Several hundred relatives and friends said goodbye yesterday to one of the original crew members of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule’a.
George Kamai "Boogie" Kalama was praised as an expert waterman whose music steadied the crew on the 2,200-mile voyage to Tahiti in 1976. The voyage demonstrated the viability of long-distance ocean trips using Polynesian wayfinding techniques.
"He made us whole. He made us happy," recalled fellow crew member Billy Richards.
Kalama’s musical talents were widely known, including his composition of the song "Hokule’a, Star of Gladness," recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.
The gathering off Makaha included a Tahitian hula troupe as well as residents from Kauai, Molokai and the Big Island, where Kalama settled as a resident.
Surfers and canoes paddled out a couple of hundred yards off Makaha Beach to conduct the final services in the water, with people dropping flowers into the sea.
The sailing canoe Eaala provided a platform for Hokule’a crew members to perform an ai ha’a, a traditional chant and dance.
Then Kalama’s son Ikaika broke an urn with his ashes into the bay.
Kalama, born in Honolulu on June 7, 1944, died of kidney failure on Jan. 19 at Hilo Medical Center. He was 66.
Another observance of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pohoiki Beach on the Big Island.