Big Hawaii and Hilo
27 July 2017 | Reeds Bay, Hilo, Hawaii
Emerald arrived into Hilo Bay at 03:00 on 9th July. While there was a lot of city lights impeding a clear view of the entrance marker buoys at night, as we got closer the flashing reds and greens became apparent and we found our way safely thru the channel and into Reed's Bay. We found our Navionic charts very accurate here. Seabed holding has been reported to be poor due to a layer of mud/sand over lava beds however we seemed to have managed to get a good grip on our first attempt. There are about 10 boats on private moorings here and a few others anchored.
The following day after a few hours kip we headed over to see George Valdez at US Customs who cleared us in - single stop for customs, immigration and agriculture - and without a boat inspection, in our case. We thought about anchoring or tying up alongside at Radio Bay but decided against that and remained in Reed's Bay. However we did use Radio Bay to locked it off our dinghy at the canoe club while we explored Hawaii. Being in Reed's Bay, a different jurisdiction than Radio Bay, we had to register with the Reed's Bay harbor master and paid approx $7 per day for our stay. We needed to take on fuel before heading to Canada and found that the fuel delivery companies would only accept a minimum order of 200 gallons (we only needed 120gal) so I arranged with 3 other yachts to take fuel and we eventually had an order over 400 gallons. Bunkering was arranged with Big Island Energy (price: USD3.68/gal) and I coordinated with Radio Bay's harbor master to get the four yachts in for loading. This went very well and everyone was cooperative.
Hilo and Big Hawaii has been a nice stop. We rented a car at Alamo Rent a Car and got one of their 'deals' of about 50% off the regular price and I guess we made an impression on the agent as we chatted away as he made sure we got a new compact car. Nice wheels! So having the car for 2 weeks allowed us to get all around Hawaii, Volcano Nat'l Park, Volcano Winery (a small hobby winery with some interesting wine varieties), Ka'u Coffee Mill and macadamia plantation, museums, the many waterfalls, the beautiful Kona region, remote walks where we came across egg laying leatherback turtles resting and basking in the sun before heading back to sea, etc.... and to Walmart for our Veziron wifi device ($30) and topped it up with data ($10 per 10GB). We also got a Verizon mobile phone for $10+30 that includes unlimited calls and SMS's anywhere in the US for 30 days. Also a lot of trips to Starbucks for a great coffee and fast internet. The large Safeway, Foodland or KTA restocked us with provisions (though its quite difficult to find any 'edible and healthy' food at these places) and the Farmer's Market in Hilo on Wednesdays and Saturday's stocked us with local fruit and veg (non-GMO).
We met fellow cruisers from SV Julia in their beautiful new Fontaine Pajot Helia and Erin and Simon in their 1958 wooden sloop they refurbished and sailed from Vancouver which took them 30 days - they near starved as they ran out of food and were saved by a few good fish catches.
It's hurricane season here in the east Pacific and sure enough while we were here they were forming in the east and heading toward Hawaii. The first one was Fernanda which was later downgraded from a Cat 3 hurricane to a depression and eventually when it arrived to Hawaii we had winds to15kts, increased swell with king tides and lots of overcast/rain for a few days. Before it arrived however I moved Emerald out into deeper water (9m; 19 43.877N: 155 03.665W) as the shelf that we were anchored on was only about 3-4m and would be subject to considerable chop if the winds blow up. And behind Fernanda came Hurricane Greg, Irwin and Hillary which, fortunately, all lost their punch before they arrived in the Hawaiian island region.
While here I ordered up some boat bits i.e. wind transducer, reef lines, new dinghy paddles, generator fuel pump. As we are transient and haven't an address we coordinated with the local UPS office and our shipments were sent here for my collection. Courier from the mainland to Hilo was done in an amazing 3-4 days!
As much as we would have enjoyed cruising the Hawaiian islands we were eager to get to Canada well within the good weather period between June and August. So we set a departure period of the first week of August to head north. Also, as it would be the Nor'easterly trades moving us along for the first few weeks, the further west one goes the more of a reach (wind forward of the beam) it becomes and less comfortable. Rose will fly to Canada and visit friends and family and I have taken on crew - two lads, Dave and Paul, from Vancouver that came recommended.
I had some maintenance and repairs to do. I changed out the first and second reef lines that were showing signs of severe chafe. Also replaced the aft boom sheave block that had a broken sheave wheel. I had a spare block from Martinique days that I refurbished so it was an easy replacement. Then replaced the Raymarine wind transducer on the mast top that stopped working during our passage from BoraBora. Then we went out for a spin in the bay to re-calibrate the nav and wind instrumentation.
Soon we'll miss the warmth of Pacific and be heading to the Great White North!