…The Adventure Begins …
When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I use to read books about the sea and the many exciting places where one could sail. I would often dream of sailing away to an exotic island that held the promised of great adventure. One day, with the prompting of a good friend, Susan Alexander, and a worldwide charter organization, Ocean Voyages, my dream became a reality. This Log is the story of a novice sailor and the ten fun days of adventure he shared with his shipmates as they sailed the warm tropical paradise known as the Hawaiian Islands.
Day 1 ‑ Friday, July 2nd
Its late afternoon and we have just arrived at a beautiful sun filled cove where we will anchor for the night. Above me, the loud voices of the crew signal the excitement of our arrival so I hurry topside to see what could invoke such a reaction. The soft afternoon sunlight reveals a landscape of lush green landscape still untouched by man and a gentle sea breeze softly caresses my skin as it flows into the billowing white sails. Below the boat, the turquoise ocean is like a liquid gemstone in constant rhythmic movement against the shore. We waste little time dropping the anchor then secure the boat for an overnight stay. The drone of the crashing surf on the beach adds to the relaxation of the rocking sailboat, but everyone finds a sudden burst of energy at the prospect of snorkeling in such a magnificent setting.
The next order of business is to choose someone to remain on the boat to help insure the safety of those in the water. The captain produces the duty roster and the name at the top is mine. Rats, Like it or not, I will have to stand the first watch.
I look on with envy as my shipmates adjust their snorkel equipment then plunge into the clear water. I peer into the water to watch the others head for a coral reef about 100 yards away. Alone on the deck I feel like a jilted groom left standing at the altar. I really wish I were out there with them.
Suddenly, my spirits improve when it occurs to me that I can take a quick dip to cool off then climb back aboard before anyone even knows I was in the water. No one can see me so I take a deep breath and dive. The water has the desired cooling effect upon me as I glide effortlessly toward the bottom of this beautiful aquatic world. The pastel blue and green watercolors fill my senses and add another dimension to this underwater paradise, but before I can climb back aboard to resume my post, I see someone swimming toward me. From this distance, I cannot tell who it is, but it does not matter. It is just my luck to be caught goofing off while I am supposed to be keeping an eye on things. Maybe I will have to walk the plank for leaving my post.
My cavalier attitude quickly changes when the clear water allows me to recognize the unmistakable shape of a shark. I had seen the Hollywood versions of shark encounters and there were times when I had thought about just such a moment as this, but I am truly not prepared to deal with the menacing specter of the approaching shark. What do I do now? The thought that I should not be diving alone crosses my mind, but it is a little late for that now.
I may be a city boy, but with that shark heading toward me, I know that I must get out of the water. The situation is rapidly becoming even more desperate as the tightness in my chest signals that I also have an urgent need for air. I think about trying to signal the others, but they are too far away to help me. No time to dwell upon it, I must have air so I head for the surface.
Fear prevents me from taking my eyes off the shark–even for a second. With my total concentration on the shark, I crash headfirst into the bottom of the boat. I become disoriented and there is a loud buzzing in my ears. Is this the way it is going to end for me?
The approaching shark and everything else around me begins to fade rapidly as the buzzing fills my ears. In my lightheaded condition, I realize that my options are few so I decide to do what anyone in my situation would no doubt do–I reach over and turn off the alarm.
Through two squinting eyes, I glance over at the clock and manage to see that it is 5:30 in the morning. The events of my dream have my heart beating rapidly as I drag myself out of bed and stumble to the shower. The dream is still fresh in my mind so I inspect the showerhead for signs of shark activity. In a few hours, I will be in Hawaii sailing among the islands the wonderful tropical paradise–my dreams of adventure will turn real.
