Canoes completing pilgrimage
The crews' hope for Satawal is to give more than receive
ABOARD THE HOKULE'A » The double-hulled canoes Hokule'a and Alingano Maisu left Chuuk this afternoon (yesterday, Hawaii time) en route to Satawal to complete their pilgrimage to honor master navigator Mau Piailug.
More than 70 people, including those being carried by a passenger ship and the canoe's escort boat Kama Hele, are expected to arrive at Satawal in a couple of days to participate in and observe ceremonies culminating in the delivery of the Alingano Maisu as a gift to Piailug.
Aboard the Hokule'a are several people who were on the landmark 1976 Hawaii-Tahiti voyage with Piailug that supported the assertion that native Hawaiians were capable of sailing long distances beyond the sight of land centuries before Europeans.
Abraham "Snake" Ah Hee, a 1976 Hokule'a crew member, said the journey to see Piailug will complete the circle that binds native Hawaiians to their teacher.
Besides Ah Hee, other crew members include John Kruse, Nainoa Thompson and Billy Richards. Crew chief Kimo Hugo is also on the voyage.
On the Alingano Maisu are seven Satawal islanders, including Piailug's son Sesario Sewralur, who have been working as crew members on the 57-foot vessel.
Thompson, navigator of the Hokule'a, said the crews on the two canoes reflect a mixture of the old and new generations of voyagers and carry with them not only the promise of a new canoe for Piailug, but also of the continuation of cultures.
"This voyage carries our values," Thompson said.
About five years ago, Big Island boat builder Clay Bertelmann, who was executive director for the nonprofit group Na Kalai Wa'a, promised to construct a double-hulled sailing canoe for Piailug in appreciation of his contribution to the Hawaiian culture.
Although Bertelmann died, members of his family have continued to work to fulfill the promise, and thousands of people have contributed labor toward building the Alingano Maisu.
"This is a very special moment," said Shorty Bertelmann, Clay's brother.
Chadd Paishon, the Alingano Maisu's navigator, said the voyage is also about the families and friends back home who helped to support the building of the gift to Piailug.
"We got so many people who supported the canoe and got us here," Paishon said.
Thompson and other leaders of the voyage through Micronesia have planned that there will be adequate food and water for the visitors, and hope to prevent the depletion of resources of the 400 islanders living on Satawal, an island less than a square mile in size.
At the request of Satawal islanders, the crews have tentatively planned to stay four days.
Scores of water containers, food items and gifts have been loaded onto the canoes and also the passenger ship.
Mason Fritz, who sailed on the 1999 voyage and has been supporting the crews during their stay on Chuuk, said islanders here go beyond their means to make sure visitors are comfortable, and he knows that without proper planning on the part of the voyagers, the Satawalese will suffer after the visit.
"They will give you everything and say it's OK," Fritz said, "but after you leave they'll be hurting."