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Colorful sails skimmed across the water in Kaneohe Bay this weekend as the racing season got underway. Two different races were taking place near one spot, making it appear as though the boats were running into one another. They were taking slightly different patterns in their wind-powered circuits. We were close enough to wave but no one collided.
Several bright yellow buoys are placed around the bay with big, black letters on them (A-F). Each race involves a different order of which buoys to go around and an indication of whether you pass on the port or starboard side. Over the summer, races are held several times a month. The races are an opportunity to practice boating skills while enjoying an afternoon on the water and the companionship of other sailors.
Because this was the first weekend of racing, the yacht club had a boat blessing. A local minister led boaters in a prayer for safe travels then visited inpidual boats to bless them with water from a koa bowl with palm leaves. Club members have both sail and power boats that were blessed if the owners wished.
Blessings are customary at many beginnings in Hawaii: ground-breakings, building moves, or season openings — even government projects. Rather than a conflict between church and state, they are considered a sign of community. Boaters don’t have to agree on theological matters to join in a common wish that everyone returns to safe harbor with vessel and crew intact.