The Real Thing
The jumbo jet roars down the runway and leaps into the cold San Francisco fog as we begin the search for the warm breezes of Hawaii. The spirits of everyone on board are already higher than the plane will ever get. Four minutes into the flight, the Farallon Islands appear below us. They are located 26 miles off the San Francisco coast. It is said that the largest collection of Great White Sharks in the world to be around this island. They are attracted by the large heard of sea lions living in on the islands. Sadly, several years ago the Government dumped radioactive waste material in the water close to the shores of these islands and some people claim that the fish in the area actually glow in the dark. I hope the return flight is at night so I can see if this is true. Okay, what I really hope is that the marine life around these islands is not adversely affected. Dumping radioactive waste here was a foolish act of man.
The in‑flight movie is not quite over when I feel our flying theater slow and start its controlled fall from the sky. I raise the shade, and to my delight, I see Honolulu below. Because I am sitting on the right side of the plane, I have an excellent view of Waikiki Beach. From my vantage point, the island of Oahu (OH‑WAH‑WHO) looks like a sparkling green gemstone set in the blue Pacific Ocean. I will soon know that ocean a little better.
I am amazed that the real water looks even better than the water I conjured up in my dream. I stare at the island below and I wonder if somewhere among all the people down there is a person about 4 feet 6 inches tall ringing a bell and yelling “Da Plane-‑Da Plane.” (Sorry, my mind just works that way.) The captain interrupts my thoughts with the announcement that Honolulu is directly below us. This brings on cheering and applause from the passengers and makes the flight seem more like a sporting event than an airplane ride.
I spend the first two days relaxing at the world famous Waikiki Beach. I do my best to avoid acting like a tourist, but I finally give in to the routine of taking pictures of the sights (mostly of the bikini-clad girls on the beach.) Finally, it is time to fly to the island of Molokai where I will join the 50-foot sailing vessel, Super Star to begin the cruise around the Islands.
Within three minutes of calling a cab, it arrives. The driver is extremely knowledgeable about the island and he keeps up a running commentary as we roll through the heavy Honolulu traffic. I told him I was in a hurry to get to the airport and apparently; he has taken it to heart. From my back seat view, it appears that we are about to set a world speed record from Waikiki Beach to the Honolulu Airport. If we arrive in one piece, there will be a nice tip for this fellow. In the blur outside the window of the speeding cab, I notice that parts of Honolulu look just like any other big city. This is disappointing to me because I only want to see paradise. Sadly, before my encounter with Hawaii is over, I will learn that the early explorers and the missionaries almost destroyed these beautiful islands and the wonderful people who lived in childlike happiness here. Leave it to man to screw up a natural Paradise.
I came to Hawaii to sail, but once again I am in an airplane. This time my destination is the island of Molokai (MO‑LO‑KI‑E) and my rendezvous with Super Star. As we taxi out for takeoff a voice comes over the public address system. “Our flight time to Molokai is twenty minutes. “Your Captain today is Fred Sorenson. He may look familiar to you if you saw the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Well how about that–he is indeed the same person who flew the plane in the movie. The jungle scenes were filmed on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. (KA-WHY-EE)
The flight from Oahu to Molokai is only 20 minutes so we stay low. When we reach Molokai we are flying very low, and it seems like we are actually following a dirt road. To the delight of everyone on board, Captain Sorenson keeps us entertained as he describes the passing scene below. Like school kids on their first field trip, many people have their noses pressed against the windows of the plane. They are in awe of this unique opportunity. No doubt, this is the first time many of them have flown so close to the ground. I am having a great time and it occurs to me that this would be a fantastic way to see all of the Islands. Suddenly we are on the ground and I cannot recall a shorter 20 minutes in my life.
My instructions are to rendezvous with Super Star at the dock in Kaunakakai. (Pronounced KA‑NA‑KA‑KI) It should be easy because ground transportation to the dock was pre-arranged by Ocean Voyages before I left California. However, once I get into the terminal it does take me a while to figure out my next move. I wander around for a bit not sure whom I am to contact, but while I am wandering, a very large Hawaiian man approaches me and asks, “Are you Jim Sears?” “Jim Sayers,” I quickly correct. “Mr. Sayers, I have been hired to take you to the harbor. Your boat is Super Star, no?” I pause for a moment; surprised to hear my name spoken by someone I have never met before in a place that I have never been before. “Why yes, yes it is,” I reply. I am impressed that he knows about the boat and he knows me. I am also quite impressed at how Ocean Voyages has made the connections so easy for me. The large man picks up my heavy bag as if it was empty and instructs me to follow him to the van parked outside. Now my only concern is, how will I locate Super Star among all the yachts in the harbor?
