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Way-finding is about more than navigating the ocean


Now that I’m training as a candidate medical officer for the proposed worldwide voyage aboard the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s canoe Hoku­le‘a, the dark starry nights, brisk winds and rough seas have begun to feel like home.

The medical officer aboard the canoe knows that if three crew members become seasick and require care, the remainder of the crew will feel the burden.

The role of each crew member is key to the successs of the voyage.

The cook knows that one meal of spoiled food will prevent those aboard from doing their work. The health of the crew is equally dependent upon the safety officer, the fisherman and the decisive, skilful leadership of the captain.

Central to all jobs is way-finding.

Before the Hokule‘a could first set sail to Tahiti in 1976, it needed the clear and focused mind of a master navigator skilled in the ways of the ancestors.

Mau Piailug served that role. Piai­lug died in July and will be forever missed. When he arrived here in the 1970s, there was no one in Hawaii who still remembered the ancient art of the way-finder. He blessed the islands with his knowledge and guided the crew of the Hoku­le‘a, a twin-hulled sailing canoe, on that first voyage to Tahiti, a route he had not taken before.

Next Saturday the movie "Papa Mau: The Wayfinder" will be screened at the Hono­lulu Waldorf School. It documents the life of the master navigator and should not be missed.

The way-finder uses the stars, the wind, the clouds and currents to traverse the ocean. One gleans clues from birds and sea life. Guided by the ancestors and drawn in by the land mass that marks the journey’s destination, you cannot rely on science alone. Unlike navigation — be it with a sextant or GPS — which only indicates our location at a single point in time, to maintain one’s bearings the way-finder must remember everywhere the sailing canoe has been along the way. Modern navigation has a singular purpose: to get from here to there. Way-finding is about movement through space and time, and that movement leaves no relationship unchanged.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society is hard at work in dry dock preparing the Hoku­le‘a for a global voyage that hopes to touch thousands of people from diverse cultures. We will be reminded in myriad ways of our shared destiny, the preciousness of our natural resources and the fragile, delicate state of spaceship Earth.

The principal mission of the proposed voyage is not to prove that an ancient sailing canoe can circumnavigate the world without instruments. It has already sailed more than 150,000 miles since 1976. Rather, it is to educate our children and prepare them to steward the planet we will leave behind. It is only through unity of purpose that we will be able to safeguard the spiritual, cultural and physical health of our children and the economy they will live in.

On May Day the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Hono­lulu Waldorf School will host the first Wayfinder Festival, a celebration of discovery for the young and young at heart. It is an opportunity to learn from the crew of the Hoku­le‘a about what it takes to navigate by the stars in a Polynesian sailing canoe. The festival will include voyaging games, live music and food.

Hokule‘a crew members, including Nai­noa Thompson, will be on hand to speak about the art of star navigation and the plans and purpose for the upcoming journey. Hono­lulu Waldorf teachers will answer questions about the school and the Waldorf philosophy of education, which is intimately aligned with PVS in its mission to prepare our children to serve as global citizens.

Details of the two events follow:

» What: "Papa Mau: The Wayfinder" will be shown.

» When: Next Saturday at 5 and 7 p.m.

» Where: Honolulu Waldorf School, 350 Ulua St.

» Cost: $10

» What: Wayfinder Festival

» When: May 1, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

» Where: Honolulu Waldorf School, 350 Ulua St.

Proceeds from the events will go to the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Hono­lulu Waldorf School.

Ira Zunin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is medical director of Manakai o Malama Integrative Healthcare Group
and Rehabilitation Center and CEO of Global Advisory Services Inc. Please submit your questions to info@manakai­
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