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Molokai Crewmembers Join Hokule`a Voyage

Three Molokai residents have departed on a journey to follow the path of their ancestors across oceans and change the way the world views our environment. Last week, Mel Paoa, Mahina Hou Ross and Keoki Pescaia left for American Samoa to join Hawaiian double-hulled voyaging canoes Hokule`a and Hikianalia as they set sail for the northwestern tip of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

“The Molokai community fully supports these crewmembers as Hokule`a represents all of us, coming together to protect the places, values, and traditions that we love,” said Paoa, Molokai’s first voyaging captain for Hokule`a.

This week, they are sailing to Vava`u in Tonga, about 320 miles from Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa, where they waited for favorable weather to depart on the first portion of the trip to Aotearoa.

Along with crewmembers joining the voyage for this leg from Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island, Paoa, Ross and Pescaia will be part of the journey that returns Hokule`a to Aotearoa for the first time since 1985. Sister canoe Hikilanalia was built in Aotearoa in 2012, and both vessels are scheduled to arrive there in November after a 1,500-mile leg of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

As its name tells, the voyage carries a message of caring for the earth and a mission of growing a global movement toward sustainability. Crewmembers hope to share traditional Hawaiian ideas of resource management and bring back other cultures’ knowledge of honoring the environment.

Education and sharing the voyage with Hawaii students back home is also an important element of the voyage.

“All my life growing up on Molokai, we learned those concepts to aloha `aina and malama honua,” said Ross, now a Hawaiian immersion language teacher at Molokai High School. “I want to get all of the Molokai schools to somehow integrate the voyage into their curriculum… Pushing the educational aspect of the voyage… [and] doing things for our future generations… is important.”

Donna Paoa (wife of Mel), crewmember Mel Paoa, Mikiala Pescaia (wife of Keoki), and crewmember Keoki Pescaia. Not pictured, Mahina Hou Ross, who had already left for American Samoa.

Ross is currently on sabbatical from teaching to be a crewmember and assist with educational outreach. Before his departure, he worked with principals and teachers to involve local schools in the voyage. Classrooms across the state can visit Hokulea.com to get follow their journey and incorporate it into the curriculum.

For Paoa, being a part of the voyage is also part of a personal journey.

Paoa did his first open-ocean sail on Hokule`a in 1985 at the age of 32.

“In the 1980s, when I was doing the physical for the Voyage of Rediscovery, the canoe physician told me I couldn’t go, that my diabetes was going to affect the voyage,” recalled Paoa. “I told him, ‘thank you,’ then I called Dr. Emmett Aluli.  I said I wanted to sail on the Hokule`a and he signed my paperwork. Emmett was my hero.”

Despite concerns that he would not be able to complete the voyage without his diabetes getting out of control, Poa learned to manage it, and went on to successfully complete that first sail.

After overcoming his own health challenges, Paoa has dedicated his life to inspiring young people to never give up on their dreams and to constantly challenge themselves.

He said voyaging in the Pacific and Aotearoa is also a journey of discovering his own family roots.

“My cousin did our genealogy and I’m the 86th generation of Paoas from Aotearoa,” he said. “When I went to Rapanui [on a past voyage], there were Paoas everywhere. I thought, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to be a Dudoit on Molokai!’”

Together, the three Molokai crewmembers represent the hard work that makes a successful voyage.

“These two guys Keoki and Mahina Hou, they’ve put in a lot of preparation – they live it, they’ve been through it, they know it,” said Paoa.

The Worldwide Voyage, sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, will cover 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, 26 nations, including 12 of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage sites, through June 2017.

“You can support this voyage with your prayers,” said Miki`ala Pescaia, wife of Keoki. “Please pray for these men, and all the men and women of our Polynesian Voyaging Society, that they will return home.”

No matter where he goes, Paoa said he has eyes toward Molokai.

“Everywhere I sail, I always look to see what direction Molokai is so I know where home is,” said Paoa. “I always look.”




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