Here In Hula Heaven
Here In Hula Heaven
A perfect ocean passage is the one that ends reluctantly. That is, if the winds are right and the boat is happy, the crew settles into a timeless nautical rhythm. Thoughts of things modern and maddening slowly fade from one's psyche. You trim the sails carefully, and when the windward and leeward telltales lift in unison you think it is one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen. And you're right, for however simple it appears, there's a complex yet elegant phenomena at work here.
You scan the horizon for signs of fish, whales, and perhaps a new species of bird, some lonely wanderer, like yourself, frightfully far from land. You search the night sky for your favorite star. In my case it is Procyn, my patron. Or because you finally have the luxury of leisure time, you grab that 800-page presidential biography and confirm your suspicion that all life on land is corrupt. For now, for a while, it is good to be out here. The ship is your world and the ocean your universe.
But as land approaches your thoughts are pulled forward through the tenses of time and you can no longer hold the moment. Diana broke first. Little postie-notes of things to do in Hawaii began to flutter around the navigation station. This prompted me to pull out coastal charts and began thinking about the approaching lee shore. That's where the hard stuff is-the scene of ship wrecking shoals.
There will be officials. Will Diana's time in Canada and at sea qualify as a "meaningful departure" from the USA in order to renew her tourist visa? Will we have time to obtain a permit to visit Palmyra Island? I'll need engine oil, filters, and transmission fluid for we'll be a month out for Samoa.
And then, after 23 days of empty horizon, suddenly there it is rising up into the clouds-Hawaii, the Big Island-exotic, explosive and shimmering green.
Transient yachts are required to enter via Radio Bay, in the center of the Hilo Commercial Harbor. It's a protected little nook created by a massive breakwater and high docks. There's room for a few vessels to anchor out, and perhaps a dozen to tie up med-style to a concrete wall. Behind the breakwater lies a little beach shaded with acacia and palm trees. There, a native Hawaiian cultural club builds and maintains traditional Polynesian sailing craft, which swing on moorings among the few visiting yachts. Smoke wafts from homemade barbecues, brown children play on paddleboards while brightly clothed adults fish lethargically from the breakwater.
Radio Bay is a sleepy place on the wane. Fewer yachts are visiting here because the facilities are limited, and the port planners limit the facilities because fewer yachts are visiting-a self-perpetuating spiral.
The yellow quarantine flag went up as our anchor went down. In our post 9/11 quest for "Homeland Security" it's now required that each and every time you enter or exit the port on land you must be escorted by a guard. No visitors without clearance are allowed on your vessel, even if they come from the public beach, a spitting distance from the port security fences. This seems yet another triumph of style over substance, but you can't fight city hall.
From a payphone on the jetty we called security for an escort to Customs. A raven-haired Hawaiian woman with cinnamon skin met us on the jetty."Hello, I'm Pretty." She said.