CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hokule'a sailed out of Keehi Lagoon last Thursday on a historic 4,400-mile journey that will take the canoe to Japan.
Canoes off to distant shores
The Hokule'a and Maisu were to depart Kawaihae to their first landfall at Majuro
KAWAIHAE, Hawaii » The voyaging canoes Alingano Maisu and Hokule'a were to depart from West Hawaii at daybreak today on a voyage that will take them 4,400 miles across the Pacific, with Hokule'a to continue for another 2,800 miles to Japan.
The sailing plan combines two voyages, each with a slightly different emphasis.
The voyage of the Maisu honors Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, who taught traditional navigation to crews of the Hokule'a in the 1970s, a time when Hawaiian navigational knowledge had been lost for centuries.
» Follow the voyage of Hokule'a at the Polynesian Voyaging Society web site at: www.pvs.hawaii.org
Ka Lai Waa of the Big Island built the Maisu as a thank-you gift to Mau and the people of Micronesia.
The voyage of the Hokule'a honors Mau, as well as the start of contact between Hawaii and Japan initiated by King Kalakaua in 1881.
The Maisu crew had wanted to sail last year but could not get the canoe finished before the summer hurricane season.
The Hokule'a voyage goes back about 15 years, to the desire of former Polynesian Voyaging Society President Myron "Pinky" Thompson to send the canoe to Japan, said society spokeswoman Kathy Thompson.
Nainoa Thompson, Pinky's son and Kathy's husband, will captain the Hokule'a during parts of the Japan voyage.
The Hokule'a crew always intended to sail with the Maisu and also was not completely ready last year, Kathy Thompson said.
The plan now is for the canoes to sail from Kawaihae harbor, up the coast to a point offshore from an ancient navigation heiau at Mahukona, then to head south with the escort vessel Kama Hele.
A plan to head first to the Kealaikahiki Channel, "the way to foreign lands," south of Maui, was scrapped yesterday because of high winds between the Big Island and Maui. Groups on Kahoolawe did proper cultural protocols for the departure, Kathy Thompson said.
From Hawaii's position 20 degrees north of the equator, the canoes will head south to about 7 degrees north, judging their position from the North Star and the Southern Cross, said Maisu navigator Chadd Paishon. Then they will continue on a line to their first landfall, Majuro, using the star Altair as one of their guides, he said.
That first leg alone will be 2,200 miles. After that they will have another 2,200 miles of hopscotching from island to island, including Satawal, before reaching Palau in late March.
The Maisu will eventually be based in Yap. The Hokule'a will continue on for eight stops in Japan, starting with Okinawa and ending at Yokohama in late May.
Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota contributed to this story.