A Sailor’s Dream Come True
Community contributed by Maka Albertazzi
Living in San Diego, the Molokai Dispatch website is my daily connection to home. This past June I was excited to read about the visit by the Pacific Voyagers, Te Mana o Te Manoa, and the fleet of vakas sailing to Molokai.
As a long-time sailor, I’ve been captivated by the rebirth of Polynesian voyaging. Honestly, I’ve been a bit envious of Todd Yamashita, Dane Dudoit and Conrad Martin’s trip aboard the Hokule`a. In anticipation of the vakas’ September arrival in San Diego, I watched the Youtube posting of their Molokai visit. The cheers from the crowd as the fleet entered the harbor, Anakala Pilipo’s chant and the aloha showered on the crews.
More than two months later, entering San Diego Bay, the vakas were guided to shore by elders of the Kumeyaay Band of Indians. There was an intense sense of honor among us “local folks,” and most could not hold back the tears of pride in what we were seeing.
Once ashore, the journey-worn crews, after traveling 11,000 miles and five months, from New Zealand to California, enthusiastically performed a haka. We all gathered in a circle and held hands, offered a prayer of thanks for their safe arrival. And the feeling of mana in that single moment was one of the most culturally up-lifting experiences I’ve had in a long time.
The fleet’s arrival coincided with the annual San Diego Festival of Sail. Seeing the vakas the next day, among the large gathering of tall ships, was like a cultural crossroad of human ambition, seafaring know-how and lust for adventure.
I’d like to think it was dumb luck, but it was my “Eddie Would Go” T-shirt that caught the attention of a vaka crew. Several of them came up to me and said, “Great shirt, great man” as we exchanged ha — breath. And like a dream come true when I was invited to sail with them that afternoon.
I can’t even begin to describe the genetic bubbles bursting in my head and heart when they unfurled the sails. It was like a tidal wave of our ancestors pouring over me. Most of the crew on vaka Te Matu a Maui had been aboard when they visited Hawaii. When I asked about their time on Molokai, “spiritual” was the response. They had visited many islands, but on Molokai they found a deep sense of kuleana, aloha and appreciation for what they were doing.
When Kapena Frank Kawe learned of my 35 plus years of sailing he said, “You should come down and help us with preparations in January before we head south to Mexico, the Galapagos and back to New Zealand. Hey kanaka, maybe there’s a spot aboard for you.” I spent the rest of that sail lost in a haze and I don’t think I’ve come out of it yet. I think of being on the open ocean on a vaka, to experience what our kapuna did, to honor one’s kuleana. That would be a dream come true. Wouldn’t it?