Our Hawaiian Hokule`a

Voyaging canoe sails to Molokai.    

By Melissa Kelsey

Blessed with good wind, Hokule`a sailed into Kaunakakai Wharf last Wednesday, arriving safely from Oahu.

“The trip was faster than expected,” said Cliff Kapono, a member of Kapu Na Keiki, a community of intrepid young people training to sail Hokule`a.  

The double-hulled voyaging canoe had left Oahu’s windward side in the early hours of the morning, bringing its crew to the Sustainable Molokai: Future of a Hawaiian Island conference.

But for the akamai who sail Hokule`a, the vessel means more than just transportation.

“The point is to bring awareness that our environment is in trouble and we need to do something,” said Angela Fa`anunu, a crewmember who grew up in Tonga.

Fa`anunu said one purpose of sailing Hokule`a is to give young people a sense of place in the ocean so that they will care for it and its inhabitants, including coral reefs. The crew is planning a voyage around the world in 2012.

“There is so much knowledge out in the ocean that just needs to be understood,” said voyage captain Russel Animoto.

Animoto also captained Hokule`a’s most recent voyage, a return trip from Palmyra, an atoll about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. He compared sailing Hokule`a to living on an island. On each voyage the crew has to live sustainably by taking care of each other, the canoe and their limited resources and water.

“This group is bigger than any one individual,” said Kapono.

As an active replica of an ancient Polynesian vessel, Kapono said Hokule`a is a symbol of Hawaiian culture, resurrecting navigating and sailing arts that are thousands of years old.
“The Pacific Ocean was first explored 3,000 years ago, and it was completed 2,000 years ago,” said navigator Nainoa Thompson, who sailed the Hokule`a from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1980. “If we stop voyaging, we have no bridge between our culture, ancestors and neighbors.”   

To prepare for future voyages, Kapu Na Keiki sailors undergo years of training. Crewmember Kailin Kim said safety was a highlight of learning how to sail Hokule`a. In addition, trainees learn how to work the sails, how to steer and how to navigate. She said this particular voyage to Molokai was special because Kapu Na Keiki sailors had planned most of the details themselves, including food and navigation.

“We have to make sure we know how to handle everything,” she said.  

The crew left Kaunakakai on Sunday morning, sailing Hokule`a back to Oahu.


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