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Hokule'a crew prepares to leave on trek

The canoe and its escort vessel will be open for visits this week

By Marcel Honoré


Kau ka pe‘a, holo ka wa‘a, say the islands' Polynesian voyagers: "Up go the sails, away goes the canoe."

Crew members are making final preparations — and locals are offering farewells and good wishes — as Hokule‘a readies to leave Oahu in less than a week for what aims to be its most ambitious voyage yet.

The public will have three more opportunities this week, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, to visit the renowned Hawaiian voyaging canoe and its escort vessel, the Hikianalia, before they leave from Sand Island. The open house hours are 4 to 7 p.m. at the Marine Education and Training Center, 10 Sand Island Parkway.

Once Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia leave Saturday, their Polynesian Voyaging Society caretakers don't plan for the double-hulled wa‘a (canoes) to return to Oahu for another three years.

By then, the vessels and the several hundred volunteers crewing them on different legs will have logged more than 50,000 miles sailing around the globe and visiting some 26 countries, in a voyage dubbed "Malama Honua" (Care for Our Earth).

"They're ready to go. They're packing the supplies for the first leg of the voyage and I think it's going to be very, very smooth," said Sam Low, a past Hōkūle‘a crew member and author of "Hawaiki Rising: Hokule‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance," a new book that chronicles the canoe's tumultuous early years.

On May 23, the night before the two canoes are set to leave Hilo (weather permitting) for the voyage's first leg to Tahiti, Low will join Hawaii's five "pwo" (a Satawalese word meaning "master") navigators — Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld, Kalepa Baybayan, Milton "Shorty" Bertelmann and Chadd Paishon — at the Palace Theater in Hilo to show "The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific." The event starts at 5:30 p.m.

The documentary, which first aired in 1983, was part of the early push to preserve and revive traditional wayfinding — using the sun and stars, currents and surroundings to navigate across the vast Pacific without a compass or other modern instruments.

Hokule‘a's navigators aim to use the approach for as much of the voyage as possible, even in unfamiliar waters outside the Pacific.

On Saturday, Oahu-born folk rock musician Jack Johnson unveiled a new song based on Hoku­le‘a's legacy, "Na Ho‘okele Opiopio," or "The Young Navigators." It's a collaboration with veteran island musician Chucky-Boy Chock, sung in Hawaiian and English.

Renowned singer Paula Fuga joined them on stage to perform the song before a private audience of about 100 people at sunset near the dock of the Marine Education and Training Center as the two canoes floated in the background.

"It's legend. It's folk tales. You hear these stories of the Hokule‘a, and growing up in Hawaii it's your idea of what courage is," Johnson said Saturday. "To me, the idea of Hokule‘a and doing these journeys, and being able to survive on your own with very limited tools ... it's also about sustainability."

The trio of musicians further aims to greet crew members with the song when they arrive in port for at least one voyage leg, and they're looking at South Africa and New Zealand as possibilities, Johnson said.

At Kawaiaha‘o Church on Sunday, several pastors of Pacific heritage from different church denominations will offer canoe crew members prayers, well-wishes — and even rejuvenated muscles.

After a 3 p.m. prayer for the canoe crews' safety and success, the pastors will wash the feet of 20 to 30 crew members expected to be at the church. It's a show of service to those willing to sail on behalf of their community, said Kahu Curt Kekuna, senior pastor at Kawaiaha‘o, Hawaii's second-oldest church in Hawaii.

Then, after the feet-washing, the canoe crew members can take advantage of 10 massage tables set up on the church grounds for lomilomi massages.

"Once they get out on the boat, my friend — the double hull, it's going to be a long, long day," Kekuna said.

Finally, the crew and their families will be able to enjoy a small meal there. Kekuna described the activities as a "tangible way of serving the crew."

"The fact is, they are serving us by representing our culture throughout the world, so we gladly serve them," he said Thursday.

The event is open to the public to observe — but the feet-washing and massages are for the voyage's crew members only, and the meals only for the crew and their families.

Voyaging Society officials hope the voyage will promote better care of Earth's finite resources — similar to how pre-contact Hawaiians thrived in the islands with what was available. They further hope it will inspire those back on Hawaii to use the islands as a virtual laboratory and classroom, pursuing solutions to growing environmental threats.

"This is a challenge not just for Hawaiians, not just for people around the world, but for the planet," said Low, the former crew member. "I would say this is the biggest voyage they've ever faced."

