Water Ways
Ray Pendleton

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ala Wai conditions
dismay Disney

Judging by my recent e-mail, readers have enjoyed the sea stories I've related from sailors who took part in this year's Centennial Transpacific Yacht Race.

Apparently, they are curious about what it's like to sail from California to Hawaii aboard a comparatively small boat. What was scary? What was sublime?

Roy E. Disney -- the nephew of Walt -- shared with us his exciting experiences of sailing past Molokai aboard his max Z86 Pyewacket. But later, in a commentary to "Scuttlebutt," an on-line newsletter for sailors, he also commented on the deteriorating conditions he found in our Ala Wai Harbor.

And while not exactly a sea story, perhaps his comments will be a wake-up call for our politicians and the Division of Boating and Ocean Resources that are responsible for the funding and maintenance of all our state marinas.

Disney noted he has been a participant in every Transpac race since 1975 and has always appreciated the "wondrous welcoming aloha" to all of its competitors.

"But what has happened to the Ala Wai?" he asked. "It seems to be vanishing before our very eyes."

In a year that Transpac has been celebrating its 100th anniversary and sporting a near-record 75 entries, "the Ala Wai has gone completely to seed," he declared.

Disney pointed to the fact that many docks were condemned, making the decades-long tradition of having a "Transpac Row" impossible. Boats were forced to raft together in separate groups around the harbor.

"It's a sad state of affairs that the great state of Hawaii has let the single most important and prestigious marina in the northern Pacific Ocean come to this inglorious condition," he declared.

Disney noted that he first visited the state in 1939 and has often returned as both a tourist and as the owner of a local television outlet for many years.

"(And so) it pains me greatly that the government has been so remiss in recognizing the importance of one of its major attractions - the Ala Wai Boat Harbor," he said.

"Please, for all of us: visiting sailors, local sailors and all the proud citizens of Hawaii -- fix the Ala Wai!" Disney pleaded.

In response to Disney's observations, DBOR Administrator Richard Rice told me, "We agree that events like Transpac are an economic plus and that so much more can be done with boating in Hawaii. Transpac's success shows how a good partnership can work and this administration is committed to improving our many community small-boat harbors."

Sen. Gordon Trimble (R, Downtown-Waikiki) added: "The problem predates the current administration. Last session the legislature finally appropriated money to repair some of the small-boat harbors, but unfortunately the funds were specifically earmarked for projects that did not include the Ala Wai."

Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki-Ala Moana) added, "The condition of the Ala Wai Boat Harbor is an embarrassment to the whole state, as Roy Disney correctly and sadly notes. We will pay for our failure to fix up the Ala Wai."

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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