ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
Well-wishers watched by the first light of day yesterday as a crane lowered the voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu into the water at Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island. The canoe will be a gift to navigator Mau Piailug and his home island, the Micronesian island of Satawal. CLICK FOR LARGE
Gratitude floats Mau's canoe
The voyaging vessel Alingano Maisu is a gift to the Hawaiians' teacher of ancient navigation
KAWAIHAE, Hawaii » The day's first rays of sun were just reaching past Mauna Kea to Kawaihae Harbor in West Hawaii yesterday when a crane lowered the 57-foot voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu into the water.
The Maisu, as it informally known, is the gift of the Big Island group Na Kalai Waa Moku O Hawaii to traditional Micronesian navigator Pius Mau Piailug and the people of his home island, Satawal.
When the now-famous, 62-foot voyaging canoe Hokulea was built in the 1970s, centuries without Hawaiians making long voyages meant no one here knew how to navigate without instruments.
Hokulea's parent, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, found a rarity in Mau Piailug, a traditional Micronesia navigator willing to share his culture's secretive knowledge of sailing.
During yesterday's ceremonies at Kawaihae, Pu'ai Lincoln was one of many people acknowledging the debt. Lincoln carried an unusual lei for her sister, Maisu crew member Pualani Lincoln.
The lei was made of leaves of the kukui tree. They represent knowledge and wisdom, Lincoln explained.
"Papa Mau gave us back our knowledge and wisdom," she said.
Now the Big Island is returning the favor. Since the Maisu project began, its name has been explained as breadfruit fallen to the ground and therefore free for everyone to enjoy. The same freedom of knowledge is intended from the Maisu.
Mau's nephew Innocenti Eraekaiut explained the added name, Alingano. It means "to show,'' announcing that the spread of voyaging knowledge will be active.
The Maisu had been in the water before. But a purification ceremony by cultural practitioner Danny Akaka made yesterday's launch official. "E ola no ka hana no'eau," Akaka prayed. "Long live the work of wisdom."
Na Kalai Waa, building and outfitting the canoe for $300,000, had hoped to sail to Satawal last spring but was unable to complete work before the summer hurricane season. Sailing is now expected in January with a mixed Hawaiian and Micronesia crew.
There are dangers even early in the year, explained voyage navigator Chadd Paishon.
This being an El Nino year, warm water that would normally accumulate in the Western Pacific is instead collecting off the coast of Mexico. Warm water is the breeding ground of tropical storms.
"If anything happens, it's going to follow us," Paishon said.
The Maisu got a taste of troublesome weather Friday when wind gusted in the area to 45 mph, raising doubts that the launch could proceed. Quiet air reigned through the night, then returned to gustiness just 10 minutes after the canoe went into the water.
The Maisu will not be alone on the 4,500-mile sail to Satawal. It will be accompanied by the Hokulea and its escort vessel, the ketch Kamahele.
When they reach Satawal, Mau, now in his 70s, will be waiting.
"Born" here, the canoe will always be Hawaii's responsibility, said Mason Maikui at an awa ceremony yesterday. "It is still part of our kuleana," he said.