Hawaii – The Big Island


First off, we need to understand some things about Hawaii – actually, there are two of them.  There is Hawaii, the state, consisting of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Kahoolawe and Hawaii (The Big Island) and some small islands.

Hawaii, the southernmost island is called Hawaii, but in order to know what everyone is talking about, it is called Hawaii, The Big Island.  It also happens to be the biggest island.  We’re at anchor in Hilo, on the eastern side of Hawaii, The Big Island.

The Hawaiian islands were populated by Polynesians that sailed here from Bora Bora.  They came here specifically from Bora Bora.  All the old Hawaiian chants say they were from Bora Bora and this is borne out by DNA studies.  The first Polynesians came approximately 400 AD, but died out.  The second wave arrived in 1200 AD.

The Polynesians lived in isolation until Captain Cook “discovered” the islands in 1778.  The first time he landed here, he landed on Oahu and traded with the native for provisions and water.  He then sailed north in an attempt to find the northwest passage through the Artic that would shorten the way from Europe to Asia.

The second time he landed in the islands, he landed on Hawaii, The Big Island, arriving in the middle of Makahiki, a great Hawaiian festival.  He was met by over one thousand canoes and treated as were he a god.  He provisioned and sailed back north but was forced to turn back by heavy storms.  When he returned, the Makahiki festival was over and he was met with suspicion and enmity.  Some of the locals stole one of his landing boats.  He, with some of his crew, went ashore to kidnap the local King and hold him for ransom until the boat was returned.  An argument broke out on the beach which turned violent and Cook was killed.

Cook’s discovery meant the end to Hawaiian isolation.  Whaling ships started using the islands to get water and provisions, as did trade ships.  Lively trade sprang up between the locals and the ships, with Hawaiians eagerly trading for guns and ammunition.

In 1790, King Kamehameha the Great, utilizing guns he had from the trading ships went to war against all the other islands, conquering them one by one, with the exception of Kauai.  Kauai joined his consolidated Kingdom willingly some years later.

In 1820 the first Christian missionaries arrived from USA.  Until their arrival, the islands had been a wild place providing rest and relaxation (read liquor and women) for the whalers and traders.  Honolulu and Lahaina were the biggest “relaxation” ports.

The missionaries managed quickly to convert many of the Hawaiians to Christianity, although most of them continued to use their old Gods if they felt they were more likely to help them.  The missionaries di the Hawaiians one huge favor by establishing a written Hawaiian language.  The Hawaiians had, til then, no written language.  Everything was remembered and handed down through chants; some over 3000 verses long, that children learned by rote so they could recite them when needed.  The Hawaiians were quick to see the merit of a written language and within a few years they were almost all literate.

In 1848, the American speculators forced the King to allow them to own land.  Until this time, all land was owned by the King.  The Big Mahele, as this reform was dubbed, marked the beginning of the end of Hawaiian independence.

At about the same time (and one of the reasons for the Great Mahele), the first sugar plantations were started.  Growing sugar requires many workers and the Polynesian population was greatly reduced by the effects of western sicknesses.  When Cook arrived, there were approximately 800,000 Hawaiians.  At the start of the 1800’s that was reduced to 250,000 and by 1860, there were only 70,000 Hawaiians left.  The plantation owners began importing Chinese workers as indentured farm workers.  The worker would agree to work on the plantation for typically 10 years and the plantation owner would pay for passage from China and food and lodging for the 10 years.  In other words- a form of limited time slavery.  Most of the Chinese workers remained on the islands after their indenture ended.  This was undesirable, when looked at from the plantation owners point of view and they began importing Japanese workers instead.  The Japanese were expected to go home after they had earned some money.  Many stayed however, accounting for the large proportion of Asian ancestry in modern day Hawaiians.  In 1893 the rich businessmen staged a coup against the Monarchy and the Queen was disposed.  The rebels immediately asked the United States to annex the islands, which it did, although some years later, in 1898.

When the WWII started and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, all the islands were declared a military zone and placed under military law.  The islands had been the United States major military base in the Pacific and served as the base for all military action against japan during the war.  In 1959, Hawaii became a state and was no longer a territory.

There is an Independent Hawaii movement, that claims the coup against the Queen was not only illegal, but supported by the United States.  The annexation of the islands by the United States was also illegal since American law requires that annexation can only happen after a majority of the local population, via free elections, have expressed the wish to become part of the United States.  No such referendum was held, making the annexation illegal.  The Queen (and later her descendants) expressed her desire to retain her Monarchy and independence.  The Independence Movement has won a few minor court cases in the US regarding this, but there is still a long way to go.  They want to hold a referendum, with voting limited to those that can prove their ancestors were Hawaiians before 1800.  They fly the Hawaiian state flag upside down to show their support of the movement and you see upside down flags may places.

