After spending most of 2016 on the East Coast, Hawaiian sailing canoe Hokule‘a has departed the U.S. and is headed under sail for the Panama Canal.
The double-hulled vessel, modeled after ancient Polynesian deep-sea voyaging canoes, left Key West, Fla., on Wednesday on the latest leg of its Malama Honua (“Care for the Earth”) global sail. The canoe’s latest 12-member crew expects the nearly 1,400-mile sail to Colon, Panama, to take about 10 days, according to a Polynesian Voyaging Society spokeswoman.
“We’ve had great sailing weather” traveling at about 4 to 6 knots an hour, Hokule‘a watch captain Brad Wong said in a video recorded Wednesday aboard the canoe deck.
“Everybody’s in good spirits. We just had a great spaghetti dinner. We’ve had an amazing sunset,” added Wong, wearing cold-weather gear. “It’s a little chilly tonight. There’s a little bit of a north wind coming from a nearby front. A lot of people have their beanies and their jackets out.”
Once through the canal, the Hokule‘a will re-enter Pacific Ocean waters for the first time in about 20 months. In January it’s slated to begin the final six-month push home to Hawaii — a journey that’s expected to take the renowned 60-foot-long canoe to the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and Tahiti, among other stops.
Hokule‘a’s Key West departure ended its first trip to the East Coast in the canoe’s 40-year history. The eight-month odyssey included stops in Canada and visits to the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, the United Nations in New York and the national monuments along the Potomac River in Washington.
Canoe crews, in keeping with the voyage’s mission to promote local indigenous knowledge and cultures, also met with Native American communities such as the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts and the Mi’kmaw Nation in Nova Scotia.
The canoe’s former escort vessel, Gershon II, is reuniting with the Hokule‘a on this latest leg and is expected to accompany the canoe at least as far as Tahiti, according to society spokeswoman Sonja Swenson Rogers. The boat accompanied the Hokule‘a on some of the riskiest legs of the voyage, including sails across the Indian Ocean and the coast of South Africa.