Only One Way to Go in Hawaii.
Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean means you better get used to jet travel. Hawaii is, after all, the most remote populated spot on the globe and it’s a minimum of five hours by jet to anywhere.
Ocean liners once sailed back and forth bringing visitors from the U.S. mainland in four-to-five days. Those times are long gone and, today, the only way we can go anywhere is by air, even from one island to another.
Back in the mid-70s, an operation called SeaFlite began taking passengers between Oahu and Maui on fancy hydrofoils. Once reaching a certain speed, they rose up out of the water and skimmed smoothly along on giant skis. Alas, on more than a few occasions, Seaflite came limping into port with a boatload of unhappy seasick passengers. The hydrofoils proved unreliable and SeaFlite eventually folded.
About ten years ago, it was tried again. The Hawaiian Superferry was designed to take cars and trucks as well as people. It didn’t rise up out of the water, but it was a twin-hulled catamaran and that big sucker really moved, running at a top speed of 50 miles-per-hour.
However, its size and speed were a problem for some. The ocean surrounding Maui is a sanctuary for humpback whales and there was real concern about the probability of the ferry striking one of the animals.
The ferry also disrupted outrigger canoe races as well as surfing and wind surfing activities. Protests and demonstrations began.
Then it all just blew up. Our former governor, Linda Lingle, a Republican, had earlier decided that Superferry didn’t need one of those bureaucratic inconveniences called an environmental impact statement, and she waived the requirement.
Environmentalists took the issue to court, of course, and just as things were turning ugly, a federal judge ruled that Superferry would have to cease operations until an EIS had been completed. That was too much for the owners. The ocean-going twin-hulled behemoth was sold to the U.S. Navy and is now, I believe, calling New Orleans its home port.
Strange, isn’t it. A thousand years ago, the ancient Hawaiians came to these islands by crossing 2500 miles of open ocean in sailing canoes. Today, the only way to travel from Oahu to Maui is by jet plane. It’s 116 miles.