Long-simmering concerns heat up over grounded boats off Lahaina

The recent grounding of two sailboats in waters off Lahaina have raised concerns and sparked confrontations from area residents.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 9:21 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:10 PM HST

LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The recent grounding of two sailboats in waters off Lahaina have raised concerns and sparked confrontations from area residents.

They say the groundings have been a longtime problem — and are preventable.

One of those confrontations was posted on Instagram by resident Paele Kiakona.

“I went out there and I saw both of the sailboats,” he said. “One of them, this particular one that I had confronted the guy with, washed further ashore than it was yesterday.”

DLNR: Grounded luxury yacht caused significant damage to more than 100 coral colonies

The sailboats broke loose from their offshore moorings in strong west winds earlier this week.

“The Lahaina community has been complaining for well over a decade about the beached boat problem,” said Tiare Lawrence of the group Kamalu O Kahalawai.

“Every time there’s a kona storm, boats end up on the shorelines.”

There was some good news, as one of the boats was successfully pulled out into open ocean waters Thursday. However, the second one remains firmly grounded.

“That’s a popular fishing ground, where we harvest limu,” said Lawrence.

“It’s our icebox. And it’s been impacted time and time again there’s a kona storm. And these boat owners haven’t learned their lessons in the past.

Fuel has also been leaking from one of the boats.

“You could clearly see the sheen of the diesel floating on the top of the water, and it started to make its way down the beach so you can see it,” said Kiakona.

“Once we see the southerlies come in, we know that we’re gonna see boats coming in, and it’s kinda expected,” said Kekai Keahi, whose parents live on the shore.

“We kinda expect to see antifreeze or fuel spills in front of this area.”

The DLNR said it is aware of the fuel spill, adding that the boat’s owner has hired a private contractor to defuel the vessel.

The groundings come after the luxury yacht Nakoa was stuck on the reef at Honolua Bay for weeks, leaking an unknown amount of fuel.

The DLNR also said 120 coral colonies spanning nearly 20,000 square feet were damaged, and the vessel also inflicted deep trench-like scars on the ocean floor, extending close to 250 feet into deeper water.

But the department says in Lahaina, the grounded sailboats had been in a designated mooring area.

Residents said the DLNR hasn’t listened to their requests to make changes to the rules or to prevent mooring in the area. Some are considering further action.

“A lawsuit, probably. A lot of times the state doesn’t take you seriously until you file a lawsuit,” said Lawrence. “Contested case hearings, possibly. Whatever it’s gonna take.”