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zoof98 10-01-2009 13:36

Military sailing in Hawaii
I am a submarine driver who is relatively new to Hawaii (6 mos on Oahu) and new to this forum.

I am interested in owning a 30-35 foot monohull, but have more or less talked myself out of it for now. Most of the reasons relate to being in the military and living on Oahu. Since this forum isn’t light on opinions, I’d be interested in some thoughts on my “new guy” observations since moving to Oahu.
  • The market for boats on Oahu is very thin – there isn’t much to choose from in the 30-35 foot range as compared to shopping on the West Coast. Therefore, you have to choose from a limited selection of boats on the market or have something delivered from the West Coast.
  • Moving a boat to/from Oahu when you inevitably get orders to the mainland will be ridiculously expensive (if you ship it) or require time that you may not have (if you sail it). Additionally, it seems that the charter market here is pretty thin as well, so your option of leaving the boat in Hawaii and placing it with a charter company (who may not be interested in <35 foot monohull anyway) is probably not realistic.
  • The consensus view (not necessarily my opinion . . . yet) seems to be that Hawaii is not a friendly place to sail. Some reasons are weather/geography related and others are facilities/government related (lack of marinas, guest slips, etc). There are numerous posts on the forum that reinforce this theme.
  • The military marinas that I have looked in to, while nice, have extensive waiting lists for a slip (I might get Master’s tickets first).
When I go back and read the above comments, I think to myself, “this guy is only interested in sailing if it is easy,” which really isn’t the case at all. It’s just that the more I look in to boat ownership here, it seems like the best thing to do for someone who moves around a lot is to enjoy something else about living in Hawaii, acquire a boat during a mainland tour, and sail it out here when you retire. By then maybe I will be to the top of the waiting list at some of these marinas!

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

BadFish 10-01-2009 14:32

I just went through Hickam a couple weeks ago for some business. I work civilian for the Air Force. I was there for one day of work and four days of loungin. It was pretty sweet. I'm assuming you're at Pearl? I spent a few hours wandering the docks at Wakiki there, looked pretty nice. I'm sure it's pretty expensive though, but what isn't in Hawaii?

I'd buy a boat and live on it. Way cheaper than a piece of real estate. Take a week of leave and sail it from the mainland if ya have to. Plenty of Space A flights goin over. Then suck it up at another marina while you wait for a military slip to open. If you PCS or deploy, sell it.

I dreamed of getting stationed in Hawaii when I was on active, but always seemed to land in a sh*thole.

It's probably not the "smart" thing to do, but you only live once, eh?

Just my 2c, cheers


Celestialsailor 10-01-2009 15:21

Hi zoof...Welcome to the forum. You're right...We are an opinionated lot! I live here in Hawaii and I can agree whole heartedly that it's slim pickins here boat wise. Usually the boat is really tired from lack of maintenance and they want way too much money for them. Not much in the way of "descent" marine stores and berthing is too long of an issue to go into here.
The solution I found was to buy a boat on the mainland in a boat rich area (there are lots) and find a slip near an airport where Hawaiian Air flies into. Example:- I bought my Ingrid 38 for 1/2 of what they normally go for in Washington state in 2004. Trucked it to San Leandro Ca, to an inexpensive slip there. I later sold it for what I bought it for due to some issues I was having in my life.
Last week, I bought my new boat; a Rawson 30 Pilothouse for 30% less than asking price in New York and I am going to truck it to the central coast of Ca. where it is inexpensive also. You can fly for $400 round trip and stay for as long as you can. I'm not sure what your leave time is. Hope this helps.

Gudgeon 11-01-2009 12:41

Used booats are very limited here in Hi. Slips are hard to get especially live aboard.
The charter market is non existent due to distan between the islands, the type of sailing and most marina you are not allowed to operate a commercial business out.
I was quoted $20k to get the boat from the west coast to hi a 44 footer. We sail it over in 16 days.
There has been a lot of turn over at RBM lately. Mght check in there again.

Feel free to PM me.

