Removing a boat that was crushing protected corals in Oahu's Kaneohe Bay turned out to be a tricky process that took days, the salvage company operator said Wednesday.
If not for the corals that were being crushed by the 40-foot sampan, the salvage company would have dragged the boat off the reef, said Michael Parker with Parker Marine Corp. He said what should have taken one day ended up taking several days with three trial runs before the boat was refloated and removed Saturday.
The Nature Conservancy said that when the boat grounded on the reef four days earlier, it had smashed more than 100 coral heads.
Parker said that the corals directly under the boat were crushed, leaving a 50-foot long gash in the reef.
"It could have been much worse," he said.
Refloating the boat required placing anchors 200 to 250 feet away from the vessel where there were no corals. Ropes were floated to keep them off the corals and from inflicting more damage. Large flotation bags were placed around the boat and six pumps capable of pumping 1,400 gallons of water a minute were used to refloat the vessel, he said.
The sampan had to be brought straight up so as not to cause any more damage to the corals.
The five-person salvage crew worked at night to take advantage of the high tides, living on the main workboat during the operation. Parker said the sampan was removed early Saturday.
It had four large holes in the stern where the rudder and propeller shafts went through the hull.
Once the boat was refloated, it was brought to He'eia Pier, where two large cranes were used to lift it out of the water and place it on a semitrailer. It will have to be demolished because it is too damaged.
Kaneohe Bay has more than 60 reefs and is a treacherous place for mariners, Parker said.
"It is not a good place to go at night," he said. "You've got to know where you are going."
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources gave the owner until 10 a.m. Friday to have the vessel removed. The owner told state officials that he didn't have insurance or money to remove it.
Parker said he has not yet come up with the bill for the boat's removal but estimated it will be in the tens of thousands of dollars.