June 2008

Gone Sailin' on the Pau Hana

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Emily Looman

Once upon a time, a group of friends and strangers went out in search of paradise. They thought they had found it when they arrived on Hilton Head Island. But then they discovered sailing…

Here on vacation or native to the area, you haven’t seen paradise until you’ve caught the wind in your sails. If you’ve been missing the boat up to now, head down to Palmetto Bay Marina and catch a gentle breeze via the Pau Hana or the Flying Circus, the Lowcountry’s most popular catamarans. Whether it’s daytime cruising, dolphin watching, sailing lessons, taking in a fabulous sunset or checking out the Tuesday night fireworks, your ticket awaits. Join the crowd on the 53-ft. long, 26-ft. wide Pau Hana, USCG certified for up to 49 passengers, or opt for a private cruise on the Flying Circus which accommodates a maximum of six.

Fun for sail
Recently invited to sail into the sunset on the Pau Hana, CH2 offers a sneak preview. Here’s what’s in store when you sign up for the evening cruise:

The excitement begins as camera-toting tourists and adventure-seeking islanders gather at Palmetto Bay Marina, exchanging worries for a sense of wonder and anticipating a few hours of floating fun. Along with picnic baskets and coolers, most have brought along an appetite for nature and plan to devour the sights and sounds along the way. Some are intrigued by the history of the area or captivated by the ecology and look forward to an educational experience. Many revel in the social opportunity and are prepared to sip cocktails, chat with other passengers and simply enjoy the chance to get away from it all.

Among our group are two large families visiting from Massachusetts, including a snaggletoothed little girl celebrating her sixth birthday; a young couple looking for love in a sunset; a group of retirees along for the ride; timeshare owners on an annual sail; and a handful of local residents redefining happy hour.

Along the way, adults and children of all ages are fascinated by the playful dolphins and elegant waterfowl. Couples hold hands, drink in the romantic backdrop and toast the future. Teens are busy snapping pictures with their cell phones and texting envious classmates back home, while little ones take turns posing at the helm.

But the entertainment goes far beyond a breath of fresh air and nature’s pageantry. Captain John, sailing area waters for over 20 years, and first mate Jeanne, Pau Hana host for 11years, add personality and buzz to our tranquil trip. Unlike some of the large motorized cruise boats, the Pau Hana experience is customized for the group. In place of the typical memorized spiel, Jeanne tailors her talk to the audience. She makes a point of getting to know each passenger, quickly ascertaining interests and expectations. Well-versed on every topic, from Civil War history to local folklore and modern ecological issues, she circulates among the crowd, sharing tidbits of wisdom gleaned over her 28 years of Lowcountry living. “Each trip is different. That’s what’s wonderful,” she said.

Pau Hana is Polynesian for “finished work.” For me, the sunset sail is a gentle tap on the shoulder—a reminder that life is good. The feeling is mutual for local business owner and dear friend, Nancy Osborne, with whom I am sharing a bottle of Chardonnay and a mutual love for this beautiful paradise we call home. We agree that the evening on the water is a welcome break from the reality of the workday—a chance to mingle with nature and nurture our friendship while filling our memory banks with a magnificent outdoor adventure.

The story ends much as it began, back at the dock where a group of friends and strangers say their farewells and until-next-times. With the hum of laughter still on their lips and a starry sky above, they go their merry way. And they live happily ever after…

Choose your cruise: The Pau Hana sails twice daily and every evening during the summer—perfect for families, friends, lovers, social group outings, motor coach tours, convention group recreational activities, lunch and dinner parties, weddings, anniversaries, honeymoons, birthday celebrations, reunions, church outings, or just getting together for clean, fresh FUN! The Flying Circus is available by reservation for day or evening trips. Both vessels are extremely safe and stable and appropriate for all ages. Special accommodations can be arranged for those with physical limitations. For reservations and pricing, call Jeanne at 843-686-2582. Visit online at www.hiltonheadisland.com/sailing.

Please Don’t Feed the Dolphins
Tempted to share your picnic with the friendly dolphins swimming alongside the boat? Don’t do it unless you want to disembark in handcuffs. Feeding dolphins in the wild is specifically prohibited under a 1991 amendment to the law which a federal appeals court upheld in 1993. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) carries both civil and criminal penalties for violations: the maximum civil penalty is $10,000 and the maximum criminal penalty is $20,000 and one year in jail.

Why can’t Flipper have a hotdog? “People don’t understand that human interaction, like feeding, actually harms the animals. It can leave them malnourished and make them susceptible to disease,” said marine mammal biologist, Thevor Spradlin, of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). “Feeding them also alters their natural behavior. Instead of hunting live fish, they become accustomed to begging for handouts and lose their natural wariness which protects them from injury from moving boats or predation by sharks. Beside that, it’s illegal.”

If you want to see dolphins perform tricks for food, you can visit an aquarium show. But from a humane standpoint, you might reconsider your support of such operations. As more and more people become concerned about dolphin suffering, citizens are speaking out against sea circuses. Learn more at www.inkokomo.com/dolphin/captivity.html.

Meanwhile, when you see those seemingly docile creatures frolicking in our local waters, relish the opportunity to observe them in their natural environment. Live and let live. Unless the Beaufort County jail is on your vacation “to see and do” list, enjoy your popcorn and pretzels, but let Flipper fend for himself.

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