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Yacht tales in Hawai‘i waters with pop star, Russian oligarch, coral wrecker and thief

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The yacht Nakoa had lines attached to it in preparation for a third attempt of being pulled from the nearshore reef on Maui. Photo: Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The plight of the Nakoa — a 94-foot luxury yacht that spent nearly two weeks grounded in Honolua Bay on Maui only to be freed from the rocky shoreline and then sink in about 800 feet of water — is not the only yacht plot to unfold in Hawai‘i waters during the past decade.

In 2013, a situation somewhat similar to Nakoa’s grounding took place on a reef in waters near Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park in West Hawai‘i, but the circumstances behind it were more peculiar in nature.

Richard Sherwood was charged with stealing a 47-foot sailboat yacht named The Corsaire after breaking into the ship while it was docked at Honokōhau Small Boat Harbor in Kona, according to Hawai‘i News Now. Police at the time said he packed his guitar and luggage aboard and maneuvered the boat north.

Apparently having no sailing experience, Sherwood coasted about 3 miles to the reef near the national historical park before running aground. The vessel’s hull was breached and it was deemed a total loss. The $500,000 yacht, which ended up resting on its side on the reef for six days, eventually started sinking after an attempt to tow it to shore.

Sherwood was charged with felony theft in connection with the case. The vessel’s owners, Laura and Leonard Mascari, were devastated by the loss. Laura Mascari told Hawai‘i News Now that she was paralyzed with grief as she watched as the boat they owned for 20 years and used for their charter business was sinking.

The Corsaire sailboat yacht was grounded in 2013 in waters near Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park in West Hawai‘i after it was stolen from Honokōhau Small Boat Harbor in Kona. Screenshot from Hawai‘i News Now video.

“This is horrible,” she told the O‘ahu TV news outlet.

In October 2018, the 197-foot luxury yacht Formosa dropped anchor on coral in Kailua Bay off Kona in West Hawai‘i. Employees of Big Island Watersports and Atlantis Submarine witnessed and documented the damage caused by the big anchor and its chain that swung through the coral bed.

Surveys found the yacht’s anchor damaged more than 400 colonies of stony coral and about 150-square feet of live rock in the Kona Coast Fishery Management Area. Biologists estimated the total damages to all stony coral species covered an area of 11,294 square feet. The affected area had about 50 to 70 percent of live coral cover.

The 197-foot luxury yacht Formosa. Big Island Now file photo.

Damages included whole massive coral colonies broken along the base and overturned and shattered finger coral, piling up branches and exposing white coral skeleton. Yellow mound coral, finger coral, smooth mound coral, plate-and-pillar coral, rice coral and live rock all were damaged in the incident, according to a Department of Land and Natural Resources news release.

Coral damaged by the anchor of the luxury yacht Formosa in waters off West Hawai‘i. Photo: Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources.

In 2020, the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a settlement agreement that ordered the yacht’s owner, Formosa Wealth Management Group, to pay a $100,000 fine for the marine damage. The funds went toward supporting coral reef management and restoration in West Hawai‘i waters.


More recently, a 348-foot superyacht owned by a Russian oligarch seized by the United States arrived in Honolulu Harbor flying a U.S. flag in June 2022. The $325 million Amadea, owned by Putin ally Suleiman Kerimov, was seized as part of the Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an effort to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his war in Ukraine.

The superyacht Amadea was seized by the United States last year. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice

The boat was captured on June 7 in Fiji following a legal battle, according to The Independent. The yacht’s features include a wine cellar, a mosaic-tiled pool, a live lobster tank and a helipad.

Following its stay in Hawai‘i, the Amadea was taken to the Port of San Diego, where it remains docked, floating in limbo.

The Amadea is now in limbo in the Port of San Diego. Screenshot from Squawk Box

On a lighter yacht note, American pop music artist and actor Selena Gomez was spotted relaxing on a yacht sailing around O‘ahu on New Year’s Eve 2019 during a vacation to the islands with close friends for the holiday. She was seen sporting a green bikini as she enjoyed time on the vessel, according to E! News.

The artist shared photos of her boat trip on Instagram.


“Selena was sun tanning on the top deck and drinking water,” an eyewitness told the entertainment news outlet. “Some of her friends had champagne cocktails, but she stuck to water.”

Screenshot of Selena Gomez’s Instagram post.

The insider said Gomez was “completely relaxed and happy. She had no makeup on and was very casual and comfortable with everyone. It was a mellow day and just a chance to be out on the water enjoying the perfect weather.”

The trip came just days before Gomez’s album “Rare” was released.

Not every yacht that finds itself in Hawai‘i waters makes waves in the news, however. Some just make for good images.

Tim Wright on Monday shared photos of two luxury vessels in the Hawai‘i Tracker group on Facebook. He captured past visits of the yachts Ice and Party Girl to the Big Island. Both made appearances in Hilo Bay. Wright’s photo of Ice shows it moving past Coconut Island, helipad and all, with a canoe paddling in the foreground. Kayakers seen in one of his photos of Party Girl are dwarfed by the vessel.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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