Na Pali wreck remains a mystery

NA PALI — A Na Pali area camper says he witnessed an abandoned sailboat break apart on Kalalau Beach, but officials say there is no sign of the vessel.

Chris, a Hanama‘ulu resident for many years who prefers not to disclose his last name, said he enjoys his kayaking along the northwest coast and spends up to a month at a time at his favorite fishing spots.

On or about June 7, Chris was camping with a group when he witnessed a sailboat being towed into Kalalau Beach by a jet ski. He said the boat was intact, but the motor was not running. After anchoring, the boat’s pilot departed with the jet ski operator.

Chris assumed the two would be back soon with a larger tow boat and that the pilot would not leave his boat alone for long. No one thought much about the anchored boat, he said, until its anchor ropes gave way in heavy swells the morning of June 10.

“Because the boat was being unattended, the anchor lines jumped to a secondary cleat, which caused the rope to break, and caused the boat to come to shore,” Chris said. “That is why you don’t leave your boat unattended.”

Strong surf brought the boat to the shoreline very quickly, he said. They climbed on the boat in an unsuccessful attempt to turn it away from the beach. It began to break apart a day or so after it capsized, he said, and the group took photos.

The boat’s pilot return on June 11, he said, a full 88 hours after leaving and more than 20 hours after the boat capsized. He called it unacceptable, even in normal conditions, and insists the pilot should gotten help and returned to the boat immediately.

The owner and a companion attempted to move the boat off of the beach, but Chris said the northwest swells were up to five feet by then and made it impossible. He said it eventually broke apart.

Chris claims there is a diesel motor and keel submerged in about 10 feet of water off shore in front of the beach cave.

Numerous calls to the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Na Pali Coast State Park Station were not returned. Chris said DLNR does know the wreckage is there.

DLNR Information Specialist Deborah Ward said the Kaua‘i boating district manager reported receiving “vague anecdotal information” earlier this summer about a vessel that was anchored off of Kalalau Beach and that it broke free of its mooring, but a jet skier reset it. The caller said the boat beached a few days later but that no specific location was provided.

Boating staff were sent out the following day in response, she added, but found nothing in a search of the coastline. There was only one call received and no one has reported their boat missing or lost since, she added.

DLNR Division of Boating and Recreation staff returned to the Kalalau area last week and reported seeing nothing. Ward said the Kaua‘i district boating manager participated in another visit to the supposed Na Pali area of the wreck on Tuesday, but reported nothing was visible, beached or aground, anywhere between Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor and Hanalei Bay.

Chris claims that the owner bought the boat on Kaua‘i and put a lot of money into fixing it up, but he was reportedly evicted from Port Allen for nonpayment of transient slip fees. He said long waiting lists and expensive slip fees are a problem for sailboats owners in Hawai‘i.

As for transient boaters, Ward said they come and go and records are not maintained on where they go when they leave due to nonpayment.

Chris said its owner sailed to Hanalei but was caught without wind for 30 hours when a jet ski towed it to Kalalau the late afternoon of June 7.

Ward said if anyone has information that could help pinpoint the location of this or other abandoned or sunken boats to call the boating office at 245-8028.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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