The crew of the Hokule‘a arrived at St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday morning, marking the latest stop on the Hawaiian voyaging canoe’s three-year worldwide tour.
It was the canoe’s first landing at a U.S. territory since leaving Pago Pago, American Samoa, in October 2014. The 12-person crew left Natal, Brazil, on the east coast of South America, on Feb. 12 as part of the “Malama Honua,” or “taking care of the earth,” journey around the globe, led by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.
Brad Wong, apprentice navigator on the Hokule‘a, said the crew had excellent sailing conditions during the 2,400-mile voyage northwest. Winds grew slight only after reaching the Caribbean Sea, Wong said in a video posted to the Hokule‘a’s website Sunday.
He said the crew was in good spirits, having experienced good teamwork and camaraderie during the journey.
The crew also had several “na ho‘ailona,” or favorable signs on the water.
“Most notably, a noio bird that followed us almost the whole way from Brazil to the Caribbean,” he said. “He would sleep on the canoe every night.”
He said the crew saw a “special” full night rainbow, or moonbow, Saturday night before reaching the Virgin Islands.
“We are now here and happy to finally see land,” he said. “We’re looking forward to connecting with a lot of the local people.”
During their stay in the Virgin Islands, the crew will visit the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park on St. John, where crew member Heidi Guth’s father worked as a ranger for years.
Guth, who grew up in the Virgin Islands and who is also the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s chief operating officer, said in a news release that returning to her childhood hometown with the Hokule‘a during the centennial of the National Park Service and the 60th anniversary of the Virgin Islands National Park is an “unbelievable dream.”
“I’m also excited about the opportunity to share and exchange ideas on caring for each of our coastal homes, our oceans, and our Island Earth,” she said.
Other plans for the crew include participating in outreach opportunities with the Virgin Islands National Park and the Coral Reef National Monument.
On Thursday, weather permitting, the crew will leave for Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands. British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, who owns Moskito Island, invited the canoe and its crew, said Polynesian Voyaging Society spokeswoman Sonja Swenson Rogers.
She said she didn’t know whether the crew would meet with Branson, but said Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson knows Branson as both are members of OceanElders, a group of leaders joined together to conserve and protect the ocean and its wildlife.
The canoe’s next crew will depart Honolulu on Tuesday and will sail the vessel on toward Florida. The Hokule‘a is expected to reach Florida by March 26 and arrive in New York by June 8 to participate in United Nations World Oceans Day.