Dave Lyman (1944-2006)

Lyman’s last ride worthy of legend

By Will Hoover, Advertiser Staff Writer. Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

In an unprecedented wave of affection and respect, a flotilla of more than six dozen vessels paid tribute yesterday morning to veteran harbor pilot Dave Lyman, whose ashes were scattered about a mile off Honolulu Harbor.

No one who was there will ever forget it.

Capt. David Lyman and his handlebar mustache, photographed in 1978. Advertiser library photo

"This will probably be the biggest thing in the history of the harbor," said Lyman's longtime friend, Capt. Bill McAuliffe.

The "Memorial Boat Parade" was quite a show.

"We've got sailboats, yachts, Coast Guard boats, and I see a lot of tugs, both harbor tugs and towing tugs," said Capt. Thomas Heberle, president of the Hawai'i Pilots Association.

"And I see commercial fishing vessels, the Honolulu fire boat Moku Ahi, a couple of power boats, and a number of water taxis."

Among the many notable vessels showing their colors were the Hokule'a, Lyman's own 28-foot sloop Zeni and the vintage pleasure craft Vida Mia. There were also canoes and kayaks bobbing in the waves.

Added Kalani Smith, 42, a Coast Guard ferry captain, "I've been working on the harbor since I was 9, and I've never seen anything like this.

"Dave was one of the great ones. He was what we call a giant. He was a true salt. He was for real. Haole skin, Hawaiian heart."

Lyman, 62, known to many as Kawika, died on Jan. 29 when he fell from a ladder after navigating a cruise ship at Kaua'i and was hit by the pilot boat.

He was first mate on the first voyage of the Hokule'a and captain of the 1978 voyage when Hokule'a capsized in a storm off Lana'i.

The Hokule'a sails in the flotilla. Photo by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

But those who wonder if the little things in life matter, might do well to consider the colorful Lyman, who had a knack for touching hearts by simply listening and caring.

"One of Dave's unique qualities was when you were with him he also made you feel like you were the most important person," said Bill Anonsen, who operates Maritime Consultants of the Pacific. "He gave you his undivided attention.

"Dave was larger than life."

By most accounts Lyman was not your normal harbor pilot in any way, other than he was known as a true professional on the job.

He sported a walrus mustache, had a straw hat cocked on his head, wore his shirt unbuttoned, tails out, and customarily kept a wry grin on his face.

The measure of how many lives Lyman touched became clear when a thousand folks crowded his memorial service at Central Union Church Monday afternoon. The crowd spilled out onto the steps and the lawn.

It was apparent when more than 200 people at an anti-ice rally at Wai'anae High School Friday night stood for a moment of silence in Lyman's honor.

But it was most obvious yesterday when the eyes of those who knew him lit up, or whenever Lyman's name was mentioned.

"If you met him once you never forgot him," were words spoken by more than one person among the throng that watched the ocean memorial service.

"And he never forgot you, either," Heberle added. "He had an unbelievable memory for details. And when you were talking to him he'd make you feel like what you had to say was important.

"He was very serious about what he did, but when the job was done he wanted to have fun and he wanted everyone else to have fun — and he made sure of it. He was always joking. Always saying hi to everyone."

There was laughter among the memories, though tears were shed on the water yesterday. Beer was poured, coins were thrown, and lei were tossed near where Lyman's ashes were scattered. Flower petals fell from an overhead helicopter.

At one point a military jet passed over the flotilla and dipped its wings. The flotilla crowd burst into wild cheers and applause.

Members of at least three Mainland pilots associations, as well as the president and executive director of the American Pilots Association, flew in for the tribute.

"This was the most incredible thing I've ever seen — but Dave was a most incredible man," said Russ Nyborg, one of the pilots who came from the San Francisco Bar Pilots for the tribute.

Following the sea service, Nyborg and many of those who had been at the ashes ceremony converged on Murphy's Bar & Grill, one of Lyman's favorite Downtown watering holes. More than once Lyman was known to have rented the entire place and thrown a party for his friends. He was also well known at O'Toole's Irish Pub across the road, and Hank's Cafe of Honolulu up the way on Nu'uanu.

Once the gang arrived at Murphy's yesterday afternoon, the revelry quickly turned loud and laudatory.

"I knew him for 30 years," Kip Carlson, also of the San Francisco Bar Pilots, shouted above the din. "We went to the same maritime academy. But he was already a legend when I met him.

"He's still a legend."

Outside, where Merchant Street had been blocked off for partygoers between Nu'uanu and Bethel, the decibel level was marginally lower than inside Murphy's.

Over at Hank's, where the mood and noise level were subdued, the crowd huddled around the bar recalled Lyman fondly.

"He came in here on Tuesdays and played the upright bass," said Kani Kaimi, 55, a landscaper and fellow musician.

"He was a drinker. And he was a spender. He would buy drinks for everyone. He was a real fun guy. There was no way you could get mad at him. You look at him and think he's haole, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he was pure local. Everybody's going to miss him."

Back at Murphy's, the party was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., but in typical Dave Lyman style, the laughter, recollections, wisecracks and drinks continued to flow freely.

"Aloha Kawika," read a large sign on the wall. "Lord, I give the command back to you. We have fair winds and following seas. Our course is due north, rudders are at mid-ship and our speed is full ahead. Lord take me home. — Captain David B.K. Lyman, Pilot 5."