After spending an unexpected but excellent year cruising the Hawaiian Islands, it is time to seek new cruising grounds. Although our original intent when we left Mexico in March 2020 was to sail to French Polynesia, the decision to turn toward Hawaii proved one of our best. During the difficult times of a world pandemic, we were fairly isolated from risk because of our location, the precautions taken by Hawaii, and by our own actions which were guided by safety.
Cruising Hawaii during Covid 19, while restricted, also allowed us a glimpse into what Hawaii must have been like 30 or 40 years ago when tourism was not the mainstay of the economy and fewer people were exploring the trails and beaches. Certainly many attractions and restaurants were closed due to Covid, but the ability to walk trails that were almost devoid of people and have the natural beauty of places to ourselves was a unique gift that we will always treasure.
As lovely as Hawaii and its people have been, our original plan of traveling to French Polynesia is still our goal. We prefer to arrive in FP with a long stay visa in hand, which would allow us to stay for a year rather than three months. Long stay visas are not available at this time, so we have decided to point our bows in a northeast direction and “reset” our itinerary.
The plan is to leave Hawaii, sail north and east to Alaska and spend several weeks exploring the northern most state of the U.S. By the time weather forces us to seek a more southern location, we hope the Canadian borders will be open so we are allowed to stop in Canadian ports throughout the Inside Passage. From Canada we will sail to Seattle, then make a long jump to San Francisco, followed by stops in Long Beach and San Diego. Of course, all of these plans are “written in sand, at low tide” because we will be directed by the weather and border restrictions.
Unlike our east to west trip across the Pacific which was driven by the trade winds, this passage in the opposite direction will be influenced by the Pacific High weather system. We await its formation because once that high is in place, the low pressure systems are less numerous and our travel weather should be more stable and predictable.
But there is no guarantee that we will be able to avoid low pressure systems completely because the trip is expected to take 11-18 days and weather forecast predictions are not accurate that far in advance.
We have hired Bruce “The Weather Man,” a weather router located in Perth, Australia who studies the Pacific and will send us daily updates and course recommendations based on the information he has available. In addition to Bruce, we use the PredictWind weather application which gives us weather updates a few times each day.
Hopefully between Bruce and PredictWind, we will be able to find a comfortable and reasonably fast weather window. If you would like to follow our trip, here is a link which shows our location and speed.
Those who have sailed Alaska tell us the beauty of the area is amazing and that one season is simply not enough to adequately explore all Alaska has to offer. We are certain this statement will prove true and we will decide later if we want to extend our exploration beyond one short season.
We have also heard a wide range of reports about the weather in Alaska and I am certain those reports vary greatly depending on what weather each summer unleashes. Obviously the temperatures will be much different from the warmth of Hawaii. But we also anticipate encountering fog, ice, big winds, no wind, fishing boats, fish traps and perhaps a few cruise ships. To say the least, we expect our experience in Alaska will be about a 180 degree change from Hawaii.
We will trade the lush landscape and warm waters of Hawaii for the unknown and cold temperatures of Alaska.
We have mentioned often that the “aloha” we have received in Hawaii is amazing. If our saying so wasn’t enough proof of that, perhaps the fact that we have three crew members, all of whom we met in Hawaii, on board for this passage will cement our statement.
Our three crew are: Erik who we met in Maui in May 2020, Tommy who we met in Kaneohe Bay in June 2020, and Amelia who we met in Kauai in July 2020. Needless to say, we would not have asked these people to join us on a long passage unless we enjoy their company and they are capable hands on board Ticket to Ride. Inviting three Hawaiian residents to crew for us certainly proves that we have been well blessed to meet many excellent people while also enjoying the beauty of Hawaii.
So, when you see this post, know that we are somewhere along our course toward Juneau, Alaska. Hopefully the weather window we chose is a good one and we are enjoying a smooth, comfortable, safe and uneventful trip across 2700 nautical miles of Pacific Ocean.
Thanks for reading our blog. Take a peak at the link above to check our progress and perhaps add a little prayer for our safety. We have no idea how much internet/cell service we will have while in Alaska, but we will update our Facebook and Instagram pages more quickly than this blog page. See you soon from the chilly north!
No doubt cruisers around the world have faced challenges throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. While we consider ourselves fortunate to be in the immensely beautiful group of Hawaiian Islands, we too have faced some challenges during this last year. However, since our first introduction to the Kaneohe Yacht Club in June of 2020, this gem of a yacht club, its members and staff have been a haven of welcome and safety for us.
