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MAUI'S LAHAINA RECORDS A TUMULTUOUS PAST

If the surf's not too high and your eyes don't stray to sugar cane, pineapple fields and volcanic mountains beyond, you could easily mistake Lahaina for a New England fishing port prissied up for tourists. But then it wouldn't be half the fun, because for all its charm this town's real attraction is its tumultuous past. For like many another visitor I have come to see where nineteenth century seamen and missionaries literally fought for the bodies and souls of Lahaina's women....

On Maui's west coast Lahaina was inhabited by a carefree people with no particular regard for modesty, til 1820 when America's Pacific Whaling fleet began wintering here. With fifty or more ships in port, and hundreds of seamen roaming the streets, it became the scene of one long drunken brawl. Of the Hawaiian girls' generosity towards the seamen Captain Cook wrote: "No women I ever met were less reserved. They come on board with no other view than to make a surrender of their persons." Actually that wasn't altogether true, because the freebies ran out and the girls wanted nails in return for their favours - to the concern of captains who feared their ships would fall apart....(Picture of Historic Lahina Inn)

In 1823 Lahaina's first missionary, the Reverend William Richards, arrived. He had a cannon turned upon his home after trying to keep girls and seamen apart. The missionaries though were made of stern stuff. They had their instructions "to aim at nothing short of covering those islands with fruitful fields and pleasant dwellings and schools and churches..." and were bound to carry them through. First they taught the women to sew and wear loose fitting mu-umu'us. ....

Maui's oldest home faces Lahaina's harbour across from the town square. Restored to the mid 1800s when Reverend Baldwin brought his bride here from Connecticut, it allows you a glimpse at a missionary's day-to-day life here. A comfortable home, once noisy with a large Baldwin brood, it has most of its original furnishings. Also interesting mementos such as a well-worn bible given the couple by the reverend's parents on their wedding day, and an invitation to the coronation of King Kalakaua dated February 12 1883...

IF YOU GO: From Kaanapali, The Lahaina-Kaanapali and Pacific Railroad's sugar cane train will bring you through the cane fields, with a singing, story-telling conductor to entertain you on the six mile journey. There are also shuttle busses from Kaanapali hotels.