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(The first three episodes in this series featured stories about working in Oahu, Kauai and Maui, all with large populations and normally very busy and bustling islands. Molokai is very much unlike Oahu and Maui.)
Map of Molokai with Kalawao County highlighted.

Here are a few fun facts about Molokai: known as “The Friendly Isle,” Molokai is about 260 square miles, much of it uninhabitable, with a population of just over 7,000. The sea cliffs along the northern portion of the island are the highest in the world, ranging between 3,600 and 3,900 feet above sea level. From 1866 to 1969, the remote Kalaupapa (Cal-Eww-Papa) peninsula on Molokai housed a settlement for leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) patients. Today, Kalaupapa has a small population, with access only by plane or boat to a tiny dock. Kalaupapa is in Kalawao County, the smallest county in the United States by size (53 square miles), and second smallest by population (82). It has no local government and is governed by Maui County. It’s a fascinating and beautiful place.

So, on to working Molokai during COVID. With such a small population, claims are not a regular occurrence on Molokai. During non-COVID times we might travel there approximately once a quarter for work; in 2020, I was there three times in less than six months.

Traveling to Molokai may be my favorite destination in the Islands, because of the commercial air service, Mokulele Airlines. With their own terminal at Honolulu International, you drive up, check in at the counter thirty minutes before your flight, and wait on your seat assignment. They fly Cessna Caravans, and as a pilot, I love this. As mentioned in the Maui episode, getting onto Molokai during COVID was easier than the other islands. Travel required approval from Maui County, but upon arrival with only six to eight other passengers, and three officials checking documents, arrival took only a minute or two and was a breeze.

After showing authorization to be on Molokai, it’s a short walk across the parking lot to the only car rental company on the island, Alamo. On my first trip, I drove to Maunaloa on the west side to inspect two roofs.

Insureds must sometimes be inventive on Molokai, to protect their property until an inspection can be completed.

Neither inspection took long and my work was completed by 10:30 a.m., but due to reduced COVID flight schedules, I could not depart until 3 p.m. The airport is in the middle of the island, so I drove past the airport down to the only gas station on the island, located in the only real city on Molokai, Kaunakakai (Kon-a-Ka-Ki). After refilling the gas tank, I drove back to the airport, turned in my rental, and walked across to the terminal. I had packed a lunch, so I ate and then waited more than two hours for my return flight.

My next trip I was much more prepared! On the second trip to Molokai, I had to take the early flight and landed at 7:00 a.m. I had two condominium water damage claims on the west side. The island was still very empty due to COVID, and during my time at each property I saw just one other person. I completed both inspections by 9:00 a.m., but still had to wait for the 3 p.m. return flight. While in the last unit, I noticed the WIFI signal was on, and since it was an AirBnB rental, there were instructions on use. With the owner’s permission, I then went onto the lanai and worked for two hours on my iPad.

As lunch time approached, I drove down to Pāpōhaku Beach Park, ate my lunch in the car and decided to walk out to the beach. This time I was better prepared and had brought a change of clothes with me, as well as a towel. The beach was deserted, and I decided to go for a swim. I spent about an hour in the water and decided to head back to the airport. Same as last time, I had to go past the airport to fuel the car and return it. My “punishment” for having some recreation time was that the sand was so hot, I had to run to the water and back. I ended up with blisters on my feet for the next three days.

Pāpōhaku Beach Park where I swam, before heading back to the airport. I can still feel the heat from the sand.

This time, I got back to the airport about an hour before my flight. Sitting in the terminal, I recognized the same people who flew over with me waiting to return to Oahu; they were obviously working, too. One guy kept looking at me, as if trying to figure something out. Finally, I said, “I brought a change of clothes with me.” He looked relieved and said, “I was trying to figure out what was different. I should have done the same, because I’m tired of my work clothes, too.”

The view of Kalaupapa Airport during approach, the only air access for people and goods into the Island.

Molokai never disappoints for interesting times; it is “old school” Hawaii at its finest. The next episode will be about going to Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mahalo and Happy New Year!

The Sea Cliffs of Molokai
Justin Whedbee

Justin joined his father’s independent adjusting firm while in college, and took over operations in 2001. Since then, his company grew to be the highest producing division of a national franchise with over 120 owners. In 2021, he formed MAS Solutions with John Walker, offering services across the U.S., Mexico and Latin America.