Back To The Future:
It’s early morning in Hilo Bay on October 15th, 2029. From the vantage of a shore fisherman sitting on the long harbor breakwater, you can see the entire Bay and all its activity. The stragglers of the day fishing fleet are just clearing the harbor mouth for a day of free trolling under sail off the windward side of the Big Island; you can see their sails all the way to the horizon on this clear a day.
When they first showed up in 2019, these little 24-foot sailboats made a lot more economic sense for the Hawaiian fisherman than motorboats. They could spend all day trolling under sail, cover a hundred miles looking for fish, and only have to pay for their sandwich fixings for lunch. Anytime they found a likely spot, they would stop and “drop stone” or a “make dog” for ahi (yellowfin tuna).
(Below) The “Coconut” class: a 24-foot sailing fishing boat, with a 600-lb capacity insulated fish hold. She makes very little fuss as she moves through the water. Although she sails beautifully, she’s also got a HUGE 5 hp outboard for when there’s no wind. When motoring, she does 8-1/2 knots, using only a quart of gas per hour, getting about 34 mpg!
Those first sailing fishermen got to keep whatever they caught, without losing half of it to the gas pump; today they can make their wages for the day by just catching a single 40-pound ahi or mahi-mahi. And they often catch a LOT more than that: losing most of the Asian factory fleet in the South Pacific to fuel price increases over the last six years has been a good thing for these fishermen. The decrease in fishing pressure has really helped the tuna and other fish stocks rebound.
Even back then, trolling all day in a motorboat was so expensive that it wasn’t an option to make money fishing, so the boats would only troll for an hour or two before dark to try and find the schools of tuna that they would sit on all night and “ika-shibi” fish. The days of cheap fuel and motor fishing boats are long gone, except for the occasional rich man’s sport fishing boat trolling through the sailing fishing fleet. Everybody on the sailboats waves to the guys on the motorboats; I think they feel sorry for the rich guy breathing diesel fumes on his expensive yacht.
These little 24-footers get dependable weather forecasts for up to a week in advance, which means they can fish as far out as 50 miles from the Big Island, and get back to the harbor safely within 6 hours. These forecasts are generated from the huge streams of weather data provided by the small fleet of ARCs (which are autonomous oceanographic and weather research craft) that are deployed around the Hawaiian Islands.
When we lost most of the world’s weather satellites in the EMP that accompanied the solar flare of ’23, ARCs became the primary method of gathering data on the ocean. None of these little self-sailing weather stations are affected by EMP’s, because of the electronic shielding that’s built into their hulls and decks during construction; it’s similar to the shielding developed to protect jet passenger aircraft from lightning strikes. In an awesome example of “going full circle”, we just discovered that this shielding was invented by an uncle of Susanne’s who was working for Boeing at the time!
(Below) Even if you do get caught out in bad weather, the “Coconut” class has a built-in capsize relief valve:
Back in the harbor the Young Brothers tugboat and barge is unloading at the dock. It only arrives twice a month now since the economic crash of ’23 halted all development and slowed down economic activity in the Islands. A bit to the left of the tug and barge, there’s a couple of 90-foot Tropic Bird-class sailing fishing boats unloading chilled fish at the inner end of what used to be the Matson pier.
They’ll happily tell you where they caught the fish: “out there”, and then they’ll point to the ocean and laugh (you know how likely a fishermen is to tell you where his best spots are!). We know they caught them from 300 to 1,500 miles out from Hilo, because their boats can easily make 350 miles a day under sail in the trades, and these two were only gone 10 days total. They’ve each got 25,000 pounds of refrigerated seawater-chilled fresh fish to transfer to the cooler on shore; full capacity for that class.
Nine years ago that pier was often occupied with the cruise liners that made regular visits, but they’ve all been mothballed in obscure bays since the Corona virus pandemic of ’20 scuttled the cruise line industry. The same thing happened to most of the frequent container ships that used this dock; the crash of ’23 got them all.
There’s still a ship every six or seven weeks, but the stuff in the containers is so valuable that it often has an armed guard for every container that comes off the ship (you can’t pay for expensive shipping by shipping cheap stuff!).
Further out on the pier, where she can loose her dock lines and begin her run to Honolulu under sail, without using any fuel at all, is one of the “Kahu Moanas“, the 180-foot inter-island passenger and refrigerated cargo carriers, boarding passengers for the 190-mile run to Oahu while her cargo is loaded. This one is Kahu Ehulani, which is Hawaiian for “Beautiful Redheaded Guardian”.
Her sister-ship Kahu Wave is doing an exploratory run from Alaska to Japan with frozen king salmon and king crab right now; she’ll bring back electronics, medical devices, and high-priced sake for the West Coast mainland market.
Her other sister-ship Kahu Moana (this one is THE Kahu Moana, the first of the class, meaning “Ocean Guardian” in Hawaiian), is halfway from Hawaii to New Zealand with a cargo of Hawaiian organic coffee, mac nuts, and chocolate; she’ll return in two weeks with a cargo of New Zealand cheese and stainless steel bolts and fastenings (NZ makes the best stainless in the world because their active dairy industry uses so much of it). She does that run four times a year now, then fills in on the Big Island to Oahu passenger run during the busy season.