Grounded sailboat did not damage coral, biologist says

A sailboat that ran ashore at Old Kona Airport Park did not damage the reef there, a state biologist said.

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A sailboat that ran ashore at Old Kona Airport Park did not damage the reef there, a state biologist said.

A Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources crew investigated the area after the boat was removed, biologist William Walsh said Friday.

“The coral-rich reef is deeper” than where the boat struck the shore, Walsh said. “The team didn’t see any damage at all.”

He said based on the location, the fact that the grounding came a few days after a full moon and near high tide, and the high surf on May 18, the day the sailboat Seaquel ran aground, it was likely the boat came to shore fairly quickly.

A DLNR contractor removed the boat from the shoreline May 22.

U.S. Coast Guard officials said the Seaquel came from Mexico and made its first port of call at Hilo.

A California man and a woman suffered minor cuts and bruises after their sailboat ran aground on the reef late May 18 off Old Kona Airport Park in Kailua-Kona. A U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said the vessel’s hull remained intact and no fluids had leaked.

Rescue personnel found the Seaquel taking on water approximately 100 to 200 feet offshore fronting the southernmost park pavilion.

While rescue crews were responding, the man and woman aboard the vessel entered the water to attempt to swim to shore.

Walsh said the boat captain who brought DLNR investigators to the scene noticed a glitch with the ship’s global positioning system. The system, if asked to plan a route from near the park to Honokohau Harbor, where the Seaquel was headed, offers a fairly straight shot, Walsh said. That route doesn’t account for a point around which boats must travel.

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“It directs you right to shore,” Walsh said. “If it was dark and you followed that course, you’d end up right where he did.”

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

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