Coral Queen Marks 40 Years Above The Reef This Month
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Kaneohe Bay’s quadragenarian Coral Queen takes
passengers on a one-hour tour out of the Heeia
Kea Small Boat Harbor. Photos from Capt. Kalani
Oahu’s only glass-bottom boat is about to celebrate its 40th year of plying the waters of Kaneohe Bay.
The 40-foot-long Coral Queen was built in 1967 of a sturdy wooden frame right on Heeia pier where it still boards passengers from all over the world. Even His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor Akihito, took a tour on the Coral Queen before stepping onto the Japanese throne.
“The Secret Service checked out the boat and closed down the whole pier,” recalled operations manager Capt. Kalani Makainai. “(The prince) was able to experience our hands-on algae lesson, and someone brought him some hermit crabs to look at. They really enjoyed it.”
Makainai, a 1977 Castle High graduate, has been on or around the glass-bottom boat for nearly 26 years himself.What was just his fun job on the water turned into a career after his boss paid for him to become a certified captain.
“I love it, and every day is different,” said the Kaneohe resident. Some things improve with age, he added. “One thing I’ve learned is that the clarity of the water and coral have come back. And there’s hardly any of the algae left at all (from earlier sewage pollution).”
Tourists can get up close and personal with an
octopus while aboard Oahu’s only glass-bottom
The Coral Queen, currently owned by Kaneohe businessman Siegfried Schuster, can carry up to 60 people. It specializes in one-hour educational tours for school groups, senior citizens, scouts and others, as well as birthday parties and memorial trips (to scatter ashes). Still ahead, said Makainai, are planned eco-tours, and trips to showcase the history of the sand-bar.
Like Makainai, Rhonda Stewart began work with the Coral Queen as a diver. She returned 17 years ago to develop boat tour’s education program. Kaneohe Bay, she said, is an ideal outdoor lab for students.
“We’re the only place with three kinds of reefs, and we have the only barrier reef in the state,” she explained, pointing out that Hawaii’s ecology and ancient Hawaiian history can be observed vividly while floating between the culture’s two very sacred places - Kualoa and Mokapu. Not to mention the fish, turtles and hammer-head sharks.
The Coral Queen invites the public to help celebrate its anniversary. One-hour tours are $15 for adults, and $7 for children. For reservations and for details on current promotions, call 292-8470.
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