Redefining ‘recreational boaters’
After reading numerous e-mails, as well as the postings to the on-line version of Water Ways, I think it might help future discussions to understand the meaning of "recreational boaters."
As I have noted before in this column, there are about 18,000 registered or federally documented boats in Hawaii. (Yes, far fewer than any other state.)
And of these, approximately two-thirds are boats kept on trailers.
The significance of this is that for the majority of the state's boat owners, access to and the conditions of boat launching ramps are more important factors than in-the-water mooring facilities.
As a result, closing a boat ramp, as Ko Olina Marina did a couple of years ago, is the sort of thing that fires up their political activism. They also usually define themselves as fishermen rather than as recreational boaters.
That leaves us with around 6,000 recreational boat owners who currently should have an interest in the operations and maintenance of our state-run small boat harbors. But exactly who are they?
Unquestionably, sailboat owners outnumber those owning powerboats by a wide margin. And, like the trailered-boat owners, those with larger, moored powerboats are most likely to consider themselves anglers.
However, among the sailboat owners, we are likely to find a number of different boating interests and mentalities.
To some, their vessel is a means of periodically spending a few relaxing hours communing with nature's wind and sea. To others, sailing their boat may be their favorite form of competition, or perhaps their chosen mode of transportation among our islands and beyond.
There are also those who own a boat just because they enjoy working on it with the dream of sailing off into the sunset one day, often with little regard as to whether that day ever becomes a reality.
Then, there are the boat owners who use their vessels as their primary residence; a practice that eventually makes using their boats recreationally problematic. From my experience, as the amount of creature comforts expand, a boat becomes more like a stationary house and eventually is unable to face the rigors of the open ocean.
Fortunately, the live-aboard numbers aren't large. For example, according to Hawaii's Administrative Rules, there are only 129 "principal habitation permits" allowed for the Ala Wai Harbor. Still, these folks are frequently the most vocal and politically active, even though they represent just slightly more than 1 percent of our state's recreational boating population.
Arguably, the most recreationally active of Hawaii's boaters are the members of the various yacht and boat clubs in the islands. But as they often have the use of private boating facilities they tend to be less demanding of the state's marinas.
So in referring to "recreational boaters," it becomes apparent it all depends on which ones you're talking about. And, it's not surprising then, as one reader noted, "that boaters do not speak with one voice, (and that) in fact, the demands of one group are often in conflict with the demands of another ..."