The Whales of Ma’alaea Bay

Author:  Gabby Foley, C Watch, Sewanee: The University of the South

February 21, 2022
View from the Seamans
View from the Seamans

View from the Seamans

Ship's Log

Noon Position: (Lat and Long): 20*47.378'N   156*29.816

Ship Heading (degrees): 33* NNE

Ship Speed (knots): 0.0knots (Anchored)

Taffrail Log (nm): 120.0nm

Ma'alaea Bay

Souls on Board

The past day or two on board has been a whirlwind of fun and excitement. C watch experienced the first dawn watch as we sailed 90 miles from Honolulu to Maui in the middle of the night. We sailed through the Kealaikahiki Channel, past the Islands of Lanai, Moloka'i and the ecological island reserve Kaho'olawe. The Islands created a wind shield and it was calm and quiet sailing. On dawn watch I had the first position of lookout. I clipped into a stay fixed on the bow of the boat and watched the islands pass in the night. As I looked below the bowsprit, I gazed upon a pod of dolphins surfing the bow waves, glimmering white grey in the moonlight. They were so playful and joyous to observe. The stars were phenomenal. I thought to myself "They'll be even brighter during the new moon!"

After finding a safe anchorage in Ma'alaea Bay, we began another round of COVID tests as well as safety training. We learned how to safely clip into the bowsprit and correctly furl the jib. We also began aloft training. As we climbed shrouds we reached the crow's nest, a small bout of panic hit my body and my legs became shaky.

"People do this when it's rough seas? And we are in a calm, protected bay? I sure am going to have to toughen up." I thought.

My friend Abby gave me the confidence to climb out to the yards arms. We sat up there together talking for at least thirty minutes. All of my fear was overcome with joy and excitement. We could see the whole bay and so many whales spouting all over. Big whales, baby whales, whale tails! It was magical. After we got down they had vegan chocolate chip cookies and big apples for snack. I was a happy camper.

After all of that, something even more magical happened. First scientist, Anna, set up a hydrophone and a speaker to the stern. We could not only see the whales but hear them singing loud and clear. I fell to the deck and cried by the speaker. It has been three years of dreaming of using a hydrophone in real life. And during whale season in Hawai'i? Are you kidding? I am so happy. So many dreams have been coming to reality this trip already.

We had a short break after dinner before getting to work with Allison.

During that break I watched sunset with some folks, and and two whales surfaced 20 feet from the stern of the boat! I cannot emphasize how many whales we have seen today. It is so unreal!

C watch had evening watch, but because were at anchor, we could split up the watch into sections. That way, we all got more sleep before finishing training and going underway today. After our initial anchor watch meeting, I checked the night orders and learned that I would be up from 0000-0100.

Still sticky with sweat and sunscreen, I snuck away to the bow for a freshwater rinse under the stars. I washed off and heard whales spouting all around the boat. The sky was dark purple, and the constellations were so clear.

I thought to myself "I can't believe this is real right now."

After my quick rinse, I collected my dry hanging laundry from earlier in the day, and went to sleep for 3 hours before waking up for anchor watch.
Anchor watch went by quickly, we got our anchor bearings recorded and used the radar to ensure we were staying in our ideal position. The lights from Maui were so beautiful. City lights and star lights lit up the sky. And yes, you guessed it, more whales. Everywhere all the time there are whales in Ma'alaea Bay. In the doghouse, the smell of salt and old, dark wood felt nostalgic. Memories of summer camp and growing up on the water flooded my sleepy mind. At 0100 I fell asleep and was treated to a solid 9 hours of sleep before finishing COVID tests and training today.

I awoke late, around 1000, and had a snack before heading up to the quarter deck to truly wake myself up. Captain Allison has a surprise for us! A swim call is always a treat. First mate, Kevo, discovered the night prior that, when underwater, whale song is clearly audible. We all jumped off the boat and dove under the surface to hear the whales in Ma'alaea bay. Listening to them and getting a swim in before going underway was such a treat. C watch had the afternoon sail plan ready. Jennessa W. had the helm first and she navigated us out of the harbor. First we raised the fore stays'l, then the main stays'l, the jib, and lastly the mains'l. Positions shifted on the hour and I was at the helm. In the first 30 minutes of our sail out of Ma'alaea bay a ginormous humpback whale full-body breeched 30 meters from the stern.

It was a spectacle. Those four seconds will live in my mind forever.

We left our anchorage and are underway on the great big Pacific Ocean headed towards Palmyra Atoll!

- Gabby Foley, C Watch, Sewanee: The University of the South

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 |

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  1. Doreen J Bertrand February 22, 2022 at 08:12 - Reply

    Thank you for sharing… I was in tears ..Mahalo
    Safe journey to you all

  2. Barbara Woll Jones February 22, 2022 at 13:56 - Reply

    Thank you for posting such a vivid description of your first couple of days. Looking forward to more such from you and your shipmates !!!

  3. Margaret McDonald February 22, 2022 at 18:40 - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your exciting journey and look forward to reading more. Enjoy!

  4. Luanne Cua February 23, 2022 at 12:46 - Reply

    Spectacular writing, I can see and feel your journey. Safe travels to all!! It is so nice to be able to follow the journey!!!

    Thank You

  5. Sherri Miles February 28, 2022 at 12:48 - Reply

    I cry with joy each time I read this. Safe travels and keep capturing the adventures!

  6. Greg March 5, 2022 at 09:12 - Reply

    Sounds like a beautiful start to your magical journey. I’m really happy you were able to use the hydrophone. Fair winds.

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