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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 12, 2004

Hokule'a begins trip home

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

MIDWAY ATOLL, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands — The voyaging canoe Hokule'a pulled out of the old Navy harbor at Midway's Sand Island shortly before noon yesterday for its trip back to the main Hawaiian Islands.

As the canoe pulled out of harbor behind its escort boat, blasts from Hawaiian shell trumpets or pu sounded from the crew members remaining on shore, from the canoe and from the escort boat.

The vessel was expected to take about nine days to complete the trip, much of which time it would be heading into the trade winds under tow behind the escort boat Kama Hele.

"We'll sail as much as we can," said Bruce Blankenfeld, who is serving as navigator on the voyage.

Hokule'a on Wednesday completed a historic 18-day voyage through the length of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, with stops at several. The canoe left Hanalei Bay on May 23.

The northbound crew sailed to Kure Atoll, the most distant island in the archipelago from the main islands, and then backtracked to Midway, where a new crew was waiting. The sailors assisted in debris cleanup and other work that supported conservation on some of the islands where they stopped.

Midway is a former Navy base and now a national wildlife refuge operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It also supports an airfield used as an emergency landing spot for aircraft flying across the Pacific.

While the crews waited for crew member Kealoha Hoe to arrive by air Thursday night, several of them fed fish. Rainy weather had made a load of canoe-dried fish rather soggy, so the crew fed it to a school of massive ulua that was swimming with a giant kahala in the Midway Harbor.

Midway residents threw a party for the Hokule'a crew and departing refuge volunteers Thursday night at the old Navy All Hands Club. A band made up of Thai nationals who work on the island provided entertainment.

Moloka'i resident Mel Paoa is serving as captain on the sailing canoe, which is traveling with a crew of 10 on the southbound sail. They include Paoa, Blankenfeld, Hoe, Terry Hee, Nohea Kaiaokamalie, Gary Yuen, Ka'iulani Murphy, Mike Taylor, Keoni Kuoha and Tava Taupu.

Blankenfeld, Murphy, Kuoha and Taupu also sailed on the northbound voyage.

The escort boat crew is unchanged from the earlier cruise, and includes Tim Gilliom, Kawai Hoe, Palani Wright, Josh Dang, Kiyoshi Amimoto and Steve Garrett.

Advertiser science writer Jan TenBruggencate served as a crew member aboard Hokule'a on its voyage up the 1,200 miles of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island chain.