Sunday, October 20, 2002

The brig Carthaginian at Lahaina Harbor on Maui is being replaced with another vessel. Lahaina Restoration Foundation executive director George "Keoki" Freeland said his group is looking at several options.

Group debates floating
museum’s fate

The foundation seeks
a replacement for
a historic vessel

By Gary Kubota

LAHAINA >> A two-masted vessel that has served as a historic floating museum at Lahaina Harbor for more than 20 years is scheduled to be replaced with another ship or a double-hulled sailing canoe by June.

The Carthaginian is costing its owner Lahaina Restoration Foundation about $50,000 a year and would cost far more than feasible to repair, said its Executive Director George "Keoki" Freeland.

Freeland said the foundation's board is searching worldwide for a replacement vessel.

"It has to be something historical or cultural that represents Lahaina," he said.

The nonprofit foundation is looking at a number of ideas, including the use of a Maui double-hulled canoe now under construction or the return of the Chieftain, a two-masted barkentine built in Lahaina that now plys the waters off San Francisco.

The original two-masted Carthaginian was built as a replica of an 1840s brig for the film "Hawaii" and was later obtained by the foundation.

The wooden-hulled ship sank off the reef in Lahaina while it was on its way to dry dock in Honolulu in 1972.

The current Carthaginian is a steel-hulled vessel that spent most of its working days as a cement carrier in the Baltic.

Freeland said the ship, converted into a two-masted brig and serving as a floating museum since 1976, is similar to vessels of the early 19th century.

Freeland said he favors replacing the Carthaginian with the double-hulled canoe Mookiha but he's not sure the construction of the Hawaiian vessel will be completed by June.

Freeland said the double-hulled canoe would not only be capable of sea voyages, but also serve as a place for educating Hawaii's children as well as visitors about Hawaiian history.

"That would be a good thing," he said.

The group Hui O Waa Kaulua has been constructing the double-hulled sailing canoe Mookiha in a tin-roofed garage at Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina since the mid-1990s.

Construction has gone through stops and starts, with changes in leadership.

The group's interim President Kapua Gapero said a master builder is scheduled to complete building the vessel in March 2003, and could meet the deadline for replacing the Carthaginian.

Gapero said discussions still need to take place between his group and the foundation about replacing the Carthaginian but he personally supports the idea.

"I think it's a great idea," Gapero said. "This will be Maui's canoe."

Gapero said his group is currently looking for funding to complete the building of the canoe and to establish a fund to pay a person who would be in charge of operations.

Freeland said Carthaginian is safe for visitors and that tours will continue aboard it until its replacement.

Besides its handcrafted 80-foot masts, spars, yards, and iron fittings, the Carthaginian has a museum about whaling below deck.

It features a 19th century whaling boat, videotape movies about whaling, recordings of whale songs, along with a display of photographs donated by the National Geographic Society.

The ship is among the landmarks that attract visitors to the harbor.

"We saw it while we were shopping," said Joe Liston of Columbus, Ohio. "It just grabs your eye."

John Brennan, an Illinois resident traveling with his wife Maggie, said the Carthaginian's presence adds to the historic atmosphere of the harbor.

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