DLNR News Release-Attempt to Free Grounded Luxury Yacht Scheduled for Late Today

Posted on Feb 26, 2023 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

 (HONOLUA BAY, MAUI) – The salvage ship, Kahi, operated by Visionary Marine LLC of Honolulu is circling just outside the Honolua-Mokulē’ia Marine Life Conservation District, waiting for favorable tide conditions to free the 120-ton luxury yacht, Nakoa, fast aground on the rocky shoreline.  


Several higher tides will trigger the first attempt to pull the boat out to open water, late this afternoon and early evening, though neither of two predicted tides will be particularly high, and may not be enough to refloat the vessel. 


The Kahi, arrived on scene shortly after 10 a.m., and its crew has been busy rigging the Nakoa with ropes and straps. The yacht incurred several holes in its hull, after bouncing around on rocks in the surf for six days.  


DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) Administrator Ed Underwood said, “It is our hope that first pull will free the boat and allow the salvage company to pull it out into deeper ocean water.” 


State Rep. Elle Cochran met on the scene today with DLNR First Deputy Laura Kaakua. She detailed Saturday’s successful defueling of all petroleum products, hazardous materials, and marine batteries, conducted by Sea Engineering Inc., under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). 


Despite perceived delays in the response to the boat grounding, Kaakua explained, “As soon as we became aware of the grounding, DOBOR began contacting Hawai‘i salvage companies, all of which are based on O‘ahu.” Initially it was hoped the vessel’s owner would pay for the recovery of his yacht, but he declined. 


Kaakua told Cochran, “We used emergency procurement rules and chose the salvage company that could respond the fastest. While Sea Engineering was already on the scene for defueling, it had already committed to another project and did not have crew members available. It takes salvagers time to purchase specific supplies and equipment needed for an operation. Additionally, it took the Kahi 12 hours to make the crossing from O‘ahu to Maui.” 


Kaakua and Cochran discussed the possibility of having a publicly or privately owned salvage firm on Maui full-time to reduce response time delays. Kaakua added, “That’s a big issue. When these things happen, especially with a vessel the size of the Nakoa, there are no local resources available to mount a speedy salvage. Cochran said she had her staff research grounding response protocols in other coastal states, and they found that most also had private firms doing the work. 


DLNR First Deputy Kaakua also spent time thanking officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), many of which have worked round-the-clock shifts to provide safety overwatch and security during the extended operation. In addition to giving DOCARE a shout-out, she recognized officers from the Maui Police Dept. for maintaining a closure on a dirt road at Līpoa Point since the beginning of defueling and continuing today during salvage operations.  


“It’s emblematic of the extreme level of collaboration and cooperation we’ve experienced with federal, county, nonprofit, and private contract partners. We all have worked together to resolve this grounding as quickly and safely as possible, and hope to report a successful salvage later today,” Kaakua said. 

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR) 

HD Video – Nakoa salvage operation – Honolua Bay (Feb. 26, 2023):  


(Video of boat on the shoreline, arrival of salvage ship, rigging, and SOTS: 

Laura Kaakua and Elle Cochran) 

Photographs – Nakoa salvage operation – Honolua Bay (Feb. 26, 2023): 


Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager 

(808) 587-0396 

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