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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Pilot boats playing vital roll

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Today we will discuss how a roll of toilet paper is inextricably related to the new pilot boat in Honolulu Harbor. To understand this complicated relationship, we must start with the first harbor pilot in Our Honolulu, Capt. Alexander Adams.

King Kamehameha, a shrewd businessman, sent a cargo of sandalwood to China with Adams as his captain in 1817. Kamehameha lost about $3,000 on the speculation. Adams explained that the Chinese at Canton charged so much to pilot his vessel into the harbor that it ate up all the profits.

The clever king saw an opportunity. From that time on, ships entering and leaving Honolulu have had to pay for a harbor pilot. Adams was the first.

Pilot boats used to be dinghies that you could row or sail. From 1900 the energetic Young brothers introduced motorboats. The little boat that harbor pilots hired to take them out was named Pilot, according to the late tug captain Jack Young, son of the Jack Young, who founded Young Brothers.

In time the harbor pilots acquired their own boats. Now we come to the newest, fastest pilot boat, Kawika, that was introduced on the waterfront yesterday. It was custom-built in New Zealand by a firm that specializes in small, fast boats that can stand up to rough seas.

Kawika has a top speed of 48 mph with a cruising speed of 29 mph. Harbor pilot Tom Eberly, who arranged for the purchase of Kawika, explained why speed has become important.

"Pilot boats were slow. The concept has changed," Eberly said. "Now we look for a lighter, faster boat that still has stability in rough water because of a more sophisticated design.

"The reason speed has become important is because so much paperwork is involved in piloting a ship into the harbor. In the old days, a pilot just went aboard off port and took charge of the ship. Today when a pilot comes on board there has to be an exchange of information between the captain and the pilot. The procedure takes longer so the pilot has to board farther out to give himself more time.

"That means the pilot boat has to travel farther, and come back faster to pick up another pilot for another ship." The Kawika, to be used as a backup boat, is named after a colorful pilot, Capt. David Kawika Lyman, who died this year in a piloting accident.

Here's where the toilet paper comes in. Inventories of toilet paper used to be warehoused in town. Today container ships serve as warehouses. A new order of toilet paper arrives just in time to restock the shelves. If the harbor pilots aren't on time, you can't buy toilet paper.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.