On the morning of Oct. 13, commercial salvage crews overseen by the Coast Guard thought they might finally free the Pacific Paradise from the shallow waters off Waikiki, where the fishing vessel carrying 20 people had run aground three nights earlier.
Things did not go according to plan.
The salvage company, Cates Marine Service, broke at least two of its tow lines that day trying in vain to pull the 79-foot longliner from the reef just off Kaimana Beach before the tide fell and ended their efforts, according to Coast Guard officials.
The next day, a fire broke out on the beleaguered craft, sending black smoke into the clear sky — and the Cates workers who were aboard scrambling over the side.
Now, salvage crews are poised to attempt yet another tow this week, hoping to move the wreck that has greeted beachgoers at Kaimana for nearly six weeks.
In recent days they’ve patched the holes in the Paradise’s hull and hatches to make it more watertight. The water that’s already flooded through is being pumped into the boat’s fish hold.
Why has it proven so difficult to salvage the Pacific Paradise?
The lingering problem, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Amanda Levasseur, is that Cates managed to drag the Paradise 100 feet from its original spot on the reef — but then the vessel stubbornly lodged on a coral head.
“It was very close to the beach,” Levasseur said last week. No two salvage operations are ever the same, but “this one is particularly challenging because it’s in the surf zone and it’s exceptionally shallow,” she said.
“They kept trying different strategies” to tow off the reef, Levasseur said of Cates, but the boat was more firmly entrenched than officials originally thought.
The fire that broke out Oct. 14 and continued the next day remains under investigation, Levasseur said.
Cates remains part of the salvage effort, although the company’s principal, John Cates, said that his group has brought in other commercial outfits such as Resolve Marine Group and American Marine Corp. to lend more expertise.
Cates deferred to Resolve Marine for more details, but a representative for Resolve said the company would not comment because the effort is ongoing.
The Pacific Paradise’s owner, Honolulu-based TWOL LLC, will ultimately cover all the salvage costs, Levasseur said.
Salvage crews have further lightened the boat’s load to make it more buoyant — a move that they hope will increase the odds of success this week, Levasseur said.
On Nov. 19, a commercial helicopter lifted out two tons of extra steel plates plus heavy spare tools that were stored aboard the Paradise, she said.
Crews also have also cut loose the boat’s rudder to shed weight and prevent further drag against the reef, according to a Coast Guard press release. They plan to recover the rudder once the Paradise is towed away.
In recent weeks, onlookers have reported visible sheens in the waters near the grounded boat although Coast Guard officials said the potential for environmental damage from leaking diesel there was minimal.
The state’s Department of Health has been testing water samples near the Pacific Paradise twice a week and all of them have come back clean, the Coast Guard’s release said. Furthermore, responders haven’t seen any recent sheens in the waters there, it added.
If all goes to plan, local beachgoers, tourists and those overseeing the salvage will get a post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas gift: a Kaimana Beach that’s finally free of the blight of the Paradise.
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