It was 7:30 a.m. as it arrived at the outer fringes of the inner harbor. By 8 a.m. it was being nudged closer to the pier by two tugboats and at 8:30 a.m. it had nestled close to the dock. Then at 9 a.m. the action began for real. It had been one of the earliest dockings of the Young Bros. barge during my 10 years here in Kalaupapa.
As I sat on my front porch, the crew were unloading empty shipping containers off the barge. Old friend Lionel from the Big Island stopped by to say hello and told me that these containers would be filled with metal and wood scraps before going back on the barge. Then came an assortment of other much needed goods and supplies. Meantime the tankers had been unloading their oil gold, a gasoline supply to last us for the next 12 months.
By 11:15 a.m. the barge had emptied its treasures and now began the task of loading the scrap metal and wood as well as old vehicles and other equipment destined for recycling. In the meantime, some of the workers enjoyed lunch and a few laughs in the shade of the tent provided by Steady Eddie, our invaluable electrician. Eddie always gets a charge out of providing such conveniences for the community.
Barge day no longer provides the Kalaupapa community with the same degree of excitement it once did. The community itself is smaller and the number of resident patients is currently five. The other six live in Honolulu. Still, barge day is very important to us because it brings us our annual supply of gasoline, not to forget cases of Heineken and Corona. It also brings replacement cars, vans and trucks as well as heavy machinery.
By 3 p.m. all that was going aboard was aboard and the bridge from barge to dock was removed. The lead tug, with an assist from a second tug, pulled the laden barge away from the pier and out into the open waters. It was “Aloha to Kalaupapa for 2022 and see you in 2023.” Aloha.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.