Paddling in Hawaii
September/October/November - 2015

I spent 2 months in Hawaii - on the island of Oahu actually. (Oahu has Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbour.) One month of that was in an empty house doing some small building and maintenance jobs for the owner.

When I started looking at the paddling possibilities they were pretty limited - there are basically no sea kayaks there (I'm using the universal definition of a sea kayak - a craft you sit in with a spray skirt). A few individuals obviously own some, but in 2 months I never saw one. This wooden one was for sale online at Pearl Harbour and if I had found it the first week I was there I would have been tempted to buy it. It looks like the Night Heron, a kayak I am fairly impressed with.

However I finished my building projects before looking into kayaking.
There are some single outrigger canoes, some larger outriggers, and many many sit-ons. You see these everywhere. For hiring out to the tourist these are ideal for that purpose - if you put them in real sea kayak they'd probably drown themselves in the first few minutes

I spent many days on the beach watching tour groups launching - one of the staff wade out chest deep and hold the sit-on while the customers get on, so they don't have to paddle out through the tiny waves.

 The tourist paddling business is big. Very calm conditions and warm water.

I looked at a couple of places that hire sit-ons and was impressed with Twogood Kayaks at Kailua. I can thoroughly recommend them if you are looking to hire a sit-on for your own use, or to go on one of their tours - very friendly helpful staff. I was told about a group that were paddling right round the island in small sections once a month - one of these paddles was coming up in 10 days. I assumed that any group paddling right around the island would be fairly fit and competent, and I arranged the hire of a ‘Scupper Pro' for a week to go on this paddle. After 40 years in a sea kayak I found the sit-on very strange and uncomfortable - I prefer to be locked into a kayak. It did come with thigh straps which clip along the outside of the craft and loop over your knees. It took me a couple of days to get used to these playing around in very small surf. They were overcast days but the next day was cloud free and I put sunscreen on - which made the thigh straps tend to slip up off your knees.

But then the trip was cancelled and an easier one substituted - I had emails about the trip change and was told that “if people have a sail they should bring it because if the Trade Winds are blowing it will be all downwind.” Just as a joke I went out and bought a plastic shower curtain and made a big square sail – screwed two pieces of wood together for a mast. The mast would be up all the time.

I drove across the island to the start.. The kayaks were unloaded and then the drivers drove over to the finish – a good half hour away. There we drew straws to see which cars would drive back to the start. One vehicle was a twin cab Ute so a couple of young ladies sat in the back of that with 5 of us inside. Back at the start I launched first and paddled up-wind to have a sail back – the first time I've tried it out. The wind was light and it was great – I could have cruised along all day with it up.

But we had to paddle into the wind to get out of the big bay we were in and had gone less than a kilometre when a bit of dark cloud came over and there were 2 flashes of lightning, and thunder, over the land. The trip leader turned around and we went back into the shore and the trip was off – even though by the time we got ashore there was blue sky again. We got in the twin cab Ute and went and retrieved our cars, came back to load the kayaks, and went home.

                                                                                          The finish (at the start)

The leader Bob posted this on the website a day or two later:
“Well, we started with a good crew of paddlers but within 10 minutes of getting on the water, we had a lightning strike close enough to encourage us to turn around and cancel the paddle for the day. None of us took this decision lightly as it meant we were going to have to do the 1 hour round trip drive to retrieve our cars which we'd shuttled to the end point of the paddle. However, considering there were an average of 40-50 deaths per year due to lightning strikes-according to Wikipedia - I'm confident we made the right choice. Better to err on the side of caution.....”

I actually took exception to that. When we were paddling Bob was out in front in a double sit-on and after the second flash turned to me alongside him and said “We're going back.” There was no WE about it. I assumed he would wait on shore for a while to make sure the storm cloud had gone and then continue on again. I was absolutely staggered when once ashore he said the trip was off and we'd go to the finish to get our vehicles. While we were getting ready to go he turned to me and said “You'd do the same in Australia, right?” I replied “Certainly not, we would have kept paddling.”

