Friday, December 14, 2007


Spinning the Superferry story, and some possible new tourist souvenirs

by Larry Geller

The front page of a newspaper is seldom funnier than the comics page, but I'll have to admit I laughed more at the Nauseating but enjoyable trip for passengers headline than I did at any of the funnies.

NauseatingIf you click on that link you'll see that the Advertiser changed the on-line headline to Some queasy, some easy in rough seas. Maybe someone noticed the print headline and thought twice about letting the whole world laugh at it.

After calming down, I read the story, which begins:

ABOARD THE HAWAII SUPERFERRY — Maccine Carter spent more than three hours vomiting aboard the Hawaii Superferry yesterday on the final day of her Hawai'i vacation and still enjoyed her trip from O'ahu to Maui.

"I was sick the whole time," Carter said after going through several motion sickness bags in the front, deluxe Hahalua Lounge cabin of the 350-foot ship Alakai. "There was a lot of choppy water. But it was my last day and I wanted to see Maui. It was beautiful — from what I saw."

How funny! As the rest of the story made clear, the article could, and probably should, have opened with mention of how sick passengers became, because it bodes ill (if you'll pardon the expression) for the future of the Superferry in Hawaiian waters, at least as far as passenger transport is concerned. The real story begins to unfold only on the continuation page:

At least 25 passengers all over the Alakai were openly vomiting, said Superferry cabinet attendant Leeann Toro, who passed out barf bags as if they were candy on Halloween.

One passenger in the Hahalua Lounge was in so much misery that he had to be carried and dragged off to a first-aid area to lie down, Toro said.

Reporter Dan Nakaso chose to interview and feature one passenger, the one who said she enjoyed the trip anyway. I wonder why he didn't interview some of the others? Likely they did not enjoy their voyage quite as much as the one he chose for his lead paragraph.

A much more realistic, I suspect, story appeared in the Garden Island News, Less than smooth sailing - Superferry arrives in Maui:

“It was torture,” said O‘ahu resident Nola Watasa, who was traveling to Maui with her son, Colby, and husband, Dave, for a varsity wrestling tournament. “I’m glad it’s over.”

She and others riding the $85 million jet-propelled vessel — such as Clayton Fernandez, an O‘ahu resident visiting Maui for the first time — filled up the “barf bags” that Hawaii Superferry staff handed out early on in the three-hour voyage.

Workers scrubbed the carpet and wiped down the faux leather seats for those passengers who were unable to find a paper sack or make it to the bathroom in time.

And the voyage did not take place in a storm, it took place in typical conditions (from the Advertiser story):

Veteran harbor pilot Ed Enos said the weather and wave heights are typical for Hawaiian waters this time of year.

The Advertiser story didn't hide the ugliness of the trip, but for sure, if you only read the beginning you would have no idea of the extent of the disaster that this voyage represented:

Hale Mawae of Anahola, Kaua'i, couldn't make his way to the bathroom in time and vomited all over the Superferry's wooden floor passageway. His cruisemates, Katy Rose and Andrea Brower, also of Kaua'i, vomited as well.

“Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on Oh here we go slithering, here we go slithering and squelching on”
-- Incredible String Band

If conditions were typical, then perhaps the vomiting will also be typical. If so, don't count on too many people riding the ferry when they could have a quick, healthy, safer and cheaper airplane ride. I say "safer" because wooden floors covered with vomit are a safety hazard on a rocking deck. Not to mention the possibility of being the target of someone else's vomiting even if you're ok. Or how about sitting in a puddle of it by mistake?

And I'm wondering just how the ferry will smell after innumerable barf attacks.

The Maui News on-line headline seemed accurate: Rough seas, a poor reception. That paper lead with reaction from the ferry company and then reported details of the protest (noting, by the way, the "Impeach Lingle" signs we have yet to read about in the Advertiser. The Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca reported on them early on, in his October 28 column, by the way).

So the first voyage was a health and sanitary disaster. If it keeps up, how long will it be before the State Department of Health shuts the ferry down?

It would be unimaginable for the same conditions to persist on an airplane. Surely the FAA or some other authority would step in.

Sliding around a slippery deck in other people's bodily fluids is not a great way to travel. I can't believe it can continue, if it proves to be the norm. Nor can a lunch be totally enjoyable if eaten while watching others toss theirs.

Even if the Department of Health (which, after all, reports to Governor Lingle) is slow to act, travel writers are sure to pick up on this. Then the rest of the world will be laughing louder than I did, perhaps.

[There's no end of amusing possibilities; can you imagine a secondary industry developing in collectable Superferry barf bags? Or locally-printed Barf t-shirts, Barf Bags buttons, and of course, custom barf bags, all to sell to disembarking passengers ("I survived a ride on the Hawaii Superferry!"] Hahahaha! Each t-shirt comes with a couple of souvenir imprinted barf bags for the return trip.

Quick, before the Dept. Of Health does take action.


The photo on the front page of the Garden Island print edition was priceless: in the background Garibaldi with a lei, in the foreground, a passenger leaning over into a barf bag.

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