The view of Elephant Rock from TRILOGY III. Photo courtesy of Trilogy Excursions.
The alarm went off at 4 AM, then 4:15, then 4:30. The pouncing and snuggles from my beloved husky mix that usually follow did not come. She was sleeping in, but I was not. Why on Earth would I, a night person, want to drag myself out of bed at 4:30 AM on a Monday? Because I am heading out on Maui's newest sailing catamaran, departing Ka'anapali Beach for a half-day adventure! After slogging through walking my dog, gathering my things and heading out the door, I am greeted with a pastel sky; a soft Maui morning. Once in Ma'alaea, I hopped into the car with friends on spring break and we made the drive to Ka'anapali. Whales dotted the coastline and their black fins were easy to spot against the water color-esque painting on the surface of the ocean. Yes, this is going to be worth the early wake-up call.
Parking at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel lot is a breeze and the walk down to the beach for check in woke me up a bit. As we stood looking out across the water wondering where we would be snorkeling for the day, a mother whale and her calf lazed about just offshore. Before long, Trilogy's newest addition to the fleet, TRILOGY III, was making its way to the beach. This boat is gorgeous and brand new. It is powerful yet gentle. Sixty-five feet of glorious sailing catamaran was driving straight toward the beach all for me! And 40 of my best friends, but hey, a girl can dream right? Beach loading is somewhat counter-intuitive; boats are not supposed to be beached. But there is something very raw about timing your entrance to the boat with the tide. You get wet, but that's part of the fun.
TRILOGY III making its way onto Kaʻanapali Beach. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
After walking up the ladder, all guests remain at the bow of the boat to help keep it weighted there. My friends and I chose the padded bench seats that are positioned along the front nets. Perfect front row seats without enduring the splashes and sprays encountered when sitting directly on the nets.
Enjoying our seats and cinnamon rolls. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
Once we made way far enough out from the beach, Captain Caleb called everyone into the cabin for a briefing.
"Worst case scenario," he said, "if the conditions turn once we are out in the channel, we will change direction to Honolua Bay." It's not everyday Honolua is seen as the next best choice, but today Molokaʻi was on the horizon.
What?!??!! I thought to myself! An adventure to another island is such a treat. Captain Caleb explained that a voyage to Molokaʻi is extremely rare due to wind and wave conditions in the channel between the two islands. Every now and then, however, perhaps once a year, the wind and waves settle down enough to make the trek. But why would anyone want to go to leave the azure waters surrounding Maui and head to Molokaʻi? To this day, Molokaʻi has remained very true to Hawaiian tradition with a high population of people with native Hawaiian ancestry. There are no stoplights, no massive buildings, no major tourist influxes. Some people would tell you there is nothing there, but quite the contrary, everything has been preserved there. What does this mean for us? Unadulterated, crystal clear waters with virtually no one else in sight.
Mom Coon's delicious cinnamon rolls. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
With no wind in the air to sail, the Twin 305 hp Cummings turbo diesel engines motored us north from Ka'anapali. En route, we enjoyed Mom Coon's family recipe cinnamon rolls, coffee, fresh fruit, and the sights and sounds of the channel. As we approached Moloka'i, we turned slightly east and slowed upon reaching Moku Ho‘oniki. Resembling an elephant on its side, we tucked the boat into the crescent shape formed by the elephant's head and trunk.
Moku Ho‘oniki, aka Elephant Rock. Photo courtesy of Trilogy Excursions.
Many years ago, Trilogy Excursions helped to set up the boat mooring systems. Moorings are made up of either a pin into the ocean floor or a stationary object such as a block of concrete with a chain, float, and tagline attached. Boats tie off to the mooring in lieu of dropping anchor. The purpose of the mooring is to prevent anchors from dragging across the ocean floor and potentially destroying our already compromised coral reefs. You can read more in our blog post: Understanding Day Use Moorings . Since Moku Ho‘oniki is not a regular snorkeling location, there is no mooring in place. It was time for the crew to put their expert sailor skills to work. First Mate Shannon jumped into the small bay. Her job was to look for a sandy part of the ocean floor appropriate for us to drop anchor and get a bite. The spot could not be too deep, nor could it be in such a spot that the boat could swing around into the rock. In addition, Shannon surveyed the water for any potentially dangerously strong currents.
Crew getting the boat safely anchored. Photos courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
The process was pretty interesting to watch: Shannon communicated with the team at the bow, who relayed messages to Captain Caleb and back to Shannon again. Not only can the Captain who is bound to the helm not hear Shannon, he cannot see her. It's critically important for the team to keep the communications flowing. An anchor spot was identified, and the anchor was dropped, but it did not bite. Shannon dove to a depth of 30 feet in order to flip it over. We got a bite. Captain Caleb surveyed the scene and was not entirely happy with the location. It is, after all the newest and most beautiful sailing catamaran in Maui. Time to adjust. The anchor was pulled up and after scouting a second location, it was again dropped, got a bite and tied off. We were ready to rock and roll.
