The Surfer Boy Who Would Be Captain
The surfer boy who would be Captain …..like most of us who were born and grew up in Hawaii, our Profile guest this month was enthralled from his early boyhood days by the beauty as well as the excitement and potential dangers of the open ocean. He used to hang out at the old Outrigger Canoe Club (OCC) in Waikiki every free moment he had…surfing, paddling, and playing volleyball! Among his mentors were the legendary Beach Boys Rabbit Kekai and Blue Makua Sr. Eventually, he too became a mentor…coaching, paddling as well as running the summer athletic program at OCC. He was a member of the OCC team that won a Molokai to Oahu outrigger canoe race in the late 1960s. He was one of those guys who seemed destined to become a luina o ke Moana…a sailor of the open Seas! Our Profile guest is a man whose life odyssey was to span the entire Pacific Ocean, from the golden sands of Hawaii to the waters off war ravaged Southeast Asia to the rocky shores of the Pacific Northwest (plus a few ports in Africa and South America.) It’s the story of a boy who was to trade his beat-up old eight foot surfboard for the most elegant yacht one could hope to see on the ocean today! This is the story of the Surfer Boy who would be Captain!
Meet Hal Burchard. Hal was born and grew up in Honolulu, graduating from Punahou High School in 1966. After high school, Hal attended college for a short while before his patriotism and his love of the ocean called to him. Taking a two year sabbatical, Hal joined the Merchant Marine, working on ships in the hostile waters off Vietnam during the war there. He then returned to Hawaii and attended a maritime school, eventually earning his Masters of Oceans license in 1973. Some of you may remember Seaflite, the inter-island hydrofoil ferry that provided service between Oahu, Kaua`i, Moloka`i, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii. As Ferry Captain, Hal crossed the various channels between the Hawaiian Islands over 2,500 times. In between his numerous ferry trips, Hal was able to find time for another one of his luina hobbies: sailing! Hal participated in three major Transpac Sailing races (two from San Francisco to Hawaii ; one to Tahiti ) as well as a number of West Coast and Mexican sailing races. Unfortunately, financial problems forced Seaflite to close its operations in 1979 and Hal went to work for the Naval Oceans Systems Center in Kaneohe as Captain of their research vessel Kaimalino.
In 1980, The Boeing Company’s Marine Systems hired Hal for their Ship Systems Test group, primarily because of his practical knowledge and experience with hydrofoil ships. This prompted Hal to relocate from Hawaii to the Seattle area. During his tenure with the Boeing Ship Systems group, Hal was promoted to Project Manager for overseas operations. In this capacity, Hal once again became a traveling man, working in exotic and far away places like Hong Kong, Indonesia, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and in numerous European countries. Hydrofoil ships just never seemed to become an accepted travel mode and in 1987, Boeing canceled its hydrofoil program. Once again, Hal became a Captain without a ship but there is no way this talented Punahou grad was going to be landlocked for very long. In fact, within a few months Captain Hal Burchard was once again a Boeing employee. This time, he created his own company (Burchard Marine) and contracted his services to Boeing as Captain of the Daedalus, the elegant, one hundred and fifty-one foot long blue gray yacht that sails to/from various ports ranging from Canada to Baja Mexico and all points between. This Boeing yacht is used to entertain Boeing customers and guests. Captain Burchard commands a crew of six aboard the Daedalus and, needless to say, Captain Hal says his is a dream job come true! It is one of the most prestigious ship Captaincy jobs in existence…that Captain Hal Burchard has held it for nearly twenty years is a tribute to his outstanding professional competency!
Hal Burchard and his beautiful wife Nicki (Kalani HS ’73) reside in the Yarrow Point area, surrounded by a bunch of old friends they grew up with in Hawaii . Among those friends are a couple of other “surfer boys who would be Captains”…..Captain Scott Adams (Matson Lines) and Captain Hank Iaukea (Washington Ferry System) are two close friends….another neighbor and close friend is “Bunny” Lee (Roosevelt HS guy)…Captain Hal and his gang of Hawaiian islanders gather to celebrate “Aloha Friday” every chance they get….
Captain Hal Burchard says that the next time you see the Boeing yacht Daedalus sail by, look closely at the “burgee” (small identifying flag) on the bow…it’s the Outrigger Canoe Club burgee (a fitting touch of Hawaii from the Surfer boy who would be Captain)……Hal Burchard: you da man!!!
Until next time, be kind to each other….me ke Aloha pumehana……Danny