Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Busy voyaging canoe crews catch breath before departure

By Marcel Honoré


HILO » All the public ceremonies, tours and extended farewells in Hawaii are pau.

Now all that's left for the crews of Hokule‘a and Hikianalia are to make some last-minute canoe fixes, take a few deep breaths and sail around the world.

Their pace during the past couple of weeks has been exhausting.

"It's been go-go-go," Waimanalo resident Greg Eckart, one of Hikianalia's 16 crew members on the sail to Tahiti, said Saturday. "It's been such an overwhelming show of community support … but there's so much stimulation."

Hokule‘a will have an additional 13 crewing the canoe.

Sometime before Tuesday, when the vessels are expected to leave Hilo, Eckart said, he hopes to hike into the surrounding woods and contemplate what he hopes to accomplish on the voyage ahead.

Waiting for favorable winds to arrive early next week provides opportunities for the entire crew, Hokule‘a captain Nainoa Thompson said.

"One is to get focused, one is to get quiet, one is to get private, one is to be with family, one is to get rest," Thompson said Saturday. "And one is to really … deepen your understanding of why are you going on this voyage. So the winds are allowing you that time."

Earlier in the day, about 30 select crew members expected to sail on various legs during the next three years took part in a private sunrise ceremony for the journey's safety and success.

The event, involving smaller canoes, was designed for Hokule‘a and Hikianalia and rooted in Hawaiian cosmology. It started at the Mokuola Island pu‘uhonua — a traditional place of refuge — and ended about a mile south at Palekai. It lasted nearly four hours.

The purpose was to transfer the spirit and mana of the islands to the two wa‘a — making the canoes islands unto themselves, ceremony co-creator Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani said afterward.

The ceremony also included about 30 minutes of chanting from memory, recounting the "genealogy" of modern canoes in Hawaii and Hokule‘a's previous voyages around the Pacific, participants said.

"Today's the final piece of the puzzle," Thompson said after the ceremony. "It's where you have the Hawaiian spiritual part of who we are placed onto the canoe to protect her."

With the ceremony pau, crews spent the morning greeting visitors in a final public goodbye. Local members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha posed for photos in front of the canoes.

Local enthusiasts brought their own outrigger model, the 17-foot-long Liloa, to sail in the same waters as Hokule‘a.

"We wanted Liloa to come and see Hokule‘a before she leaves," Kohala resident Kainoa Willey said.

Some crew members shopped for polyurethane, bolts and other supplies. Hokule‘a hit rough seas on Hawaii's eastern shore en route to Hilo, giving the canoe an early test and giving the crew a chance to make final fixes, particularly to the nets.

"I've been so busy — tired," Hikianalia crew member Kaiwi Hamakua-Makue said Saturday. Hamakua-Makue, a junior-year student studying finance at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said he took five finals last week before leaving for the summer journey.

"Our kuleana is to make sure those two canoes are ready," he said. "I think that's part of the wa‘a life, being flexible."

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