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Old 09-11-2014, 17:10   #1
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Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Hi
Friends and I are about to sail over to Hawaii from SanFran and spend the winter there. I've never been to Hawaii and it seems from what I've been reading that it's not the best cruising ground in the winter months. Some say there aren't many anchorages, and the ones you can find are rolly and uncomfortable in the winter. Also that the winds, especially between islands, get dangerously strong.

I'm wondering if anyone has experience cruising Hawaii in the winter and can speak to this. We're in a 27' Pearson, engineless, and prefer to anchor out over marinas. We're looking to spend a few months cruising before moving on, starting on the Big Island and ending in Kauai. So we're looking for good anchorages, and general info about sailing in the winter there.

We have the Mehaffy cruising guide, how does this one hold up? Are there better ones?

Thanks!
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Old 09-11-2014, 21:17   #2
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Hurricane season ends at the end of November. Up until then there are possibilities of encountering a low pressure area between you and the islands. February is normally the worst month for weather here but this is an El Nino year so that might be different. You can harbor hop and anchor in some so as soon as you arrive to the islands give the harbor masters a call to find out what the local regulations will be for the time you are here. 808 933-0414 here in Hilo. Call ahead if you are inclined. You will miss out on Hanalei and Waimea this time of the year but if you watch your weather most of the other areas are open.
Yes, the channels can be very bad but on New Years Eve many years ago I had to motor across between Oahu and Molokai because there was no wind.
Good luck in your crossing.
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Old 10-11-2014, 13:14   #3
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Actually, the tradewinds are less reliable in the winter so the channels can have light to no wind conditions more often in the winter. You will have to contend with the occasional low pressure storm but you are typically looking at winds of 40mph or less and they pass through within a couple of days. Have never seen more than 3 days in a row without the sun and moderate conditions in our almost 40 years here. Anchoring is another story. The lows that traverse the North Pacific in the winter time send pretty good sized waves to us on a regular basis. Anchorages like Hanalei Bay on Kauai become untenable over the winter months. Anchorages on the lee side transition from rolly to very rolly. You can anchor out off the lee side of the Big Island but it won't be comfortable and be sure and anchor well out just in case to stay out beyond where they break. Kailua Bay in Kona has boats on year around moorings so anchoring can be done. Same goes for the Kaanapali Coast of Maui though probably a bit less rolly.

The big problem is the State Regulations. Officially, you can only anchor for 48 hours anywhere in the State. Kailua Bay, Lahaina, Keehi Lagoon, Kaneohe Bay where you can anchor are controlled waters so you'll need permission if you plan on staying longer than 2 days. Don't know how seriously the waters are patrolled and have seen boats regularly anchor in Kailua Bay for longer than a week. You can get temporary slips in any State Harbor, most are, for 3 months in any one year. If you wanted to stay planted, you could hang out in Honokohau Harbor here in Kona from October through March, space permitting. There are cruisers passing through who spend the winter here every year. That would get you through the worst of the wave action till anchoring is more viable.

Can't say you can't do it but Nature and the State Regs don't make it easy.
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Old 16-11-2014, 10:54   #4
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Thanks for all the advice and help! I've been watching weather predictions for Hawaii and it seems that the winds are much less consistently east than I anticipated. With that, I was wondering how realistic it was to plan on traveling east in the chain (reason being we have friends flying to Oahu but would like to visit the big island afterwards) during the winter months?

Otherwise I've been studying the Mehaffy guide, the coast pilot, and noonsite. Any other useful resources come to mind?

Seems like we'll most likely be looking at getting slips more than we first had hoped to, if they're available.

Thanks again.
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Old 16-11-2014, 12:50   #5
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Crossing the Molokai Channel is a slog. It's usually hard on the wind till you get in the channel between Molokai and Lanai. Conditions are never easy but it's usually just uncomfortable sailing into wind against current waves. Have done it a number of times in a 26' boat. Conditions varied from regularly playing submarine with green water over the bow, to just a bumpy ride to windward, to becalmed in short rolling waves. When you've made enough progress to turn south east into the channel between Molokai and Lanai, it's usually an exhilierating reach in lovely sailing conditions all the way to the Big Island. Hug the Lanai side of the channel unless you want to stop at Kaunakakai on Molokai. There can be a wind shadow closer into the Molokai Coast that makes for slow sailing. If your destination on the Big Island is the middle of the Kona Coast, the crossing of infamous Alanuihaha Channel between Maui and Hawaii is usually a boisterous reach. If you are trying to go to Hilo or the Northern tip of the Big Island things get a bit more interesting.