Inside the van, I quickly realize that I am riding with the same people that were aboard my flight. Everyone except for me is going to the Sheraton Hotel. (The largest hotel on Molokai) Without prompting, the driver provides a mini tour of the sights we are passing. However, at one point, we have four cars in front of our van and the driver is beside himself because of the “traffic jam”. Is this guy for real? Everyone in the van is in hysterics because of his reaction to only four cars. I ask him if he has ever been to the mainland and he tells me that he has not. Then with an almost strange sense of pride, he also tells us that he has never even been to any of the other Hawaiian Islands. It is hard for those of us who just traveled thousands of miles to be in Hawaii to understand why this man (in his late 30’s) has never even ventured the short distance to Honolulu. As my odyssey unfolds, I will encounter several Hawaiian people who have never been off the island of their birth. I guess when you live in paradise there’s just no need to go elsewhere.
As we drive past the lush green fields, I tell our driver and the others that I am from California. I explain that my reason for coming to the island of Molokai is to join up with a boat called Super Star to cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. The driver seems more interested in where I am from than where I am going. He asks me what it is like to live in California. In an obvious joking manner, I suggest to him that for a real thrill he should visit Los Angeles and find out. This comment starts the others laughing again. I enjoy getting them to laugh, but I cannot believe I just told this poor man to do that. Why would I tell anyone to visit Los Angeles let alone someone who is doing me a favor and cannot even deal with four cars? What would he ever do in Los Angeles?
The town of Kaunakakai looks much like a typical small American town. However, the dock is a different story. Except for two boats, it is completely deserted and to me, it feels like one of the most remote places on the planet. I laugh aloud when I recall my earlier concern about finding Super Star among the “hundreds of yachts.” At this point, I come to the stark realization that I understand little of what I am actually about to face and I feel very much alone.
In person, Super Star is even more impressive than the pictures I had seen of her. I stand there in a trance like state for a moment. While I am looking at the boat and the ocean, the “limo” driver grabs my attention with, “that will be ten dollars for the ride.” After a quick check of my wallet, I inform him that, in cash, all I have is nine dollars, but I do have a folder full of $50.00 traveler’s checks if he has change. With a slightly pained look on his face he replies, “Okay, the fare will be nine dollars.” How comforting it is to discover that I have arrived in Paradise on bargain day. This is paradise–right?
With a snappy “aloha” and a famous Hawaiian smile, the driver jumps back into the van and zooms away. During the drive, I told the people in the van about the cruise. I am not surprised at the look of envy I see in the eyes of the others as they stare back at the sailboat and me. A man in his early sixties gives me a “thumbs up” and a big smile. I can tell that he wishes he were going with me. His wife smiles too, but no doubt she is happy to be going to a hotel on dry land that has big beds and tourist shops.
I stand there staring at Super Star while a brisk gust of wind swirls around me. Looking out at the ocean I see it boiling with big waves and white caps. A fifty-foot boat is by far the largest sailboat that I have ever sailed, but it seems so tiny against the backdrop of the ocean. Am I really going to get on this boat and go out on that ocean? I came here seeking an adventure, and judging from what I see; it looks like I will get exactly what I came for.
I approach the boat but I do not see anyone. I wonder if there is a proper procedure for going aboard. To my delight a suntanned figure emerges from below deck and I quickly decide on a simple “Hi, my name is Jim.” “Oh yes, Jim Sayers, my name is Rob Barrell,” he replies. It is certainly uncanny how the people I meet on this island seem to know me. “Pass me your bag and climb aboard,” he says. “I’ll show you your home for the next ten days.” Ten days ‑ now I am convinced I am off the deep end. (Pun totally intended.)
