Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Floating Families Fueling Fiasco

There are a lot of things about cruising on a sailboat that make our lifestyle interesting and full of adventure.  You would never guess it but just obtaining diesel fuel in Hawaii has been an unexpected adventure.

When we arrived in Hilo back in June after 38 days at sea we were, of course, down to our last couple of gallons of diesel fuel.  I assumed there would be a nice little fuel dock near Radio Bay where we could pull up and top off our fuel and even fill our water tanks and maybe even buy a couple of bags of ice.

We have traveled up and down the East Coast of the USA, to the Bahamas, and all down the Caribbean and in almost every little spot some enterprising person has put up exactly that.  Some of those spots also had laundry facilities, and a little place to buy groceries.  Heck the Gas station on the Alligator River even had the best cheeseburger on the Intracoastal Waterway!

In Hilo we had to take our two gas jugs and fill them with diesel every time we took the rental car to town.  Over the two weeks we were there we almost filled the tanks.  Before leaving Hilo I thought about topping off the tank all the way but my mind was still fixed on all of the great, easy access fuel docks from our past.  I decided to wait for the fuel dock in Lahaina on Maui rather than lug the jerry jugs in Hilo.

Lahaina did have a fuel dock but we were informed that it was for only the local merchant boats and that if we wanted to buy fuel we would have to negotiate with one of them and pay a little extra.  I was disgusted with the thought of walking up and down the booths full of businesses hawking everything from Parasailing to whale watching, stopping at every one of them to find out if they might like to make an extra buck on fuel just to let  me use their special little key.  I didn't really like the fact that the dock itself was right up against a rock wall with surf smacking against it either so, again blinded by my vision of the wonderful fuel dock at Crown Bay Marina in St Thomas, and against the advice of both Rebecca and our friend Richard, I decided to fuel up at Tofer's Marvelous and Mystical Fuel dock where we would find everything a sailor needs.  I dreamed of diesel fuel, gasoline for the dingy and Honda Generator, fresh sparkling water filtered through charcoal filters for filling our tanks.  I imagined ice, both block for the fridge and crushed for the drink cooler.  There would be snacks and maybe even fresh doughnuts and Kona coffee for sale and right there a Laundry facility with fast machines so by the time the tank was full we could have our laundry done.  Oh and best of all would be the Bikini clad female fueling attendants who could really handle the hose, we were heading to Honolulu after all.

Surely you would think that the largest city in Hawaii would have a fuel dock right?  The Ala Wai Yacht harbor has almost 1000 boats in it with many of them liveaboards.  There are tons of boats running in and out with visitors doing all of the normal "on the water" adventures.  So sure was I that my Perfect Diesel Pumping Paradise existed that I didn't even bother to call the harbor in Ala Wai before we left Lahaina.  We left at about 9:00pm and after a night offshore and sailing through, not one but two, channel crossings, we were bone tired as we called the harbor control for instructions to the fuel dock...

I was at the helm while Rebecca called for instructions and I knew right away that there was a problem.

"No fuel dock...  ummmm hmmmm, Do you know anywhere else that we could buy fuel?  No?  Oh OK, do you happen to know their phone number?...  Ok."  She hung up the phone shaking her head at me.  Rebecca has this way of communicating both her displeasure with me and also saying, "I told you so!" with nothing more than a flash of her beautiful blue eyes.  I was still in disbelief...  Why wouldn't they let us use the fuel dock?  There HAS to be one there... What is the rub?

At this point Rebecca began franticly calling to find fuel and she managed to find one fuel dock way up in an industrial area but when she asked them about water she was told that there was no water available there!  We made our way up the harbor and located the fuel dock where we met a very nice attendant named Red who looked like he belonged on the cast of Duck Dynasty.  I was sure glad Red wasn't wearing a bikini.  While we were fueling I we could see that the next dock had water and electric... it was another marina, and there were open slips everywhere.  Problem solved!  I would just get permission to pull up to the T-Dock and top off our water tanks and we would be on our way to Washington!  Red shook his head at us and said that he personally thought it was a great idea but that he was also certain that the powers in charge would never allow it.  I asked why and he gave me a sad shake of his scraggly bearded head and just said, "They would have to do paperwork."

Sure enough the dockmaster of the marina itself said that in order for us to get water at that facility we would have to be legally docked there and since they didn't allow transient vessels we would have to apply for a slip, have a full boat inspection and pay at least one days dockage...

Rebecca called Ala Wai again and asked if we could come back for water at their dock and was assured that not only could we have water we could stay a couple of days.  We finished fueling and motored an hour back to Ala Wai against the wind.  The entrance to the Yacht Harbor was an adventure too.  Because of the Super Moon the surf was coming in in HUGE rolling breakers on either side of the little channel entrance.  As we went through the marker bouys we looked out and saw a couple of buff surfer dudes smiling up at us giving us the Hang Loose sign with their two middle fingers closed and their pointer and pinky raised, right then a wave caught the transom and the WD became a surfboard for about 10 seconds as we surfed into the harbor.

We docked and met some super nice folks at the Harbor Office... turns out that they are also not in favor of what replaced their fuel dock...  Now instead of fuel you can get married on the same spot at a very nice little Japanese Wedding Chapel!

We set sail in the morning for Washington!
Captain Tofer

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