Captain Lyman was a sailor’s sailor, and more
Hawaii lost one of its most colorful characters when Captain of Ships David Lyman
, 62, was killed in a freak accident last Sunday in Nawiliwili Harbor at Kauai.
Lyman was taking a cruise ship out of the harbor and was going down the ship's ladder to the pilot boat when he fell, landed on the boat and rolled into the sea. He was injured by the pilot boat.
Lyman, a Punahou '61 grad, was well known around town and in Murphy's Bar & Grill. He had a big handlebar mustache, wore loose aloha shirts and a lauhala hat encircled by a beautiful pheasant lei. He had an unlimited captain's license, meaning he could take the world's largest ships in and out of Hawaii's harbors -- and he did so for 31 years.
Kiki Hugho, senior Honolulu pilot boat captain, said Lyman often gave his commands to the tug boat captains speaking in Hawaiian and pidgin English.
He shared his knowledge of the sea in speeches to schoolchildren and interested groups.
Lyman also was a good singer, with a strong, deep voice, and a stand-up bass player. Lyman, Hugho and Kaipo Poomaikai, a tug boat captain, formed a musical group called Captain and the Crew. They performed together for 15 years.
Lyman also conducted more than 100 weddings, with Hugho playing slack key guitar softly in the background. He conducted many funeral services at sea as ashes were spread.
"He had the best attitude," Hugho said. "He was always up. And if a ship was in a jam mechanically, he was always calm.
"Among Lyman's passions was tying knots," Hugho said. "He was an expert at tying knots. Another thing he did was make bottles and bottles of chili-pepper jelly to give to people at Christmas."
Hugho said Lyman's playful side came out sometimes after taking a ship out of Hilo Harbor. After getting on the pilot boat, Hugho said Lyman would get a conch shell and blow three loud aloha toots. The ship would respond with three powerful blasts from its horn.
Lyman helped filmmaker Edgy Lee with her productions. "He was the narrator of 'A tribute to Hawaii's Fire Fighters' and was intrinsic in helping us produce 'Waikiki in the Wake of Dreams,'" Lee said. "He arranged to have the tug boat carry us out to the outer reefs to film the opening scene from a point of view one rarely gets to see -- looking into Waikiki beach as if you were coming in on an old wooden ship in the 18th century.
"I loved this man dearly as a friend who was anonymously helping people in need and sharing his wealth and wisdom. He was living proof that it isn't what you've got in your pocket that counts, it's how one can make this world a better place. Dave strived in so many small and major ways to make Hawaii a better place while fostering historical preservation because this is what he loved so," Lee said.
Lyman was first mate on the maiden trip of the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea in 1976 and was captain of the 1978 voyage when the canoe capsized. Crewman Eddie Aikau left on a surfboard to seek help and was never seen again. The crew was rescued south of Lanai not long after Aikau paddled away.
Hugho was a crewman on that voyage and said he, Lyman and Norman Piianaia, who also was on that voyage and is now captain of the container ship Matsonia, sailed from Honolulu to Hilo on the Matsonia Jan. 21. They talked about the ill-fated Hokulea voyage for the first time on the trip.
"David has shouldered the blame for letting Eddie go for help," Hugho said. "But it was not his fault. Even if Eddie was tied to the mast, he would find a way to go."
Ben Wood is a Star-Bulletin copy editor and columnist. "My Turn" is an occasional column written by Star-Bulletin staff members.