Blind sailor's boat crashes into reef

The Seaquel
The Seaquel
John Berg
John Berg

KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A California man's remarkable journey through the Pacific ended in disappointment off the coast of the Big Island.

John Berg, who is legally blind, left the coast of Mexico on his 40-foot boat, the Seaquel, on April 29 and arrived in Hawaiian waters on Sunday.

But after dropping off two of his crew members off in Hilo, his navigational equipment failed and rough waves slammed into his boat while en route to Kona.

"He wandered into the surf. It was navigational error. They got too close to the shore and the waves picked them up and threw them on the beach," said Big Island resident John Dour, who spoke with Berg on Monday.

"The guy was completely devastated. He lived on that boat for 14 years. You know he lost his home. Everything."

Berg could not be reached for comment. But he and a female crew member apparently were not injured although it took them some effort to make it to land in the dark.

"They clipped themselves together with harnesses and somehow stumbled onto shore," Dour said.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has hired a salvage company to remove the boat to avoid further damage to the reef.

Crews were out on Wednesday to prepare the boat and they plan to move the boat and dismantle it on land on Thursday.

Because he had no vessel insurance, it's a total loss for Berg. Dour said that some of the valuable equipment was stripped by thieves.

"I guess the looters are already out there," he said.

"They stole the bimini. They stole the winches. They stole the (steering) wheel off the boat."

Longtime friends say that Berg is an accomplished sailor, who is able to sail competitively due in part to recent advances in sailing technology.

"All of his electronics talk to him. He gets email that talk to him so he didn't have to read anything," said John Harold, who has sailed with Berg in California and Mexico.

"He can tell you the part numbers for the electronics he's installed. He's one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever known."

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