Harbor plan would hurt boaters


POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2009

Recreational Renaissance Plan B and its rule amendments will raise harbor fees in all state small boat harbors to an extent described as “;modest.”;

This is ridiculous; the increase will devastate one group of members of the boating community.

By far the worst hit will be those of us who are state residents whose boats must use temporary moorings while we are on the waiting lists for permanent places—for instance, in the Ala Wai and Keehi Harbors.

It is a major failure on the part of the state's Division of Boating that it cannot accommodate resident boaters in permanent slips until we have waited, for example, an average of five years for a place at the Ala Wai Harbor.

Now that same state proposes to charge us as if we were tourists—wealthy tourists—while we wait, at a rate of $2 per foot of length per day for each temporarily moored boat.

This, for an average boat of 35 feet, will amount to $70 a day, or $2,100 per month (30 days). That is more than the cost of a mortgage on a house: $25,200 annually, and over five years $126,000—more than many of our boats are worth.

Also, unlike those lucky boaters with permanent slips already, we aren't allowed to pay these huge increases for temporary slips in increments over a period of five years. The payment will be enforced in full immediately, probably in January—less than two months' time. This is a sudden and total financial disaster for us.

There will be hundreds of boats on Oahu alone whose owners cannot possibly pay these inflated prices.

What are our options? Where can we go? We can't all go out to sea for years until we get a slip.

But if we stay temporarily moored without being able to pay, our debt will rapidly accumulate and our boats will be impounded—not only a total loss, but there are also charges for the price of removal from the harbor.

If we all try to sell our boats at once, there will be a glut on the market; their value will disappear. And for some of us, our boat is our sole asset and only residence.

In any case, who will buy a boat under such circumstances? Some unscrupulous people have sold their boats already, without telling the unfortunate buyers about the impending fee increases. But the rest of us are stuck for lack of a stretch of water and two cleats for our ropes.

Is there a solution? Yes. Because we are kamaaina and state residents and not tourists, we ought to be given the same consideration as permanent slip holders. That is, our fees should also be raised gradually over a period of five years, at 20 percent a year, if we can prove that we are on a waiting list and are residents of Hawaii.

You can see why we are desperate—though we doubt very much whether our voice will be heard when the final decision to force these fees on us is made.

Julia Trott and Cynthia Clement, identical twins from England, have been Hawaii residents since 1979. Graduates of the University of Hawaii, they have moored in state harbors for three years in a sailboat waiting for permanent mooring at Ala Wai.