So I posted this comment on the website:
“Bob doesn't mention the population of America is 318.9 million people, and the average deaths by lightning are 49 per year. Maybe you'd like to calculate the odds of any one person being struck by lighting.
It is also notable that the following is stated about the last 10 years:
“Also of note are the number of states that have not reported any deaths due to lightning strikes in the last 10 years: Hawaii,
And this is interesting:
Here Are Some Recent Hawaii Car Accident Statistics:
• According to Hawaii's Department of Transportation, there are between 120 and 150 traffic accident fatalities across the state each year.
• Between 8,000 and 12,000 people are seriously injured in Hawaii car accidents each year.
And yet people pull out of a kayak trip because of two flashes of lightning. The black storm clouds passed by very quickly and it was blue sky again before we even got ashore. Very sad."

That seemed to upset one little girlie who posted this:
“It was a bummer, However, in the name of safety , we made the right choice. those statistics are fine, but when lightening hits water it acts as a conductor & can reach extremely high temperatures. It will kill fish near the surface & I don't want to be sitting in that water if it does happen. check this out if you are still unsure
When Lightning Strikes | Ocean Today › Danger Zone
Lightning strikes are not only dangerous; ... Lightning doesn't strike the ocean as much as land, but when it does,it spreads out over the water, ...
Thanks for keeping me safe.”

I had a bit of a chuckle over that. Thanks for keeping me safe - I wonder what she imagines Bob did to keep her safe, Did he pull out a magic wand and cast a spell to protect us from lightning strikes - an adult version of Harry Potter. That's powerful magic.

By the time we got ashore the dark cloud had well and truly gone and there was blue sky with fluffy white clouds. There was no a sign of anymore storm clouds in the hour it took us to retrieve the cars. So I still ponder how she thinks Bob had anything to do with keeping her safe,

Another little girlie posted this:
“Maybe you should have continued paddling by your lonesome then. What an unnecessary and ungrateful comment, Lawrence!

Dead right, if I'd had a decent sea kayak I would have continued, but after 40 years in a real sea kayak I found that paddling a sit-on was the pits. I returned it 2 days early.

It is a great pity these girlies never met this American grandmother. Here are some direct quotes from her. She came to Tasmania in 2001 to have her first ever try at sea kayaking.

“Scribe: Elli Tappan, New Hampshire, USA.

2001: “For someone who had just flown from the far away snowy woods and frozen lakes of New Hampshire in the northeast corner of the US, paddling to Hunter Island with Laurie Ford was pure delight. Forget that the weather was poor… that gale warnings prevented our getting to Three Hummock Island. For me it was an exhilarating chance to be in waves and wind, rain and sun, and on salt water learning about currents, tides, weather and forecasts........... We put up our little front deck sails and sped past the Wallaby Islands and towards Kangaroo Island as a thunderstorm opened around us. Since I am an electric storm junkie (well, from the comfort of my home porch rocking chair) this added an adrenaline rush. Coming up either side of an immature black swan we held him just long enough for me to look in his eye and stroke the soft feathers of his sturdy body. Always thinking that swans at parks are nasty creatures who will hiss and attack I was charmed by this wild bird's passivity...I was glad to reach Shepherd's Bay at about 3:30 – was it really 40 kilometres we had done on this first day?”

She kept returning to Tasmania for the next 10 years to sea kayak

2002: “Both our departure from Little Musselroe and our return there two weeks later took place in darkness which made my grand Banks Strait paddling adventure perfect! Being out at sea in the dark! What an experience for an American Grandmother used to day paddles on lakes in New Hampshire
SATURDAY: We were on the water at 4:50 AM on the flood tide with no wind. Laurie was in his home built, 20 year old “longboat” and I was paddling my Greenlander 3, purchased last July from Penguin Fibreglass. Leaving the bay's inlet a surf wave completely flooded my face and spray skirt and then we were in calm water. I watched undulating bands of luminous phosphorescence in my bow wave and around my paddle spots. The water and sky were inky black before the first beginning of light and the hour long period of dawn before the sun finally was up. Mutton birds flew near us in the earliest light.
SUNDAY: Listened to the 6:35AM weather on the radio - gale warnings, winds southeasterly. A good chance for us to go on to Preservation Island. On the water at 7:00 for a great ride with big following waves. A few heart stoppers but totally exhilarating!
MONDAY: The 5:55 weather report gave continuing gale warnings but the sun was out, the sea flatter and the wind not so wild. By 8:45 we were on our way toward Cape Barren Island, with front sails up in a strong southeasterly wind. (Sometimes I was quite out of control screaming down across a wave ... at one point almost rammed Laurie but he fended me off.)
SATURDAY:  At 8:00pm the sun set as a great ball into the waves. Lingering evening light and peach and mauve colours. Then the half moon began shimmering on to the waves. Just on dark the sea had settled and there were no more swells. We watched Swan Island light and the “loom” of Eddystone Light. We saw the lights from squid boats out further to the east. And an occasional bright light on the distant shore ahead. We could see each other easily in the moonlight."

