HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the third time in three years thieves stole valuable items from master canoe carver "Uncle Bobby" Puakea. This time about $1,000 worth of Koa wood was taken. He noticed it was missing from his Heeia State Park workshop Thursday afternoon.
"I happened to look over to where I had left the pieces and they were gone," he said.
The wood was for the top edges of a 44-foot-long Koa canoe Puakea has been working on for three years. The lumber was cut into sections, each about three inches tall.
"To have that missing it's like you're missing an arm," he said. "Koa is like gold to people, especially those pieces."
The canoe belongs to the Honolulu Pearl Canoe Club. The vessel was badly damaged during a race in 2011.
"It hit the beach so hard that it literally exploded. It was in pieces," Puakea said.
He has been painstakingly putting it back together for three years. He partially blames himself for the loss. Instead of locking the wood up, he left it in the open.
"Maybe absentmindedly, I left it there, I guess," he said.
His workshop was also hit last year when thieves stole a scale for weighing canoes. Three years ago many of his tools were taken. The theft of the wood hurts just as much.
"It was already shaped to be just glued on and cleaned up," he said.
Puakea's non-profit foundation will now have to buy more Koa to finish the job. That money could have gone to the youth classes he teaches on canoe building.
"It hurts me. It hurts this particular canoe because it became a part of it," he said.
The stolen pieces were the finishing touches for the canoe. Puakea hopes the thieves return the wood.
"If I come back and find it here, I can only thank you," he said.
Puakea had planned to have the canoe finished and returned to the Honolulu Pearl club in about six weeks. Now it will take longer.