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Voyaging canoes a mix of modern, ancient

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The Hikianalia glided past the Waikiki skyline. Both voyaging canoes were docked at the Polynesian Voyaging Society at the Marine Education Training Center on Sand Island. (Photo: Dennis Oda)
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Capt. Naalehu Anthony, center, watched the crew set the sails aboard the Hokule'a as the voyaging canoes were taken out past Waikiki with members of the media aboard. (Photo: Dennis Oda)

With just weeks left before venturing into the open ocean, voyaging canoes Hokule’a and Hikianalia are making their trip’s final preparations — and flexing their sails for the local public.

On Tuesday the two vessels traveled across the Honolulu shore, from Mokauea Island to Diamond Head and back, with about two dozen members of the media.

The loop provided a quick sampling of what it will be like to sail aboard the double-hulled canoes and serve as crew for the upcoming worldwide voyage.

Hokule’a, the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, and Hikianalia, its new escort vessel, are scheduled to leave Oahu on May 17 and then embark later that month for Tahiti — the first leg of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s 36-month “Malama Honua” expedition around the globe.

The event also provided a glimpse of how the two boats will work together and use state-of-the-art technology, inspired in part by the America’s Cup, to share their voyage with Hawaii students.

Both Hokule’a and Hikianalia are equipped with special high-capacity Internet Wi-Fi antennae, and Hikianalia has a special satellite dish, nicknamed after the “Star Wars” character R2D2 for its shape, to transmit photographs, blogs, videos and live chats back to Honolulu.

The setup is improvised and unprecedented, but the idea came from watching coverage of last year’s America’s Cup sailing race, which featured vivid images from aboard the racing craft, Hawaiian broadcast company Oiwi TV co-founder Keoni Lee said Tuesday. Lee’s company is partnering with PVS to provide content from the voyage during the next three years.

“The technology on this voyage is something the world has never seen before,” said Maui Tauotaha, who will serve as Oiwi’s communications liaison aboard Hikianalia for the leg to Tahiti.

Several of PVS’ volunteer crew members helped sail the vessels Tuesday, including Michi Wong, a psychologist who plans to eventually sail on one of the voyage’s legs.

“I’ve loved Hokule’a … because it’s for the children,” Wong said of her years-long affiliation with PVS, alluding to the group’s aim to educate young students across Hawaii.

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