So much for Hawaiian history.  We reached Hilo early Saturday morning after exactly fifteen days at sea. As usual in Hilo – the rain was pissing down.  The Customs office was closed for the weekend and with all the rain, we didn’t feel like getting the dinghy in the water so we could go into town and eat dinner.  We spent the weekend cleaning Capri and investigating what needed to be repaired.  Our wind instrument stopped working on the way up here ad our autopilot made many strange noises.  We also needed to get our engine repaired – it leaks radiator fluid and there was no place in French Polynesian that could repair it. Finally, the gas spring on our rod-kicker was shot and we needed to get a replacement.  Later we would find out that that list was woefully short – the list is much, much longer – but that saga will come later.

We spent most of Saturday cleaning Capri inside – mother nature took care of the outside by pouring a few million gallons of rainwater onto her.  We did have one “minor” problem.  Vinni and I never drink alcohol while we are sailing and we drank the  last of our beer and wine just before we left Nuku Hiva, figuring we could just stock up when we arrived in Hawaii.  But our dinghy wasn’t in the water and it was pouring cats and dogs so we weren’t going into town.  This was not a “minor” problem – this was a MAJOR problem.  Fortunately, Bill and Mary were anchor in the bay, owed over to say “hello” and when they found out we were dry as the Sahara, they immediately rowed back to their boat and came over with a six-pack and a bottle of wine.

Who says cruisers don’t take care of each other?

Thank you, Bill and Mary.

Monday morning we marched up to the Customs office where we were met by Inspector George Valdez, reputedly the friendliest and nicest Customs Officer in the United States.  The rumors did not lie.  Unbelievably friendly, polite and our papers were cleared in a moment.  One-year visa?  No problem.  One-year cruising license?  No problem.  Bang, bang, bang with the stamp and all our papers were in order.  We could then continue on to the really important things: where was the laundromat, where could we rent a car, where was the supermarket, how did the bus system work, where was a good place to have dinner and all the other necessities of life.  George was a fountain of knowledge and told all we needed to know and also many other useful things.  George was VERY relaxed.  One of the questions he asked (all customs officers ask this) was what fruits or vegetables we had on board (you are not allowed to bring in onions, potatoes etc.)  We said none (we knew he wasn’t going to come out to the boat to look), and he smiled and made a note in the papers.  Later as we were leaving, he said as an aside; Remember to eat the fruit and vegetables you have on board – don’t being them onto land.  He knew, of course, that we had some, but as long as they stayed on board, it didn’t matter.

Wonderful to meet a friendly Customs Officer and we have to say he gives a great first impression of the United States.

Thank you, George.

Thereafter we could pack the many, many kilos of clothes that needed washing, rent a car and drive into town.  Hilo has what may very well be the effective (and cheapest) laundromat on the planet.  They have close to 50 washing machines of various sizes and an equal number of dryers.  We washed in 5-6 triple load sized machines, dried in just as many and it all only cost $20, Cheap, cheap, cheap.  The clothes were clean too.  Amazing.

Car rental was just around the corner at a car repair place.  He gave us his personal car, a Lexus 4-wheel drive.  A true luxury tan – that rode like a limo.  As I said to Vinni – “I know that when we eventually get back to Denmark we won’t have  a car and if we do it will be something tiny, but you could sell me this car.”  It might have been as big as a tank – but it was comfortable beyond belief and got close to 15 kilometers per liter – not bad.

Hilo, as a town is uninteresting.  The most interesting thing is the Tsunami Museum, which proclaims itself as “the largest Tsunami Museum in the world”.  Otherwise, not much happens here.  It rains almost every day since the town lies on the windward side of the tall volcano.  The rest of the island has sunshine, but it rains here.

Oh yeah, I forgot – Vinni and Carsten have arrived.

When it rains cats and dogs, we stay in the boat (writing blogs and books), but when there is a day without pouring rain, we get out. One day we visited a coffee plantation.

We drove up to Volcanos National Park and spent most of a day there.  The last eruption was in 2018 and the lava flowed down the southeastern side, destroying many houses and roads.  The lava has congealed now, but the ground is still warm in many places.  These volcanos are active and have erupted in 2018, 2017, 2000 and 1993, just to mention the most recent ones.  There is an eruption every 15 or 20 years or so.


That’s the big crater in the background


This is what it looked like when it erupted

It is fascinating to see the sculptures that flowing lava has made as it screws itself up as it congeals.


