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A large, fun craft will anchor well off Waikiki


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POSTED: Sunday, June 14, 2009

When Robert J. Maynard Jr. and Dale R. Smith look out at the waters off Waikiki, they see untapped potential beyond its world-famous surf break.

So next month, they are launching what they call KanDoo! Island, a 98-ton steel catamaran that will moor every day more than 200 yards past the surf break in front of the Sheraton-Waikiki. It will serve as a base for ocean fun, from diving to parasailing.

“;What we're creating has never been done on the water,”; said Maynard, describing the venture as an ocean amusement park by day and nightclub after dark. Smith is president and Maynard is chief executive officer of KanDoo!Oahu.

The 148-by-48-foot vessel, a former dinner cruise and glass-bottom boat, is being rebuilt, and will be topped with awnings reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. KanDoo! Island will allow customers to sample all sorts of water sports, then relax in its salt-water Jacuzzis, or at its restaurant and bars.

There will be a slide into a netted “;ocean pool”; for the kids, diving platforms, and a submersible cage for “;helmet diving.”; There will be snorkeling and scuba, personal watercraft and parasailing. Along with the catamaran, the company has also bought several yachts, which will be available for charter.

Customers will be shuttled from Fisherman's Wharf to KanDoo! Island in waters roughly 50 feet deep. The catamaran will stay there from 6 a.m. until midnight, then come into Kewalo Basin for servicing overnight.

“;We're hoping to see 1,000 people a day coming through,”; said Smith, who has worked in real estate and business start-ups.

Despite the recession, Maynard is confident he'll have customers because he expects the dollar to weaken, making Hawaii a bargain for Asian travelers. A weak dollar will also make Hawaii more attractive to Americans than many international destinations, he said.

The entrepreneurs also think it's a great time to invest and to be hiring. “;In this economy, you can buy assets at fire-sale prices,”; Maynard said. Added Smith: “;The quality of resumes we are getting is just unbelievable.”;

Smith and Maynard, who met a few years ago as neighbors in landlocked Scottsdale, Ariz., seem an unlikely pair to launch an ocean business. But both love to dive. And they have hired an experienced local hands such as Steve D. Martin, who has 35 years in the maritime and tourism industry, including as operations manager and captain for cruise companies.

The company doesn't need a permit for “;KanDoo! Island,”; Maynard said, because the moorings are public. It has obtained one of the two permits for personal watercraft operations off Waikiki, and has signed an exclusive sales agreement with the other permit holder.

KanDoo! plans to offer a 25 percent kamaaina discount on activities, and invite local boaters to tie up at KanDoo! Island for free when there's space.