Sunday, May 31, 2015

Aloha to the Navy Boneyard - A steersman for a stormy day

I recently spotted a travel writing contest on social media.  I wrote the required 500 word essay only to realize the prize - a trip to San Francisco for a travel writing workshop - conflicted with the dates I am taking my son to college.   Still, my interest in travel writing is piqued ... and you, dear readers, will be my test audience.   I look forward to writing more essays.  

Over on my book blog, SOS Aloha, we have been celebrating National Military Appreciation Month. It is only fitting that we close this celebration with a tribute to the silent warriors of Pearl Harbor.

He ho'okele wa'a no ka la 'ino.
A steersman for a stormy day.

Hawaii overflows with natural beauty. Yet a quest for buried treasure sent a van full of military spouses from Pearl Harbor to a concrete jungle. Inspired by Storage Wars, we embarked on an adventure off the beaten path to a storage auction in West Oahu.

Our quest took us through Waipahu, a gritty outgrowth of immigrant camps from the Oahu Sugar Plantation. We threw caution in the wind in search of quick riches in an industrial park heavily guarded by razor wire. Despite the questionable neighborhood, a crowd of kama’aina (locals) greeted us in pidgin, a common language developed between the immigrants. They talk story (chit chat) of the bounty they found in other auctions across the island (and places where they could resell the items). Once the auctioneer called for the started of the sale, we followed the crowd through the halls, as depicted on the reality show, only to find broken furniture in the delinquent units. But we all drew our breath when the auctioneer opened the last unit of the day; it contained four military foot lockers neatly stacked like toy soldiers in formation. Purchased for $800, the buyer promptly secured the unit with his own lock, refusing to satisfy our curiosity of what treasure might be found in the chests. The crowd dispersed, breaking apart the temporary bond we formed in search of a secret cache. Yet the foot lockers motivated an impromptu detour on our way home.

We still drove back to Pearl Harbor, but headed to the Middle Loch, where few tourists venture. We arrived at the Navy bone yard and parked along the chain link fence erected for utility, not viewing. The ghost ships floated less than 500 feet away. We sat on the concrete barriers, watching these gentle giants in silence. The seawater slapped the docks, creating a rhythmic drumbeat calling koa (warriors) to action. The decaying ships faced an uncertain future; they could be scraped, sold, or sunk for target practice. Yet the koa still had stories to tell and we listened to wind.  The Valley Forge, the New Orleans, the Belleau Wood – ships named after famous battles – served valiantly for our country, only to find themselves abandoned in Pearl Harbor.   In honor of their bravery, we saluted them upon our departure.

Later that night, my family asked me if I found buried treasure at the storage auction. I replied I found something better – a steersman for a stormy day.

If you were to write a travel story, what would be the topic of your essay?  One randomly selected commenter from this week's blogs wins a book choice from my convention stash.  Comments are open through Saturday, June 6, 10 pm in Baltimore.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, June 7, at SOS Aloha. 


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City


  1. Montreal Canada

  2. Great post! I'm not sure as I haven't been to many places but I've lived in Las Vegas for so long now that I would probably write about that.

  3. My husband did OTR driving for awhile. I rode with him for 3 months and we covered 35 states. I would write about that experience.

  4. Loved it. I'd love to travel to Sicily where all my ancestors came from. It would be wonderful to blend my grandmothers' stories with the real thing.