A LATE LAUNCH
Hokule'a leaves Oahu
After days of delay, the canoe begins its historic journey
WITH LITTLE FANFARE, the Hokule'a and its crew embarked on the first leg of a scheduled five-month, 7,000-mile journey in the western Pacific that will take them to Micronesia, Okinawa and ultimately the main Japanese islands.
» Follow the voyage of Hokule'a at the Polynesian Voyaging Society web site at: www.pvs.hawaii.org
» Star-Bulletin reporter Gary Kubota is sailing with Hokule'a and will respond to selected reader questions from the canoe via satellite hookup, when possible. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
The 62-foot-long, double-hull voyaging canoe raised sail at Honolulu Community College's Marine Education Training Center at Sand Island at 2:35 p.m. yesterday.
"We need to go, complete what we said we were going to do, honor our teacher, honor all our teachers, train young people, thank Micronesia, the greatest navigators in the world," said Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society president and Hokule'a navigator.
Thompson said the Hokule'a is not just a Hawaiian canoe, but a global canoe bridging all people together. To emphasize that point, crew members from Alaska, Japan and Hawaii each offered prayer before yesterday's launch.
Ceremonies marking the end of preparations for the trip were held last week, when the Hokule'a was originally scheduled to depart. High winds pushed the departure to yesterday.
The first leg of the voyage takes the Hokule'a and its crew to Kawaihae on the Big Island, where they will rendezvous with the voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu and its crew. The Hokule'a is expected to arrive in Kawaihae tonight.
Na Kalai waa Moku o Hawaii, a Hawaiian cultural organization on the west side of the Big Island, built the Alingano Maisu as a gift to Mau Piailug, Hokule'a's first navigator. It will sail with Hokule'a to Satawal, Mau's home island in Micronesia, where it will be given to the master navigator.
The Hokule'a and Maisu will leave Kawaihae for a spot off Kealaikahiki on the western tip of Kahoolawe probably on Sunday, Thompson said, then head to Micronesia. Kealaikahiki is the traditional launching site for voyages leaving Hawaii.
Thompson will accompany the two voyaging canoes to Kahoolawe aboard a powerboat, then head back to Oahu. He will meet the two crews next month, after they reach Micronesia.
Captain Bruce Blankenfeld of the Hokule'a and Captain Shorty Bertelmann of the Alingano Maisu will guide their vessels to Micronesia. They are expected to reach their first stop, Majuro, in about 20 days. They will then head to Kosrae and Ponhpei. That is where Thompson and a new crew will take over the Hokule'a.
The Hokule'a's last stop in Micronesia will be Palau. From there, Thompson and his crew will head to Okinawa and hope to arrive by April 1.
The journey will end in Yokohama, Japan, where the Hokule'a is scheduled to be loaded for shipment back to Hawaii on May 28.
Updates on the position of the Hokule'a and Alingano Maisu and reports of the journey can be found on the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Web site at www.pvs.hawaii.org.
Crew members also helping build voyaging canoe on Maui
WAILUKU » As the Hokule'a leaves Oahu on its journey to Micronesia, three of its crew members are looking forward to developing a voyaging canoe on the Valley Isle.
Maui residents Tim Gilliom, Nohea Kai'aokamalie and Palani Wright have been working with a group building the double-hulled voyaging canoe Mo'okiha at Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina.
"It's carrying on the light for the next generation," Wright said.
Once completed, the group Hui O Wa'a Kaulua plans to put the 62.5-foot-long Mo'okiha in a berth at Lahaina Harbor formerly occupied by the whaling museum ship Carthaginian.
Wright, 22, nephew of Snake Ah Hee, who sailed on the first Hokule'a voyage in 1976, said part of the reason he is participating is to carry on the family tradition.
The conservation worker for the West Maui Mountain Watershed Partnership said that when he returns he plans to continue his volunteer work helping lead builder Gilliom construct the Mo'okiha.
Gilliom, 36, brother of entertainers Eric and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, works as a commercial fisherman on Maui, and will be the chief fisherman on the voyage.
Kai'aokamalie, 47, a Hawaiian-studies teacher at Makawao Elementary School, has helped in developing the curriculum for students interested in learning more about the Mo'okiha.
Kai'aokamalie said Makawao Elementary has been "very supportive" of his trip sailing from Hawaii to Majuro in the Marshall Islands.