Way back in June we happened to meet Tommy Henshaw, a junior member at KYC, while we were anchored in the Bay. Upon learning that we needed to have some sail work done, Tommy introduced us to the KYC dock master who allowed us to spent a few nights on the KYC end dock so we could off load our sails. This was a huge relief as it allowed Jake, the North Sails rep, to come to TTR, help us remove sails and use a dock cart to get the sails to Jake’s truck. Much easier than trying to transport our sails via dinghy!
A week or two later, KYC kindly allowed us to once again tie to their dock when the repaired sails were returned to TTR. How awesome is that?
Fast forward a month or so…. we were doing some rudder work on Ticket to Ride and once again KYC allowed us to hang out at the end dock. This time we were able to stay for a two week period and we had the opportunity to meet the club members who would stroll down the dock to say hello. We also had many interactions with the KYC staff and every single person was a pleasure to work with!
Rarely have I met such a welcoming group of people!
Our two week visit was during high COVID time and the KYC was mostly closed due to state restrictions. None the less, those who were around the club would stop by for a chat, inquire about our plans and share stories about KYC and how much fun it is in “normal” times. Members shared information about favorite places to sail, things to do around Oahu and hikes that shouldn’t be missed.
Kaneohe Bay rests behind the only barrier reef in Hawaii and is a lovely place to anchor. So we spent several weeks in the Bay and watched the comings and goings of the Yacht Club from our anchor.
Fast forward to December 2020. After spending several weeks in Kauai, then running from Hurricane Douglas, hanging out in the roadstead anchorages of Maui, and spending weeks in Keehi Marine Center for boat work, we once again sought out the calm, protected waters of Kaneohe Bay.
When we returned to the Bay, we were again allowed to seek refuge for a week or two at KYC. This time the club was a bit more open and we were able to get a better sense of what KYC is like when completely operational.
During our December visit, I met a few KYC tennis players who invited me to join their round robin gatherings on the weekends. Because the days were short, the Friday night tennis was played under black lights! What’s not to love about such a free spirited type of tennis?
Members told us that New Year’s Eve in Kaneohe Bay was not to be missed as Hawaiian families go all out on fireworks and the bay would be lit up. Well, they were quite correct! At midnight the fireworks began all along the bay and must have lasted 30 minutes! I honestly believe this is the longest display of fireworks I have ever seen.
In January, Frank and I left Kaneohe Bay and sailed to Maui to seek out the annual humpback whale migration. We spent about seven weeks moving from spot to spot on Maui, watching whales and connecting with friends from our college days. The time in Maui was magical because of the marine life and the time with our friends. However, the rules in Hawaii require us to move locations often and the winds were tearing through the anchorages with gusts often in the 40 knot range.
After weeks of bumpy roadstead anchorages and changing locations every few days, we were ready for some calm water and we were looking for a refuge where we could recharge in a peaceful space.
With that in mind, we contacted KYC and made a proposal with these things in mind:
~KYC had less traffic and fewer visiting yachts than usual because of COVID
~the KYC end dock was not in use
~we were in need of a respite from constantly seeking new places to anchor
~we guessed that KYC revenue was down due to COVID
We proposed to the KYC Board that TTR be allowed to stay at the end tie for a month and in return, we would make a larger than usual guest fee. In addition, if any club member needed the end dock, we would leave the dock and anchor to allow the member to have first use of the dock.
Our hope was that this would be a positive arrangement for KYC because we knew it would be a great relief and fun rest for us. Happily, the board at KYC accepted our proposal.
We are SO thankful that the Board was able to think outside of the box during these crazy times and allow us an extended visit. We sailed back to Kaneohe as soon as a weather window allowed!
I did not realize how much I “needed” one place to call home for a few weeks until we tied up to KYC. The sense of relief at being on a safe dock, the knowledge that we didn’t have to move for a few weeks and the immediate welcome back from the members and staff nearly brought me to tears!
I do not think the KYC Board, members or staff have any idea how truly grateful we are for the time we had at their amazing club!
During our last visit to KYC, Oahu had raised the COVID level to Tier 3 and as a result KYC was beginning to come alive! Of course there were still restrictions and limitations, but wow, it was so fun to see the members enjoying their club again!