Below deck, I meet Bill O’Donnell. Like me, Bill is taking his first cruise aboard a sailboat and he will be sharing the aft cabin with me for the duration of the cruise. My immediate feeling is that in the close quarters of the boat I will get along well with Bill. As it turns out, he is a very pleasant shipmate with a good sense of humor. Poor guy, he will need that sense of humor to put up with my endless string of jokes for the next 10 days.
I inspect my new home then go topside when I hear a car pull alongside the boat. A woman in her forties hands her sea bag to Rob then climbs aboard. She is sporting a pleasant smile, and introduces herself as Mae Silver. She is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and it is immediately obvious that she too will be an outstanding shipmate.
Last, but not least, I meet Linda Lopez, our cook and first mate. She is a “vision of loveliness.” She is wearing baggy pants and her hair is wet because she has just come from taking a shower. When Bill remarks about how happy she looks, she tells us that in a few days we will all come to understand the simple joy of a fresh water shower on a humid tropical island.
Rob finishes helping us get the rest of our gear aboard then announces that this is the group for the voyage and we are ready to depart. Only five of us–five people on a fifty-foot boat. This is indeed going to be paradise. Well, on the other hand, my shipmates have not heard my first joke yet.
The Shopping Trip
Rob reminds us that we will be traveling for 10 days. Everyone seems to feel that is a long time to be away from the corner store so we all decide to walk about a mile into the town of Kaunakakai to do some last minute shopping. While we are walking toward town, a car pulls up alongside us. The driver asks us if we would like a lift. Mae tells us she knows the gentleman driving. He is introduced to us as David–Father David, a Catholic Priest on temporary assignment to the island of Molokai to fill in for the regular Priest who is on vacation. Hmmm… He looks too young to be a Priest.
In Kaunakakai, we start playing tourist. We walk from one end of the town to the other. That is a short three-minute journey. Along the way, we stop in front of the Catholic Church and Father David indulges us by letting us take pictures with him at his place of employment. At this point, I am still not convinced he is a Priest, but he is for sure a fun guy. After the big photo session, we walk into a store and shop for the “few” last minute things we think are important.
Once inside the store, all of us (except Father David) are caught-up in a wild shopping frenzy. It is as if we have come under some strange spell. When I get to the check-out counter, I have a pair of Hawaiian sandals that Linda assures me I will need, five candy bars, three bags of M&M’s and a half a dozen packages of gum. I also have an ice cream bar that has begun melting down my arm. I look at the others and their story is just about the same. I cannot believe what is going on here. All I wanted to do was to buy some gum. Can it be that each of us secretly feels that we may not be coming back to civilization again? We are all standing there laden down with our “few” last minute items, and everyone begins laughing like crazy at this.
With our new purchases in hand, we head to the car, but we don’t quite make it. We discover one more store to ransack. However, this time we are much more controlled. I buy a can of pop and a visor for my sunglasses that has “Hawaii 82” stamped on it. Another visor has the saying “Born Again Virgin” printed on it. I hold this up to show Father David, and in a totally serious tone he loudly exclaims, “that’s not possible!” Maybe this guy is a Priest after all.
When we get back to Super Star, we invite Father David on board our floating home to check it out. Before coming aboard we take off our walking shoes so we will not scuff the deck of Super Star. It is in that moment that I become convinced Father David is a Priest. It is hard to imagine anyone except a Priest (or maybe a CIA Agent) wearing shoes like that in Hawaii.
Father David and I may not wear the same kind of shoes, but like me, he is quite impressed with Super Star. I ask him if he would bless our voyage, and (while making the sign of the cross) he immediately provides a truly appropriate blessing. Then after a short pause he holds out his hand and jokes, “that will be twenty dollars.” Everyone, including Father David is laughing at this. Yes Virginia, Father David really is a Priest. He is also a very nice person. We thank him for his help and his blessing then bid him farewell.
Before casting off for 10 days, Rob gives us a complete safety briefing. We also examine the navigational charts to get an idea of where we will be going. We find out that we will begin our journey by crossing the Kalohi (KA‑LO‑HE) channel to the island of Lanai. It does not take us long to find out why Kalohi is the Hawaiian word for rascal.
