‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’

killilea_column_new2

“Sitting in the mornin’ sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes, watching the ships roll in and then I watch ’em roll away again. I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away.”

As I write these lines, these lyrics composed and sung by Otis Redding in the ’60s and brought to prominence again by street singer Roger Ridley, there comes to mind, when I reflect on life here in Kalaupapa, the annual “delivery” day for our settlement. No, I’m not referring to baby delivery but rather to goods delivery at our dock on Barge Day.

At about 6 a.m. on August 17 it first appeared on the horizon. Slowly, guided by two tugs, it eased its way through the bay into the inner harbor until it came to a stop next to the dock. By 8 a.m. it had settled into place and by 9 a.m. was ready to unload its precious cargo. Young Brothers’ Barge had made its annual summer crossing to Kalaupapa.

Meantime our state and National Park workers, wearing safety vests and helmets, lined up in the vicinity of the dock ready to go into action like members of a relay team. Then there were the “watchers.” We stood or sat within the safety of the walled church grounds ready to take in the action like children waiting for Christmas morning. I myself had a special interest in this year’s unloading as I had been informed by Bill, our Sacred Hearts finance man, that I had a new vehicle coming in to replace my 20-year-old Paddy Wagon. So I watched intensely and somewhat patiently.

Now the frenetic activity began as front-end loaders began to unload smaller items and packages. Some vehicles were driven off, followed by the fuel tankers containing our gasoline supply for the coming year. Finally, the big shipping containers were taken off and then I could see it, tan in color, perched atop a container. I held my breath as it seemed to wobble on its high perch while being carried across the bridge onto the dock. It then was lowered to ground level. My new wagon had arrived safely, thank the Lord and Young Brothers.

Barge day in Kalaupapa today is perhaps less of a spectacle than it has been in the past, but it still draws considerable interest and of course is very important, actually vital, to our community. While most of our food comes in by plane in the course of each week of the year, Barge Day is the only day of the year when gasoline, vehicles and heavy equipment reach our shore. It is also the day when we are relieved of old vehicles, worn out equipment and used household appliances which tend to pile up in the course of the year.

Sitting on the dock of the bay, it is quiet now as I watch the tide roll away, but one year from now we will sit in the morning sun watching the barge roll in and watch it in the evening as it rolls away again. 

Aloha.

Anchor columnist Father Patrick Killilea, SS.CC., is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.


© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts