Former President Bill Clinton paid a surprise visit to the Hokule‘a at Sand Island on Sunday, about a month after the Hawaiian voyaging canoe’s return from its three-year journey around the globe.
Former Hawaii Gov. John Waihee recommended that Clinton tour the canoe while he was in town, according to Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson.
Thompson, a master navigator, and about a dozen other recent crew members from the Hokule‘a’s “Malama Honua” (“care for Earth”) worldwide voyage greeted the former president at the Marine Education and Training Center, where the canoe is undergoing dry-dock repairs, at around 1 p.m., society officials said.
Clinton watched a three-minute video on the canoe’s voyage, which aimed to promote better environmental protections, and he then talked story aboard the replica craft with Thompson for about an hour, they added.
“He was curious about navigation, how does it work. He’s a very smart, intelligent, curious man” who’s “very concerned” about the issues raised during the worldwide voyage, Thompson said.
“He’s a real ally and a real supporter,” Thompson added. “We hope that this will turn into something that we can work toward together, because clearly we’re going in the same direction. We’ll see what happens.”
Clinton spokesman Angel Urena confirmed that the former president was in town this weekend as keynote speaker for “Global Gathering 2017,” sponsored by the international travel agency group Flight Centre, and that he delivered an address to several thousand people at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday.
Thompson said it was his first meeting with Clinton.
The former president joins the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as the latest dignitary to visit the Hokule‘a while docked on Oahu. The Dalai Lama and Tutu each visited and blessed the Hokule‘a in 2012 ahead of its “Malama Honua” voyage.
An estimated crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 people welcomed the canoe’s safe return June 17 at Magic Island.
The Hokule‘a has about two more weeks of dry-dock repairs before it embarks on a statewide sail to thank communities for their support during the voyage and see how they’re working to protect the islands’ natural resources, Thompson said.