Big Isle man arrested after stolen yacht runs aground
A Big Island man allegedly broke into The Corsaire, a 47-foot yacht, in Honokohau Small Boat Harbor, packed his guitar and luggage aboard, and then attempted to steal it. The man reportedly asked a fisherman to help him get out of the slip, but only made it as far as 2 to 3 miles north to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park before running the vessel aground Sunday, said Laura Mascari, the boat’s co-owner.
Richard Sherwood was arrested and charged with first-degree theft, a class B felony that’s punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He appeared Wednesday at a preliminary hearing in District Court, where Judge Joseph P. Florendo determined enough probable cause exists to prosecute the case and move it over to 3rd Circuit Court, said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kaua Jackson.
Sherwood was ordered to appear before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance at 8 a.m. Oct. 30 for his arraignment and plea hearing.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park got a report about the grounded vessel on the reef, just offshore of Aimakapa Fishpond, early Sunday morning. Because of the federal government shutdown, the park did not have a full staff to immediately respond to the incident. However, employees are still responsible for responding to emergencies affecting public safety and for helping protect life and property within the park.
A team of five park employees from different divisions, including cultural and natural resources protection, was quickly assembled to address the situation, said Park Ranger Jody Lawless.
The park team is being assisted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard. The incident is under investigation by DLNR, Lawless said.
Ed Underwood, administrator of DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, said the stolen boat is insured, was deemed a total loss and the insurance company is handling the removal.
He did not know the name of the hired salvaging company and referred all further inquiries to DOBOR Hawaii District Manager Nancy Murphy, who could not be reached as of press time.
Officials have assessed the reef and are closely monitoring the damage, as well as any other impacts on the environment.
Wednesday morning, salvage crews were in the process of removing fuel and oil from the yacht.
A major challenge has been determining the best way to safely dismantle the large vessel and remove it from the reef — a task that’s going to occur over the next several days and will likely take up to a week to complete, Lawless said.
Mascari said she and her husband, Leonard, are “completely devastated” by this “horrific” incident. She likened the wreck to unexpectedly losing and grieving for a dear family member. She added, “The Corsaire is our dream boat and it is irreplaceable.”
The couple has owned the yacht since 1980 and sailed it four years ago from Newport Beach, Calif., to Kona. It’s their livelihood. They have used it to run a luxury sailing chartering business.
The Corsaire was designed by William Gardner, one of the most prominent yacht designers in America, and built in Taiwan. With its unique design and craftsmanship, the vessel’s market value is approximately $495,000, Mascari said. The yacht now has a large hole in the hull, she added.
Mascari thanked DLNR officials, rescuers and police officers who immediately responded to the scene Sunday.
She said they realized the man rescued from The Corsaire had no sailing experience, knew nothing about the yacht and likely stole it, all of which promptly resulted in his arrest.
Still, the couple was at a loss for words when recently discovering their beloved boat must be dismantled before being removed and possibly taken out to sea to disintegrate, if the proper equipment cannot be found to bring it to dry dock.
“Our heart sinks seeing our boat still out there and knowing its fate,” Mascari said. “It’s not just a material item, but memories for our family. It’s just too much to comprehend. The Corsaire does not deserve this tragic end.”