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Feeling the Love on Maui

Category: General Article

Back to Voyage of the Oceanus

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Submitted by Brandon Ford

GPS Coordinates to Coral Gardens area, Maui, Hawaii: 20.788752, -156.558985

Part of what inspired us to go cruising was our first trip to Maui. The island and surrounding sea were even more beautiful than we imagined and the weather was perfect. I almost cried when we had to leave.

What really got my juices flowing during that first visit was a cruising boat anchored at a popular snorkel site called Coral Gardens. I imagined us blissfully at anchor, diving into the clear warm water from the deck of our own boat. We could snorkel and dive at one of Maui prime dive spots anytime we wanted.

I started dreaming of sailing to tropical islands when I was 13. Seeing that cruising boat anchored at Coral Gardens brought the dream into sharp focus.

Seven years after our first visit, we bought Oceanus and began working on her restoration and refit. We visualized each project bringing us closer to the picture of us anchored off Maui.

For the most part, the reality is even better than the dream. Especially now that our diesel mechanic friend helped me fix our engine. He diagnosed the problem right away — a stuck fuel cut-off valve on our newly-rebuilt fuel injection pump. But fixing it took nearly eight weeks because of his heavy work schedule (he could only help us on his days off), other projects he recommended, and waiting for parts (Maui is like a third-world country in that regard).

Once the engine was fixed, the first place we wanted to go was Coral Gardens. For a couple of days we and our boat provided the inspiration for other people’s dreams.

While at anchor there, a familiar boat picked up a mooring about 100 yards away. It was the Four Winds II. On our first trip to Maui our big splurge was a snorkel trip to Molokini Crater on Four Winds II. The 55-foot catamaran was under the command of Captain John.

It was 10 years since that adventure and Captain Johnisms still pepper our private conversations. We found his patter during the voyage — especially his “rules” — hilarious. After each “rule” (like leaving your shirt tag out, no kicking like a bicyclist while snorkeling, or not wiping your nose after taking your mask off ) he would say “no lunch for you.” He also cautioned his snorkelers to pay attention and return to Four Winds so they didn’t end up on the other snorkel boats, all of which (according to Captain John) only served Spam for lunch.

We were about to jump in the water ourselves and ended up snorkeling together with the Four Winds II guests. Before heading back to our boat, we told one of the crew what a great time we had 10 years ago and how much we enjoyed Captain John.

“He’s aboard today,” he said, “come aboard and say hi.”

We were delighted and a little surprised (since he seemed old 10 years ago). We climbed aboard and found Captain John as affable and witty as ever. He didn’t look a day older either. After a visit, we swam back to our boat. A short time later, Four Winds II left their mooring. As they motored past, Captain John coned his hands around his mouth and yelled, “See you in 10 more years.”

As beautiful as Maui is, it’s the people who make it special. The locals are friendly and always ready to help. They truly practice aloha.

After we anchored at Big Beach, we went around Pu’u Olai (Red Hill) to check out the snorkeling there. A Pacific Whale Foundation snorkel boat was at a mooring. Virginia hailed them on the VHF to ask if they had any Diet Pepsi on board. She told them she would swim over with a dollar. Minutes later another Pacific Whale snorkel boat came into the anchorage aiming right for our boat. Over their loudspeaker the captain told us he had a plastic container of Coke for us. They tossed it to us. Everyone listens over channel 16 on the VHF!

One of the first times we landed on Kama’ole Beach at Kihei, a local named Steve introduced himself and immediately offered to drive us anywhere we wanted to go. We took him up on a lift to the auto-parts store. He then gave us his phone number so we could call him anytime we needed a ride.

Steve is not unusual. In fact, we find that he is the rule, not the exception, among the locals on Maui. Nick is another example. Shortly after we met Steve, we were sitting in our cockpit fretting over our engine troubles when Nick motored up in a small runabout. We talked about our boat and he told us he skippered a large catamaran out of Maalaea Harbor. In fact, he heard the whole Pepsi story on channel 16. We asked him if he knew of any good diesel mechanics on the island and he put us in contact with Keith. Keith proved to be a Godsend. Not only is he a great marine diesel mechanic, he also has a Perkins diesel like ours on his boat. And he’s a heck of a nice guy.

To make it convenient for Keith to work on our boat, we sailed from Kihei to Lahaina and anchored near Mala Wharf. Lahaina always figured large in our Hawaiian cruising plans. It looked like the perfect base from which to explore the west side of Maui and the islands of Lanai and Molokai.

A couple of weeks after anchoring off Mala we met Cory, another local. After a short conversation, he offered to rent us his registered mooring for $50 a month, since he just scored a sublease on a slip in the Lahaina Marina for his boat. We jumped at the offer, especially after he said he would put in all new chain, mooring ball and rope. Having a mooring makes it even easier to come and go on our exploring expeditions.

We found the roadstead off Mala to be a great place to hang out. It’s one of the few places where we can land the dinghy without getting our feet wet. It’s a great place to tie up the dinghy too. Water is available and there’s a place to dump our garbage and recyclables. It’s an easy walk to three different grocery stores, Barnes & Noble, two different pharmacies, a laundromat and our church.

We are also not far from the home of Marsha, a high school classmate and friend, who drives us places and lets us borrow her car when we need it. We feel like part of her family and enjoy the hugs from her three grandchildren.

By boat we are close to most of the best snorkel and dive spots. Black Rock is only a few minutes away and the east side of Lanai is only a 1½ hour sail. Not only is it wonderful snorkeling and diving, but it’s it a good place to escape when the Kona winds make our roadstead uncomfortable and dangerous. We haven’t gotten to Molokai yet, but we will soon.

Molokai is known as “The Friendly Isle” although the locals there will have their work cut out for them to top those from “The Valley Isle” of Maui.

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