked 1.5 miles out instead of the whole 5 miles round trip, we saw a good sampling of this trail and had some excellent views.

The Waimea River meandering through the bottom of the Canyon.

Once we reached the top of the trail again, Frank flew his drone and captured a few pictures from above so we could see what we had missed by not walking all the way to the bottom of the canyon.

As you drive up state road 550 to Waimea and Kokee State Parks, there are three official lookouts and a few others. These stops offer pretty views for those who don’t want to actually hike. Since I had called off our hike early, we drove the remainder of SH550 and stopped several times to look around.

Ok, there may be more water here than in the Southwest deserts.

Once again we found ourselves in a unique situation due to COVID 19.  We stopped at three overlook parking areas that had elevated viewing platforms and public restrooms.  We only saw one car at all of these stops! It was surreal and felt almost apocalyptic though it was also serendipitous to have these views to ourselves because the lack of noise added to the serenity.

Waimea means “red waters” in Hawaiian and is the name given to the River at the bottom of the canyon because the water has a red hue caused by the breakdown of the red soil through which the water passes.

The contrast between the red earth and the water was beautiful.

After spending an excellent evening with Katie and Kevin, we headed back toward the Canyon. This time we sought a different type of trail and chose the Alakai Swamp Trail in Kokee State Park. The Alakai Swamp trail is 7 miles round trip and, although listed as difficult, we didn’t think it was terribly hard. There are parts of the trail that require you to climb up/down a sort of sandstone type of rock hill but there are reasonable footholds and the trail is well delineated.

The view at the beginning of the Alakai Swamp Trail.

Luckily I felt well again and we had a great time on this hike. The terrain changed often and we walked on sloping rock, soft ground, raised walkways, dilapidated wood steps, across a stream and up and down sandstone rock hills!

Packed dirt and rocks.
A clear trail with trees for shade.
Climbing down sandstone like rocks.

The Alakai Swamp is fed by water from Mount Waialeale. Mount Waialeale is one of the wettest places on earth and averages 450 inches of rainfall per year. The rainwater drains off of Mount Waialeale into a plateau where the water collects and forms the Alakai Swamp. I read that the Alakai Swamp is the world’s highest rainforest and swampland, though I have been unable to verify that statement.

Kahili Ginger grows wild here.

The “swamp” was nothing like the swamps of Frank’s childhood in Louisiana! We didn’t see one alligator and we certainly couldn’t take a pirogue through it as there was comparatively little moisture in the mud and no river anywhere. Of course we knew this would not be the same kind of swamp.

The raised boardwalk through the “swamp.”

Prior to 1991 when Hawaii began the installation of a raised boardwalk, hikers sloshed through the muddy swamp to get to the Kilohana Lookout at the end of this trail. Realizing the negative impact of so much traffic on the plants and shrubs, the State added the boardwalk and significantly reduced the impact of hikers. The boardwalk is raised and 12 inches wide while the previous walking trail had become as wide as 30 feet in places.

According to the University of Hawaii, Alakai means “one-file trail” and adding the boardwalk makes it a single file track again.

You can see that this area was dry but other potions were quite boggy.

The Alakai Swamp Trail ends at an overlook where Hanalei Bay can be seen on a clear day. We were hoping to see Ticket to Ride floating in the bay from that vantage point but the clouds rolled in and a light mist began just before we reached the furthest point. We didn’t have enough visibility to see the Bay.

Remnants of plank steps along the Alakai Trail.

So we turned around and began the walk back toward the parking area. About half a mile into our return, we were far enough from the coast that the sky cleared and the mist disappeared.

We ate a snack sitting beside this pretty stream..

Of the two hikes, I preferred the Alakai Swamp Trail. I think there is greater variety on the Swamp Trail from what you walk on to what you see. I liked the variety of foliage, the movement from clear areas to shaded ones and the undulating trail. I think the Alakai was easier than the Kukui Trail where we were always walking down on the way out and always trekking up on the way back. Others will surely prefer the vastness and grandeur of the Kukui Trail.

Gratuitous picture of another part of the Alakai Trail.

Thank you for stopping to read our blog. I hope seeing these pictures of Kauai brings you joy and reminds you of the goodness and beauty of our world. If you want to hear from us more often, please see our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram.  Stay well and be kind.

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