The formations are interesting to say the least

We managed to drive most of the way around the island that day, which is quite a feat since there is no highway, just a 2-lane road.  The other big town on the island is Kona – on the western side where all the tourists come.  There are beaches here, sunshine and lots of beautiful golf courses.

We managed to get most of the parts we need for repairs, including the engine and we expect to finish repairing by New Years.  We still have our rig, though.  You may remember that we found out one of the strands in the shrouds was cracked and we need to repair that.  We can source Dyform wire here on Hawaii and there is a competent rigger on Oahu – so that has to wait until we get to Honolulu.

We’re lying very well at anchor here in the middle of Radio Bay.  Some of the other boats have tied up to the big cement pier with a Med landing, meaning drop an anchor, back in and tie our stern up to the pier.  But the tides are high here so you can’t tie the stern all the way up to the pier- you have to leave it 3-4 meters out.  That means you need to take your dinghy 3-4 meters to the ladder to get to land to take a shower etc.  If you need to get in the dinghy anyway – we’d rather lie completely out at anchor.  That turned out to be a wise decision.  A few days after we got here, some violent weather turned up a high surf and the waves came crashing over the breakwater (see video), throwing the boats up against the pier.  We lay quietly at anchor and barely felt it.  Everyone else has now put out two anchors and extra lines to land.


We arranged the obligatory “potluck” dinner one evening

A couple of days ago two Coast Guard helicopters began flying slowly very low along the shoreline.  They flew the entire day until dark and all the next day.  There had been a small craft warning in effect and apparently, someone had fallen overboard.  A couple of days later we found out it was a six-year-old boy.  A family had been walking on the beach, the parents took their eyes off the boy for a few minutes and he was washed out to sea.  The helicopters are still flying today – now the third day.  A terribly sad story.

I got started on looking at our autopilot.  After numerous tests and measurements, I decided the drive itself was the problem.  I ordered a new one, installed it and the problems persisted.  As I mentioned up above somewhere, our wind instruments had died on the way up here.  Our chartplotter had blinked off/on a number of times and “froze” a couple of times.  Our radar sent out alarms that it wasn’t working and our satellite telephone crapped out, as did our short-wave radio.

In other words – all our electrical systems either died or had a near death experience.  When I switched on the chartplotter as I was testing the new autopilot drive unit, it said “beep” and died a sudden death.  When we sailed up here we sailed through a lightning storm and you can now guess the rest.  We were either hit by lightning or a lightning bolt hit nearby and sent a gigantic electromagnetic pulse through Capri, frying all the electronics.  Our Pc’s, telephone etc. were in our oven, which acts as a Faraday cage, protecting them from the pulse, so they were unharmed.

Ah Shit!!

This will be expensive, but fortunately, we are insured and when we contacted Pantaenius, they stepped right up.  We will need to buy all new electronics for the boat (maybe the autopilot can be saved – but we need to test it when sailing first), the rest will cost around $8-10,000.  I’ve ordered new everything and will have to install it all myself since there is no one here on the island that can do it.  That has taken several weeks, the new stuff should show up over the next week or so and I can get started.  The most important installation is the new chartplotter.  Without it, we can’t sail to Maui and we need to be ready if a weather window opens, so we’re working like mad to get it on line.

At least we won’t be bored………………..

Anne Sophie, Jamie and the grandkids will meet us on Maui in the middle of February.  There is one small problem (aside from getting the boat repaired) and that is finding a weather window that will allow us to get up there.  It is only 120nm but we have to cross the channel between the Big Island and Maui.  The wind and the swells here are always big and small craft are always advised against trying it.  The long-term weather forecast says there will be a quiet period later this month and if it comes, that is when we will make a run for it.

The weather here has surprised us.  In Hilo, it rains most of the time and the high-pressure zones are constantly rolling in from the east, bringing rain and wind.  It is better to be on the western side (lee side) of the island.  I Kona, it never rains and when it does it is almost always at night.  The sun shines every day, temperatures are around 80 F and there is always a cool breeze blowing.

Hmmmm – well it is not like that here in Hilo.

Our New Year’s present was snow.  Not down here in the harbor, but up on top of Mauna Kea.  One of the locals told us he has a friend that drives up every year, fills the back of his pick-up with snow, drives back down and builds a snowman in his front yard just for the fun of it.


Snow – on Hawaii – believe it or not

To be fair, there have been a couple of days with sunshine and Vinni and I have gone to the local golf course and played a round or two.  Don’t ask how it went – I shudder even at the thought.  It has been a long time since we have been swinging the clubs, and unfortunately – it showed.  But, it was good to get out and get some exercise and swing the driver.

