ROD THOMPSON / RTHOMPSON@STARBULLETIN.COM
Well-wishers lined the Kawaihae Harbor dock on the Big Island yesterday as the Alingano Maisu prepared to depart with the Hokule'a on a 4,400-mile voyage across the Pacific.
The canoe finally sets sail after days of delays
KAWAIHAE, Hawaii » Accompanied by ceremonial chants assuring the crews that all will go well, the voyaging canoes Alingano Maisu and Hokule'a left Kawaihae Harbor yesterday afternoon on a voyage that will take the Maisu across the Pacific to Micronesia and the Hokule'a onward to Japan.
The departure was a reward for the patience of the crews, who had planned to sail at the start of the week but were delayed day after day by winds at sea reported at up to 45 mph.
The focus of attention was the Maisu, a single-masted, double-hulled canoe built by the Big Island group Na Kalai Waa as a gift to Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug, who taught Hawaiians in the 1970s the art -- lost for centuries in Hawaii -- of how to sail without instruments.
About 60 people gathered on the rickety wooden dock to wish the Maisu farewell, leaving the double-masted Hokule'a a few hundred feet down the dock.
"This is Maisu's first voyage, so maybe the excitement is a little bit more," said Kathy Thompson, spokeswoman for the Hokule'a. In contrast, the Hokule'a is 30 years old, and many of her current crew members have sailed before, she said.
The Hokule'a being older, she is like a mother ship to the Maisu, Thompson said.
The Hokule'a crew was among those alongside Maisu wishing her well.
On board, the Maisu's crew performed a forceful aiha'a chant similar to a Maori haka. On shore, the Halau Hula Kealaonamaupua of Pua Case performed a melodic chant reassuring the crew, "Nothing will happen to you," Case said.
The Maisu slipped away from the dock at 4:53 p.m. At 5:27 p.m. the Hokule'a left, also to a farewell chant from Case's halau.
Before the canoes, the first ship to sail was the Kama Hele, a 47-foot sloop that will be the escort vessel for the canoes.
The ships headed down the Kona Coast, in the lee of the Big Island, expecting to pick up strong winds as they neared South Point.
Kama Hele Capt. Mike Taylor said the Hokule'a will take the lead for the first 800 miles to the west-southwest until the canoes near Johnston Island, where the Maisu will assume the lead for the rest of the 2,200-mile voyage to the first landfall at Majuro.
The Kama Hele will stay one to two miles back the entire time, ready to provide assistance if needed.
After Majuro, additional island-hopping will take the canoes to Piailug's home island of Satawal, where the Maisu will be presented to him, although its permanent home will be Yap.