Luxury yacht finally freed from Maui near-shore reef only to sink in 800 feet of water
Nearly two weeks after a 120-ton, 94-foot luxury yacht grounded in Honolua Bay on Maui, a salvage ship and a tugboat from Honolulu finally freed the vessel named Nakoa from the rocky shoreline.
But there is no happy ending for the yacht.
It is now at the bottom of the ocean, about 800 feet deep.
The multimillion-dollar yacht had suffered severe holes in the hull during the days it was grounded, with the rough surf pounding it repeatedly against the rocks of the shoreline.
“It had taken on water, was listing starboard and riding bow high after being pulled free by a tractor tug early this afternoon,” according to the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.
The yacht sank.
It was the end to an ordeal that began nearly two weeks ago when the yacht grounded just outside the Honolua-Mokulē‘ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District. Although the area has day-use moorings with a time limit of two hours, yacht owner Jim Jones told media that he didn’t know the rules and stayed overnight with his family when one of the lines snapped and the boat hit the rocks.
It has been quite the ordeal to salvage the boat.
Once the boat stated leaking fuel, the U.S. Coast Guard federalized the vessel, meaning it has jurisdiction over the yacht which cannot be moved until all hazardous material was removed.
When that process was done the state Department of Land and Natural Resources took over because Jones said he did not have the money to pay for the salvage operation. The state organized and is paying for the operation, but will be sending Jones a bill, which initially was for $460,000 plus. But that will be sure to go up due to all the problems encountered during the salvage.
Once the hazardous material was removed, Visonary Marines’s salvage ship Kahi from Honolulu tried to removed the yacht from the reef but failed after multiple pulls. Sause Brothers’ tractor tug Mary Catherine was called in from Honolulu to help, but the second attempt with both boats also failed. Then bad weather forced both salvage boats to return to Honolulu.
They returned to Maui on Saturday.
A crew from the salvage ship rigged lines to the yacht Nakoa all day Saturday and Sunday morning to prepare for the third attempt.
Prior to the 3,300-horsepower tug hooking up, the salvage crew used a carbon cutter to free either the yacht’s prop or rudder, believed to be the reason earlier attempts did not succeed, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
On Sunday, there were ideal weather and ocean conditions for the complex and costly operation. Once the tug turned the boat 90 degrees it pulled out into deeper water.
“The yacht was listing to one side and riding bow high and it’s unknown at this time whether it was successfully pulled all the way to Honolulu or had to be scuttled in 1,000-foot-deep water offshore,” the Department and Land and Natural Resources said.
Department Chair Dawn Chang watched the salvage operation on Sunday with Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and Maui County Council member Tamara Paltin. Chang said she heard almost immediately from Randy Cates, the owner and operator of Visionary Marine.
“I’m beyond words,” Chang said. “I extended our appreciation to him and his crew for doing a tough, thankless job when others in the industry were questioning the wisdom of taking it on. We all thought today was it. It was either going to happen or not. I’m extremely pleased.”
Chang said the state will aggressively pursue recouping all salvage costs from the owner, which originally were set at $460,000 plus before delays and the need for a second boat were included in the cost.
It also does not include the cost to repair damage to coral reefs and live rock. A team from the state Division of Aquatic Resources will return to the grounding location this week to conduct a post-incident damage assessment.
To read more about yacht tales in Hawai’i waters involving a pop star, Russian oligarch, coral wrecker and thief, click here.