Maui – from a paradise to a hell on water

We made landfall on Marui two weeks before Carsten’s daughter, husband, and our two grandchildren flew in.  Viggo is eight and Frida is six, the whole family flew in from San Francisco to visit us on Maui.  Maui is the next largest Hawaiian island after Hawaii- The big island.  We’re on a mooring ball just outside the small harbor at Lahaina.  The harbor doesn’t have a slip for us and even if it did, the water level in the harbor is dangerously close to being shallower than our seven-foot keel.  It is not possible to anchor here since the bottom is loose coral bits topped with just a little bit of sand.  Difficult conditions to get an anchor to bite in and since there are mooring balls here – we’ve hooked up on one of those.  It is a bit “rock & rolly” here due to the swells.  Most cruisers leave quickly, not wanting to put up with the rock & roll.  We’re used to it from the year we spent in Taiohae Bay at Nuku Hiva – it was frequently worse there.  But, we still don’t like it.

The mooring balls we are on are owned and maintained by the Lahaina Yacht Club, who lets the Lahaina harbor administrate them.  The Yacht Club gets no income from these mooring balls- they only have the expense.  The harbor on the other hand, charges for them.  $10 per day per person on board and $5 per day for the right to land your dinghy.  The harbor is state owned and the state keeps all the money.  The harbor, by the way, doesn’t have any facilities for the cruising sailor who pays for the mooring ball.  No showers, no laundry, no dedicated rest rooms.  If we want to use any of that, we can dingy in and then walk the half mile to the Yacht Club, who graciously lets visiting “yotties” use all their facilities.

Highway robbery by the state government in broad daylight.


Five dollars to tie up to this old palm tree – yep – $5 – highway robbery

But we are in the middle of paradise here in the waters bordered by the volcano islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kaholawe.  The whales use this giant bay as their playground, maternity ward and mating space.  While we wait for the family to show up, we work on getting our new electronics mounted and working after the lightning strike.  It is hard work and only the thought of finishing keeps us in a good mood.  Well, that and then constant stream of playful whales that jump around the boat.  We hear them through the hull singing as we go to bed (how many people can say they have been sung to sleep by whales swimming past their boat?).  A couple of times we have heard them in the morning when we wake up (when this happens, you stay in bed listening until they are so far away you can’t hear them – this is an indescribable experience).

Wondrous to lie there listening while slowly waking.

In the middle of our morning coffee, two adult whales swim slowly past Capri.  Suddenly the female rolls over on her back, raising her fins up high in the air and the male swims over on top of her.  We can guess what is happening.  Here is the video and also a video of a newborn calf that just can’t get enough of breaching.


Maui was originally two volcanos, but through the eons, erupted lava has flowed down and hardened between the two making a bridge so now it is all one island.  We are on the lee side of the island where it generally is dry and sunny.  Occasionally, the island is hit by Kona winds, storms that originates near Japan and gather strength as they passes over the Pacific, finally hitting Hawaii.  Kona winds bring winds and swells out of the west.


When Paradise turns into hell

It is Saturday and the family lands late at night.  We’ve agreed to wait until Sunday morning to meet them since it is late and the kids will be tired.  The weather bureau has also sent out a storm warning – Kona winds will hit the islands Sunday afternoon/evening and last until Monday evening.  Here on the mooring ball, we can expect winds in excess of 40 knots and 3 to 4 meter swells.  Now what?  We can’t get into the marina and there are no protected anchorages here on Maui.

We talked with the Yacht Clubs Commodore about it.  She’s a skipper on one of the commercial tourist catamarans.  She says that all the commercial boats will take off and seek shelter behind the next island over – Lanai.  She also says that if we decide to stay on the buoy – we should stay on the boat, since we can’t be completely sure that the buoy will hold in the storm.

We’re torn by indecision.  Looking at the charts, we can’t see any place by Lanai where we can get Capri with her seven-foot keel in and be protected.  The commercial boats are all catamarans – they don’t have keels.  We finally decide that the best thing to ensure the safety of the boat is to stay on the buoy and stay on board.

Sunday morning we take the bus out to the hotel and tell the family that a storm is coming and we need to stay on the boat, so we won’t be seeing them the next 2 days.  They have difficulty understanding this – looking out their hotel window, the sea looks calm and inviting.  And it is – the calm before the storm.  While we are eating lunch with the family, we see the whitecaps coming in from the northwest – time to get going.

