Arrival in Hilo
12 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
We've arrived in Hilo! We realized about 36 hours before we arrived that we'd actually have to slow down so we wouldn't get here in the middle of the night. We put three reefs into the main, with just a handkerchief of jib out. At the slower speeds we achieved, the motion of the boat became much worse. The seas were just as big, and we didn't have as much sail area or speed to moderate the rolling from side to side. As we approached land, we couldn't see it, because of thick cloud cover, but we began to have rain squalls every few hours. (Can you believe that between the Oregon summer and the Mexican winter, we hadn't seen a drop of rain since last June?)
At last, Monday night (May 9), at midnight, Craig and Jamie saw the loom of Hilo's lights through the mists. We reached the breakwater about 10 am on Tuesday morning, and then had to circle slowly around the bay a few times, to get the anchor ready to deploy. (We had stowed the anchor and its chain deep in the foredeck locker to achieve a better weight distribution for the passage).
There was a monster cruise ship in Hilo Bay. Our destination was Radio Bay, a tiny, walled in corner of the bigger bay, where we expected to tie up to the sea wall. The harbormaster informed us that the Coast Guard wouldn't let us past the cruise ship, because the 1000 foot security zone blanketed the only approach to Radio Bay. We'd have to contact the Coast Guard (by phone only, in Honolulu), to request an escort through the security zone. Moreover, the harbormaster wasn't sure there'd be room for us once we got into Radio Bay. As it turns out, the harbormaster had other things on his mind. He runs a small container port, and the sailboats are but a distant blip on his horizon. There was plenty of room in Radio Bay, and the Coast Guard had no problem authorizing us to cross the security zone; no escort required.
We were required to drop an anchor out in the middle of the little bay, and then back up to the wall. We threw ropes to folks on shore, they tied them fast, and there we were, 8 feet from the wall. Then we had to inflate the dinghy, and tether it to a line running to a ladder on the sea wall. We get to shore by climbing in the dinghy and pulling it along the line to the ladder. Hurray! We're on solid ground!
Craig went off to do the immigration and customs thing, and I prepared for the anticipated agricultural inspection of the boat. We had been told that we'd have to give up all fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. Having succeeded in making fresh fruit/veggies last through the entire 16 or 17 day passage, I was pretty jealous about giving up the hardy survivors. As it turns out, no inspector came, and Craig was told just to not take any of the food off the boat (except to the garbage can). No "international garbage" in 4 mil bags, as we had been told. It's just ordinary garbage. Just throw it in the garbage can.
We're under tight security here. To exit the port area, we have to phone the security service for an escort. They come in their little trucks, and drive us past the working dock areas, out to the gate. There we can catch a bus downtown. To get back to the boat, we have to show ID at the gate, and then catch the little truck back to the seawall.
Cooking was a real challenge on this trip -- very bouncy and rolly, and most fruits and veggies (as it turns out) are actually round or at least cylindrical. Not to mention slippery peeled hard boiled eggs and open containers of liquids. At times the counter seems to leap up into your face, and then dump all of its contents into the sink (if you're lucky) or onto the floor (if you're not).
We listened to lots of audio books, read lots of Kindle books, got a few clothes very salty, and took a few precarious showers (in the sense of being thrown around a lot). It's was mostly cloudy and colder than expected, with shorts only appropriate in the middle of the day, and some fleece at night.
Hilo is a lovely tropical town, verdant and lush due, no doubt, to the 200 inches of annual rainfall. We hope to spend a few days being tourists, although Hilo may be the only harbor where we can actually leave the boat overnight, at least until we get to Honolulu. Maybe the islands are so small and accessible that we wouldn't want or need to leave it overnight anyway. Of course, until Craig fixes the freezer cooling pump, we are tied to the boat to nurse the freezer.
We've been in Hilo now for about 24 hours - had a nice farewell dinner with Jamie, who's now off to see the island on his own. We ate at a lovely open-air restaurant overlooking a koi pond. Today Craig and I took all the accumulated laundry (there was A LOT) to a laundromat, by bus. The buses here are all free, although we know someone is paying. Friendly bus riders and the driver gave us all sorts of helpful advice. For lunch we found a charming Japanese restaurant, where local ladies, bedecked with leis, were celebrating their birthdays and Mothers Day. Found a beauty salon/barber shop where Craig and I both got haircuts, while the beauticians talked between themselves about family members, graduations and local gossip.
Craig bought a lovely aloha shirt, we stocked up on a few groceries, and now we're back on the boat, getting ready to host a few of the other boaters here. We're a small community in Radio Bay: there are five boats here, up against the sea wall. Three of the boats' crews had met together in La Cruz to discuss the Hawaii passage, before left Mexico. A fourth member of that group is due to arrive tomorrow.
Having a great time, wish you were here!