The return trip is mostly a reach with some great surfing. The farther north you leave from the Big Island the more free the wind. Have gone straight from Honokohau Harbor to Waikiki in less than 24 hours in our Westsail 32. Some of the best sailing ever.

Right now, the Trades aren't blowing and the winds are northerly and even westerly in some spots speed less than 10k. The area from mid Maui to the Big Island is less than 5k to flat calm and westerly and seas less than 1'. The trades are expected to return by Tuesday with the usual boisterous conditions in the channels with Northeast winds 15-20k gusting higher.

Have usually taken a couple of days to make the sail back to the Big Island. An overnight sail with a stopover at Kaunakakai, Lahaina, or Manele Bay on Lanai. You can easily spend a week transiting between the Islands there. Then across the Alanuihaha to Kona in a short day.
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Old 01-06-2015, 21:30   #6
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

I enjoyed reading your posts. I have been planning a similar voyage for the last year. I also plan to depart from the west coast, San Diego, and head for Hilo where I expect to stay most of the winter months. Then move east were we will start a return leg to Seattle from Hanalei Bay July 1sts 2016.
I have been studying the State regulations, I noted that any visiting boat & skipper staying more than 60 days in the state must have a Certificate of completion of Hawaii Boating Safety course. I just did mine at BoatUS.org, its free.
There are some serious fines for messing up coral with your ground tackle.
I hope to submit applications for Temporary Morring Permit to several DLNR harbors. Does anyone know if that will work?
Cheers,
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Old 01-06-2015, 22:01   #7
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Just wondering to myself why we haven't heard back from Steve Sailor since his last post here.
Steve, give a holler. Hope you're well.
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Old 02-06-2015, 04:03   #8
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Quote:
Originally Posted by northstarseatac View Post
I enjoyed reading your posts. I have been planning a similar voyage for the last year. I also plan to depart from the west coast, San Diego, and head for Hilo where I expect to stay most of the winter months. Then move east were we will start a return leg to Seattle from Hanalei Bay July 1sts 2016.
I have been studying the State regulations, I noted that any visiting boat & skipper staying more than 60 days in the state must have a Certificate of completion of Hawaii Boating Safety course. I just did mine at BoatUS.org, its free.
There are some serious fines for messing up coral with your ground tackle.
I hope to submit applications for Temporary Morring Permit to several DLNR harbors. Does anyone know if that will work?
Cheers,
You can anchor in Hilo Bay or possibly pick up a mooring for a longer term stay. There was also a long term side tie near Suisan when we were in Hilo but don't know if that was just a fluke or something that occurs regularly. Officially there is a 48 hour max anchor limit anywhere in the islands. The Harbor office can fill you in as the situation is fluid. The harbor office is a long walk or short bike ride from Radio Bay, the official port of entry. Believe you can stay in Radio Bay for a month but it's a commercial harbor subject to all sorts of Homeland Security BS so not a friendly place.

There are boats that spend the winter every year in Honokohau Harbor in Kona. Doesn't seem to be a problem getting the 4 month in a calendar year temporary mooring in the harbor if your boat is not much over 40'. A bigger boat may be an issue. You'll have to check in with the other harbors to see what their availability is.
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Old 02-06-2015, 11:52   #9
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Quote:
Originally Posted by northstarseatac View Post
I enjoyed reading your posts. I have been planning a similar voyage for the last year. I also plan to depart from the west coast, San Diego, and head for Hilo where I expect to stay most of the winter months. Then move east were we will start a return leg to Seattle from Hanalei Bay July 1sts 2016.
I have been studying the State regulations, I noted that any visiting boat & skipper staying more than 60 days in the state must have a Certificate of completion of Hawaii Boating Safety course. I just did mine at BoatUS.org, its free.
There are some serious fines for messing up coral with your ground tackle.
I hope to submit applications for Temporary Morring Permit to several DLNR harbors. Does anyone know if that will work?
Cheers,
Here's some numbers I have for DLNR boating offices. Hilo is 933-0414, Kona is 327-3690 or 327-3685. The area code is 808. Don't hesitate to call and if those numbers are not current then let me know and I'll try to get some better ones. I'll be going down to the Hilo office today and will check on that number for you while I'm there. The agent's name is Scott Pruitt.

