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ABOARD THE HAWAII SUPERFERRY — The Hawaii Superferry took to sea yesterday on a trial run off the coast of O'ahu that showed both its potential and its problems — mainly seasick passengers in otherwise calm seas.
Yesterday's two-hour cruise stayed well within the protection of the lee of O'ahu, sailing from Pier 19 to Diamond Head and nearly up to Ka'ena Point. It was an hour short of the scheduled trips to Maui and Kaua'i that will take the Superferry into rougher, open waters.
"That was spooky and it wasn't even a rough sea day," said Nani Kaui of Makiki. "If it had been rough, I wouldn't be able to handle that."
Sara Aderholdt, who is visiting from Florida, wasn't bothered by the motion. Aderholdt has been aboard ferries in other states, including some on the Hudson River, and thought the Superferry fared well in comparison. "It seems a little bit smoother and faster," she said.
Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for the Superferry, said he heard some passengers got seasick on yesterday's voyage. He advised travelers who are susceptible to motion sickness to take preventive medicines.
"Whenever people get out on boats and ships, each person's different," O'Halloran said. "Today there are so many good remedies available that really no one should be getting motion sickness if they take proper precautions. Make sure it's in your system and you'll have a great trip. We really want people to enjoy the ride."
About 250 friends and family of Superferry employees took the voyage and brought an estimated 80 trucks, cars and a motorcycle — and even a dog — onboard. About 100 journalists, including 70 from Japan, went along for the ride.
Yesterday's trip was in anticipation of Tuesday's scheduled first day of Superferry service and followed a smaller trip of about 180 people and 60 vehicles earlier in the day.
Nani Kaawa, who also got a touch of seasickness, said a woman standing in front of her for yesterday's free food had it even worse.
The woman said she was getting sick and seemed to turn green, Kaawa said, then unsteadily walked away from the counter with her arms loaded down with food.
O'Halloran called yesterday's ocean conditions "a typical trade wind day."
"Some days will be smoother than others," he said. "Every day on the water will be a little bit different."
The company wants everyone to enjoy their rides on the Superferry, O'Halloran said, so it recommends that people who think they might be susceptible take motion sickness remedies the night before a trip and then again in the morning.
Daniel Louis of Makakilo took the trip yesterday because his mother works for the Superferry. He gave the test voyage a thumbs up.
"I hate flying," he said.
Louis already booked a trip next month to Maui. He plans to save money by staying with relatives for two weeks and using his own car instead of a rental.
Julie Derango, of Hawaiian Chopper magazine, was impressed by the option of taking along gear for a trip — and even pets.
And the bumpiness of yesterday's ride that made others sick didn't faze Derango.
"I've been on cruises and boats before," she said. "It wasn't that bad."
O'Halloran read off some of the remarks that guests had written on comment cards, such as, "trip was marvelous," "absolutely beautiful ship" and even "you need double X-large sweatshirts in the ship's gift shop."
"I guess we need bigger sweatshirts," O'Halloran said.
"Overall, they were overwhelmingly positive," he said. "I got a lot of compliments for our comfortable seating and oohs and aahs because of the views that people got from the ship. 'What a great view of the island.' I got that a lot today."
One passenger especially loved being able to ride his motorcycle onto the Superferry and tie it down in the vehicle hold, O'Halloran said.
Several passengers said they hope to use the Superferry some day to also tow along trailers and boats and load up their cars full of things like camping gear, hunting rifles and lots and lots of O'ahu omiyage.
Yesterday, down in the first-level vehicle hold, cars that did not have their emergency brakes applied rolled back and forth within inches of each other and car alarms sounded intermittently as they were jostled by the motion.
The trunk of a gray Nissan sedan suddenly popped open and a golden retriever inside a Jeep lolled its head back and forth, its tongue hanging out.
Kaawa's 2002 Ford F-150 was the first of the 80 vehicles to drive aboard the Superferry yesterday. After the two-hour cruise, Kaawa was even more anxious to get her truck off the ship.
"Look at all this salt," she said as Superferry workers connected a car ramp to the back end of the ship. "I'm going straight to a car wash."
Kaawa said that if she does book a real trip on the Superferry she would definitely bring her well-worn Chevrolet Lumina instead.
"Could you imagine how much salt it would get on an actual trip to a Neighbor Island?" she asked.
Richard Lau, 62, just retired as human resources director for Kamehameha Schools and likes the idea of being able to bring his 25-foot Pro Line fishing boat, trailer, kayak and 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee onboard some day to go fishing and camping on a different island.
But as he prepared to board the ship yesterday, Lau said he still had not gotten a response to an e-mail he sent to the Hawaii Superferry asking for the price for him and all of his gear.
"I don't know," Lau said. "I'm still waiting for an answer."
Billie White of Wahiawa joked that — unlike airport security — she didn't have to remove her slippers to go through three separate security checks to get her car onboard the Superferry.
But White doubted that she would ever pay for a Superferry ride.
With one-way adult prices running from $44 to $62 — plus additional fuel surcharges of $10 to $19 for each adult — White cannot afford to take her family on a Superferry trip.
"Not at those prices," she said.
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