Ala Wai not alone in being ugly
Both of my Water Ways readers periodically suggest that I focus too often on issues affecting Oahu's recreational boaters, and particularly the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor. And, to some degree, I concur.
But in my defense, I will say that in part it's because Oahu has the lion's share of Hawaii's boating population and that the Ala Wai is the state's largest marina. Oh, and maybe the fact that my home and office overlook the marina has something to do with it, too.
Nevertheless, with a nod to those readers, I flew down to Maui last weekend and visited Mala Wharf, Lahaina Harbor and Maalaea Harbor. It had been a few years since I had checked them out and -- no surprise -- they were as bad or worse than I had remembered.
I say no surprise because, to me, our state's marinas are unlikely to see much change for the good as long as a governmental bureaucracy runs them.
As we have witnessed over the years, the funding for our state-run marinas comes at the whim of our politicians, and their maintenance and operation efforts come at the whim of union-protected employees with no profit motive to encourage improvements.
"Government workers are paid the same whether the marina does well or not," an article in Boating Industry Magazine pointed out. "And they are not rewarded when they do a great job."
Additionally, some public marinas even close their offices on major holidays when their facilities are most in demand, the same article noted. (Hey Hawaii boaters, sound familiar?)
Compounding the funding and operational difficulties at the marinas I visited on Maui is the fact that by any modern standard, their mooring systems and amenities are woefully antiquated.
Other than in Papeete, you would be hard-pressed to find so many boats that are "Tahiti-tied," that is, secured to the dock or seawall at the stern, with their bows moored out to an anchor or a ball.
Granted, it's an inexpensive arrangement, but boat access and protection is minimal at best. Contemporary marina designs normally provide slips with floating dock fingers at least between every other vessel.
Of course, given the frail nature of the docks I walked on, such a design will only come with a complete rebuild of those marinas. And, I think it's safe to say, at the state's present glacial speed that may take decades.
At the end of my visit, a question came to mind: How can it be that even Mexico's government can see the potential for recreational boating and is permitting companies to create modern marinas up and down its Pacific Coast, whereas our state cannot provide boaters with one decent marina on the whole world-famous island of Maui?
Maui may be "no ka oi," but like the rest of the state, its recreational boating facilities are far from it.