LAHAINA - The tsunami sank boats, broke apart docks and scattered things far and wide when it hit Maalaea and Lahaina harbors early Friday morning.
"It's like losing my best friend," said James Abraham, whose 37-1/2-foot boat was sinking in Maalaea Harbor at around 10 a.m. Friday morning.
Abraham's boat, "Kahu O Ke Kai," or priest of the sea, was 75 percent underwater. Abraham and his friends were taking apart the boat's broken dock and figuring out what they could salvage from the bottom-fishing boat.
"We are going to have to do something with it," the Hana resident said.
Abraham said he found out too late about the tsunami and couldn't drive from Hana to Maalaea in time to take his boat out to sea and ride out the wave surge. He said he has owned the boat for more than 30 years and has been a commercial fisherman for 40 years.
He estimated damage of "at least" $200,000. The 62-year-old said he'd consider retiring from fishing.
Fisherman Joey Oliveira, of Pukalani, watches as friend James Abraham’s boat takes on water at Maalaea Harbor on Friday morning. Abraham (not pictured) said that he didn’t have enough time to drive from his home in Hana to Maalaea to take his boat out to sea to ride out the tsunami and save it from damage from the wave surges in the harbor.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
In the slip next to Abraham's, fisherman Joey Oliveira, of Pukalani, said his boat, "Shanatu," was damaged and taking on water, although not yet underwater. But he said there was too much damage to salvage it.
When Oliveira arrived at Maalaea Harbor at 5 a.m. Friday, most of the water in the harbor was gone, and he could see rocks and mud everywhere.
"It was crazy," he said. "We were thinking the big one was going to come."
Boats at Lahaina Harbor also didn't fare well. A couple of men were working Friday to pull up an overturned Grady-White 22-foot boat belonging to the Whale Trust, a research and educational organization.
Researcher Jim Darling and another man used ropes to try to maneuver the boat to a safe spot in the harbor.
Darling said that when he first arrived at Lahaina Harbor, the boat was not overturned fully. He and others were almost able to pull it upright when another tsunami surge around 6:30 a.m. flipped the boat over.
When asked why the boat wasn't moved before the tsunami, Darling said: "It should have been out there, but it wasn't."
Also at Lahaina Harbor, a group of men tried to turn upright a buoy at the harbor entrance. Other boats were damaged and/or overturned at the harbor. Planks from some piers were missing, and some boats apparently slammed into and damaged the piers.
At both harbors, residents and visitors flocked to see the tsunami waves surge out and in. At times, water levels dropped several feet, amazing onlookers.
Ohio visitors Christine and Rick Grubbs said this was their second tsunami-related experience on Maui in two years.
"It was the first day we were here last year," Christine Grubbs recalled about a Feb. 27, 2010, tsunami that caused harbor surges but no significant damage.
She said it was strange she and her husband happened to be revisiting Maui during another tsunami.
"Who knew? What are the chances?" she said. "We're going to get a big-wave tattoo."
The couple said they didn't have to evacuate because they were lodging on the sixth floor of the Kaanapali Beach Club. They reported no apparent damage at the beach club.
Harbor users in Lahaina said the tsunami swept over piers and onto nearby pavement, where people normally wait for tour-boat trips. Boat workers were hosing away sand that covered that pavement.
Also, the scene appeared to be business as usual along Front Street in Lahaina. Businesses were open, and tourists milled about. There were no obvious signs of damage.
Oceanfront properties in West Maui sustained some damage when the tsunami pushed furniture and lawn fixtures across residents' yards. The inundation left ponds and flooded some beach parks.
In Kahana, Marsha Bordeaux said a tsunami wave moved a refrigerator/freezer and pushed a 300-pound plant pot from one side to the other at her home on Lower Honoapiilani Highway.
Belongings in her garage were washed into the street, she said.
"It rearranged everything," Bordeaux said as she surveyed damage to her Kahana residence. A storage area was filled with mud.
John Crinion, who helped Bordeaux clean her property, estimated the water rose to about 18 inches in the storage room.
Others estimated that inundation waters rose as high as 10 feet.
Longtime fisherman Felimon Sadang said the ocean took one of his 1,000-pound Fiberglas fish boxes and pushed another about 60 yards on his property.
Later Friday, Sadang family members enjoyed lunch on their back patio after cleaning away sand up to 8 inches deep in some places.
"Compared to Japan, we are great," Sadang said, adding he empathized with victims of the earthquake and tsunami there.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.