KIHEI - After two full days and with dozens of volunteers helping, a 50-foot powerboat that sank off Kamaole II Beach has been recovered.
"The community support was unbelievable," said Kevin Spaise, who took charge of what he called a very difficult recovery.
Meanwhile, a large sailboat ran aground Saturday night while trying to leave Kahului Harbor. County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said police dispatch began receiving calls about a boat caught on the riprap in front of the Harbor Lights Condominium.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
A damaged sailboat can be seen at Kahului Harbor on Sunday morning, but a crane is expected to lift it out of the water today.
The county dispatched fire rescue personnel including a watercraft to the boat. One occupant was assisted, according to Martin, but there were no reports of injury.
Coast Guard Lt. James Stellflug said Sunday that the 45-foot sailboat was attempting to leave Kahului Harbor between 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday when it ran aground.
Maui police assisted the occupant ashore, and while the boat was unoccupied it drifted onto the rocks.
No one was hurt and the Coast Guard determined that no hazardous materials were leaking.
Today, a heavy crane will lift the boat onto a trailer on Kahului Beach Road, and then the boat will be trucked to Maalaea Harbor for repairs. Stellflug said he hoped that motorists would not "be looky-lous" and would keep moving, because the heavy equipment will be in the roadway and traffic will be congested.
The recovery operation in Kihei started almost immediately after the speedboat sank in shallow waters Thursday afternoon about 200 yards offshore from Charley Young Beach. Its bow could be seen rearing vertically out of the water.
A Kihei resident, Spaise was called to assist. He then enlisted help from Todd Taylor, his teammate and co-driver on the Performance Boats Magazine High Performance Driving Team, who flew to Maui from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., to participate in the operation.
A crew of 10, including four divers and employees of two local charter boats, worked under Spaise's direction. The team overcame many obstacles, according to Spaise, including the challenge of raising the 10-ton boat from the bottom of the ocean without releasing damaging fluids into the water.
The divers placed airbags below the sunken boat to elevate it and bring it back to the surface. Spaise said the crew then worked on unloading water in the boat that filled up as fast as it was being pumped out.
Two charter boats, one based in Kihei and the other in Lahaina, "performed the most amazing driving I've seen in my 30 years of boating," Spaise said, describing the towing operation into the Kihei Boat Ramp.
When the towed boat got to the ramp Saturday, several dozen observers on the beach rushed over to help transfer the boat from the ramp to a trailer. The boat was housed Sunday at a boatyard in Kihei.
Damage estimates exceed several hundred thousand dollars.
Spaise said the boat had been inspected by an expert, but no one knows why it sank. "It's a complete mystery," Spaise said. "I can say it wasn't mechanical."
Spaise expressed his gratitude Sunday to the volunteers who appeared to be watching the recovery from shore and spontaneously rushed to the ramp to assist with the arduous task of maneuvering the boat onto a trailer. "Many of these people went without us thanking them," Spaise said.
A Coast Guard official said Saturday that personnel from the Maalaea station were assigned to monitor the recovery. The boat did not hinder any vessels in the water and there was no threat of pollution, according to the Coast Guard.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* This article includes a correction from the original published on Monday, October 19, 2009.