Historic Hawaii Boat Broken Up

Kula KaiPreservationists in Hawaii have lost a battle to save Kula Kai, the last wooden fishing sampan in the state. The 80-foot vessel, launched in 1949, was a locally designed and constructed fishing vessel that was the backbone of the state’s aku fishing fleet. Sampans caught tuna for canneries and fresh fish for local consumption. The design is one of only two indigenous to the state. (The other is a canoe design.)

“Sampan fishermen were also a distinctive breed,” according to a 2011 report. “Builders, crew and captains were a highly respected part of our local community.”

An effort in 2006 to refurbish Kula Kai for commercial use failed, and in 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard rescinded its certification, which meant owners could not operate the ship. Plans were proposed to preserve the vessel at Kewalo Basin Harbor in Honolulu, and it was drydocked last year. Instead of repairing the vessel, the owners decided to break it up at the end of 2012. It’s unclear if any artifacts were saved.

Kula Kai was listed in 2011 as one of my 10 Most Endangered Historic Ships in 2011.

3 thoughts on “Historic Hawaii Boat Broken Up

  1. Hawaiian sampans were built without blueprints. Built by shipwrights who memorized the steps and they rode like Cadillacs in the rough Hawaiian seas.


  2. It is a shame that Hawaii’s last open ocean Wooden Sampan was broken up. In the 2000’s no one seems to care. It is a part of Hawaii’s maritime history.

    I come from generations of boat builders my Father built boats for me when I was a kid. He was Master pattern & model maker.
    Built models for wind tunnels at NACA that later became NASA at Langley Va. From 1939- begining of space shuttle
    Came to Hawaii at 19 to surf my uncle in Hawaii was Sub officer in ww2. In 1969 Sampans were still on Hawaii waters
    Worked on a beautiful Haole Sampan wooden hull cabin cruiser top side with flying bridge. My wife’s grandfather was a Sampan fisherman he lost his boat after Pearl Harbor attack.


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