An afternoon on the water
with Captain Kiko
Story by Don Lewis
A Hawaiian sailing canoe is not at all like a narrow, river canoe with a handkerchief sail that threatens to fling you and your belongings into the water with malicious glee. It is more like a catamaran with two substantial hulls joined by a solid deck. Passengers sit comfortably in the hulls. It is very stable.
Kiko is a serious yacht master, equally skilled in nautical construction as in sailing. He knows every river and cove on the island, and he delights in showing off secluded haunts that a visitor would never discover on their own. You’ll learn more about Hawaii in the course of a couple of hours casual conversation than you would ever find in even the best tourist guide books.
I’m a reasonably accomplished sailor and race regularly. So I was eager to see how this unusual (to me) boat would perform. Passengers sit in individual cockpits in the two hulls. A very practical aspect of this boat is that if you need to get the boat out of a sheltered bay and into the wind, it is a simple matter to paddle. No fussing with engines.
Once in the wind, the sail is raised and the boat moves smartly. It is more exciting than a traditional boat of the same size because you are closer to the water, yet very stable because of the twin hulls. There is plenty of room to stretch out on the deck once under way.
I was fascinated by the fact that the boat has no rudder. The helmsman steers with a large paddle. Kiko invited me to try my hand at the helm. Well, that was a completely new experience for me, even with a lot of sailing skill. It isn’t even like steering a traditional canoe. Steering is accomplished by inserting a paddle vertically beside one hull, and altering the depth of the paddle. This alters the lee balance fore and aft in conjunction with the set of the sail. It is a surprisingly accurate way of steering, and really difficult to get used to when you are used to a traditional helm. Fortunately my fellow passengers were amused by my learning the subtleties of steering this delightful craft. And Kiko was genially patient with a guy who thought he knew how to sail!