I woke up early this morning in the comfort of a lovely hotel bed. I threw my windows open to welcome in the smells and sounds of my childhood. Even though this is not my home island, her arms, smells and essence feel familiar and soothing to me, like a beloved relative’s would. That first breath this morning of her heavy tropical air reminded me of the moment I got close enough to the shore after over 2000 miles at sea to smell the earth. It was almost more emotional than my first sight of land. I threw my arms in the air and shouted a loud and hearty “YES!” into the sky. It was the smell of my birthplace, the smell of rich sweet earth that one can only experience here in Hawaii; A smell that grounds me and reminds me of my deep roots in these magical islands.
Before I write about the last days of my journey, which were by far the hardest and most grueling for me, let me share about the moment I saw this majestic island rising out of the clouds and sea. It was a gloomy rainy morning that was an extension of a wet and harrowing night. I had given up trying to stay dry, and as a result decided clothes were absolutely unnecessary. The pile of wet clothes was growing and at one point I decided not to bother because it was warm enough to not need them despite the rain and wind, and who could even see me anyway? If one could have seen me however, the sight was laughable at best. I chuckled often to myself at what I would have looked like from a birds eye view as I crawled around (the pitch and heave of my boat as well as her slippery surfaces required actual crawling) less than scantily clad adjusting sails or dealing with my temperamental (backup) autopilot. At one point in the night the autopilot (his name is Ray) just decided he was over it and turned the boat around. Needless to say, I was not happy about this turn of events (no pun intended), and yelled various obscenities (my favorite of this particular leg of the trip being: “are you f*cking KIDDING me?”) into the rain and incessant salt-water face shots that Mother Nature was doling out. The morning was so damp, dank and uncomfortable that I could not even make myself a cup of coffee. I was so exhausted that even the smallest task seemed daunting at best. I worked hard to shake off the misery and exhaustion and to instead focus on the fact that I was so close to achieving my goal.
As the sun started to shine through the grey, my spirits lifted with it. That mixed with the reality of my impending arrival to Hanalei Bay buoyed me and rebooted my tattered and waterlogged self. I was sailing along at a good clip, and was watching the miles tick down on my chart plotter. My hands shook as I grabbed my radio to check in with the race committee and report that I was 25 miles out. The first voice I had heard in days came back to acknowledge my call. It was all happening. The rest seems like someone was fast forwarding this movie that had become my reality. I would stop it here and there to pinch myself and breathe in the wonder of the fact that after 17 intense days, I could actually taste my arrival!
I pulled out my phone to do my daily video check in. I was fumbling with the phone and getting into a good position and that’s when I glanced up and saw Kauai Island emerging out of the sea and low hanging clouds. At first I thought I was imagining it, but it soon became clear that I was most certainly not. Tears overcame me as I tried to share my moment on video. After all this time, I had finally (almost) made it!
The morning shaped up to be a quintessential island day reminiscent of my childhood days sailing with my Dad, complete with beautiful trade winds, sunshine and blue skies. Squalls peppered the horizon, and one even blessed us gently for a moment, but otherwise it was crystalline! I took the helm for most of this stretch, and enjoyed my last couple of hours aboard my beloved vessel. She had done me so right the past 2 weeks, and I was so honored to be sharing these moments with her. I would get lost in thought and wonder as we barreled closer and closer to our destination. I really was in awe. I closed my eyes at one point and said a long and deep prayer of gratitude for a safe journey and for the blessing of experiencing such beauty. I opened my eyes and in front of Haunani and me was a sight I will never forget. The already surreal vision of Kauai Island was framed with a full rainbow that seemed to be creating a magical gate for us. We were being welcomed home and reminded of the support that has been with us all along. Never once in my journey did I take for granted the all encompassing support I felt from the beginning.
The wind stayed consistent until I reached the Kilauea Lighthouse, and then became a little flukey due to the land formations. I felt a bit frustrated, but stayed the course, and as I passed Anini Beach and rounded the point at Princeville it filled in and scooted me along towards the finish line. As I passed that imaginary line, and heard “congratulations Haunani on finishing the 2016 Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race”, I could barely feel my feet below me. My two PSSA compadres Yves and Joe happened to be sailing out of the bay at that exact time, and seeing them in that moment was somehow like a bow wrapping up a perfect gift. The rest was a blur as people arrived to bring me a lei and a cold beer and to help me anchor. My brother Chris and Nephew Cooper were my first family hugs as they stepped aboard Haunani to greet me. Once we got Haunani settled in the bay, I was shuttled to land aboard a little skiff. My first steps on land were more solid than I imagined they would be, but shaky nonetheless. As I steadied myself, my beautiful family rushed me with gorgeous leis and much-anticipated hugs and kisses. The last person in the line was my Dad. My breath left my lungs as I saw his face and rushed over to hug him. This was the moment that had been in my minds eye for 10 months, and it was finally here. I was and remain humbled and in awe of this, one of the greatest moments of my 48 years!