LIHUE >> Three experienced voyagers from Kauai who set out nearly two decades ago to build the island’s first long-distance Polynesian canoe in more than a century are almost ready to set sail.
John Kruse, Dennis Chun and Pat Aiu have been working on Namahoe for 17 years with the help of grant money, volunteers and engineers. Chun said Kauai’s canoe, which is longer than the other islands’ canoes at more than 70 feet, is about 80 percent complete, The Garden Island reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1IaLWrk).
“You put your soul in the canoe,” said Kaimi Hermosura, who has been helping with the project for years. “Everything we made from scratch.”
Once Namahoe is finished, voyagers plan to embark on a journey around the island. Then, Chun said, there will be inter-island trips during which the crew will “show off” Kauai’s canoe. The goal is to eventually sail Namahoe to Tahiti to coincide with the arrival of Hokulea, marking the end of a three-year voyage around the world.
Hokulea is the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s legendary sailing canoe, which left Hawaii for its around-the-world journey last year. The crew recently reached South Africa, the halfway point of their trip.
Chun, a longtime Hokulea crew member, said he and other volunteers who have been committed to the Kauai project over the years are not looking to replace Hokulea. Instead, he said, they want to provide the same experience for people of Kauai.
“You always have skeptics,” Chun said. “People say, ‘Why? We already have Hokulea.’ But where is Hokulea? It’s not here. How often is Hokulea on Kauai? Not very often.”
Kauai is the only county in the state that does not have its own sailing vessel.
Namahoe is the Hawaiian term for the constellation Gemini, which serves as one of the navigation points between Oahu and Kauai.