The minute we retied at KYC, we were welcomed with extreme generosity! Some members offered us the use of their cars for errands, others invited us out to dinner, we were invited into peoples homes, I was welcomed on the tennis court, we cheered on sailors sailing in the Beer Can Races, folks strolled down the dock to say hello, and as boats entered and left the dock, we called hello to folks by name and they knew our names in return. How incredible is that?!
KYC has a very active junior sailing program led by Jesse Andrews. Jesse and his crew teach dinghy sailing in a variety of boats like Optis and BICs. But in addition to these traditional junior dinghies, the KYC has a very active group of WASZP, 420 and 429 sailors. We loved watching the small dinghies tack in and out of the fairway and we were amazed watching the WASZPs zip down the lane – usually up on foils and moving silently through the water.
It is absolutely impossible to explain how much of a refuge KYC has been for us during the Pandemic. Cruising in Hawaii can be challenging because of wind, waves, storms and the ever present 3 day anchoring rules.
It is equally difficult to portray the warmth and fun of the yacht club members. There isn’t really a cruising community in Hawaii and I dare say the KYC members and staff became our cruising family.
If we were living on Oahu, we would definitely apply to join Kaneohe Yacht Club. In fact, we tried to join as “out of town” members, but that isn’t allowed unless one has already been a club member for two years. Although we cannot join KYC, this club will forever have a very special place in our hearts and in our memories.
KYC stands out as one of the most wonderful aspects of our year in Hawaii. Every person we met there absolutely exemplified the aloha spirit and we were blessed to have been recipients.
Thank you for stopping by to read our blog. We hope this story of the wonderful people of KYC brightens your day and fortifies your belief in the goodness of people. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see our Facebook page or Instagram.
In December, we were contacted by the editor of Latitude 38 Magazine and asked to write a quick article about cruising in Hawaii.
If you are interested in reading it, please follow this link to read our write up on page 86. I hope you enjoy it.
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.
**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.
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.
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.
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.)
One minute before the lighting of the tree, a single Roman Candle firecracker was shot into the air.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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!
***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.
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.
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.
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!
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!!!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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We have had the pleasure of staying in Kauai for several weeks during the end of summer when the weather is perfect for exploring. The days are warm with a mixture of sunny and rainy days which makes for a nice variety. The nights are cool enough to be comfortable while sleeping without even considering the need for an air conditioner.
Combine great weather with the beauty of this island and the almost non-existent COVID cases here and we have to admit that we fell into a very fortunate situation!
Those who know us will not be surprised to learn that we have managed to stay busy and we have explored a bit of the island. Although we have only anchored in Hanalei Bay, we have taken TTR down the Nā Pali Coast a couple of times to view her beauty from the water. We have also taken several hikes in different areas of the island. And we took a helicopter tour of Kauai! So indeed, we have explored by land, by sea and by air!
Initially I was going to cover all of our hikes, sails and helicopter tour in one post, but there are so many great pictures that I am spreading the information over several posts.
Let me begin by sharing just two photos from our sailing trip down the Nā Pali Coast since I have already written about that.
Looking west along the Nā Pali Coast.
From a sailor’s perspective, Kauai looks magical and difficult. I could imagine how fertile the land is in places and how available fresh water is from all of the waterfalls. Yet the sheer wall faces and uneven terrain look like it would be difficult to walk or settle the area.
A small waterfall near the ocean.
However, one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever taken, the Kalalau Trail, traverses this Nā Pali coastline for 11 miles. The complete hike covers five valleys, takes a full day and requires a park pass. However, the first two miles of the trail end at the Hanakāpī’ai Stream and park signs estimate walking to the stream takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
The beginning of the Kalalau Trail.
We were definitely up for the hike to the stream and set off at a snails pace since the scenery and fauna were captivating… and I had to try to get some decent pictures.
Most of the trail was shaded and easy to walk.
The trail was originally built in the 1800s to connect Hawaiians living in remote regions of Kauai and the beginning portions of the trail were restructured in the 1930s to accommodate horses and cattle.
Looking east back toward Kē’ē Beach where we started the hike.
Once the restructured portion of the trail ends, the remainder of the hike is a narrow, natural trail that weaves up, down and around. It can be very muddy and slippery, but fortunately we caught a dry day and the “conditions were perfect.”
Clearly these ferns thrive in the damp environment.
