Rough Waters, Calm Protestors Greet Superferry

KAHULUI, Maui (KHNL) -- Quiet protests but rough seas for the Superferry's re-launch to Maui. The Alakai left Honolulu Harbor at about 6:45 am Thursday with 200 passengers and 70 cars.

That's far less than its capacity, but Thursday's Superferry story is about the scope and tone of protests on the Valley Isle.

As you may remember when the Superferry first tried to begin service back in late August, it was met with violent protests on Kauai and lawsuits on Maui.

A special session of the legislature cleared the way for it to sail after many months of legal, political and technical delays.

The Superferry's trip back to Maui was almost a non-event. No angry protests, no human blockade, and no one arrested. Still, folks came out to make their opinions heard, through hand-made signs.

On Oahu, passengers prepared to make a pre-dawn voyage on this, the second and long-delayed sailing of the Hawaii Superferry.

"I'm looking for a great trip to Maui," said Ray Kayser, a Superferry passenger who lives in Makiki. "I think this is great for Hawaii and I'm real happy about it."

The sun peeks from the horizon, as the Alakai pushes off Honolulu Harbor.

Rough waters rock the ship, making some seasick.

By mid-morning, the Superferry arrives at Kahului Harbor, to the passengers' delight.

"I honestly really enjoyed the ride, especially seeing the islands from the sea," said Ben Brookins, a Superferry passenger who is visiting from Oregon. "It was a lot of fun."

"Yeah, I look at plane tickets but I've never done a ferry before so I thought it would be fun and it was," said Tammy Chang, a Superferry passenger also from Oregon. "I plan on doing this on the way back as well."

But a different mood just outside Kahului Harbor. About a hundred protestors came out to make their voices heard.

They did it without shouting or even chanting. They let their signs speak for them.

Some protestors say their concerns go beyond the Superferry.

"It's gotten to this point here where you don't just blanket approve everybody because it's done in the past, we have to start thinking about future concerns," said David Vitarelli, a Superferry protestor who lives in Haiku, Maui.

And they hope other shipping companies will be held to higher standards.

"I think we need more caution and if anything I would say, that's an argument for tightening the environmental laws, and making them apply to more people not exempting the Superferry," said Robin Knox, another Maui Superferry protestor.

Still some passengers hope people keep an open mind.

"Just give it a chance," said Thomas Hulihee, a Supeferry passenger who lives in Manoa, Oahu. "Give it a chance before you condemn something, look at all the opportunities."

Opportunities for growth in an debate that still divides the state.

Superferry executives still won't say when service to Kauai will resume. They want to focus on Maui for the time being, to make sure things go smoothly there.

As for the other side, protestors are planning a rally at Kahului Harbor Saturday morning at nine.