Finding Kaneohe Bay

Ickler, Lou
Revised: 
Friday, April 1, 2005

[this article is tagged for updating as some marks have been revised]

by Louis Ickler

Finding Kaneohe Bay is not difficult, but it can be confusing, especially if this is your first time. The mental image you have may not be what you will see. At the end of a long race across the ocean most of us are eager to get in and there is a temptation to skip some of the navigational details. DON'T DO IT!

The only way to ensure a safe landfall is to use proper navigational techniques. And you absolutely must have a copy of Chart 19359 (Current edition) to enter Kaneohe Bay.

Let's begin with the approach. Most sailors think they are coming from the east and expect the islands to appear ahead of them to the west. Actually, since Hawaii is south of San Francisco's latitude, you will probably be coming in more from the north. Only the ULDBs and boats that can gain from sailing well south of the rhumb line will be on a westerly heading, and many boats coming into Kaneohe will not even sight the island of Molokai which lies east of Oahu, or Molokai Light, on its east end.

Another source of confusion is the orientation of Oahu; since the windward coast lies on a line from southeast to northwest and Kaneohe Bay is several miles from the east end, not on the east end. The answer to these problems of perception is, of course, to use your charts and make sure of your position before you are close to land. This will save you from sailing into Kailua Bay or sailing right by Kaneohe Bay.

By daylight you will see the high cliffs all along the north shore of Oahu, and at the extreme eastern end of Oahu the headland known as Makapuu, a 650-foot black cliff with a lighthouse near the top of the cliff. Makapuu Light is an occulting light, turning off briefly every 10 seconds, and is visible as far as 20 miles at night. To your right (west) from Makapuu, the lights of Waimanalo and Kailua will glow on the horizon, and just to the right of Kailua you should be able to see the rotating, flashing green and two white flashes of the aero beacon at Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station (Mokapu Peninsula). (This beacon rotates red and white if the airfield is closed, which is unusual)

From about ten miles out you should spot an island, below or just left of the aero beacon, called Mokumanu, about four miles from the eastern point of Oahu. This marks the eastern side of the mouth of Kaneohe Bay. As you close the coast the aero beacon may disappear as Mokumanu Island rises in front of it, and the lights inside Kaneohe Bay will become more distinct. Remember to keep Mokumanu to your left, (the breakers offshore of Mokumanu are a very real danger even in daylight - stay well clear and to the right of the Danger Zone yellow cans A & E and flashing yellow buoys B, C, & D) and start looking for Pyramid Rock. Pyramid Rock is on the western shore at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station and is on what looks like a small rock, but is in fact 100 feet up and has a 4-second occulting white light on top. This light and the aero beacon will line up to form the finish line for the Pacific Cup, along with a temporary strobe placed for this race, and you should be in contact with the Pacific Cup Finish Line before you get to this line. Since there are shoals to the east, it is prudent to finish close to the strobe on a course that will take you to R2 buoy. The finish line buoy is approved to be placed at approximately 21º 28’ 50” N and 157º 46’ 21” W.

Excellent! You have now finished the race! From this point, you are now handed off to the Escort Committee.  See their article on that.

All of us at Kaneohe Yacht Club wish everyone fair winds and following seas…and no race has more of that than the Pacific Cup.