Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, February 16, 2002

House Bill 2540 poses
boating safety concerns

Good heavens, they're at it again. Two years ago, in an effort to develop a new revenue source for the state's Boating and Ocean Recreation division, our legislature considered a bill that would have allowed commercial boating activities --which have been always been illegal -- in the Ala Wai harbor.

To the great satisfaction and relief of the Ala Wai's recreational boat tenants, the bill died in committee.

But now, like a ghost from the past, it appears the bill may have died, but its spirit remained alive and well and has come back to haunt them in this year's legislature as House Bill 2540.

"Moorage for commercial vessels and commercial vessel activities in the Ala Wai ... shall be limited to not more than 16 berths ... which is two percent of the total number of state-controlled berths ...," it reads in part.

So what can be the problem with that, you ask?

Bottom line, it's a safety issue.

As I pointed out in a Water Ways column at the time of the earlier proposal, to those who currently use the Ala Wai harbor, just the thought of allowing commercial boating activities such as dive boats, dinner cruises or ferry operations, is immediately dismissed as unworkable.

Situated at the makai end of Waikiki's Ala Wai Canal, the harbor is more than just a parking lot for over 1,000 pleasure boats. Numerous water-oriented activities take place within its sheltered bay.

Two of the most active yacht clubs in Hawaii are located there and have provided public sailing instruction for adults and children along the main channel for decades.

The rise in popularity of outrigger canoe paddling in recent years has dramatically increased the number of canoes using the canal and the harbor for flat water training and to access the open ocean.

Add to these activities the surfers and divers who often crisscross the harbor entrance in pursuit of big waves or big fish and you often have a very congested waterway.

And, because those contributing to the congestion are often inexperienced, ride low in the water and are difficult to see, larger boat operators must take exceptional care to avoid collisions.

It's hard to imagine how a commercial vessel like a cruise boat or a ferry on a tight schedule would be able to ply these same waters for very long without incident.

Indeed, I would invite our legislators -- before they vote on SB 2540 -- to visit the Ala Wai any Friday afternoon around 5:30, if they have any doubt.

The sight of dozens of sailboats preparing to race out the channel, while any number of canoes and kayaks weave through the fleet, should put an end to any consideration of the bill's passage.

ONANOTHERSUBJECT, I must correct my typo in last week's column.

As reader Frank Lange quickly pointed out, unless there's been a remarkable change in the earth's crust, the distance from San Francisco to Oahu is 2,070 nautical miles and not 1,070, as I had written.

Fortunately, I doubt anyone uses Water Ways for navigation purposes.

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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