Celestialsailor 11-01-2009 14:29

Most of the problem here is the local government. It is good old boy thinking with an Asian twist. Why they cannot look at the Caribbean model and know it could be the pearl of the Pacific, I will never understand. I guess where they are coming from is cruising boaters are low life that cannot afford a home. It's always been this way here. Our sailing club has tried for years to have a marina in Hilo. They just double talk us constantly. Hopefully a few others here in the Islands chime in.

SkiprJohn 11-01-2009 14:47

Aloha Zoof,
I pretty much agree with what Celestial says. You do have an advantage in that you are active duty military. There is Kaneohe military and as Gudgeon says there is RBM (Rainbow Bay Marina). I believe Ko Olina (civilian) might have slips available but they are expensive.
Please keep us informed of your decisions for our curiosity and let us know if you have further questions.
Kind regards,

scallywag 11-01-2009 16:40


The longer you can use a Navy vehicle the better financial for you. Sailing and Power vessels cout a lot of money.. Just think, you are getting experience with out the cost. In 20 years you will be able to buy a s/v and have a pension. Many of these folks are paying monthoy for their s.v and do not have a retirement income other than social Security. Just think theGovt. is about to do away with Soc. Sec.
My son is counting the days he can retire from the military. I will still be working.

BadFish 11-01-2009 22:31

For the hell of it, here's some pics of the marina I went wanderin through. Hopefully I got a member's boat on 'ere somewhere.



zoof98 12-01-2009 01:54

Thanks all for the thoughts. I really appreciate it. I checked my position on the waiting list at RBM today. I am number eighty something. The list probably looks longer than it effectively is since some of the people probably aren’t even on the island any more. Ko Olina is claims to have slips in their ads and I think there may be some available at Iroquois point, so it seems that the ‘finding a slip’ problem may be one of the easier ones to overcome.

Maintaining a boat on the mainland is something that I have thought of, especially since I expect orders back there eventually. I noticed more than a few brokers on the mainland that try to sell you a new boat and then list it with them for charter. While I’m not particularly interested in that route (no matter how big the tax deduction might be), it seems that there are plenty of examples of people who maintain their boat remotely and visit it as often as possible.

I did find some data on the military’s “opportune lift” program, which offers space-A shipping for cars and boats between San Diego and Hawaii. We considered shipping our car by this method when moving over here. I forgot that they did boats. I’d imagine that the service is only offered to people actually moving. (i.e. once your HHG are here in Hawaii, you can’t acquire cars/boats in CA and request Space A movement) I need to call and ask.

I plan on scratching the sailing itch for now by involving myself a little more with some of the sailing opportunities around here for non-boat owners. I’ve been here six months and haven’t even gone down to RBM to get checked out on their Catalina 27. I’ve also heard that it is pretty easy to get hooked up with a crew at WYC for racing, etc.

Thanks again for all of the thoughts!

awr401 11-02-2009 12:14

I am glad to find another active duty guy with the same idea. Go to RBM and take the class. I have been on island for almost 2 years and can't believe I haven't done it yet. I am searching hard for a boat. I want to sail one from CA to HI, but am rather novice and would have to hire a capt. My plan is to live at keehi on a mooring ball while i am on a list to get into rainbow, alai wai, or Iroquois point. Let me know what you decide I'll keep you posted.

Where theres a will theres a way!!!

S/V Elusive 11-02-2009 13:22

I think that you have thought well and hard and came to some good conclusions. When I was stationed on Ohau WAY too many years ago, both Hickem and Pearl had small boats that could be checked out (after they checked YOU out). I don't know if that option still exists or what sizes of boats Special Services have to rent. Hickem had a Cal 23 when I was there, they both had Rhodes 19s, and widgeons were popular.

My suggestion would be to take advantage of the rentals for active duty, and make friends with civilian boaters for that 'bigger boat' fix. :) One additonal reason not mentioned, would be that you have NO idea where your next duty station is (unless your sea daddy is running BUPERS). And, last I checked, Hawaii was not considered Hardship duty. :) And, FWIW, it is not 'downhill' sailing from HI to CA, and it will take a lot longer than a week. :)

Good luck!