        2hours 40 minutes away from land as the sun sets in the middle of Banks Strait

We headed magnetic south by our compasses and were taken just right by the tide to end up at Little Musselroe where we could see the inlet through the beach. Laurie had mentioned that as soon as we lost sight of the lighthouse on Swan Island we would be entering an ‘obscured sector' and must be at Little Musselroe Bay. Tide was at its prime pouring out and while Laurie went in fine I had trouble pulling against it and got out to pull my boat around into the bay, (my second dowsing) got back in and paddled a dozen strokes across to the boat ramp. It was 10:40pm. This had been a glorious day of app. 42k. We put the tent up right there on the grass and next morning talked with Liz Ponting in the end house and signed her paddlers book. I think I may be the oldest woman to paddle across Banks Strait - at 63 - I'm certain I'm the oldest American woman to do it! Now that's fun.”

2004 “Those swells out in the Strait truly seemed like mountains – about 5 meters high. I was on top of a swell and looking down on Laurie in the trough and it was like looking down a crevass. What an exhilarating ride!”

                                                                                    Swells in Banks Strait.

The treat of the trip happened between the Cape and Roydon Island when seven dolphins crossed our path. Laurie said they'd play if you interact so he turned and followed them. Soon I could see them surfacing around his boat and eventually, when he turned to come back towards me, they came too! They continued on with us a couple of kms until we turned in to shore. It was like choreography as they escorted us along, surfacing on both sides and in front, passing under the boat with their white bellies up, playing along with us. It was magic when four simultaneously arched out of the water right next to the bow of my kayak."

2007: “By the time we could see the navigation light on Fishers Point (the entrance to Recherche Bay) the full moon was giving plenty of light despite the cloud cover and at times would break through enough to make a gorgeous moon path glimmering right to my boat. There were dots of phosphorescence as well. I absolutely love night paddling at sea. The headwind was now behind us and we even sailed for a while in Recherche Bay.........We landed at Cockle Creek at 10pm, changed into dry clothes, opened the boot and threw everything in, had the boats on and lashed and were on our way home, getting there at 1:30am Saturday. Showers and some food. And I decided that after seven hours in the car, three hours hiking and five hours paddling all in one day, 68 isn't really old at all! It's just normal life with Laurie Ford.”

It makes me wonder what the girlies of Oahu will be doing when they are 68. Nothing adventurous that's for sure. Very sad.

Going back to the traffic statistics - 150 dead per year in Hawaii. That's almost one every second day. And up to 12,000 serious injuries - that's about 33 every day of the year. Now that is far more scary than the possibility of being struck by lightning - (no deaths in Hawaii in the last 10 years). Driving back to the start of our trip after we picked up the cars I chose to follow Bob back to the start to retrieve my hired sit-on. He frequently changed lanes, squeezing into a one car slot and at one stage the thought crossed my mind “Is he deliberately trying to shake me off?” At one stage I was right on his tail and my speedo read 70mph - in a 55mph zone. But I was used to seeing the total disregard of speed limits on the roads in America. Watching cars pass me as though I was standing still made me think of Lemmings rushing to throw themselves over a cliff. I know that is a popular myth but I found this online:

“The misconception of lemming "mass suicide" is long-standing and has been popularized by a number of factors. It was well enough known to be mentioned in "The Marching Morons", a 1951 short story by Cyril M. Kornbluth.”
The human population is now 3,000,000 highbred elite and 5,000,000,000 morons, and the "average" IQ is 45 (whereas in the real world, an IQ score of 100 is average, or median, by definition). Several generations before the onset of the story, the small number of remaining 100-and-higher-IQ technocrats, ignored by the general public about the impending population problem, work feverishly to keep the morons alive.


Laurie Ford - Senior Sea Instructor.

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