The preparations took longer than the sail; three years vs. a day sail. The weather was perfect, 20 knots up Kaiwi Channel and 15 knots after rounding Makapuu Point. Jim Murphy (no relation, just a good friend) and I started a bit late because of the weekday rush traffic, leaving the slip about 10 o'clock in the morning. Seamar Mhuire my Cal 36 had not been out in a long time and it took a bit of effort to sort out the details. We were having a little
problem with the jiffy reefing; there was one reef already in place but the cringle rope was loose and it pulled so hard that the extra nylon around the boom ripped apart. About the time we got everything under control we noticed that the front hatch had not been closed, much less dogged down. It wasn't too bad. Some spray below, enough water to soak up a couple of sponge loads, but the V-berth didn't get wet so we got lucky.
We rounded Makapuu Point about 1:00 pm. It always seems that you get most of the way to Molokai before you can cut back on a starboard tack. I missed rounding the Point by a quarter mile but another hour to starboard and we cleared easily. I had forgotten how many small rocks and basalt islets there are on the windward side between Makapuu and Mokumanu Island. It is a beautiful coast to sail.
We arrived at Mokumanu Island about five in the afternoon, and we still had a long way to go to reach our goal, Kaneohe Yacht Club. Clearly, if we went all the way to the main channel in North Kaneohe Bay we would be very late getting in. Our option was the Sampan Channel approximately 2 miles past Mokumanu Island. We cut inside the large rock just past Mokumanu and started searching for the marker buoy. It was farther along than one would guess, but we were spot on with the course we had laid to. The sun was quickly dropping behind the Ko'olaus as we proceeded up the well-marked channel. The tide was fairly low; we had heard talk that this channel was pretty shallow for sailboats, at least at low tide, but we found the soundings averaged about 10 feet, with the shallowest reading at 7 feet going out the following morning. The channel has a white sand bottom and is at least 100 yards wide, straight as a string and well marked.
The sun had fallen away and twilight descended into darkness like gang-busters. There is a lot of room in Kanehoe Bay's southern basin and the Kaneohe Yacht Club did not show up in an obvious way; the shoreline was way too large for visual details in the fading light. With no indicator of the club's location on the paper chart, we proceeded under power very slowly, searching the shoreline. When we got close to where we thought it should be I called the club on the cell phone and was informed that we should see the red and green marker buoys soon. At nearly the same time Jim found an indicator on the chart plotter, clicked on it, and up came a detail which gave us the GPS lat/long for the harbor entrance and the course for the center of the channel.
We still had not spotted the buoys and proceeded very slowly ahead. Suddenly we heard that dreaded crunch of the keel kissing the reef! Nuts! We were lucky; it was only a brush with fate, not fatal. We backed off immediately and swung to starboard, and as we swung the two buoy lights appeared ahead of us maybe 20 yards away. The cell phone rang, and on the other end was Mike Morelii, the KYC dock-master. "How's it going?" says he. My response was "Well, we ran aground (poignant pause), but we were able to back right off. We see the light(s)and are proceeding up the proper channel." I am sure that Mike's breath stopped somewhere in that statement, as a call-out on a Wednesday night is not an attractive prospect. (Note: I think that the yellow security lights which glow out towards the bay are very hard on night vision and really overwhelm the little red and green lights of the buoys.)
We got to the end of the "G" dock, secured our lines and took advantage of the Kaneohe Yacht Club hospitality. We got to the bar 15 minutes before the barbeque closed, had a gin & tonic, a Mahi-mahi dinner, a shower and a good night's rest. The next morning we cooked ourselves some steak and eggs and had a quick dive for a look at the keel, which showed a loss of bottom paint a foot up the forward edge but no paint loss on the underside of the keel.
Again we left the dock about 10:00 in the morning, making several passes up and down the channel to record the required way-points so we would not kiss the reef again, at least not in that location. We went out of the bay under power to charge up the batteries in order to keep the beer cold via Adler-Barbour. Anyway, the trip out the Sampan Channel was almost dead to windward, our second excuse. Clearing the last marker, we hoisted the canvas and tacked off to Port for a couple of hours, then came back on a starboard tack to duplicate the passage right between the big old rocks just as we had come in. There is 80 to 100 feet of water through the area, and with 15 knots of wind the seas were friendly.
We set our course and let the new autopilot bring us down the coast, tweaking the pilot and the sails as we headed around towards Makapuu Point. The weather was perfect, the seas moderate. I stayed in the shade to avoid another clown face like the one I had painted on with sunshine on yesterday's arrival in Kaneohe. We rounded the point and set up for the downwind leg. Much to my surprise the autopilot could be adjusted to sail the Old Girl straight downwind. The addition of the solid boom-vang coupled with the patented Boom-brake seems to have eliminated much of the characteristic rolling and all of the mainsail surging caused by wind and wave interaction. We averaged about 6 knots with the main alone in the 15 knot winds.
The sun was well to the west as we approached Diamond Head Buoy. The loss of a cruising boat on the
reef here earlier this month was a reminder of just how far to the south that reef reaches. I thought I had the buoy in sight and Jim noted that we were 3 1/2 miles from it on the chart plotter; sure enough that was our mark.
We rounded the mark. The wind picked up as usual in the Waikiki Bight and with a full reach we ripped across the bay just like a horse does when it sees the barn. We hit 7.5 knots and then briefly teased eight! This is a great way to end a day-sail!