Sea Maid 11-02-2009 13:32

I am retired Navy. While on active duty I had my name on the waiting list for marinas all over the country. Must have had my name at a least a dozen places, just in case I ever got stationed there. I checked in once a year and always kept my name on the list. You are a bit more limited as to where you will end up for each of your tours. Not to many places where submarines are homeported. Anyway think smaller. We had a Cal 25 sailboat, each time we moved the government payed for shipping the boat. The weight went against our household weight so we got rid of furniture each time we moved (dresser's, washer & dryer ) , heavy items, but you pick them up for pennies at garage sales, so who cares. We just kept our own mattress's and living room furniture. Just another option for you. We now liveaboard our Ericson 39B. Remember there are some great old boats that are plenty safe that do not weigh alot.

roverhi 11-02-2009 14:21

Many years ago when I was stationed at Barber's Point, owned a Coumbia 26. Kept it at Keehi Lagoon, lived aboard, cut my expenses way down, sailed it every day I could and paid it off in the two years I was stationed there. Sold it for what I paid for it and moved onto a Morgan 35 while I was stationed at NAS Norfolk. Had also paid for that by the time I got out, sold it and bought a Westsail 32 in California that we sailed to SoPac. By the time we got back to Hawaii some 8 years after I first put my name for a liveaboard slip at the AlaWai, our name came up for a slip. That was a number of years ago, sold the boat and gave up the slip.

Currently have a Pearson 35 in Alameda, CA. Fly into Oakland and take a taxi to the boat. Have a BikeFriday Bike Friday folding bicycles, travel bicycles and folding bike accessories for transportation while I'm at the boat. Slip fees are reasonable in Alameda, airfare is relatively cheap and expenses are dirt cheap while I'm on the boat. Have thought about bringing the boat to Kona but slips are impossible here so will leave it in California for the forseeable future. Only problem is my wife gives me a lot of gas when I take off for 2-3 weeks to hang out on the boat.

FWIW, there is a Corsair 24 for sale on Maui for $30,000. It's a trailerable trimaran that are selling on the mainland for over $50,000. Assume it's not ship shape and Bristol but a little elbow grease goes a long way to increasing the value of a boat. If the Navy would ship the boat, it would seem to be ideal as it's light enough to ship and doesn't need a slip.

Hawaii doesn't have a huge boating inventory but there are boats arriving all the time from the mainland and points south. The cost, time and challenge to sail a boat back to the mainland are big motivators for owners to be anxioux to sell here. Keep your eyes and ears open, you might find something that you can't afford not to buy. You can always sell it when you transfer.

BTW, a friend of mine that stayed in the Navy ended up being stationed here for more than half his career. You might find that you potential for an extended stay in the Islands, courtesy of Uncle, is pretty good.

Peter O.
Pearson 35

SkiprJohn 11-02-2009 21:49

I agree with what Peter has just said and I was stationed in Hawaii for 3 full tours. Unfortunately, 63-65, 81-84, 89-91 it just wasn't consecutively. You might ask why detailers didn't like me. Hawaii, to SF, to Florida, to Vietnam, to San Diego, to Germany, to San Diego, to Hawaii, to Washington State, to Norfolk and then to Hawaii again with WestPac, West Coast, Carib, North Atlantic and Med cruises in there somewhere. Couldn't they just leave a person in one spot for a few years? Oh well. After the last tour in Hawaii I stayed and have been here for nearly 20 years.
P. S. I forgot about Iroquois. That's the best kept secret ever.

David M 11-02-2009 22:13

Unless you use your boat all the time, chartering is much less expensive. You charter the boat for a day or a few days or whatever, and then your expenses are over...that's it. No maintenance costs, no berthing fees, no haul out expenses, no insurance premiums, no depreciation costs and no fixing things that eats away at your valuable time. Plus, you get to choose from a variety of boats. You don't have to sail the same boat every time. If you want to take out 10 people you charter a 50 footer, if you want to take out 4 people you charter 27 footer. Many people will also be more willing to help with the costs with a charter, because they KNOW it cost you money to charter that boat on that day.

I think that having the opportunity to sail on a variety of boats is reason enough to charter over buying. If you are not going to be sailing very frequently and I suspect you are not being in the military, then you are probably not going to have a whole lot of time to enjoy you're boat.

Thanks for serving! :)

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