By Diane Ako
MOBILE, Alabama (KHNL) - On Saturday, April 14th, 2007, Hawaii Superferry christened its first vessel with a ceremony that combined a traditional Hawaiian naming ceremony with western seafaring tradition. The vessel was christened with the name "Alakai," which in Hawaiian translates as "ocean path," in honor of Hawai'i's rich history of navigation and marine travel.
The kahu who performed the ritual says it went well. "This one was excellent, mainly because the last thing of doing 'Imua Alaka'i' really generates the energy from here to have a send off. Now if we can have that kind of receivership in Hawaii, it'll make it pa'a or bring it together in a strong way."
Generations ago, expert Polynesian Voyagers followed the stars, winds and waves along Na alakai (the ocean paths), to guide their journey. It is Hawaii Superferry's privilege to honor these pioneering navigators and the sea paths they voyaged by naming its first vessel Alakai - ocean path. Just as the ancient Hawaiian canoe that preceded it, the Alakai will too travel throughout our ocean connecting families, friends and cultures.
"A new era of interisland travel and transportation in Hawai'i has begun with the christening of the Alakai," said Hawaii Superferry CEO John Garibaldi. "We appreciate the opportunity to serve the people of our communities and look forward to providing an affordable, convenient, and fun travel alternative for Hawai'i's residents, businesses and visitors."
The Hawaiian naming ceremony was led by Kahu Kauila Clark, a highly respected cultural practitioner who has performed Native Hawaiian traditional ceremonies and healing arts for 31 years throughout Hawai'i, and other parts of the U.S., and the world.
Hannie Anderson, legendary water woman and founder of the world famous Na Wahine O Ke Kai canoe race, served as the ship sponsor. Anderson has been race commissioner for the Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association for 19 years, and the president of the O'ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association for seven years. In addition to the ceremonial breaking of a champagne bottle on the bow, the sponsor is involved in special events throughout the life of the ship.
Hawaii Superferry's catamaran-style vessels draw inspiration from the proud maritime heritage of Hawai'i, while the vessels' design was carefully selected following in-depth studies of Hawai'i's weather and ocean patterns with added sensitivity to the Islands' unique natural resources.
Alakai is anticipated to set sail on its more than two-week long journey home from Mobile, Alabama to Hawai'i via the Panama Canal in May. Once in operation, Alakai will connect Hawai'i's islands, communities and people by providing an interisland travel and transportation alternative.
The Alakai is scheduled to begin service in July 2007 between Maui and O'ahu and between and Kaua'i and O'ahu. A second vessel will begin service in early 2009. When the second ferry begins service, two round trips per day between Maui and O'ahu will be offered, and one round trip per day between Kaua'i and O'ahu and the Island of Hawai'i and O'ahu.
Not everyone is happy. Kauai County Councilman Mel Rapozo worries. "Traffic, crime, drugs. With the recent invasion of coqui frog in the state I think that will be another method of importing that invasive species. Whether it's frogs or plants, I think the Superferry will increase that problem."
Rapozo is also president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties. He says all 3 neighbor island counties agree "to support the movement that will require the superferry to provide an EIS prior to operating in the state. All we're asking is lets do a study. Let's make sure we know what we're getting into before we pull the trigger. That hasn't been done and we're all concerned throughout the state."