Honolulu Star Bulletin (11/06/99)
By Ray Pendleton
Let me guess...you are an old salt that has sailed every possible passage throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
No? OK...you are someone who has always wondered why anyone in their right mind would ever venture out past the first reef onto the not-so-Pacific Ocean surrounding our islands.
Wrong again? Well, never mind because no matter what your personal sailing experience in Hawai`i has been, I think you may enjoy reading a book I just finished, called "The Hawaiian Voyages of the Ono Jimmy."
This short (150 pages), soft-cover edition by Big Island attorney Steve Dixon is not a literary classic by any means. His story is a little less than tightly woven and crafted, and the editing is a bit ragged. But don't worry, the book is fun to read - and even reread.
Dixon's "Voyages" reminded me of sitting around in the evening with a bunch of sailors telling sea stories. Many a tale begins on a steady course of seamanship, but before the conclusion, it will take numerous diversionary short tacks on subjects ranging from history and politics, to philosophy, sex and religion.
The author chronicles over a dozen passages he and his friends have made aboard his Morgan 27 "Ono Jimmy" over the past four or five years. And along with his joy of sailing and successful voyages, he is unabashed in detailing his errors due to jumbled judgment or lack of experience.
How Dixon, soon after buying his boat in Hilo, came to decide on permanently berthing it in Honokohau, on the Kona Coast, is a good case in point.
After cruising the islands of Maui, Moloka`i and Lana`i, Dixon and a friend were sailing back to Hilo at night across the Alenuihaha Channel.
"Tony and I got our butts thoroughly kicked that night...," he writes. "Exhausted, we gave up on trying to beat southeast toward Hilo...against the waves, trade winds and the currents. We fell off and ended up in Kona."
But, the story doesn't end there. A week or so later, they attempted another passage to Hilo.
Soon after rounding the northernmost point of the Big Island under shortened sails, they saw what Dixon calls the "WALL OF DEATH."
"There appeared before us a solid wall of roiling black and froth white at the bottom," he writes. "It was a black and gray monster boiling up to the top of the sky.
"We had seen...that boat-breaking line of heavy weather that often spans the Alenuihaha Channel..."
Once more they turned back towards Kona, but they still hadn't given up on sailing back to Hilo. Sometime later, they decided to try rounding the Big Island's Ka Lae (South Point). It was a different direction, but it ended with similar results.
After breaking the tiller in the middle of the night while battling 25-knot winds and high seas, Dixon finally "fired up (the outboard), hauled on the bandaged tiller, and turned Ono Jimmy back to Kona, where it seems that she wanted to live all along."
It's on a later voyage from his new home port, that Dixon explains how sailing also brought him a certain harmony.
"One of the greatest memories of my life is an image...(of) my son Zak...hand on the tiller, the spray of breaking seas in his face, a mad grin and the light of life in his eyes," he writes. "A wave drenched him and he shouted, 'I love it!'."
Find yourself a copy of this book. I think you'll love it.
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