Hokule'a departs under clear skies


POSTED: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kaina Holomalia gave master navigator Nainoa Thompson a hug yesterday before embarking on a 1,000-mile, one-week voyage on the Hokule'a to Palmyra Atoll.

“;He's going to be our next captain,”; Thompson said of the 24-year-old Nanakuli man.

Holomalia, who has returned to school after overcoming personal challenges including drugs, said: “;This canoe saved my life in a lot of ways,”; noting it helped him straighten out his life.

The Hokule'a finally set sail under clear skies yesterday afternoon after bad weather and other setbacks delayed its departure to Palmyra from the Honolulu Community College Marine Education Training Center at Sand Island. It's the first of at least 12 long-distance training missions to prepare for circumnavigation of the Earth in three years.

The worldwide voyage will emphasize caring for Earth's resources, and its sailors must be ambassadors for Hawaii, said spokeswoman Mei Jeanne Wagner. They also will learn from indigenous people around the world how to navigate through life, and care for resources on land and water.

The crew will take a different tack than on previous voyages.

The older crew members are stepping back to allow the younger ones to take the helm, and 40 percent of the crew had to be 30 or under as of Dec. 31, 2007.

Holomalia felt the weight of the voyage. “;I sail for all the kupuna that came before me,”; he said, naming several legendary watermen.

Thompson said competence is essential, but “;leadership with core family values”; is key to earning a place on the canoe.

Among the 12 aboard the vessel are a firefighter, a documentary filmmaker, teachers and students.

“;It's all a big challenge,”; said captain Bruce Blankenfeld. “;We're training leadership,”; but at the same time “;I'll be responsible for 11 others to look after and keep safe.”;

“;The crew is relatively green,”; he said, but added that they have trained for six months and the crew did well even in rough seas.

As for Thompson, who stayed on the dock, he said: “;I would love to go, but it's not my time.”;

However, he said he will participate on a difficult leg of the worldwide voyage.