Perhaps this week or maybe next, an era will come to an end. Life as we know it in historic Lahaina Town will change, hopefully for the better, but I’m not so sure.
That’s right, folks: After nearly eight years, state officials will finally cut away the wreckage of the Dolfijn, that steel-hulled old sailboat that wedged itself during a storm back on Halloween night in 2004.
“I just can’t wait for the thing to actually be removed,” said State Representative Angus McKelvey, D-West Maui, in this Feb. 25 Maui News story on the boat’s impending removal. “It’s great news, but let’s get it done first. People have been given a lot of false hopes in the past. What a huge moral victory that would be.”
This is bittersweet news for me. The removal of the Dolfijn will rob Lahaina – an old whaling town – of it’s last “permanent” ship. For many years it had the Carthaginian tied up in front of the Pioneer Inn, but the Lahaina Restoration Foundation didn’t do nearly as much restoration as it should have, and today that ship (an historic recreation of a whale) is now under 100 feet of water off Puamana.
It’s good that the rusting hull won’t be poisoning coral or fish anymore, but the wreck of the Dolfijn provided the town with an actual, tangible piece of nautical history that people could look at and photograph.
Anyway, soon it will be gone. To remember it, here’s a reprint of a MauiTime story I wrote a few months after its wreck in which I interviewed the owner and explained why he wanted no part of raising it from the reef:
REMEMBER THE TECHNICOLOR DREAMBOAT!
Feb. 17, 2005
By Anthony Pignataro
Anyone who wants to see quintessential Hawaiian sunsets needs to do nothing further than walk along the Front Street seawall in Lahaina. The vista offers so many eye-catching sights: the outline of Lanai, the old whaler replica Carthaginian off to the left, the line of boats moored offshore, the sailboat wrecked on the reef just ahead…
Ah yes, the wrecked boat. It’s been there since Halloween night. Rumors have flown through town since then—the owner was sitting in a bar somewhere crying over his loss; the owner fled the island; the owner was racking up thousands of dollars in fines each day the boat sat there cockeyed, its mast pointing towards the old Carthaginian.
In fact, the owner is named Vagan Bryant. He’s actually the first guy who got his boat wrecked in Lahaina who harbor officials have been able to track down. But if he had his wish, his boat would remain exactly where it is.
“Perhaps you can help me out on this,” Bryant said in a phone interview from Honolulu. “I’m trying to petition the state to leave it there. It seems to be an obvious tourist attraction. Everybody I know is talking about this boat. I’ve gotten photographs of it. You can find a few online. I heard there’s a tourist company that’s taking people around the boat. I should be getting royalties.”
Bryant’s plan sounds outlandish, and probably is, but it has some possibility and even logic. The boat, lying intact but skewed at 45 degrees, does add a bit of charm to the harbor. And with the old Carthaginian scheduled for sinking in the next year, it would ensure that Lahaina Harbor always has a noteworthy boat nearby for tourist photos and plein air painters. And the boat has a tidy little story attached to it.
The boat’s called the Dolfijn, which is a Scandinavian word for “Dolphin,” but Bryant had wanted to call it the Technicolor Dreamboat. After all, he’d bought the steel-hulled, single-masted schooner and he could call it what he wanted. But Bryant never got around to changing the name. And now, of course, it’s too late.
That’s because on Halloween night, 2004, the Dolfijn got wrecked on a reef just a few yards off Front Street. Bryant had moored her offshore–safely, he thought–and went into town to party. “I lived on that boat,” said Bryant. “It was everything I had.”
But while in town, a south swell came up. Soon the Dolfijn was dragging her anchor. “I didn’t know [the swell] was coming,” Bryant said. “It would have been so easy to save too–there was a secondary anchor on deck. All someone would have had to do was toss it overboard. The boat cost $50,000. I’ll be paying that off for the next five years. It’s a pretty sad story.”
Bryant made a couple attempts to pull the Dolfijn off the reef. But her steel hull and 22-ton dry weight made towing her off all but impossible. “At the moment, getting it off the reef would cause more damage than leaving it there,” Bryant said. “They’ll have to go in with torches and cut her up.”
Though stories of massive fines have been circulating through town, Lahaina Harbor Master Hal Silva said he had no idea what, if any, fines would be levied against Bryant. “There are no fees [for removal] that are levied until the vessel is removed,” said Silva. “Since the owner of the vessel is not able to take care of its removal, the state becomes responsible.”
Silva added that the State is in the process of getting bids for a salvage contract, but had no idea when the boat would get hauled away. If Bryant has his way, it’ll take a long time.