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Floating debris sinks boat off Kahoolawe

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Apr 03 2013 06:56:26 AM HST

Floating debris around Hawaii sinks a ship out for a day of fishing. But thankfully those onboard, were prepared for the worst.

HONOLULU -

Floating debris around Hawaii sank a ship out for a day of fishing, but because the boat was prepared for an emergency -- everyone returned to shore safely.

Monday afternoon, two miles off the coast of Kahoolawe, the 43-foot boat the Piper ran into trouble and the captain radioed in a mayday call, "This is the Piper, south of Kahoolawe. We're sinking."

Floating debris stopped the sport fishing boat and left it dead in the water, according to the boat's owner. "My captain told me they ran over a hauser line, a big rope for tugs and tying up large vessels. They're very hard to see as they're subsurface," said Jeff Kahl.

That is just some of the debris boat captains have been seeing, ever since the Japanese tsunami two years ago.

"There has been more, we're always watching hard for them. It hasn't been as bad as we thought it would be, but it is still a concern," said Capt. Bob McCowen, with Blue Nun Sport Fishing.

While large areas of debris can be tracked, small floating pieces are not, but they can still do a lot of damage.

"Sometimes they are very hard to see, they can be half submerged," stated McCowen.

"I do not go out in the dark on the water because of that," said Kahl.

The debris wrapped around the Piper's propeller, and the strain on the boat caused it to leak. According to Kahl, the crew tied to cut away the line and pump out the water, but then the boat lost power. "At that point, I instructed them to abandon ship, to get away from it and get in the life raft," said Kahl.

The boat wasn't required to have a life raft, but it did -- along with life jackets for those on board and a VHF radio.

"I never thought this would happen to me or one of my boats, but we were prepared in case it did," said Kahl.

Immediately after the mayday call went out, nearby boats came to the rescue.

"Someone is in trouble, it's the unwritten law you gotta go and give assistance. You never know when it is gonna be your turn, but even it is never your turn, you gotta help someone with problems. It could be life or death," said McCowen.

No one was injured in this rescue, but the boat sank in about 1,200 feet of water. Ironically, the Coast Guard is now watching to see if parts of the sunken ship will now turn into floating debris.

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