Hawaii Superferry Inaugural Voyage First-Hand Account
Hawaii Superferry began service between the Hawaiian islands on Sunday, August 26. I had the privilege of taking the inaugural voyage from Kauai to Oahu that evening. Here is what I experienced.
Protestors advocating "Sink the Superferry" lined the road into the loading area. Fortunately I arrived early enough to miss most of the commotion but others were not so fortunate and many were never able to reach the ferry.
The Superferry was 1 1/2 hours late leaving due to protestors in the water that prevented the ship from entering the harbor. The Coast Guard called in reinforcements and was eventually able to clear a path for the ship to dock. Cars off-loaded but could not exit the area due to protestors. As I drove my car up the loading ramp, the extra elevation allowed me to see flashing blue police lights and stalled cars everywhere. I didn't know our small island had that many police cars.
After driving up the loading ramp, each driver parked his own car at the direction of deck hands. It's a bit cramped and if parked next to a post, almost impossible to open the door far enough to exit the vehicle. There are lots of places to trip so watching your step is essential. Reaching the stairs to the passenger area was hazardous because there was no walkway except the lanes used by oncoming cars passing within a foot or so of parked cars. Something must be done here, it's totally unacceptable as is.
The voyage from Kauai to Oahu took about 3 hours. It was most enjoyable to be able to roam around without being tethered to a seat by a seat belt. A shop and refreshment stations were open for business and were popular. A deck at the stern of the ship had lots of room for those wishing to be outside. It was from there that the awesome power of the ship was so obvious. It's propelled by 2 immense, steerable water jets that are fascinating to watch. the forward area was off limits as it was reserved for "premium" passengers. It was surprisingly difficult to walk around due to pitching and rolling of the ship. This did not appear to be the result of rough seas but rather the design of the boat itself (my opinion). Several passengers were obviously sea sick. Several locations had water on the floor. One appeared to be a spilled drink (not sure whether it was before or after consumption) and one appeared to be from the overhead air conditioning system. Seating was great with many different configurations from aircraft-style seating to bench seats to table seating. Crew members were everywhere. I couldn't help but wonder about the financial viability of the service with so many crew members to pay.
Nearing arrival in the Honolulu harbor, we were directed to return to our cars on the car deck. It was most unfortunate that just after I had entered the car deck, I heard a muffled "oomph" behind me and turned to see an elderly man prone on the deck. He had tripped over the elevated doorway sill and appeared to be seriously injured. We summoned crew who assisted as best they could while waiting for an ambulance. As stated earlier, there are many places to trip and it's not really suitable for anyone who is unsteady or infirm. More attention to safety is essential, both in the car deck and in the passenger lounge where people were having difficulty walking about.
That was the one and only trip from Kauai. Protestors effectively shut
down an further Superferry trips out of Kauai and the courts stopped service to
Maui. In spite of public pronouncements of assistance, at least this
person had to fend for himself in arranging car shipping and a return flight.
I'm not sure of the experiences of the other stranded passengers at this time.