Honolulu Star Bulletin 03/16/02)
By Ray Pendleton
What features make up a first-rate recreational boating marina?
That's a big part of an issue that now confronts our state's Board of Land and Natural Resources and an ad hoc committee that has been formed to make recommendations on how best to develop the land surrounding the Ala Wai small boat harbor.
The BLNR is primarily interested in such development because it has rightly concluded that, as with nearly all such marinas in the world, the revenues from slip rentals aren't sufficient to properly manage and maintain them.
But with Hawaii's severe shortage of world-class boating facilities, good examples to draw from are more likely to be found elsewhere.
Coincidentally, Sea, a popular West Coast boating magazine, recently conducted a survey of 18 harbors between San Diego and Santa Barbara and graded them according to the availability of 25 features it considers most desirable to boaters.
The evaluation was primarily presented as a guide for boaters interested in cruising port to port on vacation, but perhaps it can have other uses for readers in Hawaii.
Heading the list is the ease of entry to the harbor and its docks, followed by nearby ocean access and the availability of a harbor master.
A fuel dock, available propane, a holding tank pump-out station, a grocery and convenience store and even a cyber-cafe made the list, along with anchoring, mooring and slip availability.
Under the heading of facility, Sea listed numerous creature comforts such as utility hook-ups, restrooms, showers, laundry, parking, security and something not often given high marks by visitors to our state's marinas, friendliness.
Nearby public transportation, a marine store, haul-out facilities, a sail loft and the presence of yacht clubs were also considered.
The proximity of hotels (including restaurants), a park and recreation area, airport access and entertainment facilities were evaluated, along with a harbor's ambiance and cost, which completed the list.
The harbors then received a rating from zero to five stars, depending on each feature's existing service level or availability, proximity and fees charged.
Zero stars equated to: none, ocean access over three miles, highest fee and over $15 per foot. Five stars equated to: excellent, within 1/4 mile, lowest fee and under $5 per foot.
TO ANYONE WHO has visited Southern California, it shouldn't come as a surprise that an old, industrial harbor such as Wilmington was out-starred by the newer, cosmopolitan Marina del Rey. It's similar to comparing the state docks in Keehi Lagoon with, say, the Ala Wai's Waikiki Yacht Club.
It also shouldn't come as a surprise that no harbor was awarded five stars for mooring fees. The cheapest slip fees I've heard of, from Cabo San Lucas to Santa Barbara, is $6 per foot a month.
More importantly though, Sea's evaluation list of harbor features seems to be one that could be used by anyone seeking to delineate the most desirable commercial activities to encourage near a marina.
And, with so much money effort being expended by our hotel industry to once again establish Waikiki as a world-class resort, shouldn't its marina be brought to the same standard?
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