WAILUKU - Maui County's harbors were back in business Saturday after a tsunami swept through them early Friday.
At least two boats sank in the county's small-boat harbors, according to Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which manages the harbors.
The department's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation was continuing to assess damage, which she said was "considerable." More information about damage is expected early this week.
Resigned and disappointed Hana resident James Abraham eats breakfast Saturday as his fishing boat Kahu O Ke Kai rests on the floor of Maalaea Harbor. He said the boat, which he was unable to take to sea before the tsunami hit, is a total loss.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
At Maalaea, the division's office was flooded, she said. And, at Manele on Lanai, there was damage to a wharf.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said Kahului Harbor was operating as usual Saturday. He said it reopened after the tsunami advisory was lifted late Friday morning.
The Pacific Whale Foundation reported that all of its whale-watching and snorkeling tours were back in normal operation as of midday Saturday.
"We spent an anxious evening on Thursday night, responding to the tsunami warning," said Greg Kaufman, president and founder of the foundation. "Our staff mobilized to take our eco-tour boats out to sea in deeper water, where they would be safer, and to secure our research data and other computerized records.
"We were very fortunate in that our only loss was a small dinghy that got swamped," he said. "There was some damage to Maalaea and Lahaina harbors from the wave surge, but the Coast Guard has given us the OK to resume a regular eco-adventure schedule."
Kaufman said the foundation's offices are just above sea level at Maalaea Harbor and "we were very fortunate."
Garrett Finch of Die-Hard Sport Fishing said his business's 35-foot boat and a crew of three returned to its slip at Lahaina Harbor on Saturday morning and immediately went to work. "Everything is back to normal," Finch said.
Most of the customers who missed out on a trip Friday had rescheduled, and a few had to cancel because either they had to fly back home on the Mainland or just didn't have any other time available for sport fishing.
Meanwhile, the livelihood of bottom fishing has come to an end, at least for the time being, for boat owners and fishermen James Abraham and Bert Oliveira at Maalaea Harbor. Abraham, a 62-year-old Hana resident, was contemplating his next move after tsunami surges wrecked his 37.5-foot boat, the Kahu O Ke Kai, or "priest of the sea."
"I'm trying to let it go, but it's so hard," said Abraham, who said he hoped to return to commercial bottom fishing, which has been his career for more than 30 years.
Oliveira, a Pukalani resident, said his 34-foot boat Shanatu was ruined, sustaining more than $50,000 in damage. "It was a good boat," he said.
He said he chose not to take the boat out of the harbor, even after hearing the tsunami warning. "I kind of took it for granted (that the boat would be safe). I made a mistake," he said.
Fallout from the tsunami continued to be felt on land as well.
Makawao resident Anselm Pauls said a homeless camp at Kanaha Beach Park was inundated by the tsunami. People camping there grabbed their most important belongings and sought higher ground when the tsunami warning came late Thursday night, Pauls said. When they returned hours later, water was waist deep and they couldn't reach their other possessions. Later, clothing that had been hung on a line was dry, but tents were pushed hundreds of feet from where they had been, and toilets had been carried across the road, according to Pauls.
There was a similar debris-strewn scene at a homeless camp near the mouth of Iao Stream.
The tsunami also disrupted lodging accommodation plans for 34 middle-school students visiting Maui from China on a cultural trip. They had been staying at the Maui Beach Hotel, but it was evacuated late Thursday.
Steven Outlaw-Spruell, program director of the Maui Language Institute, has been overseeing the youths and found alternative housing for them.
The students from Yew Chung International School were divided into three groups and housed in Central Maui, including Outlaw-Spruell's home. The hotel allowed the youths to borrow hotel pillows, blankets and towels to take to their host homes.
By 11:30 a.m. Friday, the students had returned to the hotel and resumed planning activities for their trip.
"We wanted the students to have the best experience on Maui. . . . We showed them the aloha spirit and what it means," Outlaw-Spruell said.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com. City Editor Brian Perry contributed to this report.