Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, May 8, 1999

Hawaii has great
boating potential

AS my dentist, Dr. Jed, might have said to a jumpy patient, "Hmmm, I must have touched a nerve there."

That was my reaction to the e-mail responses I've received regarding last month's column comparing Hawaii's boat ownership to the rest of the nation's.

The actual statistics I quoted, culled from U.S. Coast Guard tallies, weren't really anything new, but that was my point. Decades go by and our state continues to have fewer registered boats than any other state in the union.

In fact, Hawaii has about half as many boat owners as the next closest state, Wyoming.

Have you ever been to Wyoming? Not a lot of seaports there as I remember.

In that column, I also compared Florida's conditions with Hawaii's.

"Open your eyes brah," wrote one reader who identified himself as a Hawaiian living in the Bahamas and an active boater.

"It isn't the (lack of) marinas, or the boat ramps or the cost of living in Hawaii," he wrote. "I can tell you boaters in Florida would have heart attacks if I took them even five miles off Diamond Head buoy on a regular tradewind day."

Actually, several people voiced the opinion that Hawaii's often challenging seas were at least partly to blame for our depressed numbers of boaters.

My response to this reasoning is to ask how they can explain the large, and growing, numbers of paddlers who are quite comfortable racing from Molokai to Oahu aboard one-person canoes and kayaks - slender slips of self-propelled plastic just 21 feet long?

Or, that virtually every marina on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island has a waiting list of potential owners who would like to eventually rent a place to moor a boat?

MORE germane, perhaps, is the fact that Hawaii's challenging sea conditions, together with insufficient safe moorings to duck out of the weather, make for an unnecessarily threatening combination. Albeit, one that many boaters seem willing to take, and one that could be corrected.

How many more boaters would find island-hopping cruises to their liking if there were sufficient transient slips available in places like Kaneohe, Lahaina, Maalaea, or Honokohau?

The writer from the Bahamas concluded his message by noting that, "Besides, after seeing the types of boaters in Florida, I opt to keep Hawaiian waters just as they are."

Now, he didn't say what he does for a living, but for me and many of my friends who are involved in various waterfront business ventures, we would rather not go somewhere else - like the Bahamas.

Instead, we continue to work at establishing in these islands the same kind of thriving ocean-related economy found in places like Florida, California, Mexico ... or the Bahamas.

The potential for recreational boating in Hawaii is great, but commensurate with it is the responsibility for assuring its growth is consistent with sustainability.

Changes will surely happen here, so rather than attempting to "keep things just as they are," it would seem more incumbent upon us to make sure the changes are well planned and thoughtfully implemented.

Now, what do we need to do to get the state's movers-and-shakers to work with us to that end?

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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