Ahead of their sail to Cuba, crews of the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule‘a recently enjoyed a brief visit with Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson on the billionaire mogul and philanthropist’s Caribbean island.
The canoe, which left Hawaii nearly two years ago on a journey around the world, arrived Saturday at the Branson-owned Moskito Island, part of the British Virgin Islands, according to a release from the Oahu-based Polynesian Voyaging Society.
During Hokule‘a’s two-day visit there, Branson and PVS President Nainoa Thompson discussed their respective efforts to raise awareness for ocean conservation, the release stated. The crew also invited community college students interested in environmental issues from the neighboring island of Virgin Gorda to sail on the double-hulled canoe, which is a replica of traditional Polynesian sailing vessels, the release added.
Branson and Thompson are members of the “Ocean Elders” — a collective of prominent scientists, artists and activists formed in 2010 to advocate for ocean conservation. Other members — musician Jackson Browne, marine biologist Sylvia Earle and oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau — have participated on other legs in the first two years of Hokule‘a’s Malama Honua (“Care for the Earth”) worldwide voyage.
After the canoe’s visit to Moskito, Branson helped raise visibility for Malama Honua by tweeting images of Hokule‘a’s Caribbean sail and a blog post to his nearly 7.4 million followers.
“Thanks to awareness drivers like the Hokule‘a voyage, people and leaders from Arctic to the Antarctic, and everywhere in between, have begun to recognise the importance of the ocean as a planetary life system,” Branson wrote in the blog, which was posted to the Virgin.com website.
During the visit Thompson also dubbed Branson “one of the world’s great navigators” — something he’s also called South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama since the worldwide sail started.
It’s a theme that Thompson, a pwo (“master”) navigator, has touched on occasionally during the voyage.
“We needed to seek out and find the world’s great navigators that are not on the deck of the canoe, but those that would be defined by their courage and their commitment and their legacy and their journey,” Thompson told Tutu when the Hokule‘a crew visited the renowned human rights advocate in November in Cape Town.
The canoe is slated to leave for Cuba on Friday, weather permitting. Later this year, it’s scheduled to sail up the U.S. eastern seaboard.