To kick the season off, a Hawaiian blessing for the yacht and crew took place on Oct 25 on Molokai. Hawaiian cultural advisers from Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island were invited to attend the blessing to celebrate the beginning of operations in Hawaii. Traditional Hawaiian protocols were also arranged at each island to ask permission for entry at that time.
Subsequently, something apparently went wrong on Molokai. Last Sunday, after two previous port calls, the small ship was met in the island's Kaunakakai Harbor by 14 protesters on boats and surf boards. The protesters claimed they blocked Safari Explorer's entry because the cruise line "never asked the community for their support."
The ship's two prior port visits were also greeted on land by protesters, which the protest organizers felt were ineffective. Taking a cue from the successful blockade of the Superferry on Kauai in August 2007, Molokai protesters took to the water and American Safari departed after a two-hour stand-off.
As reported by local news station KITV (there is a video of the blockade at that link), "Dan Blanchard, the owner of American Safari Cruises which operates the cruises around Maui, the Big Island, and Lanai, says the boat will simply continue on without the stops and services from Molokai, leaving Molokai's small businesses at a loss." Blanchard told KITV, "It's those vendors that really get hurt. Unfortunately that's where it lies, so it isn't as great to the small businesses of Molokai."
Blanchard also told reporters that American Safari had gone through the proper channels to coordinate arrivals, met with community members, and was even in attendance at one of the prior protests. He said, "They (the protesters) feel that they weren't brought into the loop. We had one community meeting already in addition to all the one-on-one meetings we had over the years. It appears to us that the large majority of the island is in favor of this." Blanchard hopes to discuss the protesters' concerns at a meeting with them tomorrow evening and it's hoped that cooler heads prevail.
Cruise Diva says, c'mon, folks. Be reasonable. It's a really small cruise ship with only three dozen passengers on board. American Safari advertises "flexible yacht itineraries" in order to alter the schedule when wildlife spottings are reported in the areas they sail, but this is ridiculous.
Image courtesy of American Safari Cruises