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
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.