Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hokule'a prepares for passage into future

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

HANALEI BAY, Kaua'i — "Family" of the voyaging canoe Hokule'a gathered along the rainy shore at Hanalei yesterday to celebrate a safe return, to reconnect and to prepare for another voyage scheduled for today.

Hokule'a lies at anchor in Hanalei Bay after returning from Midway Atoll. The canoe was expected to leave for O'ahu today to begin preparations for its next journey, a September sail to the Line Islands of Palmyra and Christmas with a new, younger, captain and crew.

Jan TenBruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

A few dozen people stood under the palms or sat under a gray tarp tent at Black Pot Park after the canoe's midnight arrival in the bay. The canoe was anchored not far from shore. People were hugging, telling sailing stories, and in several cases, napping.

They including men and women who had sailed the canoe from Kaua'i to Kure Atoll and Midway, those who had brought it back to Hanalei, those who planned to sail the canoe on to O'ahu today, the crew of the escort boat Kama Hele, and supporters from shore, like the Ham Young family of Wainiha and others, who pitch tents, prepare food, lend cars and phones. As navigator Bruce Blankenfeld says, "It takes an ahupua'a to launch a canoe."

Veteran Hokule'a sailor Russell Amimoto sat at a picnic bench, chatting and weaving a net for a glass ball the crew found on Kure Atoll.

Amimoto will be captain of the canoe for its trip back to Honolulu, and has been designated captain of a more significant voyage in September, when the canoe is to sail south to the Line Islands of Palmyra and Christmas, and then to Hilo, with a young crew. Amimoto and his navigator, Ka'iulani Murphy, are younger than the 29-year-old canoe.

Hokule'a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society are at a kind of crossroads, and this is a big part of it — the passing of the torch from the veterans of society president Nainoa Thompson and Blankenfeld's generation to younger people, those who will sail the canoe into the future.

"We have to do this, or everything we've learned will be lost," Thompson said.

Amimoto knows the canoe as well as anyone — having overseen its last drydock, in which the canoe was extensively rebuilt — and has sailed thousands of miles. During the voyage through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, he served as a watch captain and regularly took command of activities on the foredeck during anchoring and towing. He was Thompson and Blankenfeld's go-to man for steering in dangerous situations, like taking the canoe into the channel at Midway Atoll in winds that gusted to more than 50 miles an hour.

"I expect we'll leave first thing in the morning. It should take us 24 hours," Amimoto said of the Kaua'i-O'ahu run.

Amimoto and navigator Murphy, who served as navigator on the northbound portion of the trip to Kure Atoll under Thompson's tutelage, are lining up their own crew for the September voyage, and will train them this summer.

Another part of the Polynesian Voyaging Society's change is the increasing emphasis on education and environment, while not losing the sense of the original mission of voyaging and non-instrument navigation. Navigating Change is the new watchword.

On its recent voyage, the canoe carried an unprecedented array of satellite communications gear. In addition to daily newspaper stories and photos sent back to The Honolulu Advertiser and regular updates of Web sites, there were dozens of telephone calls from the canoe at sea directly to classrooms, where kids had been studying the environment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with a curriculum developed for the trip.

"Oh, gosh, it was awesome," said Epiphany School's Cindy Macfarlane, who teaches 3rd- and 4th-graders, and whose classes took a half-hour satphone call from the canoe at sea.

"We had one whole wall of the classroom painted to scale with a map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and we were following the voyage. To have them talk about the places they'd been studying, and to talk to people like Nainoa, who they'd seen pictures of, it was fantastic," she said.

Some of the questions from students were simple inquiries about wildlife and pollution the crew was seeing, but others indicated the kids were thinking hard about the voyage and the experience of the sailors.

"We were amazed at the kind of things some of the kids were asking, like, 'What does it mean to you.' That's a pretty deep kind of question for kids this age," she said.

Thompson said he views Hokule'a as a catalyst to grab the attention of Hawai'i students and to keep them interested in learning, in protecting the environment of the Islands, and in themselves living healthy, active lives.

Advertiser science writer Jan TenBruggencate served as a crewmember on Hokule'a's voyage through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Reach him at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.