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On the waterfront, boats in doldrums

By Kevin Dayton

LAST UPDATED: 2:16 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011

They call it the "Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Canal Security Zone," and the boaters were mightily impressed.

Apart from the inflatable boats with bow-mounted machine guns patrolling the waterways, vessel traffic in and out of the harbor was reduced to a trickle Friday.

Crews with bomb-sniffing dogs boarded and checked boats tied up in the "front row" of slips closest to the Ilikai and the Hawaii Prince hotels, and also checked cars parked in the lots near the harbor.

Armed men in military fatigues stopped and checked all vehicle traffic on Ala Moana Boulevard as vehicles crossed the bridge and approached the boat harbor entrance.

Military equipment and checkpoints seemed to sprout everywhere in front of the Hawaii Prince.

"Welcome to Guantanamo Bay," said Chris Laletin, general manager of the Hawaii Yacht Club on the pier of the Ala Wai Boat Harbor complex. "This area really is under lockdown today."

Tight security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings prompted the club to postpone a fishing tournament and cancel its famed Friday night sailboat races, which normally have 40 or 50 competitors. It also closed the Yacht Club Friday through Tuesday to take care of some overdue painting and maintenance work.

There wasn't any point in keeping the club open because "you just can't get in here," Laletin said. "The wait to get in through the inspection points, even if you have one of the passes to get in here, it's a couple of hours' wait, and nobody's going to do it."

"We basically lost a whole week of revenue in the restaurant," he said.

None of this was completely unexpected, because the boaters were warned the harbor was a sensitive area that would be tightly secured. But it was quite a show watching the operation unfold, residents said.

A sailboat the locals didn't recognize was escorted into the harbor by two formidable-looking Coast Guard vessels, and an inflatable boat with a surfboard on top was turned away by a patrol boat as its owner attempted to leave the harbor.

Apart from that, there was virtually no vessel traffic in or out by midday yesterday, boaters said.

"Boy, I'll tell you, now we know how tight they can make it," said Al Bento, the Yacht Club's rear commodore for power boating and fishing. "But it's all for our good. There's nobody here that is mad or whatever. I'm just looking at the ability of the government to protect leaders of the world."

Carey Johnston, manager of the fuel dock facility at the Ala Wai, said she was able to quickly clear security and get into the harbor after making a shopping run to pick up food Friday afternoon.

She planned to prepare and sell meals to boat crews that are patrolling the harbor, but said APEC has been no windfall. "We're definitely losing a lot of money" because of the reduced traffic in the harbor, Johnston said.

Janet Mandrell watched some of these activities from her boat on the Ala Wai, where she was staying over the weekend. She said she had run out of milk but otherwise wasn't suffering any great hardship.

Still, she said, "I'd like it if next time they went to Lanai."

Another maritime security zone is in effect off the airport, and additional maritime security zones off Waikiki were to take effect Friday at 11 p.m. and midnight. An additional security zone takes effect at 11 p.m. Sunday off the Leeward coast at Ko Olina.

Coast Guard law enforcement officers will enforce the temporary security zones.

For more information about security zones, call 522-8264 or see security maps at

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