Kalaupapa Barge Day

Community Contributed

By Father Pat Killilea, St Francis Church, Kalaupapa

It was Saturday morning and I was enjoying my extra hour of rest since Saturday Mass is celebrated at 7 a.m. rather than at the usual weekday hour of 6 a.m. Suddenly, I was awakened by a couple of really loud and enthusiastic “meows” and when this did not receive the intended response from me, Titus The Tiger, the number two of my seven cats, launched his plump body onto my bed. Titus had never done this previously, even though I often permit him and Bailey, my number one cat, to stay in the house overnight. He must have sensed that something different and special was on the docket for that morning. So, I slowly slid out of bed.

Titus was correct, of course. After shaving, showering and putting on my best face for the day, I went to the door and looked out over the water. There, already in the inner harbor, sat a tugboat, resting on the placid water. Oh yes, of course, it was our annual Barge Day and, on this day the calm water would be our “roadway” for heavy equipment and other precious supplies such as household appliances. Barge Day is scheduled each year in July or August when the waters of the Molokai Channel are not the threat they can be at times when this channel is considered to be one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water.

On this day, Aug. 5, the barge was considerably larger than in previous years and had some difficulty safely entering the inner harbor. By 12 noon, it finally had been nudged carefully to its unloading position at Kalaupapa Pier and the teams of workers were ready and eager to unload the much-awaited cargo. My rectory gives me a great vantage point to observe the action even while lounging in my recliner in the living room. Of course, I did spend some time on the front porch where I had a better view of the action. My role of the day was to stay out of the way of the helmeted workers and I had no problem doing that. By about 3 p.m., the cargo had been unloaded and the barge was ready to welcome back the now empty oil tankers and gravel trucks as well as the old vehicles and the filled shipping containers destined for some scrap yard in Oahu.

By 7 p.m., the frenzy of activity had ceased and the barge eased away from the pier and was towed out of the harbor into the open sea. Another successful barge day had come and gone in Kalaupapa and the workers slept soundly that night. So did I, and Titus did not wake me on Sunday morning. Aloha.


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