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Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Saturday, October 30, 2004


Time to sink Hawaii’s
floating slums

One of the wonderful things about recreational boating is that it is so multidimensional.

Boating enthusiasts are offered a wide range of activities to choose from.

Fishing, diving, paddling, rowing, sailing, racing, cruising, water skiing, exploring or just communing with nature quickly come to mind.

And, unlike other sports and recreational activities, boating can also be a defining aspect of a person's lifestyle because a boat can become one's home.

In perhaps its most romantic version, such a lifestyle involves sailing the world's oceans in a constant search for new ports of call. The "Changes in Latitudes" section in the sailing magazine Latitude 38 is filled with the exploits of such sailors.

Granted, these sailors occasionally put into a port for months at a time due to weather, repairs, or for some brief employment, but they'll rarely stay put for more than a year.

There are also those boat owners who dream of sailing away into the sunset sometime in the future. They frequently have full-time jobs and by living aboard, they can work at preparing their boat for that day, although the more romantic lifestyle may be a decade away.

I would guess the vast majority of the folks who live aboard in our harbors are those who found they needed to make a choice between owning a house, or a boat large enough to comfortably live aboard and cruise Hawaii's waters.

Never mind that they don't get out of the harbor as often as they thought they would -- I'm sure the romance is still alive.

The least romantic segment of Hawaii's live-aboard population is comprised of those who view their "boat" as nothing more than low-cost housing.

A short walk along the docks in Ala Wai Harbor can provide numerous examples of such floating apartments. They may be floating, but they certainly can't be described as sea-worthy, or romantic.

I know the history of one of them quite well. This houseboat-like structure was constructed more than a dozen years ago to narrowly pass the state's definition of a boat and to become the builder's primary living quarters. He never had any intention of venturing out to sea with it.

He subsequently left Hawaii a few years ago, but his legacy lives on as housing for another tenant in the Ala Wai.

I bring this topic up because every marina operator, be it the state or a private yacht club, must periodically question the validity of its occupants. And although there is unquestionably a lifestyle aspect in recreational boating, the key word here is "boating."

Just because a structure floats on the water, or even looks somewhat like a boat, it doesn't mean that it is a boat, in the sense that it can safely leave the dock.

Particularly when there are 5- to 10-year waiting lists for boat slips around the islands, it is critical that such imposters are weeded out of any marina.

Hawaii's administrative rules for boat harbors provide that the "occupancy of berths at any small boat harbor or off-shore mooring area shall be limited to vessels actively used as a means of transportation on water."

That would seem to be all any harbormaster would need to begin replacing these boat replicas with the real thing.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at raypendleton@mac.com.

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