Kaua‘i Remembered: ‘Kalapaki’ Part 2

My grandfather had two boats which were kept in a boat house about where the Marriott now has their lu’au. By the time I was nine, we kids could roll the ten foot boat on logs to the water. We had lots of fun with the boat. Once when we were about ten, we rowed from Kalapaki to the Menehune fishpond. We were there because the caretaker had told one of my friends that he was having trouble with kaku (barracuda), they were eating the ouou’a (baby mullet). In those days it was thought that ‘anae (adult mullet) would not spawn in the pond. When the wild ouou’a were three to four inches in length, the caretaker would go out with a fine meshed net and a flat bottomed boat with bait well in it and comb the shallows especially where the stream entered the main river. There he would scoop with his net as many of the ouou’a as he could and put them into the fishwell. When he had gotten enough for one day he would row his boat back to the fishpond and transfer the babies into the pond. This is when the kaku would feed on the baby fish. (By law, fishpond raised mullet were legal to sell during the closed season months of Dec, Jan, and Feb). When we got there the caretaker was pleased to have us there to catch the kaku and told us that we could try and catch Samoan crabs from the river but not the pond. It was hard on us boys because we could see these large crabs in the pond and all we could catch in the river were middle sized ones.  One of the boys said, “let’s catch one and he will never know.” I wouldn’t let him and we all learned a good lesson.

When the caretaker came to tell us that it was time to start for home he asked how many kaku we had caught and we showed him the dozen that we had hooked. Then he asked if we had caught any crabs and we showed our crabs to him. He just smiled and said “River Crabs”. Just as we were going to pull away and start for home he said “Wait, take these home to your grandmother”. With that he dipped his net into a trap, pulled out two huge crabs, tied their pinchers together, and gave them to me. After we were out of earshot I said to the rest of the boys, “Now aren’t you glad we didn’t try to sneak any crabs from the pond?” The pond crabs were a clean dark blue while the river crabs were a dirty brown. We would have been caught red handed. Later, Goro Sadaoka’s father told me that the caretaker was impressed with our honesty and wanted us to come back again. We did go back several times more.

Going up the river in the morning we had the wind at our backs but coming home, it was in our faces. We were five tired 10-year-olds when we got back to Kalapaki. We did a lot of spear fishing off the boat. My grandmother made me promise never to go outside the breakwater with the boat and I kept that promise. About three years later I was allowed to take the bigger boat out in the water but still only in the bay. It had a ten horsepower motor and life became a lot easier. When I was about eight my grandfather brought three surfboards back  from Honolulu for us. Nobody here in Nawiliwili knew how to use one. The only board we knew how to use was a two foot by one foot board as a body board. Once when Doris Duke Cromwell was here with her sailboat and one of her crewmen, Sam Kahanamoku, Duke’s brother, saw us struggling with one of the boards, he got into the water and helped us. He showed us what to do and how to do it. In no time at all the three boards were in constant use. There were days when a big swell was running I’d be out all day. At meal time my grandmother would stand on the lanai and wave a white towel and I knew I had to come in.

We were always hungry and many the afternoon we would climb the hill on the eastern side of the bay and get a stick of sugar cane and sit on the edge of the cliff and chew cane like a bunch of monkeys. In those days you had to make your own amusement, and we did just that. Today we would be called juvenile delinquents but we never really were bad, just kolohe (rascals)!

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