It was another Plenty Pupule idea to cross the Alinuihaha Channel by Kayak. I teamed up with Dan Roudebush, Hobie Fishing Team Member, and Adventure Island owner,who at 70+ years of age seems at least as Pupule as myself. We launched at Keokea to give us about the shortest distance and best wind angle to make Hana, which was chosen (Hana) because it would give us the best wind angle for our return trip as well.
Aug 19th 2008 late afternoon, we load up our Adventure Islands at Keokea and make the short trip into the adjoining bay (Kapania) to spend the night so we can be ready for an early morning start. Kapania has a bit of surf which Dan finds a problem with, surfing in and impacting his boat into a large rock requires a repair and an early use of some tools and spare parts that we brought along.
Wednesday Aug 20th 2008. Up early and on our way. the wind is already blowing and I've removed my Mirage (Pedal) Drive before we've even departed our bay. The water is a bit sloppy from the interaction with the waves connecting with the NE end of the Big Island. The farther we get from land, the smoother the wave action becomes. Only about 2-4' swells and the wind never gets past 20 knots (pretty much the nicest one could expect) on this crossing making for fairly stress free sailing. Still, sitting at water level, it is not all First Class comfort. The Adventure Islands are only slowed down by the boat bashing through the chop which usually results in a fire hose type blast into our chests or faces. We happily endure these soakings over the 6 hour crossing, then another hour after we reach Maui to get us all the way into Hana Bay.
In Hana we hook up with one of Dan's paddling friends who is kind enough to set us up with a great place to stay the night.
We talk with many local paddlers and get ourselves rehydrated and satisfied with a great dinner. We make it an early night and get rested up for tomorrows adventure. The forcast predicted fairly light winds on the way over but also increasing winds for our return trip.
Thursday Aug 21st The Hana Outrigger Club is up early for practice and we talk with them as we load up our gear. The winds are light as we head out of the bay but increase incrementally as we make out way around the Eastern end of Maui and it stays within reasonable velocity for the first half of our crossing. After that we are increasingly getting pounded by head high waves. Well when I say head high, we're sitting at water level so it doesn't take super big of waves to impact us. As the winds get stronger the waves increase to 4-6' which is still pretty reasonable for the Channel. The beating that I'm taking is pretty substantial however, and everytime I come have a wave coming over me and I charge right through it, I marvel at the design that is able to handle these conditions. I also marvel at the tenacity of Dan who at 70+ years of age is a lot more hardy than most of the population at half his age.
Anyway, we have had the Big Island in sight the entire way. Now in the second half of the crossing we are able to make out Upolu Point and try and head directly there to keep ourselves (hopefully) out of the compression area where the winds get venturied. But the Channel is not going to turn us loose that easily. As we get closer to Upolu the winds keep increasing, 25 then 30 knots finally holding consitent at about 35 knots. The boats still perform flawlessly but the sails need to be reefed extremely small. At about 4 miles from Upolu I see that Dan still has too much sail up and is completely out of control. I sail up close enough to yell at him which in this wind is about 10' to have any chance of hearing, and tell him to get his sail smaller or he's going to break something.
He's been having a hard time getting his sail reefed and whether this is due to the high winds or a mast step problem is unsure but after physically trying to roll the mast smaller by hand, he now has a problem where the mast has lifted itself partly out of the mast step and further sailing is no longer possible without doing a bit of repair work which doesn't seem like an option in these conditions.
Dan under tow toward Mahukona
I decide to get out my tow rope and give Dan a tow for the few remaining miles. Bringing the boats together in these winds and waves seems entirely foolhardy so I tie off my towline on my boat, sail up fairly close to Dan and jump in and swim over and tie off to his boat. Of course I'm hoping I haven't made any mistakes since now if the tow line breaks, my boat would be out of reach which would leave the two of us in the windy channel with one damaged boat.
So back on my boat and I'm towing Dan. Really tough with strong pulls and difficult steering with the high winds combined with the yanking from behind. Then I feel an unnatural pull from behind and look back to see Dan's boat is upside down. Not a good sight and I quickly douse my sail and swim back to him. He's not sure what happened but we righted his boat and put the collapsed ama back into it's open position. The Ama strut (which holds the Ama in position) has a compression lock which makes it easy to fold it to the in position or out into the tri position. We figure that he somehow he bumped his elbow into the Strut which compressed the unlock button, unfortuntately on the side that needs the stablility. One thing he did was a great job securing all his gear and he ended up losing nothing in the capsize.
So back to towing again and as we get closer to the Big Island we change course for MahuKona where we expect to exit. The swell conditions get more reasonable as we get into the lee of the Big Island but the wind doesn't let up. Dan has a small loop of sail near the top of his mast that hasn't completely furled and is causing steering problems for me since I'm not able to keep up my speed with his drag.
Finally, with the changing wind angle, it becomes clear that progress is no longer possible until we get Dan's mast completely down. The swells are now small enough that we can get the boats together and I can stand on his boat, and with the two of us working together, we are able to get the pressure of the high wind off his mast and get it strapped down onto his boat. Now the towing is not a problem and we are soon close enough to land that the wind is substantially decreased. We make our way the last few miles skirting the coast until we make it into MahuKona Bay where we unrig and pass all our gear up onto the concrete landing....
All in all, a great adventure...