Hanalei is fun, SHTP racers are arriving

Beetle has been happily riding at anchor in Hanalei now for the week, the holding is excellent – thick mud and sand – and there are fewer boats here than I would have thought though there are permanent moorings in place for the commercial boats; those moorings weren’t here that I recall from 2006 (last time I was here).

In Nawiliwili you get to enjoy sunrises; around this side of the island you get to enjoy sunsets, especially as the eastern corner of the bay doesn’t poke out too far north.


Beetle is hanging out relaxing on the lovely blue waters of the bay. I get to walk up and down the beach when going ashore to visit Race Committee or the grocery store in the center-of-town Ching Young Village, which has the Big Save grocery store.

The anchorage is reasonably rolly, particularly when the trades are up and blowing hard, but everybody is managing to stay stuck to the bottom despite the squalls that roll through and toss the wind around.  The reef extending out in front of the resort protects the anchorage and the standup paddle board folks are out riding the small breakers on the inside of the reef.  If you’re a better standup paddle board person then you’re on the bigger waves on the outside of the reef.  And all the boaters hide inside behind the reef.

The flood damage to Hanalei is still very much in evidence, the road to the paved boat launch ramp has not been worked on yet and it’s missing in three or four places where the water cut through the area and left ten foot deep trenches.  The large houses that were right in the area are still in their fallen-over state, other houses are being worked on or torn down and rebuilt entirely.


The road to the launch ramp as it is now. The Hanalei river, where the dinghies land, is a short distance behind me as I take the picture. It rained hard in Hanalei in April, the gauge recorded 28″ over 24 hours and then the gauge broke – all that water came sweeping down the valley and over-ran the river bank and flooded out the community.


Many houses were undermined and the pillar foundations (intended to keep the homes above hurricane-driven ocean water) started to collapse. It’s going to be a long time before everything is put back together. The launch ramp road is directly behind these homes.

As a result of the flooding the river mouth is not used by the commercial boats, as they can not load and unload passengers from the old ramp – can’t drive there.  Instead the boats are using the beach adjacent to the Hanalei Pier  and folks wade out to the boats that have backed in to the beach with the motors lifted; when the boats ground out in the sand one of the crew jumps out, extends a ladder, and folks are helped up onto the boat.  Good thing the surf is low at 1 foot and it’s a steep shelving sand beach so the boats can back in quite close.  It’s a 10 minute walk down the beach to the Hanalei Pavilion park, which is the beach access route that’s gets you between the houses that line the beach.  The number of tourists on Kauai is impressive – 100,000 people per month come in through the airport at Lihue, that 1.2 million per year according to the Hawaii tourist bureau.  And it’s a fair bet that some of those tourist folks make it to Hanalei at the far end of the island (in all fairness, most of them go to the resorts and hotels on the south side of the island – it’s not that particularly crowded in Hanalei proper).  I hope those 100,000 people are also flying out each month, otherwise it would be standing room only on the island.


The Big Save is the important store in the town of Hanalei – this is where everyone comes to get their groceries. When the flooding happened it was 18″ deep in mud and water, but stayed open so people could get food and water.

The Singlehanded Transpacific race finishes here, and so far three boats have arrived.  Race Committee got in earlier in the week and located their rental house that happens to be directly behind the Pavilion – most convenient for getting down to the chase boat that is sent out to greet each arriving yacht as they cross the finish line located outside the reef.  The chase boat’s job is to take out one or two people that will climb onboard the incoming boat and help the skipper take down the sails and get the anchor ready.  The chase boat is also used as a follow-me boat, especially at night when the skipper is entering an unknown bay and needs to avoid the reefs located on each side.  General cruising approach is to never enter an unknown, unlit, reef-containing bay at night; the chase boat makes it safer for the racer to get in as all they have to do is follow the chase boat around to the anchorage.

First order of business for Race Committee is to get the chase boat setup; turns out that Larry’s Sea Swirl (affectionately referred to as the Sea Squirrel) was all set, launched, and then the somewhat elderly Evinrude 88 HP outboard motor wouldn’t start.  The first finisher was that night, so I was able to help out with Beetle’s dinghy and take Synthia out to greet Philippe as he finished the race on his Olson 30 Double Espresso – first boat in!  I greeted Synthia at 4AM just outside the small surf line at the Pavilion, she waded out to the dinghy and we went out and Philippe as he crossed the line in the pre-dawn glow.  Synthia went on board to help Philippe and I zipped along in front so he could just follow the dinghy rather than worry about avoiding the reefs.

The funny part was inside at the anchorage, Synthia inspected his bow and noticed there weren’t any cleats up there, so asked, “How do you normally anchor?”  and he responded, “I don’t know, I’ve never anchored the boat before.”  That was novel.  We eventually decided to tie the anchor line to the mast with a big bowline, and then used the jib tack hooks as the cleat.  Hopefully that doesn’t pull the stem fitting out of the bow.


Philippe on his Olson 30 Double Espresso in the bright morning light. That’s the Pavilion directly beyond and to the right of his mast – the Tree is now huge and filled with branches, it is occupying the right side of the frame. Too bad the picnic table was removed from beneath the tree – we’re not sure where to have sunset Tree Time now.

Last night two more boats came in, fortunately the Sea Squirrel’s outboard was professionally serviced and we aren’t depending on Beetle’s little dinghy to charge around in the dark out in the ocean.  Tonight we’re expecting the fourth boat, maybe around midnight or so.  Don on board Crinan II is having complete autopilot meltdown and has been hand-steering his Wylie 30 for several hundred miles, working on 3-4 hours in the cockpit then taking down the sail and drifting for 3-4 hours while he sleeps.  This is not the fast way to get here but both his electric pilots have failed and Crinan II doesn’t have a mechanical windvane backup system.  So he’s slow but will arrive.  I know Don from many years of racing OYRA and SSS in San Francisco, it will be fun to meet up with him again here in Hanalei!


This is the Olson 30 Passages shortly after finishing the race, following the follow-me Sea Squirrel in to drop the anchor. It’s dark out here, this shot was taken with the Nikon set at a silly ASA 10000 to capture anything in the dark. The boats are being anchored right around Beetle, which is beginning to make Beetle feel like the Mama Goose for the fleet.

The Race Committee’s house is the social gathering point for the fleet, I’ve been going over there around 5pm for pre-Tree time to observe Synthia and Dave work on preparing the approved SSS mai-tai drinks, apparently that involves a fair bit of experimentation and testing.


Mai Tai’s apparently require lots of attention to prepare properly. Here at Race Central Dave and Jackie look up recipes while Synthia works with the ingredients at hand to see what they can concoct.

So all is going well here, we’re having intermittent sun and squalls with rain, the Kauai Napali coast mountains are right in of the anchorage, I’ve been working on giving Beetle a good bottom scrub and enjoying seeing friends from the racing community again.


Sunset over the Pacific, a great way to an end a day in a beautiful place.

– rob


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