Everyone, this is Saki Uchida. Saki, everyone.
Uchida is one of just two crew members to have traveled with Hokule’a and Hikianalia for the entire voyage so far, since they departed Hawaii four months ago.
And after all these months on the sea, Uchida still appears to be a sane, generally well-adjusted human being.
Not only that, she’s enthusiastic and currently one of the Malama Honua voyage’s most valuable crew members because at this point she knows Hikianalia like the back of her hand. Uchida, 25, is living the dream she’s been chasing for several years now.
And in October, the Kanagawa, Japan native is poised to embark on a fourth consecutive leg, bound for New Zealand. If that happens she’ll be the only such crew member to accomplish that.
Uchida said that if she had the chance she’d gladly stay on the canoe all three years. “It has been my dream for a while … going around the world in a canoe. I really believe in this voyage. I’m really grateful.”
Uchida’s path to this point started back in 2007 when, as a senior in high school she first encountered Hokule’a during its voyage to Japan. She knew that she wanted to do something ocean-related with her life but wasn’t sure what. Her father, an ocean journalist who knew Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson, brought her to see the canoe.
She helped crews work on the canoe while it was docked. Then she went on a day sail. She was hooked. Uchida decided she would move to Hawaii — an entirely unfamiliar place to her — to learn all she could about Hokule’a and the voyaging canoe culture. It was a risky move but she knew she’d regret it if she didn’t try.
“This voyage has been my dream since then,” Uchida said. The Kapiolani Community College graduate had studied English prior to her arrival but only became fluent once she moved to Hawaii, she said.
For about eight months prior to the international voyage’s departure, under a volunteer-based visa, Uchida provided daily work on the canoes at the Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island.
Per the requirements of her visa, Uchida said, she can’t return to the United States for another four months or so. She doesn’t know what would come after New Zealand, but she says if she returns to Japan it would offer a chance to tell people there about the canoes and the worldwide voyage.
“Not many people know about them but they should,” she says. Uchida appreciates most the little life lessons that reveal themselves while sailing on Hikianalia. “When you’re on the canoe you’re so little” amid the vast ocean expanse, she explains. “Just you, canoe and crew and you have to live with that. You have to take care.”
It can be a difficult lesson to learn on land.