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Meet The Wissels
When Jeff and Teri Leicher moved to Kona in 1982, dropping an anchor on the seafloor was the only way to “park” a boat.
But the fact is, it is almost impossible to place an anchor, no matter how carefully, without the chain impacting some coral. To the Leichers, the healthy coral reefs they found along the Kona Coast had to be protected.
Challenges we face.
Fast-forward to today. It took many years of team effort to establish Hawaii’s Day-use Mooring system. Many obstacles had to be overcome:
- Developing a technique for drilling into lava rock and cementing eyebolts.
- Obtaining the necessary equipment for drilling.
- Obtaining the necessary permits from the state and federal government.
- Deciding which sites were appropriate candidates for moorings.
- Finding the time to perform the installations.
One of the biggest challenges has always been obtaining funds to pay for the hardware. Stainless steel eyebolts, ropes, shackles, chains, and buoys cost money. Even with a volunteer labor force, and donated boat and equipment time, the hardware alone costs around $1,000 for a single mooring.
Help comes from private donations, not so much from the state and commercial operators.
You might think the State of Hawaii would foot the bill for the program, as healthy reefs are important to the state’s economy and ocean tourism. But then, you would be wrong. You might then think that all the commercial dive and snorkel tour operators must chip in to pay the expenses. But then, with a few exceptions, you would be wrong again.
The fact is much of the money that is paid for the hardware comes from private donations by visiting recreational divers.
Malama Kai Foundation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit that was created to enable tax-deductible contributions to fund the roughly 247 day-use moorings across the state. In 1987 Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, made the first large donation to fund the first 46 moorings in Kona, where he was a frequent diver, logging over 500 dives.
Since Jerry’s initial donation, there have been numerous generous contributions, ranging from $50 to $25,000. A few of the moorings are even adorned with plaques, memorializing influential divers.
New ways to help our local reefs
Recently, here at Jack’s Diving Locker, we have experienced a new, innovative, and highly effective form of support for the Kona moorings. Bill and Janne Wissel, from northern California, have been diving with JDL since the 1980’s. Avid sailors and boaters, they appreciate the importance of a healthy reef.
Beyond that, they enjoy the process of inspecting and maintaining the hardware that securely holds vessels in place. Perhaps they can imagine the mayhem that would result from a sudden catastrophic failure of a link of chain, a shackle, or a line.
Learning how to work underwater and use specialized tools with Jeff and the JDL staff is fascinating. There is a real sense of contribution and involvement in these hands-on "environmental protection dives".
- Bill & Janne Wissel
On several occasions, they have chartered one of JDL’s boats for the express purpose of participating in inspections and replacement of worn hardware.
Not only does their chartering of a boat inspire us to go out and do much-needed maintenance, but their helping hands enable us to get more work done in less time. It always seems like 2 hands are not enough when it comes to tightening a shackle. And their enthusiastic, kind, and humorous personalities make the day’s work more fun.
Every day when we tie off to our beloved moorings, we are grateful for all the generous support we have received from our clients over the years. But none are more appreciated than the innovative “hands-on” approach taken by Bill and Janne Wissel.
To learn more, or to donate to Malama Kai Foundation to support Hawaii’s Day-use Mooring Program, go to: www.malamakaifoundation.org.
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