The briefing is completed and our departure for the island of Lanai is at hand. However, before we can depart we have a slight problem to overcome. Super Star is held hard against the dock by a driving wind and waves, and that means it will be hard to move off the dock. If we are to get underway, we must pull ourselves away from the dock using the anchor. In anticipation of this, Rob has set the anchor about 25 yards off the windward side of the boat. I am the biggest person on board so Rob chooses me to do the cranking. (Big people are usually always chosen to do this kind of thing.) On Rob’s command, I start cranking and the boat begins to move slowly toward the anchor. Linda, Mae and Bill cast off lines and push against the dock while Rob uses the engine to guide us away from the dock. With a final burst of energy, I get the anchor up and we glide free of the dock. I am exhausted from cranking and I realize that I am not in very good physical condition. When does the “relaxing” cruise actually get relaxing?
I am really anxious to experience my first sailing adventure on the ocean, but I have some concerns about taking on this aggressive channel. Rob gave us an excellent briefing and handled the boat very well leaving the dock, and I feel confident that he knows what he is doing and I relax behind that. The uncertainty about my first encounter with the sea begins to melt away.
We motor around to the calmer lee side of the dock to finish stowing the loose gear. We close all the hatches and I quickly discover that once they are closed it gets very hot below. Like people fleeing a house a fire, we all retreat topside to seek the comfort of the cool ocean breeze. I don’t really understand why we even bother closing the hatches. This is a big boat and the hatches are high above the water. My lack of inexperience with ocean sailing is clearly showing. My previous sailing was all on San Francisco bay, so I was not yet aware why one would want the hatches closed. I would soon find out why.
Finally, everything is ship shape (if you will pardon the expression) and we are ready to go. Rob engages the engine and we begin to move slowly toward the open sea. Our first task is to hoist the sails. As soon as they are set, they fill with wind and we make the transition from motorboat to sailboat.
Over the sound of the wind and the engine Rob yells; “Does anyone want to drive the boat?” Since much of my motivation to take this trip came from my desire to enhance my sailing skills so I yell out, “I do” and I move quickly to get behind the wheel. Immediately, I notice how good it feels in my hands. I am pleasantly surprised at the responsiveness of Super Star.
With the sails up Super Star leans to the side—a normal condition with a sailboat. It’s called “heeling over.” Now I really do not mind “heeling over,” but about the same time we begin to heal, we are being hit with waves that must be 20 feet tall. Oh boy this is fun–I think! Holding the wheel is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I do have something to hold on to, but what am I supposed to do with it? I glance over at Rob; my eyes asking for some guidance, but all I get from him is a reassuring smile as he slowly sips some Guava Juice. I smile back, but behind the smile, I feel unsure about my current situation. It is clear that Rob is on top of things so I relax a bit. In five years, I will become a Captain, but for now, I am in dire need of guidance.
The waves hit us broadside and it seems to me that each one is a little bigger than the one before. Most of them are only about six to eight feet with an occasional 12 footer thrown in for good measure, but to me they all look 20 feet tall. I know that this is Bill’s first cruise too and I watch him for a minute to see how he is doing. To my surprise, he is smiling. Mae is smiling too. I start smiling again and I even manage to hold my smile as I watch another wave approach Super Star. I sure hope this boat lives up to her name.
Window to the Sea
For two hours, I fight the sea and much of time the starboard side (for you land lubbers, that is the right side) of the boat is in the water. It is a good thing we closed the windows and the hatches before we left because half the time they are under water. OK, that’s it; I want to look at the sales brochure again. I do not recall it saying anything about sailing with the windows under water! My hands are getting blisters and I feel a little foolish about that because, just below deck in my cabin I have a brand new pair of sailing gloves. I bought them to prevent getting blisters. I keep thinking that I should go down below and get them, but with the hatches closed, it is hot down there. Besides, there is no way I am going to let go of this wheel.
