UPDATE 12/31/12: The Hawaii Superferry has been cancelled.
Departing from Honolulu, Oahu at 6:30 AM and arriving in Kahului, Maui, at 10:30 AM, the Hawaii Superferry (HSF) takes about four hours to cross the open ocean in between. You have to be on board at least 30 minutes prior to departure. For most people on Oahu, that means getting up at 4 AM. Once underway, the ride away from Aloha Tower is smooth and picturesque as the the city lights shine brightly against the inky black sky. Passengers gaze through large windows at passing Waikiki, and all is hushed over the drone of the diesel engines. The ride is smooth and picturesque, a great way to see the islands. You sip some hot coffee.
Rounding the point heading toward Molokai, civilization fades and open ocean takes over. In the channel, the winds whip and the ocean buckles. The ferry begins to heave into and over the huge swells. Up, down, up, down. The massive boat bobs like a toy. The inner ear signals something isn’t quite right. You’re way off balance. A queasy feeling appears in the pit of your stomach. You start to sweat and look for the toilet. Friendly crew members appear and pass out seasickness kits: a puke bag, ginger, a moist towelette, soda crackers and a breath mint. Fantastic, but you really want to get your stomach out of your throat. There are still three and a half hours to go.
Urgency overtakes your search for the head. As you reach for your puke bag, you let go of your shyness about puking in public. In between bobs, you look around and notice that most of the other passengers are doing the same. Along with most of the other passengers, you heave deeply into the bag and let go of breakfast, last night’s dinner and anything else still in your stomach. Two hours later, the sounds of hundreds of people dry heaving masks the roar of the engines. The ginger doesn’t seem to be working. There is a palpabale sense of shared suffering.
Some passengers make it to the cafe for a soda or snack bar. Others watch some screens. A few are trying to get wireless or cell phone signals. Exhausted, you slump into the stadium seat, munch the soda crackers and doze into a light sleep, hoping you’ll snooze your inner ear back into balance. There is still an hour and a half to go.
The sounds of the engines and horns wake you from a fog. You notice the awful taste in your mouth and reach for the breath mint. As the ferry pulls into Kahului Harbor, you see Haleakala’s peak rise in the distance. Solid ground beckons. So much for seeing the islands during the ride over. As you disembark onto the flimsy dock, you think that maybe next time you’ll fly. That trip only lasts half an hour.