A Perfect Storm

A large southwest swell and a strong storm created some havoc on harbors around the state, including the Kaunakakai Wharf. “Satan’s Doll” almost met her maker last Wednesday, when she got washed onto shallow reef, and waves kept pounding her hull.

Large southwest swell and heavy rainstorm cause havoc at the Wharf.

By Léo Azambuja

After a summer in which island residents witnessed a ruthless drought, Mother Nature turned the table and drenched Molokai with a brutal storm that lasted for quite a few days. Adding insult to injury, a “severe southwest swell,” as the State Harbor Agent at Kaunakakai Wharf stated, washed three boats out of the harbor last week Tuesday.

One of the boats seemed to have survived the swell, and was anchored midway between the shore and the wharf. The other two boats weren’t so lucky; the small tugboat “Lahaina Pilot” washed all the way to the shore, while “Satan’s Doll,” a 42-foot sailboat, was reefed nearby. A few days earlier, yet another sailboat had drifted into shallow waters near the mile 19 marker at east Molokai, lodging itself in the reef.

Molokai resident Robert “Stretch” Wilt had been trying to free “Satan’s Doll” from the shallow reef since it got stranded, on Tuesday afternoon. Using his “Dai Nigo,” a 45-foot sampan, Stretch was finally able to pull the sailboat out to deeper waters in the early hours this past Sunday. The only major damage appeared to be a lost rudder.

The owner of “Satan’s Doll,” who resides on the Big Island, told “Stretch” that a 1985 Harley Davidson Sportster is waiting for him as payment for his salvage efforts.

“Stretch” said the “Lahaina Pilot’s” owner, Jim Stagmuller, had passed away in March 2007. After months dealing with the State, his son lost the right to the boat’s slip in Lahaina Harbor. In September, Stagmuller’s son brought the boat to Molokai, where it was moored near “Satan’s Doll.” On Tuesday night, the little tug-boat was beached during the storm.

Although it may seem tempting to play “Pirates of the Caribbean” on stranded boats, “Stretch” said it is illegal. According to him, the law says that no one has the right to take anything from a stranded boat, regardless of its condition. It is theft, he said.

The amount of damage to anchored boats at the wharf may leave some wondering about safety concerns there. However, Molokai’s harbor agent said it was one of the strongest storms he has seen in years. “It’s hard for a boat that’s anchored to survive that kind of violence,” he said.

The storm also swept away one of the harbor buoys. “We’ll just have to purchase another one,” the harbor agent said. The storm also pulled the swim raft out of position, but the harbor master said he was just waiting for the storm to calm down to put it back in its place.

“It’s pretty hectic,” U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Matheny said. “There are many incidents out there throughout the harbors.”

The harbor agent confirmed officer Matheny’s words. “Statewide, each of the harbors has some degree of damage.”

“It’s rare,” the harbor agent said. “One person said it’s the worst he has seen in 15 years.”

Officer Matheny said the Coast Guard does not do salvage. “The owner is responsible for finding the salvage company.” There is no fine for running aground, according to him. However, state law says that costs and expenses of removal, and any damages to property fall upon the owners’ responsibility.

The heavy rains continued to drench Molokai and the rest of the state until Friday. Molokai’s East End lost electricity, and parts of Oahu, Maui and Big Island also lost power.

The ferry that comes twice a day from Maui, the “Molokai Princess,” arrived on Molokai Wednesday morning and was not able to return until Thursday evening, due to the prevailing hazardous ocean conditions.

Not everyone was upset about the storm, some Molokai residents enjoyed it. Rideable waves made a rare appearance on the leeward side of the wharf, and over a dozen surfers enjoyed the 3-foot-plus waves breaking there.

The weather forecast doesn’t look too promising for the rest of the week. Trade winds should return, bringing more rain to the islands throughout the week. The sun is expected to show its face only on Sunday.


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