Thursday, February 11, 1999

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
Kaleo Kuilei, left, and Wendall DeFreitas, crew men of
the Makali'i, stood in the water watching the boats
as they prepared for their voyage.

Makali‘i begins its
voyage of thanks and
cultural rediscovery

By Rod Thompson


HUALALAI RESORT, Hawaii -- As night approached, bringing stars to navigate by, the Big Island voyaging canoe Makali'i sailed from Kona yesterday, carrying honor for its Micronesian navigator and pride for its Hawaiian builders.

The 6,220-mile series of voyages begun yesterday will crisscross Micronesia honoring Satawalese traditional navigator Mau Piailug, who taught Hawaiians traditional navigation beginning in 1976.

When Mau came, Hawaiians had long forgotten those skills, said "Auntie" Marie Solomon during departure ceremonies.

Solomon is the kupuna, or elder adviser, for the group Na Kalai Wa'a which launched the 54-foot Makali'i in 1995.

"Mau has come, and he gave us back our pride," Solomon said.

The canoe was prepared at Kawaihae before sailing 18 miles south to Hualalai Resort for the departure.

"Today we had a little ceremony at Kawaihae," Solomon told a crowd gathered in front of an ohia and pili grass canoe shed at Hualalai.

"It was the young people who were working on the canoe," she said. "I know in their minds they were saying, 'We are hungry. We are tired.'"

But it did her heart good, she said, to see the youths working, followed by still younger children from the Hawaiian language immersion program Punana Leo, who gave a blessing in Hawaiian.

"In our little ones, our kupuna will never die," she said.

Shorty Bertelmann, in charge of tending the sails during the trip, said, "This is a voyage of thanks. We are trying to revive and rediscover who we are as a culture."

Chadd Paishon, who will captain Makali'i on its first 2,120-mile leg to Majuro, said 95 percent of the voyage is preparation. Some of the 16 crew members from Hawaii and Micronesia have been training for 21/2 years, others for a major part of their lives, he said.

Some of the ceremony was done with gusto, such as the chest-slapping 'ai ha'a, similar to a Maori haka, in which the crew loudly chanted the praise of the "mother canoe" Hokule'a.

Some of it was done with playfulness, such as kumu hula Pua Case Lapulapu's statement that she couldn't help being a little kolohe, a little rascal-like.

The women of her halau then danced a hula ma'i which contained some slightly naughty flapping of their skirts at the crewmen.

Personal goodbyes followed and crew members were then transferred one at a time via small jet boats to the Makali'i anchored in the bay.

At 4:46 p.m., the 48-foot escort catamaran Zippur, captained by Mike Turkington of Maui, began towing Makali'i out to sea where it could catch the evening breeze.

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