Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thank you, Mother Nature

This is the time of year when I'm reminded that although our state's recreational boating facilities are not much to give thanks for, we still should be grateful for everything Mother Nature has provided.

In fact, it's Hawaii's abundance of natural resources for mariners that tend to increase the frustration in those who recognize our state's unfulfilled potential.

As a way to understand why this is so, find Hawaii on a world map and then just follow along with me here.

First, the obvious: You will notice we are all living on some very small specks of land that are surrounded by an enormous body of water.

When the wet stuff overshadows the dry stuff by such a large margin, it's got to be a boater's paradise -- and especially when the surrounding wet stuff is bathtub warm.

In most places around the world, foul weather gear is a year-round boaters' uniform, but not so in Hawaii. Toss on shorts and a T-shirt and you're ready to go.

Again looking at your map, you will notice that our specks of land are situated below the Tropic of Cancer, but not so far below that either the surrounding water or air gets as hot as it does on true tropical islands.

According to the Hawaii Data Book, the highest temperature ever recorded at Honolulu Airport was 95 degrees and the highest water temperature was 84 degrees in Kaneohe Bay. Still, the year-round average temperatures, respectively, stay in the 80s and 70s.

Something that you probably won't see on your map is an important meteorological feature called the Pacific High.

The downward pressure of its huge column of air -- hundreds of miles across and usually situated to our northeast -- creates a clockwise circulation that produces our near-constant tradewinds.

Those trades not only cool us, but they provide island sailors with arguably the finest sailing conditions in the world.

Whether they're competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race from California or a local off-shore regatta; from June through August, sailors can expect trades more than 90 percent of the time.

And, of course, it's those same consistent trades that allow us to live the majority of the time in an air pollution-free environment.

As any still day will quickly show, when the trades drop off, our skyline swiftly takes on the smoggy look of many mainland cities. And I'm willing to bet that it's caused mostly by auto exhaust, not volcanic venting from the Big Island.

Hawaii's surrounding waters are remarkably pollution-free as well, thanks to Mother Nature and again, as your map shows, our islands' isolation.

Like our air quality, it's not so much that we are such good environmentalists here, but rather that the ocean currents that flow around us quickly dilute our pollution and carry it away.

Hawaii's isolation may also be why anyone who goes out on the water can nearly always be thrilled and grateful by a breaching whale or dolphins jumping nearby.

Add to that a vibrant rainbow forming over the Koolaus, or a sparkling waterfall on Molokai's north shore and there's no question that we're blessed.

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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