Preservationists 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An effort in 2006 to refurbish Kula Kai for commercial use failed, and in 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard rescinded its certification, which meant owners could not operate the ship.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.