Meter high chop makes dinghying out to the boat difficult and hoisting Little Capri up on the deck and getting her tied down even more so.  After an hour of hard work in the ever increasing winds, we can go below.  We’ve checked the mooring ball and our lines running down to it and now all we can do is wait for the pasting we are sure to get.

As the old sailor saying goes when they see a storm coming; “Oh Lord – for what we are about to receive – may we be eternally grateful”.

We eat dinner and go to bed at 7:30 – because we can’t be sure we won’t have to be up all night if everything goes to hell.

It is 11:30 and I’m awake.  I can’t sleep.  The storm had hit us full blast – choppy swells running 3 meters are crashing into Capri and she is tossed in every which direction.  I can only hope the lines and the mooring ball will hold.  I don’t even want to think about what will happen if we break loose.  How will we find a new mooring ball in this and even more so – how will we tie up on one?  I don’t get a wink of sleep all night.  Carsten, damn his eyes, is snoring contently away alongside me.  I’m mad and envious at the same time.  As dawn breaks, I fall into a light sleep and get a couple of hours.  When I awake, I think – thank god, the worst is over – but I’m wrong.  The weather forecast has changed and now they are saying the storm will last until late this evening.

Our family is standing in on the pier watching Capri do the jitterbug our on the waves.  They’ll tell us later that several times they couldn’t see us due to swells, winds and rain.  Our son-in-law has told us several times that he thinks we should be locked in a rubber room for doing what we do – he will reiterate this sentiment several times over the next days.

That afternoon, I’m in the cockpit and wonder why there is a sailboat coming past us.  I can’t see anyone on board and she certainly isn’t on a mooring buoy.  I call Carsten up and he recognizes her as one of the boats that was on a buoy much further out.  She apparently has torn loose and is now going walk-about.  Fortunately, she didn’t hit us.  Our dinghy is still up on deck so there is no way we can sail out and try to rescue her – she’s on her way out on the open ocean.  We call the harbor on the radio and they send out 2 persons in a big RIB.  Even if our dinghy had been in the water – we might not have had enough engine power to force our way across these swells.  Here is a video of the rescue as they manage to get the boat back and tie her up on one of the mooring balls.  The owner had apparently left the key in the ignition, so it was possible to start the engine.  Kudos and a BIG tip of the hat to these 2 rescuers.  What they did was damned difficult and we hope the boat owners showed their appreciation.

Why did the sailboat get loose?  Because the skipper had tied the boat to the mooring ball in a way you should NEVER do it.  He had tied the line from one clamp down through the eye on the mooring line and then up to a clamp on the other side of the boat.  When you do it this way – it becomes a saw, chafing its way through the mooring line as the boat moves in the swells.  The correct way is to tie a lie from the clamp through the eye then back to the same clamp.  The do the same thing from the clamp on the other side.  Two lines are always better than one.

Here is a video of a boat that broke loose in the same storm and was thrown up on the rocks.  It is totaled and will never sail again.

Our weather forecaster, Windy, has been spot on with its forecasts.  Monday, just after noon, the storm hit us again, this time it is really bad.  The winds are en excess of 40 knots – gusting over 50 knots.  The swells have risen to over 4 meters and Capri is being tossed around like a rubber ducky in the bathtub.  We are really wondering if the mooring will hold up under the wall of water that keeps hitting us.  The next 4 hours are what Carsten likes to call “entertaining” and I term “horrible”.  The only good thing is it is daylight.  If Capri goes walkabout, we have a chance of getting her back on a mooring ball.  At one point, I stretch my neck to see if by any chance it looks like the swells are abating – but no such luck.  I’m ready to start yelling at King Neptune that enough is enough – we get the message.  In the middle of the afternoon, the Yacht Club calls to ask us how we are doing.  By evening, just as Windy has forecast, the storm abates and it is difficult to express the relief we felt.  Within a half an hour, the swells had subsided to “only” 2 meters and now it was a “piece of cake”.  Fascinating how the seas can rise (and fall) in such a short period of time.  We can now go to bed and I can catch up on my sleep.

Tuesday morning, the storm is gone and we discover that our neighbor’s dinghy is going walkabout.  Our dinghy is still on the deck, but a tourist RIB is passing and we call him and ask him to tow the neighbor’s dinghy back to his boat.  They do and knock heavily on his hull, but no reaction so apparently, it isn’t his dinghy – he must have gone in during the night.  We tell the tourist RIB to tie it off on his boat and we’ll get it and tow it into the harbormaster later.  An hour later, as we approach the boat, Dave, the single-hander sailing it, suddenly appears in the cockpit.  He’d been sleeping and hadn’t heard either the knocking or that people had been climbing around on his boat tying off the dinghy.  It was his dinghy and he was thankful for the rescue.  If I think Carsten can sleep – Dave must be unconscious.

