Hui Wa'a Kaukahi

Paddling On A Sea of Glass

by Tom Holtey

It was early Tuesday morning at approximately 6:30 a.m. when Athena got up and checked the water conditions at Kailua Beach on a hunch. Finding the wind at a dead calm and the surface of the water like glass, she rushed back to get me up.

I'd told her about the sea cave at Mokumanu about a year ago, but we never made it, as you have to wait for the right kind of weather to paddle out. The club refers to rounding this point of the Kaneohe Marine Base as "The Big Kahuna," but it would prove this day to be the most gentle "stroll in the park" I had ever experienced. It did not take long for us to have breakfast and prepare our gear.

We rolled our kayaks onto Kailua Beach at about 8am and quickly and quietly launched our boats into the tranquil sea. The water was so calm and clear that tropical fish could be identified from the surface at twenty feet or more. Moorish Idols, parrotfish and tangs flitted about the coral heads while occasional schools of silver fish patrolled through the area. The water's surface was smooth enough to reflect our images back like a mirror with both turtles below and sea birds above punctuating the scene.

We made steady progress toward Mokolea Rock (bird shit rock). When we arrived the ocean was lazily lapping the opihi encrusted isle. I paddled into every little inlet and around every point knowing how rare it was to get this close. For that reason we dared not trust the conditions to remain, so without further delay continued on to our destination.

As we approached the cliffs of Mokapu Point the Marines were at target practice firing off every conceivable type of gun and pistol. It sounded as if there was a battle being fought for the peninsula. Surprisingly enough the brown and red footed booby birds, protected here, were quite unaffected by the din. Through our binoculars we watched them calmly perched in their trees and on the face of the cliffs.

A large manta ray greeted us after we rounded the point. It sailed directly under my kayak, cloaked only by the sun's noon glare. The water was still glassy and the wind slack as we crossed the channel to Mokumanu.

I had never seen the water at the mouth of the cave so calm. We paddled in and went into the inky blackness at the back. To our surprise, there was still the sound of breaking waves in the back of the cave.

Emerging back into the sunlight we found that a fellow kayaker on a surfski had followed usto the island. He had also been wanting to see this lonely spot, although unaware of the cave, but had always found the conditions too rough to go until today. He was afraid to try the cave until he saw us paddle out and said we looked like a classic ad for a travel guide.

Enjoying the marvels this beautiful ocean coast was lending us this day, Athena and I paddled a victory lap all the way around the islands and slipped through the tight crack that divides the two. Swarms of sea birds swooped and spiraled above as if to show us how. Then we paddled back towards Kailua making up names for all the different colors of blue the sea washed under us on our way. While we were exploring and taking pictures a Kona wind had come up from the south. It was blowing lightly but still slowed our passage.

We made it back to Mokolea Rock in about twice the time it took us to get from there originally. We were ready for a break so we moored in the lee of the "Rock" and snorkeled due north of the island. By this time fishermen and opihi pickers were wading all around the waters at the edge of this small islet, while we were diving in crystal clear waters observing a host of fish and coral that could rival Hanauma bay and Sharks Cove. We had lunch while riding at anchor as fishermen and divers came and went.

Then it was time to make it back to Kailua Beach. The Kona wind was strengthening, and we had to double our efforts to paddle into shore. We would usually have the wind and the waves helping us on this course; but instead, we had to paddle up wind over the shallow reefs that would normally given us an exciting ride or a devastating wipe out.

It was almost 3:00pm when we returned to our launch site. Over six hours in the "saddle" but it had been a great and memorable day.

© 2000 Hui Waa Kaukahi