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Options for Cruisers in Hawaii

The Big Island

As an anonymous contributor reported on Wednesday’s installment of ‘Lectronic Latitude, Hilo’s Radio Bay — a well-protected man-made anchorage popular with recently-arrived cruisers — has now been closed to transient yachts. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and sailors’ apparently blatant disregard of Hawaii’s newly-enacted social distancing and mandatory self-quarantine rules, Radio Bay (as well as other sailing hotspots) is no longer open for business. While we hope this won’t be a permanent restriction, we fear that, like many other ‘temporary’ aspects of life right now, this closure will become the new normal. The closure has reportedly been contemplated for years. While the loss of this popular anchorage will surely serve as an inconvenience to a small handful of recently-arrived cruisers, and comes at a bad time for some, it’s not the end of the world.

Fortunately, there are many other great spots to anchor or moor a cruising yacht while sailing in the oft-misunderstood cruising ground that makes up the Hawaiian Islands. There is good holding just a few hundred meters away from Radio Bay in expansive Hilo Bay. There’s also a small state harbor there and a few select mooring balls in Hilo. Around the west side of the island there is the large Honokohau Harbor just north of Kailua-Kona, which may or may not have room for transient yachts. Farther north from Honokohau, there is the newly renovated Kawaihae Harbor as well as good anchoring and mooring nearby. Kawaihae also offers one of the best surf breaks on the Big Island.

Quiver in Lahaina
There is perhaps no place better to chill out, spend some time on the boat, and get away from it all than anchored or moored right in front of Lahaina, Maui. Here, the Peterson 34 Quiver practices some social distancing just off Lahaina. It is normally calm there, unless the trades go northeast and strengthen. In that case, just go for a daysail a few miles farther south and anchor somewhere else.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

Maui

According to the latest posted rules and regulations from the state of Hawaii, inter-island travel on one’s own yacht does not appear to be prohibited at this point in time, though the sailors aboard would be legally obligated to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival at a new island. Pick an island and stay there. Recreational boating is still allowed, provided that boats don’t carry more than two crew unless they are from the same family or live at the same residence, and that those onboard observe physical-distancing requirements.

Just a day’s sail away from Hilo is the beautiful island of Maui, where one could anchor and/or likely find a mooring ball or possibly even a slip in one of the island’s two marinas. We happen to know of one particular HH55 catamaran that recently rocked up from Mexico and sailed into Radio Bay just as it was being closed. Getting out while the getting was good, they have now made Maui’s Honolua Bay home, and are surfing their days away at the world-famous right-hander that hosts the final round of the women’s world championship surfing tour each year.

Harbor in Lahaina
A great place to quarantine could be Lahaina Harbor on Maui. With a harbor, mooring balls, decent anchoring and more spots to anchor just up and down the coast, Lahaina has it all. Lahaina is a rustic old whaling port still full of charm.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

Oahu

A white man showing up on a boat during a pandemic may not go over well on Molokai, and options on Lanai will be limited, but arguably the crown jewel of riding out the ‘rona in Hawaii is Honolulu’s Ala Wai Harbor. Lock up your outboard and any valuables, and you should be all right. With a ton of slips, nearby provisioning and the world-famous Ala Moana Bowls surf break out front, even the seedy Ala Wai starts to look pretty good. The harbor in Haleiwa almost always has slips available. If one really needs a slip and doesn’t mind paying astronomical slip fees, Oahu’s swanky Ko Olina Marina is almost always less than half full.

Quiver off Diamond Head
The Peterson 34 Quiver practices social distancing just offshore of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The iconic volcanic cone of Diamond Head is in the background.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

Kauai

Kauai is only another day from Oahu and could have slip options in Nawiliwili or Port Allen, as well as anchoring options. COVID has changed everything, so call first.

Approaching Oahu
The views and the sailing in Hawaii are as good as anywhere in the world. Here, Quiver approaches Oahu after an overnight sail from Kauai in 2017.
© 2020 Ronnie Simpson

To Wednesday’s anonymous contributor, don’t let the closure of Radio Bay get you down: You’re on a yacht in Hawaii during a global pandemic. Load up the iPad with books, act responsibly, respect ‘da aina (the land), practice some social distancing, and enjoy the natural wonders of Hawaii. And here’s a free Latitude 38 life hack: Nothing prevents you from going to a Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation office to register your boat in Hawaii and technically make it a local boat. This writer lived aboard in Hawaii for years. It’s insanely cheap, and you’ll become an insta-local. Your Mahalo Rewards card should be in the mail shortly.

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 on where to responsibly ride out this current storm. Aloha.

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Rev Dr Malama 5 months ago

    No, it is not legal according to the dlnr Facebook and website, to arrive in Hawai’i without permission and then a 14 day QUARANTINE must be completed WITHOUT LEAVING THE BOAT SO ARRANGED FOOD ETC MUST BE MADE TOO.
    IT IS ILLEGAL TO TRAVEL INTERISLAND AT THIS TIME. ARRESTS ARE BEING MADE AND THE GOVERNMENT IS FULLY AWARE OF TOURISTS TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM THEIR HOME STATE OF LOCKDOWN.
    DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER COMING TO HAWAI’I FOR REMAINING YEAR.
    THANK YOU

    • Avatar
      Ronnie Simpson 5 months ago

      Aloha Rev Dr Malama, this article never advocated arriving in Hawaii without permission. As stated in the last paragraph, it was written for the purpose of providing displaced cruisers in Hawaii with other options, in light of the closure of Radio Bay. Also, inter-island travel is not illegal at this time, per the Governor’s orders. Governor Ige’s latest directive, which is linked in the article, merely states that once you travel inter-island, you must self-quarantine for 14 days, as we related in the article. At no point did we advocate breaking any laws. As stated in the article, we believe cruisers should find an island and stay there, during these difficult times.

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