As far as I could tell everything went as planned. Francis and I were the first two club members to reach the Yum Yum Tree Resteraunt at around 7:45. From then on cars kept rolling in and unloading till the launch area sloping down to the canal looked like an exploded box of crayons. I was just waiting for the manager to come out of the Yum Yum Tree and proclaim in the stereotypical anal manager's voice "um, are you guys going to come in and eat something or what?" But nothing of the sort happened and soon the techno weenies were engaging in gear talk and squelching their VHF static cacophony while others observed and greased up with sun goop for the long paddle ahead. Our fearless leader, Alan Calhoun, pulled up somewhere in the middle of the mayhem grumbling something about the good old days and how people never used to show up EARLY.
The car shuttle went off without a hitch with thanks to all shuttlers and especially Pete who brought a big ol' van, so large in fact I almost reflexively put in my fare as I climbed through the doors. By 9:00 am we were on the water and heading down the Kainui Canal to Kailua Bay. With around twenty paddlers, our flotilla spread across the canal in a weave of color and style. I got particular enjoyment out of observing the different paddling techniques - some paddled with their feet spread out relaxed on the gunwales, others hunkered over in attack position, yet others paddling and chatting like friends strolling through a park.
At the channel outlet we found a fairly calm Kailua Bay with a light headwind and moderate seas. The paddle from the Canal to Mokolea (a.k.a. Birdshit Rock) was a fairly easy, rolling ride. The seas were probably 2-3 ft with few breakers and my Scrambler XT handled the ups and downs quite nicely. At Mokolea we regrouped, waiting for Alan on sweep who was a few minutes behind the lead group. I took the opportunity to do a little snorkeling and unsuccessfully tried to hoodwink the fish into believing Chuck's lure was an exotic and delectable treat. As I rocked to and fro in the current I could make out a few fish on the bottom, mostly Moorish Idols, a few nice size parrotfish, various wrasses, lau'ipala (Zebra tang), a few jacks and some surgeonfish among the widely spaced knobs of cauliflower coral.
The paddle from Mokolea to Moku Manu was a long one. On the way Tim and I saw a pair of dolphins streaming past us. I saw one of the dolphins' fins only at the last moment and I had a brief flicker of fear till I spotted Tim through the trough of a wave and he shouted "Dolphins." They did not stop to play but seemed very businesslike and in quite the hurry, I figure they must have been dolphin Marines doing laps around the base. I think what made this leg of the paddle particularly long was the open space and the seemingly unchanging distance to our ever visible destination. The waters are deep dark blue and paddling became mesmerizing after a while. My thoughts drifted, and I pondered the daily existence of kayakers who choose to cross great oceans solo. Our group spread out and each seemed awash in his or her own meditation.
Once at Moku Manu we again regrouped and spent some time exploring the marvelous sea cave which runs deep into the larger of the two islands. The cave opens directly to the north and we were lucky in that the swell was not very strong. We were able to go all the way to the back end of the cave, and with flashlights were able to see the back wall where the swell ebbed and surged. My flashlight was waterproof so I donned my mask and went overboard for a look. The water at the cave's end is about fifteen feet deep with not much to see. I saw a few fish but could not make them out and with my boat rocking about and the general weirdness I got out pretty quick. I spoke with John Enomoto about this cave a day later and he told me a White-tip Reef shark lives in there, so I guess it was good I got out quick. Having my leg gnawed on in the dark didn't sound very appealing.
A few of us went around the islands, past the shallow, partially exposed reef and back between the islands and Mokapu Peninsula. Many birds frequent these two islands and any time spent here is in constant surveillance by them. Several curious terns, albatross and boobies flew very near my head, often hovering to get a better look at so curious a visitor. I nearly hulied several times trying to snap a nice close-up of these bombardiers.
From Moku Manu we started the return journey towards our next destination and lunch spot - Kekepa Island, sometimes called Turtleback Rock. This was another long stretch but the views of the Koolau's were magnificent, especially looking Northwest to Puu Ohulehule and Waikane. Near Kekepa a Kaneohe MCBH lifeguard came out to greet us on his jet ski and informed us of what VHF channel they were using.
On the lee side of Kekepa the flotilla set down anchor and proceeded to eat lunch. I know that I was quite hungry after all the work so far. After a few handfuls of gorp I once again donned the MFS (Mask, Fins, Snorkel) and investigated the shallow reef surrounding Kekepa. In addition to the usual characters I saw a roi (Peacock grouper) and a piliko'a (hawkfish).
The last leg of our paddle, from Kekepa to He'eia was a slog. At least we had the wind at our backs, but not enough to make it easy. Tim had tried earlier to use his kite but the wind wasn't strong enough. We arrived at He'eia Pier around 3 PM and I for one was certainly glad to be out of the sun. All in all a most excellent Sunday well spent.
Thanks to all who participated and helped, and thanks to Alan Calhoun, our fearless leader.
Originally published 9/13/99