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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Fighting red tape with pink

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Legends are born while we sleep. We wake up and there they are. The Legend of the Pink Buoy blossomed one morning almost 50 years ago when guests at the new Kaiser Hawaiian Village Resort strolled to the beach and giggled. Off the water-skiing channel was a big, pink buoy.

Buoys to mark channels are not supposed to be pink. They can be somber black or fire-engine red, depending on what lifesaving purpose they serve. They can be decorated with flashing lights and equipped with foghorns. But never under any circumstance is a buoy allowed to be pink.

Everybody around Waikiki in 1956 knew that pink was the favorite color of Henry Kaiser, builder of the Hawaiian Village, creator of a new Waikiki beach and lagoon, and dredger of a channel through the reef. Everybody knew that Kaiser bulldozed the Legislature, the City Council and the harbor board to get permits while others waited in line.

The harbor board put out a spanking new buoy for Henry Kaiser's water-skiing channel the moment it was completed, while members of a young, poverty-stricken organization called the Waikiki Yacht Club waited and waited for the harbor board to put a buoy on the channel of the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.

Ask Charley Dole, 89, who still hoists a sail. He's not only a founding member of the Waikiki Yacht Club but he helped start the legend. Since the club is celebrating its 60th anniversary on Saturday, it is appropriate that Charley tell it again.

He said the magnificent concept originated the night before a big regatta. Amid universal pique that Henry Kaiser had a buoy and they didn't, contractor Frank Rothwell said, "Let's paint it pink."

"Frank and I went to a hardware store for pink paint and brushes," Charley recalled. "Lorrin Thurston (son of Advertiser publisher Lorrin A. Thurston) took us to the buoy in the dead of night in his motorboat. There were six of us. We climbed up on the buoy and painted it. Then we went back to the club to celebrate but everybody had gone home except a drunk at the bar."

The next day, the Coast Guard complained to Kaiser, who complained right back. The guilty six went underground at Bob (brother of Frank) Rothwell's Kane'ohe Bay beach house as an investigation got under way. Lorrin Thurston hustled his boat, spattered with pink paint, into Rothwell's garage out of sight.

However, a Coast Guard officer was staked out with binoculars. Fortunately, Bob Rothwell, an attorney, took the case and opened plea-bargaining negotiations. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime, but pink paint on the boat was incriminating.

The authorities, therefore, agreed to charge the boat with unlawful buoy painting. Its six occupants, their records unsullied by crime, gladly coughed up the boat's fine. In a short time, a buoy appeared at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor channel.