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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunset was an array of vivid colors that we enjoyed while sipping cocktails. We relished the quiet of nature that wreathed this 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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**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.
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We have had several people send us photos and videos of Ticket to Ride and we are always very appreciative of the effort they make to reach out to us.
Recently, Tim sent us a video he had taken of TTR as we were sailing out of Kaneohe Bay. The video was great and we definitely wanted to share his excellent video, so we asked Mae and Tommy to help us. Fortunately they were willing to teach us about editing video and contribute some of their own shots.
The resulting video if a compilation of Tim’s video, Mae’s videos, Tommy’s videos and maybe just a tiny bit of our own.
I hope you enjoyed seeing this glimpse of life aboard TTR. Our normal, non-COVID travel locations limit our uploading ability so we rarely share video. We would like to hear what you think of this one.