Webster defines recreation as, “refreshment by means of a pastime, agreeable exercise, or the like.” So with “boating” added to that definition, the concept appears rather simple.
However, after spending any appreciable time around Hawaii’s marinas, the diverse nature of its recreational boating community becomes very apparent.
To the uninitiated, perhaps the first impression upon viewing the forest of masts in Honolulu’s Ala Wai Harbor would be that recreational boating is mostly about sailing. And for that harbor, they wouldn’t be far wrong.
The usually favorable trade winds and the somewhat protected waters of Mamala Bay make the Ala Wai a favored mooring location for many of Oahu’s sailors. Yet, even among the sailors, there are a number of sub-types.
Take a poll and you will find some with a passion for organized competition and on any given weekend, they will be offshore “racing the winds of paradise.”
Then there are other sailors who, while perhaps not as frequently, enjoy taking their boats on extended cruises of the islands in a more individual, leisurely fashion.
Substantially less active is the category of sailors who may not have left port in years, but perhaps still dream of sailing off into the sunset one day. For these recreational boaters, simply going aboard and puttering around is the “refreshment” they look for.
Along with the sailors are the powerboat owners in the marina who similarly have a wide range of boating interests, from active fishing and cruising to those whose vessels have become somewhat permanently attached to the docks.
Looking statewide, at least two-thirds of the boat owners in Hawaii don’t moor their boats in a marina and often don’t even consider themselves “recreational boaters.”
They are, of course, the owners of the trailered boats we often see early in the morning heading down the highway for a launching ramp in Waianae or Haleiwa. They most often will identify themselves only as fishermen.
It could be they feel the nature of fishing, and particularly subsistence fishing, disassociates them from recreational boating in general. Yet, there is little doubt that they too find “refreshment” in their fishing, even when the catching is poor.
Ultimately though, it is the diverse nature of Hawaii’s recreational boaters that appears to diminish the power of their collective voices to both the legislature and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and in all likelihood to do whatever is the most politically expedient.