ASK SAIL'S EXPERTS
By Amy Ullrich
A reader wonders
"I have been trying to find either a crewed or bareboat charter in Hawaii and have been unable to find a charter of the type I've experienced in the Caribbean. Does Hawaii prohibit or limit sailing charters?"
It isn't the political entity of Hawaii that limits sailing charters and discourages owners from putting their boats into bareboat charter, but the sailing conditions. As Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy say at the beginning of their Cruising Guide to the Hawaiian Islands, "Sailing the Hawaiian waters presents boaters with unique challenges. The trade winds that cool Hawaii require a high degree of readiness on the part of both the boaters and their boats. And because of the variable conditions of the channels between the islands, those who cruise Hawaii must be skilled boaters and navigators."
I did an extensive Web search, probably duplicating yours, and came up with some possibilities for crewed-boat charters. Here are some companies to consider:
If you do find a charter in Hawaii, please let us know about it. We'd like to share your information with other readers of this newsletter.
We have received two responses from readers about chartering in Hawaii:
James L. Baker writes from Maui: "I have chartered from Honolulu Sailing Co. and have found Mike and his crew helpful, experienced, friendly, and with good, well-maintained equipment." I checked with the company, which does have two bareboats in their fleet. They do require "more than BVI" experience.
Tom Champney, who describes himself as a "loyal SAIL readers for over 20 years," shared this:
My wife and I chartered a skippered 50-footer Hunter out of Honolulu in the late 1990s with Honolulu Sailing Company. I gained my ASA ocean-sailing certification on the charter.
I agree with Ms Ullrich that the conditions in Hawaii can be difficult, with strong easterly trade winds and rough waters in the channels. In addition, the area is not so cruiser friendly; there are few moorings or protected anchorages. (I lived in Grenada for four years and find that the Caribbean is much more cruiser friendly.
Nevertheless, the cruise in Hawaii was a great experience. We left Honolulu and cruised up the coast of Oahu to Kaneohe Bay (a rough ride with a slog to windward in messy waves). We spent a day in Kaneohe Bay—a beautiful location— and the following day sailed across the Molokai Channel to the southern side of Molokai. Halfway across the channel, the wheel steering failed (the steering cable broke), so we used the emergency tiller for the next three days until it was fixed in Maui. (An exciting time - getting the emergency tiller fitted in rough water.)
We spent the night at a small anchorage on the southwest end of Molokai (an old harbor used for gravel/sand quarrying). It was quiet with no other boats—and no services, of course. The next day we sailed along the southern coast of Molokai and crossed to the west side of Lanai—a great sail in the lee of the islands. We spent a few hours in the harbor at Manele Bay so that I could sail into Lahaina, Maui, after dark (a requirement for the ASA certification). We anchored there for the evening and spent the next day exploring Lahaina.
Crossing the channel from Lanai to Maui, we saw our first Humpback whales. We cruised in the spring, when they gather in the waters around Hawaii. It was absolutely fabulous to sail the same waters with those magnificent animals. At night, in the cockpit of the Hunter, I could hear whales spouting nearby—a sound I will remember the rest of my life.
After a day in Lahaina, we had a leisurely half-day sail up the Maui coast to Kapalua Bay. The following day, we crossed over to the northeast corner of Molokai and had a really nice downwind sail along the north coast of Molokai. We stopped for lunch at Kalaupapa Bay and saw the old leper colony there. fter lunch, we had another good downwind sail to the southeast end of Molokai where we anchored for the night in Kepuhi Bay. he next day we sailed downwind, again a really nice sail, across the Molokai channel to Honolulu.
So overall, I really enjoyed the Hawaii charter. A different experience than sailing in the Caribbean, the Chesapeake, or Long Island Sound, but in how many places do you have to tack to prevent getting too close to whales? We did that a number of times.
Collectively, SAIL editors have many charter miles under their belts, and if we don't know the answer, we know who does. Ask anything—but don't ask for an evaluation of the companies you're considering; that's outside our area of expertise.
E-mail us at email@example.com; please write "charter question" in the subject line. We'll post your question and our answer in the next newsletter as well as on sailmagazine.com (click on Charter Cruising).
Posted May 19, 2008