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Kalaupapa Welcomes Hokule`a Home

Photo by Nainoa Buchanan

Before tens of thousands flocked to Oahu’s Magic Island to greet Hokule`a after her historic, three-year Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage last Saturday, the sailing canoe and her crew made a special stop.

Photo by Nainoa Buchanan

The isolated Kalaupapa peninsula was the official last port of call on Hokule`a’s journey, and the community there provided a safe respite from her travels before the public homecoming celebrations.

“This canoe has traveled thousands of miles and weathered many storms,” said Miki`ala Pescaia, cultural practitioner who also works with the National Park Service in Kalaupapa. “She was beat and tired after her long sail up from Tahiti. Coming to rest in Kalaupapa was like having a quiet visit at Tutuʻs house. It was familiar and warm, and she could feel the love.”

The crew spent four days in Kalaupapa, and Hokule`a was joined by sister canoe Hikianalia, Tahiti’s voyaging canoe Fa`afaite, Maui’s Mo`okiha, the newly-built Okeanos from Aotearoa, and two other boats.

Crews were greeted at Kalaupapa’s tiny dock with traditional chants and exchanges of protocol. Kalaupapa residents made fresh lei to present to each crew member and wa`a, including a 40-foot lei kukui for Hokule`a. according to Pescaia.

Photo by Rick Schonely

After arriving on Monday, the crew helped with service projects and joined in the Kalaupapa Community Performing Arts Recital on Tuesday. The next day, they climbed aboard the Damien Tour bus after company owner and patient Gloria Marks offered all 41 crew members a free tour.

“Witnessing five double hull canoes at Kalaupapa Harbor was a magical experience,” said Rick Schonely, a tour guide with Damien Tours who showed the group around. “This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something that I will never forget.”

Later on Wednesday, master navigators Nainoa Thompson and Bruce Blankenfeld, along with other voyage leadership, arrived at the settlement, and all were treated to a community dinner at long tables at McVeigh Hall, complete with rousing musical entertainment, said Pescaia. Thursday morning, some participated in an `awa ceremony led by Molokai crew member and Pescaia’s husband, Keoki Pescaia.

“Patient Meli Watanuki brought a paddle to display that was given to her then husband Pili in 1976 by master navigator Mau Piailug,” added Miki`ala Pescaia of the ceremony.

That afternoon, 88 crew members, friends, wa`a `ohana and dignitaries left in a majestic flotilla, headed for Oahu. Keoki Pescaia had joined Hokule`a in Kawaihae the week before and left Kalaupapa aboard the “mama” canoe, while Shannon Crivello, Mahina Hou and Keaolono Ross joined Mo`okiha, and Miki`ala Pescaia sailed on Fa`afaite, according to Miki`ala.

“[We] all represented Molokai and the late captain Mel Paoa in the welcome home ceremonies for Hokule`a at Magic Island,” she explained.

Photo by Rick Schonely

Molokai’s Paoa was in the hearts of many during the homecoming events. Molokai crew member Kawika Crivello, who sailed on several legs of the Worldwide Voyage, reflected on the occasion.

“When I think back on this journey, I feel honored and blessed to have been a part of something truly amazing and simply beautiful,” he said. “Hokule`a’s returning home signifies the end of one chapter in its amazing history. Personally, it’s a moment of reflection for me as I think of the one person who took the time to teach me the ways of Hokule`a, the late Mel Paoa. So it’s an emotional time as well.”

Miki`ala Pescaia said Kalaupapa was a poignant last stop for voyage. Hokule`a first came to the settlement in 1976 upon an early return from their maiden voyage to Tahiti.

“Buried in Kalaupapa soil are over 8,000 people who were sent there from every corner of Hawaii,” she explained. “Every Hawaiian genealogy line connects to someone buried in Kalaupapa. In addition, there were patients that represent over 35 nationalities and ethnicities sent to Kalaupapa. No other place in Hawaii can clearly identify this multi-national concentration of people. The canoes coming to Kalaupapa to end the voyage was like a review of where she had been, and all the people and places Hokule`a has touched.”

Entering the waters of Magic Island early Saturday morning, Hokule`a and the group of sailing canoes were greeted on the water by thousands in outrigger canoes, on surfboards, fishing boats, water skis and other vessels. It was an emotional day for many witnessing the historic event of the vessel returning after sailing more than 40,000 nautical miles around the globe since May 2014.

“Thank you, Hawaii. Thank you for the moment,” said Thompson of their welcome, during his speech at the celebration. “Thank you for the 150 to 200 canoes that were out there, the thousand watercraft…. [I] express the gratitude of the many that have embraced us the way you have. It never sunk in until I came into the channel and looked around.”

Thompson said though many had doubts about the Worldwide Voyage, it brought a tradition back to life.

“[When Hawaiian was outlawed from schools], you graduate[d] from high school, had no idea where your ancestors come from, had no idea how they got here, had no idea that they were the greatest explorers and navigators on the face of the earth,” he said.

Departing on the epic journey in May 2014, the Hokule`a sailed to more than 150 ports, 18 nations and eight of UNESCO’S MarineWorld Heritage sites, with the goal of spreading a message of environmental conservation and sustainable living. Using only ancient navigating techniques of observing the sun, stars, waves and seabirds, the crew of more than 200 volunteers from Hawaii proved true the methods used to sail by their ancestors.

This fall, Hokule`a and Hikianalia will sail around the Hawaiian Islands to reconnect with communities and schools sharing what they’ve learned on the voyage.


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