Using techniques borrowed from the Superferry protesters on Kauai, a small group of local activists successfully turned away the Safari Explorer cruise yacht as it attempted to enter the Kaunakakai Harbor early Saturday morning.
However, the 145-foot boat carrying about 30 passengers, “snuck” back into the harbor on Sunday, according to protest organizer Walter Ritte.
The action on Saturday represented the third time in the past month that locals have protested the arrival of the American Safari Cruises boat. With 14 protestors in two boats and on surfboards, this was the first time the group had attempted to block the boat from docking. After a 90-minute standoff, ship captain and CEO of ASC, Dan Blanchard decided to reroute the ship to Lanai.
When the boat arrived back in Kaunakakai on Sunday, it was greeted by supporters of the tours. The passengers unloaded and participated in a day of regular activities. The group did not make it to Halawa Valley as a downed tree blocked Kamehameha V Highway. It is unclear if the tree was felled accidentally or as part of the protest.
When Ritte heard about the docking, he responded with an email to media that said, in part, “Protesters scrambled out of bed to get down to the wharf to see the same ship they had stopped the day before now docked and unloading passengers.”
Blanchard has been meeting with local business and community leaders over the past six years to arrange “cultural tours” of Molokai. He also agreed to meet with local kupuna and ‘Aha Ki’ole representatives to discuss the proper protocol for these tours.
In early September, Teri Waros, owner of the Kalele Bookstore and a local supporter of the tours, distributed a letter to the ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders announcing the intentions of ASC. When there was no initial demand for a public meeting, the company moved forward with its plans.
When the Safari Explorer first docked in Kaunakakai with passengers on Oct. 30, the protestors made their opposition clear with sign-waving and chanting. A meeting on the previous Friday delayed the visit by one day but this did not satisfy the protestors. According to ‘Aha Ki’ole leaders, a previous meeting on this issue was scheduled but not attended by Blanchard.
A second protest on Nov. 10 involved about 30 protestors standing at the wharf. The tour continued with its regular activities in spite of the protests.
Protestors have repeatedly said that ASC did not follow proper protocol in seeking permission to land on Molokai. But Blanchard said there was “not an absolutely identifiable protocol.” Protestors have not yet identified a specific protocol or process that would satisfy their concerns.
One of the central fears expressed by the protesters is that this would open the door for unlimited cruise ships coming to Molokai, turning it into another Lahaina or Waikiki.
A public meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30, to discuss these issues. It will be held at 6 p.m. at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center.