The Ala Wai Boat Harbor, located on the western edge of Oahu’s famous Waikiki, is Hawaii’s largest marina and the home to both the Hawaii and Waikiki yacht clubs.
It is also the homeport for the century-old biennial Transpacific Yacht Race from California and as such sees as many as 70 visiting race boats every odd-numbered year.
This year nearly 60 yachts were greeted with the customary aloha, however there were at least two that found the harbor less than welcoming when they ran aground inside the entrance.
Those incidents provide something of an exclamation point to the belief of many local boaters that the harbor is long overdue for a dredging operation to maintain safe water depths for the deeper draft vessels.
The two-and-a-half-mile-long Ala Wai Canal, which was constructed in the 1920s to control the runoff from the Koolau Mountains watershed, constantly empties its contents into the harbor. The canal itself was dredged about 11 years ago, but that operation ended at the Ala Moana Bridge and did not extend into the harbor basin beyond.
Because a University of Hawaii study once determined that the silt buildup in the canal - about three feet in nine years - was such that it should be dredged every decade for proper maintenance, it begs the question first of how soon the state will begin such dredging again, and second, might the state also include the harbor in any new dredging effort?
Although most local boaters are aware of several high spots in the harbor’s bottom they must avoid going in and out of the harbor, and most Transpac racers are advised of same, all would agree that having the state take appropriate action soon would nevertheless be hugely appreciated.