Journey's end


POSTED: Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunny skies welcomed back the Hokule'a yesterday at Sand Island after two weeks of mostly rainy weather at sea, making it a valuable training voyage.

;[Preview]    Hokulea Vessel Returns Home

The Polynesian Voyaging canoe Hokulea is finally back home after a challenging thousand mile trip to Palmyra Atoll.



Because of the weather, the crew learned as much as some people will learn in three voyages, said navigator and trainer Bruce Blankenfeld.

The 14-day, 1,000-mile sail from Palmyra Atoll to Hawaii was a training voyage for a younger crew in preparation for a Polynesian Voyaging Society voyage around the world in 2012.

“;It was a training sail, but one thing you can't train for is your fortitude,”; Blankenfeld said. “;This young group we had was a bunch of heart and souls. They worked really hard.”;

He continued, “;It bodes well for future voyaging for the state of Hawaii to have this younger generation go to sea, take to the challenge of it and perform very well.”;

The 11-person crew left Palmyra on March 23 after replacing a crew that sailed the Hokule'a to Palmyra.

After arriving at the Marine Education and Training Center at about 1 p.m., the crew celebrated with friends and family, then started unloading the 62-foot-long vessel.

“;We learned a lot through rough seas and rough weather,”; said 24-year-old watch captain Kaina Holomalia, adding that the sunshine at the docks yesterday was the best weather the entire trip.

It started raining on the first day, and the crew had about five hours of sun on three days, he said. The first four days, the vessel was towed east to get out of the Doldrums, an area of calm winds and stormy weather.

During the sail, swells reached up to 20 feet and crashed broadside into the double-hulled canoe. A large wave tore away the canvas protecting the sleeping crew, soaking them, Holomalia said.

Crew members sleep on mats on the side of the vessel.

Holomalia said he was looking forward to a shower and a warm bed that does not rock.

It was his first time as watch captain, one of three on the crew. He said he wants to become a captain for a one of the legs in the worldwide voyage.

The youngest crew member, 17-year-old Kailin Kim, a senior at Kaiser High School, said she learned a lot about herself.

“;It was an amazing experience, and it was a really big challenge for me,”; she said. “;It really changed my life.”;

Kim was allowed to go on the deep-sea voyage, which is normally only for adults, because she was exceptional in her studies.

Kim is taking navigation courses at Honolulu Community College and is valedictorian at Kaiser.

Although the stormy weather kept crew members wet, it did not dampen their spirit, said Mike Taylor, a retired Army colonel and watch captain.

“;You're just so wet,”; he said. “;Go to bed wet, wake up wet, eat wet. So it was interesting how high the morale was.”;

Standing at the dock, Taylor reflected on the voyage and how much the crew had bonded.

“;You pull up and you tie up on the docks,”; he said. “;Your loved ones are waiting for you, but you don't want to get off.”;