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Voyaging canoe Hokule'a enjoys warm welcome in Tahiti

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:01 p.m. HST, Jun 22, 2014

The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule'a and Hikianalia arrived in Papeete, the Tahitian capital, on Sunday afternoon, returning to the welcoming landfall of Hokule'a's history-making maiden voyage some 38 years past.

Hikianalia arrived in the French Polynesian capital shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday, followed by Hokule'a about an hour later.

Under sunny skies, crowds lined the harbor as the canoes arrived.

According to La Depeche de Tahiti, the crews were greeted by local officials and representatives of Friends of Hokulea to Tahiti Tainui, a newly created association made up of representatives from more than 15 local organizations for the purpose of spreading Hokule'a's message to the people of French Polynesia.

A formal welcoming ceremony was held at Paofai Gardens.

The difficult 2,600-mile crossing was just the first leg of a three-year, 47,000-mile journey around the world. 

The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage -- which officially began last year with a ceremonial trip around the Hawaiian archipelago -- is designed to train a new generation of navigators in the art and practice of traditional Polynesian navigation while promoting sustainability and global relationships.

The canoes left Hilo on May 30 and arrived in Rangiroa, about 200 miles to the south of Papeete, on June 16. 

The Hokule'a and Hikianalia crews will spend the next week visiting with students and community organizations on Papeete.

Next Sunday, French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse will officially rename Paofai Beach, the site of Sunday's landing, as Hokule'a Beach at Paofai Gardens.

Starting next month, the canoes will continue their journey with stops in Samoa, the Phoenix Islands and New Zealand.

The apprentice voyagers are being mentored by a pair of master navigators: Polynesian Voyaging Society president and original Hokule'a crew member Nainoa Thompson and crew training coordinator and longtime canoe paddling coach Bruce Blankenfeld.

Hokulea first sailed to Tahiti in 1976.

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