Captain Caleb at the bow left, view of bay right. Photos courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
Captain Caleb went through a safety briefing at the bow and then we got into the water. Right away, it was easy to see how this was a mini Molokini; crescent in shape, but teeming with marine life. Thousands of people flock to Molokini Crater every day. Many of those people are completely unaware of the effects their sunscreen has on coral reefs. When you get thousands of people wearing reef damaging sunscreen in a concentrated area, it takes its toll. Responsible tour operators work diligently to educate guests of the effects chemicals like oxybenzone have on our marine life, and the effects are definitely visible. (For more on reef safe sunscreen, check out our blog post: Is Your Sunscreen Reef Safe?) This was definitely not the case at Moku Ho‘oniki. While snorkeling, guests were treated to marine life such as a puffer fish, a moray eel, and the highly endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. Beautiful brain coral was abundant on this reef floor and visited by several tropical fish. Other things you might see snorkeling here are spotted eagle ray, baracuda, sponge crab, dolphins, octopus, feather duster tube worm, arge wrasse, triggerfish, angel fish, butterfly fish, and parrotfish.
Underwater photos courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
Shannon positioned herself on a surfboard in front of a cut out in the rock so as to keep watch on guests. A person swimming through that cutout runs the risk of being slammed on the rock when the waves go down as well as being swept away in the currents behind the rock. Divers in the area must be highly advanced and take advantage of the currents by drift diving. The water on back side of the rock is also deeper and notorious for groups of scalloped hammerhead sharks. So long as we stayed within our protected crescent shaped bay, conditions were safe for all ages. The other crew member in the water with us was Vanessa who eagerly dove to the floor to pick up starfish for kids to see and learn.
Vanessa watching over guests. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
Brimming with excitement, I tried to relax at the surface and look for little movements on the floor, occasionally diving down to get a closer look at the cute pufferfish that was hovering. The parrotfish were HUGE! Most likely due to the fact that they were mostly undisturbed. Though I have heard many stories of sightings of whale sharks in this area, today was not the day. I started to head back to the boat and whale songs filled my ears. Whales can be heard up to 3 miles away and as I swam toward the boat and ultimately into deeper waters, their songs became louder. Reluctant to leave this glorious chorus, I climbed the ladder onto TRILOGY III.
Friends snorkeling. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
Back on board, I was able to rinse off the salt with a fresh water shower, wrap in my cozy towel and settle into my seat. An hour plus of snorkeling followed by basking in the sun on Maui's newest sailing catamaran and munching on homemade chips and pineapple salsa with Molokaʻi as the backdrop seemed all too fantastic... And then there was lunch which did not disappoint. My vegetarian meal consisted of veggie kebabs grilled right on the boat, luau rice and salad. My friends devoured their bbq chicken and we all kicked back for the ride home.
Captain Caleb preparing lunch left, photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions, showing my friend's daughter how to drive right photo courtesy of Trilogy Excursions.
But we were too excited to kick back for long. Captain Caleb took us around the back side of Moku Hoʻoniki which gave us all a better glimpse at why this little island is called "Elephant Rock". My friends and I decided to get a better view and sat next to Captain Caleb. The new boat is truly state of the art, and I personally enjoyed checking out the depth sounder. Shortly after leaving our little snorkeling bay, we were cruising above water depths over 800 ft. Captain Caleb let my friend's daughter have a go at the helm, turning auto pilot off for JUST a moment. We had all enjoyed a very full day and were quite content with the breeze in our faces, ice cream, drinks, and our island of Maui coming closer into view. Ahhhhhh.
Whale action. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
"WHALE!" Shortly before reaching Maui, a competition group surfaced. Head lunges, breaches, tail slaps galore. We got to see it all. We saw male suitors vying for the mother's attention and the calf seemed to be shooing them away. Whale season officially runs from December 15th - April 15th, with the first sightings in mid October. This season was full of particularly active and curious whales, which makes for great whale watching. Whatever the situation amongst the group we passed might have been, it was surely a treat for all on board, including Captain and Crew.
As the boat returned to Ka'anapali Beach, we reluctantly returned to shore. Sun-kissed and sufficiently tired, we headed home sharing memories from the day; one that surely will not be forgotten.
Rear view of TRILOGY III. Photo courtesy of Island Dream Productions.
For more information on Trilogy's Discover Ka'anapali Tour, visit the Trilogy website at http://sailtrilogy.com/tour/kaanapali.
By Contributor Kate Middleton