The Kauai Coast by Catamaran

Capt. Andy's sailing and snorkeling company launches boating option

By: Marty Wentzel

PORT ALLEN, Kauai In 1981, when Andy Evans opened Capt. Andy’s in Hanalei, on the North Shore, he ran sailing and snorkeling trips along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast in a 16-passenger catamaran. Today it’s full-sail ahead for the company, which carried 34,000 passengers out of Port Allen on the Southwest Shore last year.

Capt. Andy’s currently offers daytime and evening cruises on Spirit of Kauai, a 55-foot, 49-passenger sailing catamaran. This year it’s launching new boats and expanding existing facilities, thanks to its Nov. 2002 purchase of longtime competitor Capt. Zodiac, most recently operated by Na Pali Eco Adventures.

“We bought the company primarily for the berthing rights and permits,” said Capt. Andy’s manager Gary Aoki, “although we may incorporate some of the eco-tour philosophies and practices into our operations in the future.”

At the same time, Capt. Andy’s inherited the old company’s 36-foot inflatable Zodiac raft, which is currently undergoing significant upgrades. “Passenger capacity is being reduced from 30 to 25,” said Aoki. “We are installing 18 quality seats for those passengers who don’t want to bounce around on the raft. All wiring and control lines have been replaced or modified; we’re refitting the marine toilet and adding a canopy top for shade.”

The improved Zodiac is expected to emerge from dry dock by the end of March. “After several weeks of sea trials, crew training and tour product development, we’ll have it ready for tours in the spring when Na Pali Coast conditions are more favorable for rafting,” he said.

Capt. Andy’s is also looking to buy two 16-passenger Zodiac rafts for Na Pali beach landings, under the Captain Zodiac brand, said Aoki. He anticipated a spring launch of the beach-landing product.

By acquiring the Capt. Zodiac/Na Pali Eco business, Capt. Andy’s can improve its headquarters at Port Allen. “We have access to dock space, which was previously unavailable to us, thus curtailing our activities,” said Aoki. “Our clients will have a shorter trip to the boats, and passenger boarding will be smoother and faster.”

Capt. Andy’s moved south from Hanalei to Poipu in 1985, then to Port Allen in 1995. By 1998, most other Hanalei-based Na Pali cruise firms either closed or moved south as well, forced out following legal battles with North Shore environmentalists.

While recent court rulings have allowed three operators to continue running out of Hanalei, Aoki sees the Southwest Shore as a better base of operations. “They can only operate out of Hanalei during the summer months, because the winter surf on the North Shore presents a problem,” he said.

“While it takes about one hour to motor to the Na Pali Coast from Port Allen, compared to 20 minutes from Hanalei, the Southwest Shore is rarely closed due to surf conditions, even in the winter,” Aoki said. “If Na Pali is too rough, we have the option to tour the South Shore.”

Rates for a four-hour Na Pali dinner sail on Spirit of Kauai, including snacks and dinner, are $85 per adult and $70 per children ages 2-12. A five-hour Na Pali snorkel picnic sail with continental breakfast, deli lunch and drinks goes for $109 and $79. A two-hour Poipu sunset sail with pupus and cocktails costs $59 and $40 respectively.

Capt. Andy’s pays a 25 percent travel agent commission. or (800) 535-0830