Coast Guard investigating after boat runs aground off Maui

Coast Guard investigating after boat runs aground off Maui

MAALAEA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating after a large boat ran aground near Maalaea, Maui. The vessel is operated by the Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to marine education.

The Ocean Odyssey left Maalaea Harbor around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday when the winds were light. The vessel was headed to drydock on Oahu for routine maintenance. A spokesman for the Pacific Whale Foundation said the 64-foot catamaran hit a submerged rock roughly 50 yards offshore.

"The starboard hull hit first. Then the boat subsequently ran aground. Both of our hulls currently are a concern of ours. We're just looking to work with the salvage company at this point to ensure that they're not further impacts to the vessel or to the reef below," said Blake Moore, vessel staff director of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

The captain and four crew members were onboard. No one was hurt, but there were concerns about removing the 600 gallons of diesel fuel to prevent any leaks and minimize any reef damage.

"Luckily, it was a rocky bottom that it hit, so there doesn't seem to be any substantial damage to any major reef system here in this area. So we're at least hoping to keep that intact," Moore said.

There is a lighthouse at nearby McGregor Point and investigators are wondering why the vessel was traveling so close to the shore.

"The vessel was intending to be significantly farther offshore than that and unfortunately, the heading put it on a kind of perpendicular course with the shoreline. Right now we don't really understand what may have happened. It's currently under investigation," said Lt. Eric Stahl of the U.S. Coast Guard.

"We want it much farther offshore than it is currently. So we're trying to figure out whether it was human error or if it was something wrong with the navigational equipment," Moore said.

The captain and a crew member were tested for drugs and alcohol which is standard procedure since the damage could exceed $100,000.

"It's devastating for us and our crew. Our crew members including myself all have degrees in particular in marine science and we work tirelessly, 365 days a year to educate the general public," said Moore.

A tow vessel from Oahu will attempt to pull the boat back out to sea during high tide Wednesday morning.

Follow Lisa Kubota:   

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.