By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Three theft and vandalism incidents in June have left a local sailing club in the doldrums.
All of the incidents happened on weekends, with the third and most costly incident occurring on June 28 during a canoe regatta on the Hilo Bayfront, according to Na Hoa Holomuku Hawaii Yacht Club spokeswoman Michelle Stava.
“At first, you’re in shock. Then, you’re depressed,” Stava said Monday. “The thing that bothers me about this very last incident is that it was done in broad daylight. It was in the middle of the (canoe) regatta. Many of us were down watching the canoe races.”
“The first time, somebody came and they cut the ropes that were on all of the catamarans,” she continued. “… This is standing rigging. It’s not something you use when you’re on the boat operating it. They also sliced up one of the main sheets. The cost to replace this is about $400. Because the ropes we used are specialized ropes. We order them from the mainland. Nothing is cheap in sailing.
“The second incident, they stole one of our tarps. … It’s not a big deal in and of itself, but that’s when we thought things were starting to get weird.”
Stava said an individual who watches the club’s lockers on Bayfront saw the tail end of the third incident but wasn’t able to identify anyone involved.
“He heard somebody honking their horn real hard and then the truck took off. So they had a lookout and they knew who they were looking out for. That means they’re down there a lot,” she said. “They knew what they were taking. They scoped it out. They cut the locks on all our lockers. They took all of our jibs, which are the sails that go on the front of the boat, for our catamaran fleet. So we lost our whole catamaran fleet with that. In addition to that, they took all of the jib sheets, which are the ropes that control that front sail, and our main sheet blocks and sheets, which are the ropes and pulleys that control the main sails.”
Stava’s husband, Richard Greever, who does much of the maintenance and repair work for the sailing club, estimated the club’s total loss at about $6,000.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do for a fundraiser,” he said. “We’re not technically a nonprofit organization, so donations are not tax deductible.”
“We had just restored a Prindle (catamaran), which was a really big deal for the club,” Stava added. “It took us over 100 hours of labor to restore it, plus materials and everything else. They took the main sail for that boat, along with the boom, which is what the main sail attaches to. That’s about 8-and-a-half-feet long. And they took the blocks and sheets that go with that. And that’s the hardest thing for us to replace. The cost to ship those things to Hawaii is extravagant on our small budget. All of our restoration projects are on hold because we don’t have the budget.”
Stava said the club’s yearly budget is less than $10,000, which is supported by members’ annual dues of $60.
“We’re just a community sailing club,” she said. “We invite the public to join us the first Sunday of every month, and we usually get 30 to 40 people who have never been on a sailboat. We teach them to sail small boats that we have; we take them out onto the water. They can sail all they want and we do it all for free. And we do that every single month.
“It’s discouraging and disheartening, because we’ve spent the last two years trying to build up our club and trying to get people to join and trying to have boats that people are excited about sailing. And the club was just getting to the point where instead of adding new equipment, we were able to upgrade the equipment we have and make it nicer for everyone. And we lost that, because we don’t have the budget to replace what we lost.”
Stava said the club has received “an outpouring of support” from the neighboring canoe clubs and others who have heard about what happened.
“People keep asking if there is a reward,” she said. “We don’t have money for a reward. But I’m able to teach anybody basic sailing for a day or take them sailing for a day.” She said the club is still holding its open sail for the public the first Sunday of each month at 11 a.m., using smaller Sunfish dinghies.
Anyone with information about the vandalism and thefts is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 935-3311 or Crime Stoppers at 961-8300. The club can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.