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Hokule'a returns to the ocean to prepare for worldwide voyage

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 2:20 a.m. HST, Mar 9, 2012

Photo Gallery: Hokule'a returns to the ocean

The Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a is back in the water after 18 months in drydock.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society celebrated the relaunching of the canoe this morning at the Honolulu Community College's Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island, where 15,500 volunteers hours were spent refurbishing the canoe.

The nearly 62-foot vessel is two feet wider; 1,000 pounds lighter but still uses its original twin hulls that were designed by Herb Kane 37 years ago.

The vessel’s front mast is two feet taller and all of the wood rot from nearly four decades of Pacific Ocean voyages has been removed, said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in a recent online message.

He said the canoe is ready for statewide sails this year in preparation for its three-year, around-the-world voyage scheduled to begin next year.

Bruce Blankenfeld, a Hokule'a master navigator who led the reconstruction effort, said, “For more than 30 years we’ve had the privilege and honor to explore and discover aboard Hokule'a.

“The wa‘a has served us well, sailing more than 125,000 miles over the last three decades. Now is our time to care for her.

“As we train a new generation of leadership and deep sea sailors, it is our obligation to leave them with a canoe that is healthy, sound and capable of another four decades of voyaging and exploration.”

The Hokule'a was first launched on March 8, 1975. It is built of plywood, fiberglass and resin, with a design based on traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes.

Since its first 1976 voyage to Tahiti without the use of modern navigational instruments, the Hokule'a has completed nine voyages to  Micronesia, Polynesia, Japan, Canada and the U.S. mainland, using only celestial navigation.

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