The views changed constantly as the plant species include indigenous and imported varieties. Combine the varied plants with a trail that weaves toward and away from the cliffs along the ocean and we were rewarded with visions that changed from land to ocean.
Looking west along the Nā Pali shoreline.
My Eagle Scout is always well prepared so we had plenty of water but we forgot to bring any food. However, Mother Nature provided an abundance of ripe guava along the trail and we ate a few of these to satisfy our hunger.
Frank breaks open a guava…doesn’t get much fresher!
These roots reminded me of hula skirts.
A perfect day for hiking and photographs.
Even though the trail was mostly shaded, after walking a couple of hours, we were a bit hot. Luckily for us, the end of this portion of the trail stops at the fresh water Hanakāpī’ai Stream. The stream tumbles around time worn boulders and ends right on the white sand beach where it meanders into the Pacific Ocean.
The fresh water stream winds downward to the beach.
Of course we took a dip in the pools formed at the end of the stream and watched the ocean waves crash against the cliffs and sand while we sat in the quiet water of the river.
Sitting in the rock edged pool at the mouth of the Hanakāpī’ai Stream.
If we had any doubt that the water was fresh water, the numerous tadpoles put our minds at rest.
No signs of transformation on this tadpole.
The last river pool and the path the escaping fresh water takes to the right.
The stream made a very definite path through the sand beach, flowing to the right, heading slightly downhill, then turning left until the tide crossed the sand and the two bodies of water met in the middle of the beach.
You can see the stream flow to the right and in the distance cross left to join the ocean.
We must have spent about an hour exploring the beach and wading in the stream. There were even a couple of caves along the beach that we looked into. It was a very refreshing change to be in fresh water and not feel sticky from salt as our skin and clothing dried on the walk back.
In non-COVID times, this walk is extremely crowded and is one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii. How popular is the hike? Well the Hā’ena State Park limits their day use permits to 900 per day!!! Furthermore, the site says the passes sell out quickly.
A helicopter view of Hanakāpī’ai Beach with an arrow pointing to the river on the beach.
I counted the number of people we encountered during our day. All told we saw fewer than 30 people on the hike, in the stream, on the beach and in the ocean.
Needless to say, we experienced the Kalalau Trail in a way few modern travelers have or will.
Suppose you sailed to Maui to find a safe haven during the coronavirus and realized that four people you knew from college lived on Maui. Suppose the number of COVID cases in Maui was a total of six on the whole island. Suppose the restrictions for gatherings had been lifted and the restrictions for inter-island travel had been lifted.
Would you invite those friends to spend a week with you sailing around some of the Hawaiian Islands? Well, that is exactly what we did last week.
Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki agreed to pack a few clothes and hop on TTR at Mala Wharf in Lahina. We upped anchor around 10:00 a.m. and initially motor sailed toward Lanai because the wind was very light. Once we turned along the southern side of Lania, we had a bit of wind and finished with a downwind sail to Shark Fin Cove.
Fortunately Frank had the coordinates for a mooring ball at the cove and after a bit of hunting, we spotted the ball and were able to secure Ticket to Ride in a lovely place. Although the area doesn’t look protected, there was a rock outcropping to protect the boat from swells. Plus the weather was very mild.
Shark Fin is a rock that protrudes from the ocean and looks like a shark’s fin. It is an excellent place to snorkel with an interesting rock formation underwater that attracts marine life. Some of us swam from TTR to Shark Fin to get in some exercise as well as check out the fish. Others took the dinghy over to Shark Fin and snorkeled from it.
We spent two nights at Shark Fin Cove. TTR was moored in about 30 feet of extremely clear water and the fish were so plentiful it was like floating in an aquarium! There was a small sea cave within swimming distance and several rocks that made snorkeling entertaining as well as refreshing. Early mornings were calm enough to explore on the stand up paddle boards.
Cruisers know that sometimes there are maintenance items that require a quick off-shore motor to clear tanks. This is a picture of Frank enjoying morning java as he waits for us to return in TTR so he can retie us to the mooring ball. Not a bad way to while away some time.
Shark Fin Cove was pretty isolated and we only saw one sailboat that appeared to be doing some day snorkeling tours and one fishing boat. Well, except for the three rock climbers who repelled down the 60′ cliff face, then swam over to say hello…. that was definitely a first! I wish I had a picture of those folks but I was coming back from snorkeling when we saw the climbers.