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Mythman wrote:
Oh, No: a deluge of press releases posing as stories promoting the agendas and dogmas of this crew of insiders and self promoters, including the "Hawaiian" singer whose own family played a big part in running native Hawaiians off the North Shore, now every Sunday. Sickening. Question: when is an endeavor a public relations stunt? Read the story above for the answer. I'm sick of phony events that are really PR stunts promoting some kind of agenda. Mindless, uncritical trends liked by friends and family organized around some "noble" goal.
on May 11,2014 | 04:53AM
JayDeeL wrote:
Sour grapes do not make good wine my friend"
on May 11,2014 | 07:50AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Your lack of respect for this journey is quite annoying. Ask yourself, is there anything in life I really like?
on May 11,2014 | 08:25AM
copperwire9 wrote:
I can't recall any positive comment you've *ever* made to an article. How sad.
on May 11,2014 | 10:06AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Geezus, why are you criticizing this historic event? This will be an epic journey that will propagate the Hawaiian culture and stir interest among the youth not only in Hawaii but in the world that there is a culture worth studying and that this epic journey is but one way to educate the world on the Hawaiian way of life and their struggles for sovereignty. If anything, you should be wishing every member that participate in this journey nothing but the best as it will take fortitude, courage, and a testament to the skills of the polynesian navigators that existed hundreds of yrs. ago and now with the current members of this voyage......wishing them nothing but a safe and healthful journey against all odds.
on May 11,2014 | 12:57PM
Kuokoa wrote:
Bucket list: sail on the Hokule'a.
on May 11,2014 | 07:46AM
WatsIt2u wrote:
Wishing the entire crew a safe journey.
on May 11,2014 | 10:08AM
false wrote:
The question: Why again and again?? Taxpayer's money to do what? See how far a modern day canoe can travel with GPS and observers as a backup? Well, it'll keep some folks on the dole.
on May 11,2014 | 10:21AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Isn't this privately funded?
on May 11,2014 | 11:17AM
WatsIt2u wrote:
on May 11,2014 | 11:39AM
false wrote:
Only partly.
on May 11,2014 | 11:39AM
hanalei395 wrote:
After almost 3 years of training, for about 300 people, their training will now become a test. Hokule'a will be a sailing classroom. There will be 26 crew members, each crew of 10 people, sailing to 26 countries. They'll be using the ancient Polynesian method of wayfinding, using the stars, sun, clouds, winds, waves, ocean swells, birds as navigational signs. They won't be cheating. ("GPS", etc.) They can't learn by cheating. And OBVIOUSLY, by his dumb remarks, false cheated in school.
on May 11,2014 | 12:01PM
hanalei395 wrote:
The ancient Polynesian method of wayfinding, no longer a lost art in Hawai'i. It'll live on for future generations.
on May 11,2014 | 12:28PM
WatsIt2u wrote:
on May 11,2014 | 12:52PM
jomama wrote:
Obviously they will have some modern help to know where to go to. And "biggest voyage ever faced" is a bit of hyperbole. Moon and back, perhaps. Around the world in 2 fairly large sailboats, done all the time, including solo by a 14 year old girl a few years back. Going to change the world? That's magical thinking.
on May 11,2014 | 12:56PM
Bdpapa wrote:
No modern help. This is not going to change the world. It is going to open eyes and minds to the resourcefulness of ancient Pacific sailors.
on May 11,2014 | 01:17PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Obviously they will have some modern help". .... The only modern help, is safety and comfort, OBVIOUSLY. The ancients didn't have that convenience and protection. And they know where they will be going, using their training of the ancient way of wayfinding.
on May 11,2014 | 01:22PM
false wrote:
Wish all safe and exciting journey. The ancient's were truly amazing people. Just cannot imagine the courage it took to journey into the unknown vast ocean.
on May 11,2014 | 12:33PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Finding one’s way to a distant island in a wide expanse of ocean using celestial navigation is an extraordinary fete and quite fascinating. However, for any navigator to do so, he or she must have navigational data recorded by mariners who preceded them such as position of the sun, moon and stars; angles thereto; times of day and season of the year. It would be nice to know from where the Hawaiian Voyaging Society obtained the charts and data necessary to successfully use celestial navigation on the Hokule‘a’s previous voyages and for its upcoming three-year odyssey.
on May 11,2014 | 05:10PM
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