Response to canoe building tools theft overwhelming - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Response to canoe building tools theft overwhelming

Longtime koa canoe builder "Uncle Bobby" Puakea Longtime koa canoe builder "Uncle Bobby" Puakea

By Jim Mendoza

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - As he shaves the underside of a koa canoe, Robert "Uncle Bobby" Puakea perpetuates an ancient art.

"Canoes were built in the old days using hand power, no electric, But I'll be honest, if there was electric back then, they would have been using it," he said.

Sometime over the New Year's Day weekend, someone broke into his tool shed at Heeia State Park and stole his entire arsenal of power tools -- $3,000 worth.

"I got in and I looked around and said, 'Oh, no, the rest of my tools are also gone,'" he said.

Puakea's work came to a standstill until a Star-Advertiser story last week opened the floodgates and put him back in business.

In response to his plight, people began donating electric sanders, power saws and other tools.

"Three Makita planers, table portable planers, one generator," he said.

Well-wishers also sent money to his foundation to buy new tools. The donations have come from friends and total strangers in and outside of Hawaii. One man in Connecticut made a $1,000 matching pledge.

"The matching is overwhelming. I've been matched about ten times, I think," Puakea said.

He said one tool is his most missed. It's a specialized wood-carving machine.

"That was the tool that hit me real hard," he said.

Puakea said he hopes the thieves put his power tools to good use.  As for the outpouring of aloha?

"As we say in Hawaii, mahalo from the bottom of my heart," he said.

Puakea has taught canoe building for thirty years. He said the crime is the worst thing that's happened to him.

But in some ways it's the best.

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