Our next stop was Honolua Bay, back on Maui. We figured we should stop back at the home island in case Dave, Nikki, Dave or Gloria decided they wanted to jump ship. Happily, everyone wanted to remain for the whole week!
Honolua was our first stop on Maui when we arrived back in April and it remains one of my favorite spots. The bay is wonderfully protected from waves and it is a marine preserve so both above and under water it is beautiful!
One positive aspect of COVID is that the reduction of tourists to Hawaii has lessened the pressure on the reefs. Locals are saying that the coral and fish life is improving quickly in the absence of large numbers of snorkelers and divers. Even compared to when we were in Honolua Bay two months ago, we saw an increase in the number of fish and turtles around the reefs.
We spent a lot of time in the water while in Honolua Bay snorkeling, SUPing, lounging on floats and watching dolphins swim through the bay.
Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Honolua this time was swimming with the dolphins. We saw them playing in the bay and quickly jumped in the dinghy to get closer. Frank and I had grabbed our masks, but unfortunately not a camera. We took turns using the masks and jumping into the water from the dinghy to see the dolphins.
There were probably a dozen dolphins on the surface but underwater there were at least two dozen more. I SO wish I had a photo to share, but at least the memory remains.
Frank and I are very comfortable in the water and didn’t think twice about jumping in to swim with the dolphins, but our friends were slightly hesitant. The look of wonder and excitement on their faces after they did jump in and see the dolphins was priceless. What a joy to share this experience with friends!
After three nights in Honolua Bay, we awakened at first light and sailed to Kaneohe Bay. We sailed along the north side of Molokai Island because the views of the island are very pretty. The wind was lighter than expected and the direction wasn’t quite what was forecasted so we ended up further away from the island than we would have preferred.
The sail from Maui to Oahu took about eight hours in winds of 14-20 knots so it was a very relaxed sail. Unfortunately two of our friends battle sea sickness so they slept most of the way, which is a good way to avoid feeling ill.
Kaneohe Bay is very large and we spent our first night at the Sand Bar. Our time at the Sand Bar included SUPing, swimming, hiking and generally relaxing.
Chinaman’s Hat is a small, sharp rock close to the entrance to Kaneohe Bay which can be “hiked.” However, the hike is really more of a scramble up the side of this steep little island and Dave, Nikki, Frank and I decided to try it. The view was great, but the hike up volcanic rock and dirt is extremely steep and becomes very slippery when it rains.
After just one night at the Sand Bar, we moved TTR to the southwest portion of Kaneohe Bay near the Kaneohe Yacht Club and rented a car so we could take a driving tour of Oahu Island.
We managed to drive most of the island and made a few stops at beaches and scenic overlooks with a stop for lunch sandwiched in between. (See what I did there?)
After eating all of our meals on Ticket to Ride, it was a nice change to eat out while visiting Haleiwa on the North Shore. This week on Ticket to Ride, everyone helped with meal prep and clean up so providing meals on the boat was not difficult. In fact, I would wager the food we ate on board TTR was as good as anything we eat in restaurants; and the view from the boat is unbeatable!
Here are a few more pictures from our day spent driving around Oahu.
I was a little concerned that this lifestyle would be too restrictive or odd and that Dave, Dave, Gloria and Nikki would feel really confined, but happily I didn’t sense that and no one seemed too tired of boat life.
Several times Dave, Gloria, Dave and Nikki mentioned that seeing the islands from the water was a unique experience for them and gave them a new perspective for the islands. Frank and I enjoyed sharing our floating home and perhaps demonstrating that we aren’t completely crazy for choosing to live on a boat.
Even though it has been decades since we have spent time together, these friendships, forged at Texas Christian University, melded as if no time had passed. We never broke stride and everyone interacted as if we had been spending time together consistently for years. Thanks for a great week y’all! TTR seems a bit quiet today without you.
Side Note: Unfortunately, Hawaii is beginning to see a spike in COVID-19 cases and once again restrictions are being put in place to stem the spread. In just a few days, the 14 day quarantine for inter-island travel will be reinstated; at least for air traffic. Luckily, Dave, Nikki, Dave and Gloria returned home before these restrictions were reinstated. We sincerely hope the virus is curtailed in Hawaii before it becomes rampant. In the mean time, Frank and I will exercise greater caution in our social interactions.
Several of the photos in this post were taken by our friends, and Dave S. was especially good at capturing fun shots during the week. Thank you for the pictures.
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