Linda finishes serving the first of many snacks then she offers to take the helm. A while back I thought there was no way I was going to let go of the wheel, but now I’m thankful for Linda’s offer because I am really tired from fighting the waves. If I had more experience in these conditions, I would not be getting so beat up by the sea.
After having a snack, I find that sitting is just too passive for me. The challenge of steering Super Star is wonderful so I decide to go back to the helm. soon we are approaching to the shore of Lanai and I begin to feel a bit uncomfortable about maybe getting too close. I ask Rob for some guidance in choosing a course, and after looking around, he tells me that I am steering the correct course. This makes me feel good and I actually relax a bit. Clearly, Rob must be a great skipper if he thinks I am doing such a good job.
We round the West Coast of the Island of Lanai and that means that I have just made my first open ocean crossing. Okay, it’s not like sailing around the world, but it is a milestone for me. I feel good about the accomplishment, but I am really exhausted from fighting the ocean for such a long time. I am happy to hand the helm to Rob so he can guide us into a safe anchorage.
In the Lee of Lanai
We are safely at anchor in a beautiful cove, and now it is time to think about food. I am exhausted from my time at the wheel so I decide to take a pass on dinner. Instead, I stay on deck and drink in my surroundings. Right now, that is more refreshing to me than eating. I am tired, but I am also floating on air. The beauty of the island and the power of the sea have me completely in awe. The trip is already more enjoyable than I had ever imagined it would be.
After dinner, I invite everyone to come up on deck so I can make the first of several tape recordings. The recordings will help me remember the events of the trip and give me the opportunity to learn more about my new shipmates. I am so pleased that everyone seems to be such a good sport about having a microphone thrust into his or her face. After I review the results of our first recording session, I am glad that I decided to bring the recorder.
I learn from Bill that this is his first experience on a sailboat, and he tells me that he had some concerns about “going to sea.” I have more sailing experience than Bill so I am impressed at how quickly he has adapted to living aboard this tiny boat. On the other hand, Mae has been on several ocean voyages before and it shows. I can see that she is no stranger to a sailboat, and although I never tell her, I am envious of her sailing exploits.
After the recording session, we listen to the results and have a good laugh about it. I am extremely delighted to find out that Rob knows so much about the history and geography of the islands and that he is so articulate. Through the recordings, I will be able to relive this experience repeatedly.
The Night and the Sea
In Hawaii, everything is beautiful, but the Sunsets are magnificent. Our final act of the day is to watch the sunset then we go below and prepare for bed. As soon as I lay down, I discover that my bed is moving! How does one sleep when ones bed is moving? I am very tired, but the moving bed is such a strange experience that I wake up several times during the night. Every time I wake up, I poke my head out of the hatch above my bunk and look around. Now that may seem a bit odd, but we are at anchor only about 30 yards from some large jagged rocks and I can hear the wind howling through the shrouds. I can also hear the thunder of the surf crashing against the rocks. I am somewhat concerned about what I perceive to be a potential danger here. One time when I stick my head out the hatch, I see Rob looking around and surveying the situation from another hatch. He seems to be satisfied with everything so I return to my pitching bunk and rest easier. Although I have not been with Rob long, I can tell that he is an excellent skipper.
My Kingdom for A Mouse Trap
It is pitch black in my cabin and there is something-strange going on. It sounds like mice are scampering around in the same drawer where I have stashed my candy bars. Several times I jump up and quickly pull open the drawer thinking that I will surprise them. Unfortunately, I am the one who is surprised. How do they manage to get away so fast? Finally, I am just too tired to care anymore. If those mice want to eat my candy, I hope they all get cavities.
In the morning, Rob tells me that there are no mice anywhere on the boat. Well now, if there are no mice, then what was last night’s drawer pulling drill all about? For now, I will not tell you what I was hearing. If you do not already know, keep reading–I will tell you in part-II what I was hearing.
*** END PART–1***
Sailing the Islands of Hawaii by Jim Sayers
July 2nd‑16th, 1982
…Click Here for Part-2