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Course Correction for Cruisers in Hawaii

“We are cruisers who have lived here on our boat for several years now,” writes Denis Michaud of Tango in response to our post on Friday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude. “We’re currently riding out the virus mess on the docks at Waikiki Yacht Club. In a nutshell: All State harbors are closed. No new boats. Inter-island travel is prohibited. One of our Waikiki YC neighbors scored a $5,000 fine for violating this. I’ll skip the rest, as they’re not really applicable to the average cruiser.

“The closure is supposed to end 5/1/2020, but given that the lockdown on land here has been extended through the end of May, I wouldn’t bet on it. Arrivals from wherever at this point are being quarantined aboard for 14 days, regardless of how long they’ve been at sea. Prior permission to arrive must be secured, which is problematic given that DLNR/DOBOR is technically closed. We have several ‘refugee’ boats here at the club (as well as across the way at Hawaii YC), but all of these have come up from the South Pacific. We cannot recommend to anyone a trip from the mainland at this time. As for Radio Bay, DOT has been looking for an excuse to close it for years now. Looks like they’ve found a way to do it, and they’ve said the closure will be permanent. Anchoring in Hilo Bay is problematic for various reasons; not sure how Homeland Security would handle clearing someone there.”

This response is absolutely correct. It appears that I/we have inadvertently posted inaccurate information about inter-island travel and harbor availability. To a degree. Like a good politician, I attempted to not say anything concrete that could later be used against me or Latitude 38, knowing full well that there was a lot of gray area and constantly changing laws right now. Hence why we wrote, “inter-island travel on one’s own yacht does not appear to be prohibited at this point in time,” before following that up with guidance on mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival to a new island and the words, “Pick an island and stay there.”

I also added a link to current government directives that outline these rules for inter-island travel, followed by guidance about the mandatory 14-day quarantine and guidance about currently-legal recreational boating guidelines. Unfortunately, that one-day-old link from Hawaii’s government did not mention anything about inter-island travel on private yachts being illegal.

Per the rules that Denis has shared, inter-island travel by boat is currently illegal, according to other posted information and sources who are on the ground. As a sailing magazine read by sailors from around the world, we are oftentimes responsible for informing cruisers and sailors on issues regarding the world of sailing, and we don’t take this responsibility lightly. We/I apologize for dealing any misinformation, especially if it could have put someone into a precarious legal situation. For that matter, however, many boats have apparently illegally been sailing inter-island recently and even posting about it online, which, combined with the governor’s orders that outlined provisions for legal inter-island travel and legal recreational boating, has helped to confuse us.


Approaching Oahu
The State of Hawaii currently prohibits sailing between islands. (We took this photo in 2017.)
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

The reader’s further guidance that all “State harbors” are closed right now also came as news to us, as several cruisers have been dealing with various authorities at state harbors, such as the very ones at Radio Bay who were kicking cruisers out. With multiple different agencies doing multiple different things at multiple different harbors, this again worked to confuse us, and thus, our readers.

Should a cruiser be displaced on the island of Oahu, or manage to get there without being caught, we do have some advice that may help you. As we mentioned, Oahu’s Ko Olina Marina usually has a ton of empty slips. Ko Olina is a privately-administered marina, so that may be an option to find safe moorage despite state harbors being closed. For that matter, other private yachting entities with docking space or moorings include Keehi Marine Center, Kewalo Basin, Kaneohe Yacht Club, Waikiki Yacht Club and Hawaii Yacht Club on Oahu. Lahaina Yacht Club on Maui also administers a series of mooring balls.

There are also a few mooring balls in Nawiliwili and Hanalei Bay, Kauai, and other places around the islands. Sailing clubs in Hilo and Kona have varying facilities. When you combine these private marinas and docks with mooring balls all around the islands, and the ability to recreationally sail and use your own anchor, there is still a plethora of options for the displaced cruiser in Hawaii. We have not called each individual private harbor, yacht club or sailing club to verify that their facilities are open and available. It will fall upon each individual cruiser to exercise a bit of self-sufficiency during these extraordinary times.

These are exceedingly difficult times to be cruising right now, and to be stuck in Hawaii. Again, we are not advocating cruising in Hawaii right now, nor did our article ever recommend or advocate sailing in from the mainland. Per the article in question’s closing statements, “To be clear, we are not advocating cruising around and enjoying a carefree Hawaiian holiday. It’s not responsible, and it’s not legal right now. The goal of this article is to provide displaced cruisers in Hawaii with some local intel and options so that they can make informed decisions.”

We are here to serve the broader sailing community, and we sincerely hope that we can be of assistance to any and all sailors out there. To the reader who sent in this email, thank you for correcting us! We would rather be informed that we have erred and have a chance to learn and share this newfound knowledge with others.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Ogilvie 4 years ago

    I checked into Radio Bay when I sailed over from SF in 2010. At that time and assume it didn’t change, Radio Bay was part of the commercial harbor and under the auspices of Homeland Security. To leave the area of the pier required an escort to and from the Commercial Harbor Gate. A real PITA as you had to call the Harbor Office and they would send a Security Officer down to take you to the gate and repeat on the way back. It was kind of a joke for me as I was riding my Bike Friday so they had to follow me in their truck. Don’t know how they handled the Cruise Ship that docked on the other side of the pier but assume it was bus or taxi that had under gone a background check and been cleared to go unescorted. I never called a Cab to test the system.

    Only registered crew were allowed to come down to the boat in Radio Bay. To meet friends who drove over from Kona to go out for lunch had to get a ride from security to the gate and a ride from them on the way back. Wasn’t allowed to leave the immediate area of the pier or walk or bike to and from the gate.

    Could have easily put my dinghy in the water and rowed the short distance to the Canoe Landing but it was officially not allowed and I never tried it.

    If they are to continue to have Hilo as a customs entry it will be interesting how they’ll handle dinghying out to the boat. There is a small beach next to the mooring field but you’re going to get your feet wet getting in and out of the Dinghy.

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