A look back after 13 short years
As Water Ways embarks on its 14th year, a brief glance back at a few of the past 651 columns seems appropriate.
After all, in the first Water Ways column of April 1, 1993, I made a commitment to cover all aspects of recreational boating in Hawaii. So a quick review may not only remind us of past events, but it may give us a hint about the future as well.
Stories of individuals in the boating community who have risen above the ordinary have been, and will always be found in this column. Whether it is about a sailor circumnavigating the world, or an angler catching a record-breaking fish, such stories are timeless in their appeal.
Over the years, we have met such individuals as Brian "BJ" Caldwell, who rounded the world on a 28-foot sailboat before his 21st birthday, and Al Bento, who captured his first 1,000-pound marlin after fishing for a "grander" for over 40 years.
Sailing regattas and fishing tournaments have been ongoing sources for story material, of course, because individual and team competition is such an important part of the human psyche. And, to their credit, Hawaii's yacht and boat clubs have always hosted such contests with enthusiasm.
However, we have seen that the number, popularity, and extravagance of those competitions often reflect our local and world economies.
Participants as well as sponsors tend to ebb and flow in direct proportion to their disposable income, as prestigious perennial events such as the Transpacific Yacht Race and the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament have shown.
Two story lines that have become annual columns have been warnings to mariners. At the start of winter, there's the reminder to be aware of the annual migration of humpback whales, and in June there's the reminder to be prepared for hurricanes.
And while these columns are somewhat repetitious, an increase in the numbers of whales, hurricanes or boat owners in any year can add to their importance.
Perhaps the subject that has received more attention in this column than all others has been Hawaii's diminishing boating infrastructure.
Year after year, and under administration after administration, recreational boaters from Hanalei to South Point have witnessed our state-run marinas collapsing around them. And as one might expect, the situation has provided me with more than enough issues to write about in a short weekly column.
But how much better would it be to have positive events to chronicle? I can imagine this column filled with the news of an exciting new marina replacing the floating slums of Lahaina, or a doubling of the size of Kailua-Kona's Honokohau, or even the Ala Wai's crumbling harbor being transformed into a mini Marina del Rey, Calif.
But the reality is that until boaters become unified in their demands to government and those in positions of power come to understand recreational boating's economic potential, the stories in the Water Ways of the future will likely look much like those of the past.