The Coast Guard rescued two mariners near Molokini Crater Wednesday night and will supervise any attempted removal of their recreational sailing vessel.
“We’re working closely with our partner agencies to respond to this grounding in a sensitive area off Maui. There is a small amount of fuel aboard and no sheen has been seen,” said Lt. Brock Blaisdell, command duty officer, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “These mariners acted quickly to call for help and don lifejackets when it was necessary to abandon ship. We remind anyone operating in the area to keep a sharp lookout and be cautious as the vessel is now underwater.”
The white 44-foot sailing vessel Orion is reportedly sunk in about 70-feet of water off the northeast end of the crater, and the owner is working with the Coast Guard, commercial salvors, federal and state agencies to determine options for removal of the vessel.
The Orion is a minor pollution threat, reportedly carrying a maximum potential of 40 gallons of diesel fuel, 10 gallons of gasoline and two marine batteries. No sheening was sighted. Coast Guard personnel will revisit the site Thursday to further assess the situation.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received a call for assistance from the master of the vessel over VHF-FM Channel 16 reporting the grounding with two people aboard at 9:31 p.m. This call prompted the launch of the RB-M crew and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point to respond.
The RB-M crew arrived on scene within 50 minutes. Shortly before arrival master reported to the Coast Guard his hull breached and they were taking on water. The master and passenger abandoned ship, and the RB-M crew rescued them. The Orion has completely sunk. The Dolphin crew returned to the air station.
The RB-M crew brought the two mariners to the station in Maalaea Boat Harbor and assisted them with contacting commercial salvage and making arrangements for accommodations. Neither mariner reported any injuries.
Coast Guard marine safety response personnel are notified. Federal and state partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, State Department of Land and Natural Resources and State Office of Boating Safety are also notified. Personnel from NOAA and the state may coordinate with the owner and also oversee any removal of the vessel from the sensitive area. The crater is a popular destination for diving and snorkeling.
The mariners were reportedly on the second leg of a voyage from California to Oahu when the incident occurred. Their first stop was Hilo.
Despite the depth of water, the Coast Guard has issued a notice to mariners alerting operators to the possible hazard to navigation. Weather at the time of the incident was reported as 8 to 9 mph winds, widespread haze and seas up to 3 feet.
The cause of the grounding is unknown at this time. Molokini is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a small, uninhabited islet located in ʻAlalākeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kahoʻolawe, within Maui County in Hawaiʻi.