Harsh Weather Causes Superferry to Cancel Voyages

Ray Tanabe
Ray Tanabe

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The Hawaii Superferry resumes service Friday to Maui, after strong ocean conditions shut down service again for a few days.

The Superferry's design has been touted as ideal for rough sea conditions, but its operators say safety is first and that's the reason for frequent cancellations this year.

Wednesday's cancellation was the tenth so far this year.

They've been all weather related and living in an island state, unpredictable conditions come with the territory.

And weather experts say this is a year-round phenomenon.

The Alakai sits at Honolulu Harbor, docked because of harsh ocean conditions.

Hawaii Superferry executives have canceled about a third of the trips this month.

The winter season in the islands can be harsh.

"We tend to see stronger winds out of the southwest or stronger trades and that can bring us seas up near ten feet," said meteorologist Ray Tanabe.

But that's not all. High swells generated by storms in the pacific can make the ocean very choppy.

And even warm summer months have their share of weather related challenges.

"We tend to see trade winds in that normal ten to twenty mile an hour range, and trade winds are around about 90% of the time during the summer," said Tanabe.

And for ships like the Alakai, conditions are rougher getting in and out of the harbor than in the open sea.

"Depending on the path that's taken, you can see as you leave Honolulu and you enter the channels, the winds are going to increase as you enter the Kaiwi Channel," Tanabe said. "Large swells come into play in the near shore waters. So if you're entering or leaving the harbor because it can generate surf possibly breaking across harbor entrances."

Experts say each season has its own unique characteristics, so it's hard to plan for calm weather conditions if you're planning to book a trip.

NOAA has a comprehensive weather forecast tool on its Web site, but it only goes out to seven days.

Beyond that, it's more difficult to predict.