After all this – do we need to relax poolside?  You betcha!


The trim muscular handsome guy in the middle is Carsten

We spend the next few days relaxing with the family at the luxury hotel (glad our kids make a ton of money).  A couple of days later, when the seas are calm, we invite the family out to look at whales from Capri.  Poor little Frida gets seasick and deposits breakfast over my dress, but later she is fine and enjoys the whale safari.


Frida and Viggo learn how to steer the boat.

Mom and Dad need a restful romantic weekend without kids so they are more than happy to “lend” us the grandkids for the weekend (Romantic weekend means that they get to have dinner alone and by eight o’clock they are so tired they conk out on the sofa).  But, the kids are excited to spend sleep on a boat.  A huge adventure for them.  Bigger for them than us.  We had already relegated Carsten to the quarter bunk in the stern and I was sharing the main bunk with the kids.  The bunk is good-sized, but not big enough for me and 2 kids whose squirm around all night, arms and legs flailing out to all sides.  By midnight, I’d had enough, dropped some cushions on the floor and slept there.  No seasickness for the kids, I’d crushed a seasick tablet up and fed it to them in ice cream (although Frida did think the ice cream tasted funny).


It was cool in the late afternoon – so out came the down comforters

A great weekend, we went on a submarine trip (131 feet down), looking at shipwrecks, corals and fish.


Our submarine – the Atlantis that goes down to over 130 feet

At the Maui Ocean Center, they have a TriMax theater and the film about whales was more than a hit – it was almost like swimming right alongside these giants.  We’re really proud of these two well-mannered and lively kids, but we did have to give them back to their parents.  “Bye-bye Capri, see you next year”, they shout as we sail them in to the pier on the dinghy.


The official family portrait – always gotta have one of those.

Fortunately, their time on Capri was quiet.  That night, after the kids are gone, we sleeping when suddenly at 10:30 BANG!!! Capri is hit by the aluminum ferry that is on the next mooring ball.  I run up in the bows with a panic fender while Carsten gets the engine fired up and backs us away.  How the hell did this happen?  We’ve been lying alongside each other for a month with no problems.  It is dark and there is no chance of moving before light so we end up taking turns holding watch throughout the night.  Twice we had to fire up the engine to back away from that damned ferry.  The next morning Carsten takes the dinghy around to inspect the other buoys to see where we should move.  I stay on the boat while Carsten informs the harbormaster and the Yacht Club.  Both are shocked, but fortunately, this is no damage to Capri.  Later that morning we move to a buoy further away.


The no good so-and-so that hit us


Maui is the island with the most tourists after Oahu.  Most of the hotels lie several miles outside of Lahaina, but despite this, the town is a veritable tourist trap.  Even so, Carsten and I like the town.  It has retained its charm since most of the older houses are still intact and any new house in town must be built in the “old” style.  Hawaii’s major source of income is tourism, but the islands are drowning in tourists.  Ten years ago five million tourists cam per year.  Now it is 11 million.  The infrastructure can’t handle all this – just getting rid of garbage is major problem.  The tourist boats have to make agreements when each of them will use the harbor, because there simply isn’t room for all of them.

A unique experience is seeing the sunrise from the top of the volcano – but so many want to do this that you need to reserve a time to come.  We didn’t manage to book a time so this is one experience we missed.  We did drive up to “the world’s largest crater” and while it is not one huge crater, but rather several small ones that have melted together, it is beautiful.  There are many opportunities to wander down in the crater, but we decided to pass on them.


The world’s largest crater

We drove back via the spectacular Hana Highway, a road that runs around most of the island cut right into the cliffs.  Huge waves pound these cliffs down below, throwing spray far up the sides.

Lahain’s “trademark” the past century is the Hawaii’s oldest and biggest Banyan Tree (Fiscus Benghalensis).  Banyans grow roots from their limbs and when these roots reach the ground, they dig in and become a new trunk.  This Banyan was planted in 1873, by the town sheriff.  They need partly salty water and therefore are only found near the coast.  Throughout the years, the tree’s “roots” have been trimmed and now the tree is a leafy cover for the park in front of the Courthouse.  Probably the most photographed Banyan tree in the world, it covers almost an acre.

Bad luck usually comes in threes, is an old saying.  First we had the storm, then we got hit by the ferry and now…………………  When we got out of the car that evening, I see blood on Carsten’s shorts and ask, “are you bleeding or?”  “No, I’m not”, he says.  Back on the boat, we look more closely and while we can’t any blood in his urine – there certainly is fresh blood coming out of his urinary tract opening.  Call our travel insurance that recommends a local clinic we can visit the next morning.

