Superferry trip to Maui was enjoyable gift
While sailing around Australia's Great Barrier Reef last year, I got e-mails from several friends telling me the new Hawaii Superferry was causing a lot of controversy, particularly on Kauai.
Controversy? I e-mailed back. About what?
About the possible spread of alien plants and animals, potential whale strikes, traffic congestion, drug trafficking, harbor maintenance ... came the replies.
"Some people," a friend wrote, "really don't like change."
Change? I thought. Our island state has been dealing with those transport issues for decades. Why is an interisland ferry more threatening than a container ship? A tugboat and barge? A cruise ship? A speedboat?
I didn't get it.
Then last Saturday, for a surprise 60th-birthday present, Craig took me to Maui on the Superferry. The vessel excelled in Hawaii's wind-whipped channels, seemed as (or more) ecologically sound as any other ship in the islands and provided an enjoyable experience for a reasonable price.
Yet Kauai residents refuse to let the ferry go there? I still don't get it.
Because I was gone when the ferry was launched, I hadn't seen this 350-foot-long catamaran before, and when I did I thought it was a jaw-dropping feat of nautical engineering. The ferry's width, length and height impressed me so much I felt like a country bumpkin staring up at my first skyscraper. To this small-boat sailor, the Superferry looks like an aquatic spaceship.
After driving onto the car deck, I walked around the main cabin, a big, comfortable lounge. There I saw that one choice section had been reserved for members of something called the Manta Club. What's this? A few privileged voyagers get the best seats?
Yes, and that's a good thing. The Manta Club is the name of the Superferry program that takes disadvantaged teens on free field trips. For the Manta Club kids on my voyage, this was their first off-island experience. It was also their first maritime experience, and I suspect the same was true for most other passengers on the ferry, nearly all Hawaii residents.
And that's one of the major pluses of having an interisland ferry. It offers us an easy way to see the islands the way the early voyagers saw them: from the ocean. There's no better way to appreciate just how marine Hawaii is than by crossing our channels in a boat.
The seas got rougher as we left Oahu, but the ride stayed smooth enough to stand and watch Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Maui slowly appear, the islands rising from the deep blue like fairy-tale kingdoms. The experience gives the term "island state" a whole new meaning.
Part of the fun of taking the ferry to Maui was being able to take my car. Like most Hawaii residents, my car is a large part of my life, and having it there made Maui feel like home.
"I'm from here," I interrupted as a clerk began explaining the meaning of the word puka. And I meant it. Whichever Hawaiian island I'm standing on, especially when it's next to my car, I am home.
Getting a Maui weekend was a fine gift for a special birthday, and going by Superferry made it even better (major points, Craig).
Now I look forward to the day my little car and I can take this Superferry to all the main islands and be welcomed, as I was in Maui, with aloha.