The Mongrel Dogs at Sea (7): Maui

Today was the final port of call in Hawai’i, at the port of Lahaina. It was another transfer-by-tender affair. The seas proved a bit rougher this time compared to Kona; I got bumped around a bit. Nothing serious but a little unnerving.

Lahaina is a cute little tourist trap. I went on the Atlantis 4 submarine tour. We had to take another launch out to the sub. Despite fears of being cramped in a sardine can for hours at a time, the sub itself was very roomy and comfortable. We dove to 80 feet and then 140 feet, hovering off the coral systems that grow just offshore in Hawai’i. Although the scenes were ethereally beautiful, I was a little disappointed how washed out everything was. Of course I knew that Rayleight scattering meant that most of the long-wavelength stuff would be overwhelmed by the background blue “hiss” (a phenomenon the guide got 90% correct, to my surprise) I hadn’t appreciated how strong the attenuation would be, though. I guess Jacques Cousteau faked it a bit in all those documentaries. He probably brought his own light source.

I also took a ride on the Lahaina, Kaanapli, and Puukolii Railroad. I had naively assumed there wouldn’t be much railroading in Hawai’i. Coastal trade is easy for islands, of course, and yet it would be prohibitive to bridge the gaps. I had made the mistake of assuming that railroads are built for passenger traffic. Of course, the first and dominant justification for a railroad is to haul freight – to move commodities from their origins to ports. For the LK&P, it was sugar cane. Moving the cane from its fields to the coast by ox – the traditional method – limited the amount that could be harvested. So eventually some robber baron decided to build a narrow-gauge road to speed things up. Production went from 8 carloads to 120 once the road was up and running.

But now sugar cane isn’t a driving force in Maui’s economy and the road fell on hard times. Someone realized that, if tourism is Hawai’i’s future, then a restored railroad makes sense. It snakes across the island at an average speed of about 15 mph, shakes a lot, and makes a lot of noise. In other words, a perfect reproduction. 🙂 On one level, it’s sort of pointless – it just goes out to Puukolii and back, and doesn’t really even stop at the far station. But it was quaint and engaging.

Finally, I had to wrap up my souvenir shopping, as Maui is the last island we’ll be stopping at. I don’t know if we can debark in Esnenada, and I don’t really want to shop there anywhere. I took another stab at finding a Hawaiian print shirt that I like and that fits me – no luck, really. 🙁 But I finally crossed everyone off the list, so I guess I’m set. I’m glad I took time in Honolulu to mail back the bulk of my purchases, because I’d never fit everything in my suitcases.

Now, it’s back to sea for five days and then a gruesome 14 hours in LAX and the red-eye home. I’m actually looking forward to being back at sea, because I think I’ll get some writing accomplished. We’ll see if that actually pans out.