Coast Guard searching for missing canoe crew


POSTED: Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Coast Guard has launched a search in Micronesian waters for the crew of an outrigger sailing canoe built by renowned Hokule'a navigator Mau Piailug.

The 11-member crew of the Simion Hokulea was last seen Sunday on a voyage from Guam to Yap, about 4,000 miles west of Honolulu.

In Honolulu, Coast Guard Petty Officer Anthony Soto said the Simion Hokulea crew members were well-equipped, with a VHF radio, life jackets, flares and radar reflectors, and there was no indication of bad weather in the area.

Soto said yesterday the search is focused on an area of about 60,000 square nautical miles, about 250 miles southwest of Guam.

The Coast Guard cutter Washington is conducting a sea search, while a C-130 Hercules aircraft left Barbers Point on Tuesday to search by air, he said.

Using traditional native navigational methods, the crew of the 33-foot Simion Hokulea set sail from Yap to Guam in celebration of Yap Day. Under captain Ali Haleyalur, the crew left Guam on the return trip last Thursday.

Sailing with them was the outrigger sailing canoe Mathow Maran, the Coast Guard said. The Mathow Maran crew arrived at Yap on Monday, but the Simion Hokulea is overdue, Soto said.

Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society said he's hoping for the best for the crew and also knows the ability of Micronesians to survive in the ocean.

Thompson said it's not the first time a voyaging canoe has been overdue in Micronesian waters.

“;I don't know what their situation is, but these guys know what they're doing,”; he said. “;The Micronesians are extraordinarily skilled voyagers.”;

Piailug, who learned his native way-finding skills in Micronesia, served as the first navigator of the Hokule'a in its historic Hawaii-to-Tahiti voyage in 1976.

The Hokulea is based on Oahu.

Piailug no longer owns the Simion Hokulea, built more than 20 years ago, said a society official.