Sad Hawaiian Update
05 February 2012 | Bodkin Inlet, Chesapeake Bay
Capn Andy/mild winter
There had been disconcerting news coming in from Hawaii. Our Patriarch, my father, was in trouble. He was doing well recovering from a stroke over a year ago and was getting around with a walker. He was still disabled, but at 96 and close to 97, he was gaining ground. Then there was a heart attack, a bout with pneumonia, and he was set back, but he didn't give up and began the work to get back to where he was. It wasn't to happen.
He had another stroke, this one worse than before. It was a shock. He couldn't talk or swallow. He seemed to lose ground faster than he could regain it. I was glad to have my brothers there in Hawaii to help him and deal with whatever was necessary.
It was awful. He died quickly in his sleep, but he had fought a good fight for over 30 years after having a heart attack at age 69. At that time he had a patch on his arm for heart medication. This is a sailing blog, so what follows is a sailing story.
My brother had purchased a small trailer sailer sailboat. It was 21 feet long and the rigging was flimsy. I had recently married and was visiting and noticed the boat in the driveway on a trailer. They were living in Puna, Hawaii. Hilo was the local city.
I admit I was out of my league at that time, in those waters, in that boat. We launched it in Hilo and made an excursion not far from the port. I had an opportunity to come up with a plan that calmed my nervous brother down. I made it up on the spot, we would go here and go there, I just told him the ordinary tacks to bring the boat back into the anchorage. I kind of learned that a plausible story will get you out of some trouble.
A couple of years later I returned and found out he hadn't sailed the boat at all. The only time he had sailed it was that time in and around Hilo Harbor.
This time, the mantra was, "Andy wants to go sailing, I guess we have to go sailing." A family discussion ensued and my brother decided to put the boat into the harbor at Pohoiki, not far from his new house which was building at Kapoho, near Cape Kumikahi, the southeast point of the island of Hawaii.
Pohoiki is a fishing boat ramp with a breakwater and a nasty surf surge. The local fishermen keep their boats in the parking lot and go fishing right down the ramp. When it starts breaking bad, the surge comes up the ramp. They are experienced and know how high it will surge. Normally there are two, one guy backs down the ramp to a predetermined spot. They look at the surf. They know when it will come right up to where they are parked. The other guy fires up the engine and the surge lifts the boat off the trailer and he backs down and spins it around at the base of the ramp. He can match his boat with the swell, usually, and pick up his partner and off they go out into the swells.
When they come in, it is exactly reversed, except the boathandler watches for the trailer lights when his partner backs down the ramp. He knows when the surge is coming, he taps his brakes and the boathandler brings it in and backs down right over the trailer. He guns it as the swell goes out and they haul out, propellers still spinning.
We were not Kaimaainas, the locals, but Haoles, the white people, outsiders. We didn't have the big surge that day, and launched the flimsy sailboat, put up the mast, and sailed away.
On board were me and my brother and my father. He had a patch on his chest for heart medication. We hoisted sail, had a beer, and followed the coast eastward toward Kapoho.
We got there fairly quickly and my brother was pleased to see how his house looked from the seacoast. We tacked back into the setting sun and he wanted me to sail closer to the shore. We spent some time there and it became apparent that there was a current holding us back, although the small sailboat didn't have too much speed any way. We ran out of room sailing toward land and had to tack away and head out to sea.
The further we went offshore, the more ground we were gaining. The current offshore was in the right direction to help us. Unfortunately my brother became nervous and commanded we turn back toward shore. Once again we were stuck in the bad side of the eddy, ran out of room, and tacked again toward sea. We continued like this while the sun grew lower and lower, and finally set into the sea.
This coast was sparsely populated and there were no street lights to help us define the shoreline. We were looking for the light that marks Pohoiki's reef. We saw lights a few times, but they turned out to be cars on the beach road. Not our light. But then after a while there was a periodic light. We had a debate whether or not it was the Pohoiki light. We made a decision to turn toward land and toward the reef.
If it wasn't the correct light, we would be sailing into a dark reef at night with a little sailboat and get crushed under the surf. It was easy sailing though, after we turned toward shore. Instead of bashing against the breaking seas, we were surfing along downwind on them. The phosphorescent patches started to appear off to one bow and then the other. Astern they boiled up in our wake.
My brother began struggling with the outboard motor, pulling its starter cord. "What are you doing?', I asked. He was trying to start the outboard, he replied. "Do you want to go faster?".
We had a little conference in the cockpit. My father hadn't moved very much during this. but he was in on our conversation. We decided to forget about the outboard engine and made a plan to sail into the fishing harbor. We would carry on to the breakwater, and then drop sails and come up to wind, and then make do to the dock.
We carried on like gangbusters, phosphorescent patches, bow waves, valiant sailors.
At the breakwater my brother was at the mast, as planned, and let off the halyards, but the sails didn't drop much at all. We carried on full speed toward the dock. There was not time to do anything else but aim for one of the fenders on the dock.
We hit the dock and then the sails came down. The fishermen who were on the dock ran off when we came in, then came back, and asked if we came from Hilo, up the coast. "No, we came from here."
My father took a pill out of his necklace and swallowed it with some beer. I asked him what it was. It was nitroglycerin. The doctor told him to take it whenever he had bad chest pains. Did he take it often? :"No, just this time", he said.
We put the boat on the trailer and my brother sold it without ever sailing it again.