This is still El Nino weather so watch the storms. There is one brewing just now that has 140 mph winds between here and California.

Hilo's mooring situation in Reed's Bay has changed recently and new rates are in effect for Wailoa small boat harbor. Radio Bay comes under the department of transportation so is a different animal. I don't have their number. Radio Bay boating office is pretty close to their quay wall. DLNR Boating office is quite away from the water (go figure!). This is a dig: their State lawnmower and equipment shed is right next to their only boat ramp in Hilo but their boating office is out of sight and a half mile walk away in the old courthouse building.
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Old 01-07-2015, 23:07   #10
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

Why would anyone willingly cruise Hawaii? They hate sailors there and do whatever they can to discourage you from visiting by boat.

The spirit of "aloha" has long left Hawaii and there are many more attractive destinations.

Having said that, we may one day go there but it will only be because it is on the rhumbline to somewhere better.

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Old 02-07-2015, 10:00   #11
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

I have read many posts here and elsewhere that express the feeling that Hawaii is not a cruiser friendly geography and culturally. Most posters give personal examples of their experience good or bad. There are probably as many reasons to go there as there are those who go. Here are mine:
1) I am interested in experiencing George Vancouver's seasonal retreat to Hawaii during his Voyage of Discovery. He charted the Pacific NW coast during summer months and retreated to Hawaii for the winter months.
2) The culture of Hawaii and people living it can still be found. One way to find it is by cruising because so many of the cruising locations are where Hawaiians are and cruising expresses genuine effort and commitment to every one you meet.
3) The challenge of getting there and back, the challenge of being there many months appeal to me. I expect it to be a difficult cruising area and difficult by virtue of man-made challenges. If everyone went there, I probably would be less interested.
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Old 02-07-2015, 10:19   #12
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

we just spent 15 days in and around all the islands. One thing I did notice unless you are in a marina the few boats I did see anchored were being beat up with waves. didnít seem to matter what side of the island we were on constant rolling waves and some days breaking waves. we did see tons of spots we said if we could get here with our boat that would be awesome but then looked around and said never mind.
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Old 10-07-2015, 10:36   #13
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

I heard a rumour that many cruisers (couples) give up the cruising lifestyle in in Hawaii after a long hard slog to get there and this makes it a good spot to pick up a cheap boat. C'est vrai? Where are the best marinas/areas to find those boats? Anyone know?
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Old 04-01-2016, 20:56   #14
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

This looks to be an old thread , but since we are in Hawaii now I thought I may as well post a reply.

We arrived in Hilo first and anchored in Reeds bay for a week. winds are usualy not bad there because the mountain keeps the winds diverted for the most part. but it can get windy and the rocky shores made me nervous, especially after hearing stories of the boats that ended up on them after storms.

Last week we sailed across the channel to Maui and now anchored in Maalaea Bay. it can get windy here also but since the wind comes across the island towards us it only creates a small chop.

The marinas are usually full even for visiting yachts so we are still waiting for a slip.

The big problem here in Hawaii is that all the marinas and shoreline is owned and run by the DLNR so you deal with the government on everything to do with marinas and moorings. And since it is a monopoly they do not see the need for much services or catering to the needs of sailors. even finding a marina that has a fuel dock or just to pull up and get water is really hard to find. Compared to the mainland, sailing here is more like a third world country standard for services. If I didn't know any better, I would not know I am still in the US.

Oh and yes the weather has been dicey to say the least for the most part although looks like it will settle down later this week.
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Old 04-01-2016, 21:50   #15
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Re: Cruising Hawaii in the Winter

There is a fuel dock at Lahaina. Turn to port as soon as you enter the harbor. If you decide to anchor there go to the north end of the mooring field near the big black can where the holding is better. You might prefer to rent a mooring from Lahaina YC - free showers included.
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