ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cultural practitioner Danny Akaka, ti leaf in hand, said a prayer for the safe voyage of sailing canoes Alingano Maisu and Hokule'a during a gathering yesterday on the north coast of the Big Island. Next to him, with a lei around his neck, is Chadd Paishon, who will navigate the Maisu on the voyage, set to start tomorrow.
Hokule‘a set to set sail tomorrow
The voyaging canoe and its companion star in a gathering on the Big Island
MAHUKONA, Hawaii » Crew members, family and friends of the voyaging canoes Alingano Maisu and Hokule'a gathered at Mahukona harbor on the north coast of the Big Island yesterday in preparation for the long trip that will take the Maisu to Micronesia and the Hokule'a to Japan.
Weather permitting, the voyage is set to begin tomorrow morning. But with the uncertainties involved in any sailing venture, the crews had already held private events such as the awa ceremony.
Maisu navigator Chadd Paishon called yesterday's event, attended by about 150 people, simply a gathering.
The entire adventure is a gathering -- the gathering of two crews, the gathering of Micronesian and Hawaiian cultures, and the gathering of the two separate voyages.
The Maisu was built by Na Kalai Waa of the Big Island as a gift to Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug, who taught Hawaiians ancient sailing techniques starting in the 1970s.
Paishon recalled the physical way in which Mau refers to the link between his home island Satawal and Hawaii.
"Mau placed a stick between Micronesia and Polynesia," he said.
"The reason why we are gathered together is to bond further together," Paishon told the group. "I might not know you, but I am connected to you because of these canoes."
Mahukona is also a connection to Hawaii's voyaging past, he said. On a bluff overlooking the sea stands a ko'a heiau holo moana, he said, an ancient voyaging heiau.
Unlike a more typical heiau, which is a raised platform of stones, the navigation heiau is an assembly of upright stones.
Anthropologist Elizabeth Lindsey, who studied with Mau for nine years, said Mau would tell her how certain stones were associated with certain islands.
"At a certain time of year, he'd follow the shadow of the stones pointing the way back to the island," she said.
Cultural practitioner Pua Case explained how the Mahukona navigational heiau had been under the guidance of the Solomon family for generations. Auntie Marie Solomon had been an important figure in forming Na Kalai Waa, which first built the canoe Makalii and now has completed the Maisu for Mau.
Paishon said that even though the crew of the Maisu will leave the canoe in Micronesia as a gift and fly home, spiritually they will end their voyage at the Mahukona heiau as they started their voyage there.