On our way to the golf course, we walk down Banyan Tree Drive.  These trees were planted in the 1930’s.  Banyan grow to become incredibly large and these are no different.  They have grown and now reach clear across the road so walking here is like walking through a tunnel.  It is beautiful and we come here as often as we can – just for the pleasure of walking under these trees.


The walk down this road is just a pleasure


This one was planted in 1937

There are many ways to earn one’s money.  Here on the video is a sequence of a man climbing a palm tree to cut down the nuts.  We saw him later in the Farmer’s Market selling those nuts.  We saw him often there.  Apparently, that is his income.

Each week there is a Hula show in the middle of town – we watched one day – no Hawaii trip without a hula.

We wanted to celebrate Christmas in style and since the sun was shining, we made a picnic lunch, packed a couple of beers and went to the beach.  Thereafter, we could sit under our umbrella while the rain poured down and eat our now soggy, lunch.  Yes friends – Carsten and Vinni have come to Hawaii, bringing Carsten and Vinni weather with them.  For dinner we had a steak with homemade béarnaise sauce.


The bearnaise sauce is homemade!


The steaks are on the grill – note the shorts and poloshirt on the cook!

It is not possible to source a Danish pork roast here.  Even a duck turned out to be difficult.  But we enjoyed it and were able to “get in the Christmas spirit” with our small tree.


Our little christmas tree has served us well these past 4 years

We went out New Year’s Eve for dinner and had plans to go to a nearby hotel to see the fireworks out over the bay, but went back to Capri and enjoyed them from the cockpit – front row seats and we had a small bottle of champagne.


A Christmas and New Year’s Eve kiss

The next day we could listen to Queen Margaret’s New Year’s speech (a Danish tradition), and later the Prime Minister’s speech (more boring politics).

Shortly after New Year’s it as my birthday and Vinni invited me out for dinner (cook’s day off!) at The Pond, a restaurant within walking distance (thankfully).  The staff sang a birthday song for me (listen to video) and Vinni gave me my birthday kiss (the cake with the candle is a present from the restaurant.


Note the cake with the candle

Mauna Kea is the name of the big volcano here, rising almost 4000 meters.  It is so high that there is snow on top during the winter.  Almost on top is a major observatory that has been there for many years.  When it was announced that a new telescope was to be built, major protests erupted.  The mountain is sacred to the Polynesian Hawaiians and they demand that nothing more be built there.  The protests have gathered steam and now they are demanding that the entire observatory be torn down.  We drove up there to see the visitor’s center, and by the turn-off there is now a large tent city filled with protesters.  It is really cold up there so living in tents must be a chilling experience – but they are not giving up.

We’ve managed to get the new chartplotter to work and the GPS so that means that if the weather window comes – we can sail.  The radar will have to wait – it lives in a cardboard box on the floor of the salon.  We are wondering if the autopilot will work as it should – if it doesn’t, then we will end up hand steering all the way to Maui.  The weather window is still on – so we’re doing everything to make sure we are ready.

We can’t wait to get to Maui – the sun shines there all the time and we really miss the sun (we’ve been in the tropics for too long, I guess).  It is also said that Maui is a paradise earth.  There is an old golfing joke that goes:  If you’re playing a round of golf on Maui and die on the fairway, when you get to heaven you won’t notice any difference.

Sounds good to me.

Finally, an update on our on-board mascot – the licorice mouse (remember her?).  Did she die?  Is she wandering around trying to go “cold turkey”.  Believe it or not, in Polynesian we found some Danish licorice.  When we saw it – we emptied the store.  So, she’s managed to survive.  Here in God’s Own Country, we’ve found some licorice candy here that believe it or not, says right on the front “Fat-Free Candy”.


note that it says Fat Free Candy

Fat-Free Candy?  Fat-free licorice?  Somebody has got to be joking.  It also tastes more than good and the Mouse has a hard time stopping once she opens a package.  She has, according to herself: “the backbone of a worm”.  She has such a hard time that she has forbidden me buying it.  If a package gets opened all I hear is the rattle of the candy coming out of the box, munch, munch, munch and then a small feminine “burp” denoting the box is now empty.

Our faithful friend, the ice cube-making machine is still with us, churning out cubes on demand.  Here is some good advice to all long-term cruisers – buy an ice cube machine – you’ll never regret it.


One of the most important machines on the boat – Warm G&T’s simply don’t make it.

As we continue our preparations for the run to Maui, we decided that our flag had seen its best days.  This is the fourth Danish flag we will be mounting – they seem to last a year or so – we fly our flag every day.  When we eventually get home, we’ll be able to fill an entire wall with our retired flags.

YAHOOOO!  The weather window has held – we sail in the morning.  We’ll write more from paradise (Maui).

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