Gung Ho Sailing

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Maui sailing adventure
With the waters off Lahaina Harbor for a classroom, our author and his wife bask in the pleasure of learning new skills together.

“Look all the way up,” says Keahi, directing my attention to the slight curve at the top of the mainsail. “That’s what your boom vang is for. You loosen or tighten it to change the twist up there.”

Maui sailing adventure
Novices quickly learn that sailing is both physical and cerebral — from understanding what nautical terminology means, to what the parts of the vessel do; from reading the winds and cloud formations, to mastering the mariner’s art of tying knots. Getting to learn all that in Maui’s waters? What’s knot to like?

He has me pull on the line for the vang and I watch as the top of the sail makes slight — but noticeable — changes that help the boat to move even faster. That’s a skill I never really practiced when I worked on larger boats.

Heather keeps Gung Ho on course as we cruise out of the harbor, and with her hands on the tiller and her gaze straight ahead, even manages to thread through an opening no more than fifty yards wide. Seeing her smile, with the wind in her hair and the sunlight dancing on her shoulders, reminds of when being on the water was part of our everyday life. Splashing along Lahaina’s shore, I cherish this woman who has been with me for ten years, and has grown from a girl to the beautiful mother of our two boys.

“You remember what this feels like?” I ask Heather with a grin.

She nods and then laughs, “I so needed this!”

One of Gung Ho’s most important lessons is learning to read the conditions around you. The island’s steep mountains funnel the wind powerfully between valleys and across the channels—yet momentum can stop in an instant once you reach the wind line and the boat tucks into the lee. Conditions in these waters are so dependent upon the slightest change in wind direction that some say, if you can sail in Hawai‘i, you can sail anywhere in the world.

Keahi points to a line in the clouds that marks where the calm conditions stop and the stronger trade winds begin. He tells us that cooler, northerly winds are more common in winter, though by summer, winds clock to northeast.

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