This columnist has been promising to write about longtime visitors for a couple of years. And then came along the two most Maui-passionate visitors you could ever meet.
Gary, a rental specialist who has 15 Maui timeshare weeks that he rents out, and Chris, a former massage therapist, frequently listen to some 300 Hawaiian songs Gary has on his iPod on their boat back home in Washington State.
The couple, who divide their time between here and Buckley, Washington, regular cruise the nearby San Juan Islands. Other boaters think they are nuts playing Iz and George Kahumoku, but they just smile and pretend they are back on Maui.
In their own words, this is their story.
Chris: “My passion is Maui. I am packed two to three weeks before we come and toss and turn at night because I can’t wait.”
Gary: “My daughter was very passionate about getting me here, and I thought, you know, maybe there is a reason we really need to come. I didn't have a clue what to expect. We stayed at the Royal Lahaina. It was so beautiful.
“We are avid boaters and fishermen and always have been. We always had loved the ocean. My mom, who is 88, said the family has salt in its veins.
“The first day your head is spinning, but I woke up the next morning and we walked along the grounds and along the beach. All of a sudden, it hit me. When someone said it was a tropical paradise, I knew exactly what they meant.”
Chris: “The first night there was a full moon, and we had an ocean front. I stayed up all night watching it come up over the water. It was absolutely beautiful.
“We loved it so much the first time we came, I wanted to cry when we left. We came for nine days and extended for three more. Normally, we come for a
minimum of three weeks and then we extend for a week and then another week.
“And the kids say, ‘Are you ever coming home?’ And we say, ‘Only if we have to.’ ”
Gary: “We have been coming here for 12 years. It isn’t for the pools and it isn’t for activities. We take ourselves on trips around the island to Hana, to Haleakala, and learn as much as we can. After a day or so, we literally drift into tropical paralysis — we are so glad to be here.
“When we went to the Big Island, there was a Hawaiian who taught language. She had Hawaiian letters on a Scrabble board. You had to make a Hawaiian word you knew...
“When you are listening to a song, you don’t know what they are singing about. Today, we can look at a street name and know what it means and how
to pronounce it. We still don’t know much of the language, but what we did learn was that if you look at a word, you know how to pronounce it. "
Chris: “Our favorite things are snorkeling at Black Rock and Honolua Bay, 14-mile marker and at Napili. We go the hula shows. I don’t care how many times I’ve seen them.”
Gary: “Today we won’t even bother with snorkeling, because we know (the ocean) is churned up. Morning is best; we look for the flattest water we can find, because the sediment has already filtered down. I have thousands of photos I have taken under water...”
Chris: “(At home,) I will go on the computer and look at the (Napili Kai and Sheraton) webcams every day. (That way) I come here every day.
“Out snorkeling, we have pictures of turtles and fish, and I take a lot of pictures of rainbows.
“I love the traffic thing they just finished (four lanes outside Lahaina). The trip from airport was so much faster. I love the new boardwalk on (North Beach).
“We go to Hula Grill. We love Moose McGillycuddy’s. Typically, we will go to Bubba Gumps a couple times. We really love... Lahaina Pizza Company. “In Kahana, we go up to Dolly’s and Kahana Sands, the little bar there.”
Chris isn’t here full-time yet, because she also loves the San Juan Islands in the summer. But someday, she will be.
She movingly sums up her passion this way: “I could live here without a doubt. My heart is here. I want my ashes to be spread here — this is where my soul is.”
And she told Gary, “If something happens to me on the island, don't take me home. I will be home.”
And her ashes will be here forever.
Gary and Chris watch their favorite hula show.