A superyacht sitting grounded off Maui for nearly two weeks finally became freed on March 5. However, minutes after salvage crews began towing her, the 94-foot (28.65-meter) yacht Nakoa sank.
Nakoa ran aground in Honolua Bay, off Maui’s northwest coast on February 20. The owner, Jim Jones, tells local media that he and his family had anchored for the weekend when her line—attached to a mooring buoy permitting two hours of anchoring—failed. The megayacht ended up on rocks and a reef near a marine sanctuary, the Honolua-Mokulē‘ia Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD). Within a day, Nakoa’s hull was punctured, and diesel fuel began spilling. Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and other officials began coordinating containment and salvage actions with Jones. “We want to do everything possible to prevent any additional damage to the reefs in the MLCD or elsewhere in the bay,” DLNR chair Dawn Chang said at that time.
According to the DLNR, in situations like this, owners are required to provide the agency with a salvage plan. If they are unable to cover the costs, or if the state disagrees with their plan, then Hawaiian officials arrange for salvage and hold the owners responsible for the costs. On February 26, the DLNR indicated that Jones declined to cover the expenses. However, in an interview with the Honolulu Civil Beat earlier this month, Jones says he’s been working with his insurance company to evaluate coverage.
Regardless, Hawaiian officials twice attempted to free the yacht Nakoa prior to March 5. Both were unsuccessful, though, due to high surf and other poor weather conditions. Finally, around 1 p.m. local time on March 5, a salvage ship and a tractor tug freed her in tandem. The tug was able to turn Nakoa about 90 degrees toward the channel and begin pulling her into deeper water.
The intention was to town her to Honolulu, although the salvage crew knew she might not make it. Soon after the tug began towing her, Nakoa was listing to starboard. She began sinking even more dramatically as the tug continued its attempted voyage. Finally, Nakoa sank in about 800 feet of water.
Chang, who watched the operations from shore, says the state will hold Jones responsible for reimbursing all salvage costs. He’ll further need to pay for damage to the reefs and rocks. DLNR staff will assess the grounding site this week for a post-incident damage report.
Jones has told local media that he had the yacht Nakoa, a Sunseeker from 2004, shipped to Hawaii from overseas last December. He did this with the intention to charter her, as part of a charter fleet with yet another, smaller yacht.