The Extremely Safe Maiden Voyage of Cat's Paw  
 
 by Glen Pang  

 

I had always wanted to sail.  During senior year in high school some students started a sailing club.  I so much wanted to join, but did not.  Finally, at the University of Hawaii I took a basic sailing class that was also open to the public. I had always dreamt of boat ownership but thought it was expensively out of reach. The magic moment came when I was browsing in a boat classified ads booklet. "What!?  A boat can be that cheap?"  For boats under 30 feet there can be reasonable prices, less than the price of a car!  At this point I began the pursuit of sailing my own boat. While my friends were buying motorcycles, I had my dream.


 Her name was Cat's Paw, a Columbia 22.
  She came with a 7.5 long shaft Yamaha outboard.  The catch was I had no idea were I could park her.  The owner allowed me to keep her where she lay until a slip could be found.  There was so much wonder and nostalgia with her mooring place; a private property in Kaneohe Bay, with a cove cut into the reef near Coconut Island.  I got to enjoy the spot for about a month and while cleaning the boat bottom I got to know the resident brown eel.  I swear it was 6 ft long!
 
The time came for me to move Catís Paw, and so I made preparations for sailing my boat 35 miles around the south shore of Oahu to her new mooring in Keehi Lagoon.
  My emergency equipment consisted of some PFDís, a portable hand bilge pump and a mask and snorkel to swim to shore in case it became necessary to abandon a sinking ship.  I didn't like the noise and smell of an engine.  Worst yet there was a hole, or outboard well, in the cockpit floor for the engine.  But happily I sent the engine out for needed repairs. Good riddance!  Now I could have a peaceful and quiet cruise to Cat's Paw's new home at the La Mariana Sailing Club in Keehi Lagoon.
 
There were only two of us making that trip.
  My guide was the friend of a friend.  He was as young as I was, with more sailing experience than I had, and he said he could act as my crew.  It was noon by the time we shoved off.  We set sail through the Sampan channel and out of Kaneohe Bay, with one person standing on the bow to shout out "To the left! To right!" in order to dodge the coral heads.  The channel turned out to be a breeze to pass through.  It was a calm, safe day for the trip; the winds must have been NE10 knots w/ 3ft swells.  In the ocean off Kailua Beach we saw some whales.  My sailing companion wanted to dive in, to swim a while with the whales, but I was too chicken to agree to it.  This was my first serious passage and I thought there would be other chances to try some fun, risky stuff like dropping him off to go swimming with whales!  Looking back, I really should have done it.  It would have made a great story for future grandkids.  How I rode a whale for miles out at sea! 
 
It took 3 hrs. for us to sail out of Kbay, 3 hrs. to Makapuíu Point, 3 to Diamond Head, and 3hrs. to Keehi Lagoon.
  The wind died at sunset after we rounded Koko Head.  I suppose either the current or faintly moving air kept Catís Paw going at a half knot or so.  I thought I wouldn't need lights because I expected the trip would be done before nightfall.  So wouldn't you know it, in my expertly outfitted boat, I couldn't figure out how to get my running lights to work.  We were sailing dangerously through the dark, a 'ghost ship', watching the white lights of tug boats pass by.  Luck was with me.   Because I had taken my sailing lessons in Keehi Lagoon and was very familiar with the land marks, the huge white fuel tanks at Keehi helped me identify the harbor. As a result I had little problem identifying the Keehi channel that night.


Because I had the confidence of my youth I had no real daunting fear of the distance or danger that the trip entailed.
 I figured that many others had made this trip before and that this sailing passage was just another day sail, only a little longer.  In addition I knew the weather forecast, so I was sure the wind would not blow hard enough to interfere with our course.  I never bothered to map out the route because I was so familiar with the coastline.  I had been to each of the beaches that we were to pass en-route, had even been fishing on the rocky shore by Makapuíu Light House.  And, if all else failed I had my fins and snorkel.

The moment I remember most about that trip was landing into the new slip, at almost midnight, with the feeling that I was living in a fairy tale.  ďMy God!  Can you believe it!?  I have a sailboat.Ē Wow!  The freedom and exhilaration.

Looking back, I should have had more proper gear and safety systems before going out.  But I was young, bold, and audacious.  I no longer own Catís Paw but have many good memories of her and she taught me so much.  She was easy to sail and I became a bit of a purist, practicing sailing her into my slip rather than using that smelly, noisy outboard engine.