Santa drops the ball on boaters

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 12/27/03
By Ray Pendleton

Christmas came and went and the one thing I was wishing Santa might bring Hawaii's recreational boaters this year wasn't delivered.

From my and many others' perspective, the gift boaters need the most is a serious and drastic managerial reform of the state's "small boat harbors."

I know it's not the sort of present the "jolly old elf" usually puts under the tree, but I'm quite certain it would have been overwhelmingly appreciated throughout the islands.

Take for example a recent editorial and photo essay on the Internet version of the highly respected sailing magazine Latitude 38.

The photos displayed were taken by Honolulu sailor Ron Dubois and graphically showed the current deplorable conditions in Oahu's Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor.

"Today's Photos of the Day are examples of what happens when a yacht harbor is poorly managed, maintenance is deferred forever, and the tenants are allowed to decide how much below market and cost they will pay for their slips," the editorial tells the world.

The text goes on to explain that the state-run, 750-slip harbor in Honolulu is where 104 slips have been condemned because they are in danger of collapsing under their own weight.

"Previously, folks with boats in the slips were told (we're not making this up) to limit the number of people standing on the docks at any one time lest they cave in!" the editorial exclaims.

Because Latitude's journalists have been coming here to cover international sailing regattas for decades, they have had an opportunity to witness first hand the disintegration of the Ala Wai's marina.

The editorial pointed out that despite the Ala Wai's superb location, instead of being the showpiece marina of the Pacific, it's a "crumbling embarrassment," and they listed possible reasons for the decay.

eep their boats - even when they no longer use them - or in other cases, to use them for low-cost oceanfront housing instead of recreation.

The editorial went on to say that while the state auditor has repeatedly warned of the repercussions for not charging enough to cover the costs of maintenance, the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has not acted.

"Seems like it's high time the State of Hawai`i leave the management and running of their marinas to professionals," the editorial concluded.

Similar sentiments can be found among serious boaters around the state.

In an e-mail I received recently, Pam Baughman, the owner of a 46-foot ketch on Maui, said that she had taken her boat into a slip in Maalaea Harbor for some repairs, but it had fallen victim to further damage there.

"Our boat was getting damaged because of the inadequate facilities, no finger piers and the bad surge," she said.

And, of course, getting a slip in Lahaina Harbor (the only other marina in West Maui) is virtually impossible.

"I saw an ad to purchase a boat," Baughman told me, "It said, 'Why wait 13 years for a slip like everyone else when you can buy this boat and slip for $150,000?' That made me outraged."

Santa couldn't help boaters this year. Looks like it's up to the 2004 state legislature.

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