Boat owner accuses state of lack of enforcement at Keehi

Boat owner Alan McConnell
Boat owner Alan McConnell

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When it wasn't at sea, Alan McConnell docked his sailboat at Keehi Small Boat Harbor in the 900 dock at slip 25.

"It stretched from that part in the pier, all the way back to the end of the pier," he said, pointing to the now empty space.

McConnell invested tens of thousands of dollars in the 50-foot Gulfstar ketch.

"I spent a year getting the boat back into good sound shape. I re-did the kitchen, bathroom, everything," he said.

In December, he accidentally grounded the vessel on a reef in the channel outside the harbor. He said before it could be salvaged, he spotted thieves aboard.

"They cut holes in the top of the deck in order to get generators, an anchor, an anchor line," he said.

McConnel said he called the Department of Land and Natural Resources to urge them to get to the boat before the thieves got away.

"I expected a boat to show up out there while I was there," he said. "Nobody showed up. There were two people on board my boat at the time."

Back on land, he said he asked a DLNR officer for help while he confronted those he suspected of ripping him off.

"I found some of my tools aboard one boat, and others on the dock itself. And I turned around to wave at the officer, and he had driven off," he said.

McConnell said thieves illegally live aboard vessels not licensed for the harbor.

"There's several boats out here that are not supposed to be," he said.

He calls the squatters "pirates." When their boats are confiscated, they find another one and move back.

Chip Wheeler has also been a victim.

"I've lost a dinghy here. I had it tied up at the dinghy dock, and when I came back here a few days later, it was gone," he said.

"Everything I owned was on that boat, my tools, my electronics, my personal papers, my clothing," McConnell said.

He believes the crime could have been stopped if DLNR's enforcement division intervened.

"They allowed it to happen. That's what angers me. They allowed it to happen," he said.

McConnell estimates his financial loss from the grounding and theft at $70,000.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it's investigating McConnell's theft complaint and his lack of enforcement allegations.

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