The doctor puts Carsten on antibiotics, takes some blood and urine samples.  Everything is negative, but the doctor thinks he should be looked at by a urologist.  There is only one urologist here on Maui and the waiting time is several months, so we decide to sail to Oahu.  As a result, we didn’t get to snorkel Molokini nor visit Lanai or Molokai.

Windy, which had been spot on with its forecast of the storm tells us that while it will blow hard this afternoon, it will die during the evening so it will be sailing on engine to Oahu.  We plan on waiting until this evening to sail, but by early afternoon, the swells are over 2 meters, choppy and we decide that we would rather be sailing in this than lying on a mooring ball.  The chop has crashed over our stern 3 times now, flooding the cockpit.  Enough is enough!

We haul in our lines and sail over behind Lanai to get some swell relief for the first part of the trip.  The rest of the trip was uneventful except Carsten came up in the middle of the night grumbling about how his night’s sleep was being spoiled by the choppy waves.  We were lucky to have such a good weather window.  The straits between Oahu and Molokai are infamous and many claim they are amongst the worst straits in the world to transit.  Here 3 straits, Pailolo, Kalchi and Kaiwi meet each other, each with its own current fighting the others.  The wind generally throws more “gas on the fire” and that means horrible sailing.  When we got in, everyone asked how our transit had been.  All the sailors out here have respect for this passage.


Honolulu is a big city – here part of the skyline by the marina

We’ve found a lisp at Hawaii Yacht Club, a small, cozy club with only 21 slips.  It lies next to Waikiki and Ala Wai Yacht Club.  The club has an active youth program and lots of members, even though there are only 21 slips.  There is a good restaurant with a lively bar, live music every Friday, a full kitchen the boaters can use and two grill areas.  The only thing missing is a laundry – but there is a laundromat within walking distance – you’ll hear more about this club in our next blog.


Back to Carsten.  The urologist concludes, after having performed a cistoscoptomy that everything is normal, even though like most men his age, he has an enlarged prostate.  The urologist sends Carsten to a CT scanning to make sure that there isn’t anything higher up in the urinary tract.  Fortunately, everything is clear.

BUT, the CT scan also shows that there is an aneurism on his aorta in his abdomen.  It is 3.8 cm in circumference.  Off to see a Vascular surgeon who assures us that this is NOT dangerous and Carsten does not need any treatment, including operations, at this point.  Normal procedure is to do nothing until the aneurism is over 5cm, then they put in a stent.

What a relief.  While all this is going on, the covid-19 virus is making its rounds all over the world and Denmark has gone into lockdown mode.  The virus has spread to the Pacific and everything around us is locking down.  At the moment, we are “stranded” here on Hawaii (ok – poor us!).  There have been lots of tourists here, including Chinese so it is certain that the virus will spread to Hawaii also.

Our concerns now are:

Is the health infrastructure here capable of handling a full-blown pandemic?

When will Trump realize that this is more than a “passing flu”?

Our visa and cruising license are valid until December of this ear.  The visa we can get extended, but the cruising license cannot normally be extended.  Will the Customs department begin issuing extensions?  If not, what do we do?

So, we have some valid concerns, but we almost certain that we will not be sailing to Alaska this season and are preparing ourselves for being on Hawaii for another year.  Our sailing plans have been influenced over the past several years by many factors we have no control over.  We have no idea when we can sail further –  all countries and ports around us are closed.  Even if some places open again – is it a good idea to sail there?  Finally, there are also hurricanes this year and Hawaii is a hurricane area, even though it rarely gets hit.  Our insurance does not cover us if we are in a hurricane area.

Final news – Hawaii is in lockdown- only the supermarkets are open, the Governor has ordered all arrivals to be quarantined for 14 days and is actively discouraging tourism.


2 thoughts on “Maui – from a paradise to a hell on water

  1. Join the rest of us. We are 2 weeks into lockdown. Be safe and healthy! Hopefully this won’t go on for too many months…ugh!

  2. Hi!! I guess we’re all in the same boat!! Oh! Please forget that bad joke!! I hope you are doing fine!! We live in Florida and the pandemic is all around us! Take good care of yourselves! I’m so glad that you were able to get together with your kids!! I knew Carsten since 6th grade at Clinton Township. I knew him as Philip. I am so glad that you are living your dream!! I really enjoy your blogs!!

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