That sinking feeling about harbor decay
One short year from now the state's Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor will again be center stage for the finish of the Transpacific Yacht Race, the oldest long-distance sailing contest in the world.
As the granddaddy of all blue-water regattas, Transpac was first raced from Los Angeles to Honolulu in 1906 and, except for times of war, has been run in alternate years ever since.
The race's official finish line is off Diamond Head. Until last year, the finishers were escorted into the Ala Wai and moored in their order of finish in a line called "Transpac Row."
Naturally, Transpac Row would take on a party atmosphere, as well as become a focal point for the media, as it grew, boat by boat, as each vessel finished the race.
Unfortunately, though, this traditional aloha welcome was dampened last year due to the large number of slips that were condemned and/or demolished -- but not replaced -- by the state's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.
The Waikiki Yacht Club attempted to lessen the impact by donating a used -- but serviceable -- floating dock to the state. Ultimately the Transpac Row tradition was put on hold -- temporarily, all thought.
But now, as the Star-Bulletin's Venus Lee reported last week, the Ala Wai's harbormaster has announced that although a recent appropriation of $1.65 million from Gov. Lingle will fund the replacement of one dock, as many as three other docks are in the process of being condemned.
This condemnation translates to more than 100 boat owners losing their permanently assigned slips. It also means that Transpac Row, as in 2005, isn't likely to be a part of Transpac 2007.
Understandably, this disturbing news hasn't been lost on Transpac organizers who hope to have some 70 yachts entered in next year's race.
A recent press release from Transpac noted that in response to a letter from one of their members, Gov. Lingle wrote, "My administration is concerned about the condition of the state's small boat harbors, as we do want them to be places that our citizens and visitors can enjoy.
"We also recognize the economic value of prestigious yachting competitions and will continue to support events like the Transpac," she added.
"Nine months later, the state has made no apparent moves to improve the marina, despite Lingle's stated concern and assurances," the Transpac release retorted.
As someone who has chronicled the progressive deterioration of our marinas for the past decade, in our governor's defense, I think Transpac officials might more accurately assign the blame to our state's legislators.
After all, year after year they have considered numerous bills that would have provided funding for marina repair and replacement and then rejected them all.
Bills that would have allowed the DOBOR to enter into public/private partnerships -- the preferred marina operating system worldwide -- were also rejected.
The governor and DOBOR must have legislative support if they are ever to resurrect our decaying marinas.