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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 24, 2004

After delays, Hokule'a voyage finally begins

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

AT SEA, WEST OF KAUA'I — The voyaging canoe Hokule'a sailed westward out of Hanalei Bay yesterday morning on a brisk southeast wind, finally.

Bruce Blankenfeld, right, and Russell Amimoto were among the Hokule'a crew members who acknowledged boatloads of well-wishers yesterday as they left Hanalei Bay.

Jan TenBruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

The night sky early yesterday was full of stars; the morning greeted a rising breeze with clear skies and puffs of white clouds overhead.

After 15 days of weather and other delays, the crew slipped the mooring lines about 9 a.m. with canoe loads of well-wishers cheering alongside. Motorized, sail-powered and paddled outrigger canoes cruised along as the twin-hulled Hokule'a picked up speed.

The 29-year-old canoe and its crew of 13 are on a voyage through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, following a route organizers believe is similar to one used by Polynesian voyagers hundreds of years ago.

It is also an educational mission, bringing the science, the culture and the excitement to students across the state of the experience of taking an ancient form of transportation through islands that have been dubbed the Kupuna Islands — the elders.

People on shore and on the boats following the canoe for the first mile blew traditional Hawaiian greetings on shell and bamboo pu. The canoe responded with the wavering harmonics of two different-sized pu blown in unison.

Before yesterday's departure, half the crew slept aboard the canoe, and the others took advantage of a donated condominium, where they could wash clothes, shower and sleep in beds for the last time in weeks. Most have been waiting by the canoe since its original departure date of May 8, supported on shore by a Kaua'i community that pitched a large tent and provided meals and cars for the duration of the wait.

The canoe crew, the escort boat crew and members of that community stood in a wide circle on shore before yesterday's departure as voyagers thanked the people of the island, and the island folk thanked the canoe crew for voyaging.

"We thank you for doing this for us, for our children," said Cathy Ham Young, who oversaw the on-land support of the crew.

Hokule'a eased down the north coast of Kaua'i past Ha'ena, and then fell into the wind shadow of the island. The crew raised bigger sails and tacked out to sea until they picked up a steady 20 mph wind and a following sea.

The course kept Kaua'i on the port side of the canoe, and Ni'ihau misty in the distance to the right of Kaua'i.

The canoe was to sail to an imaginary line between Ni'ihau and Nihoa, a small rocky island Hokule'a first visited in September 2003, and then down that line to the island. Navigator Ka'iulani Murphy, 25, on her first long-distance solo navigation trip, has captain Nainoa Thompson and sailing master Bruce Blankenfeld to turn to if she needs help. Both are accomplished non-instrument navigators. But they were committed to remain silent except in two instances — if Murphy asks for help, or if they believe she is severely off course.

The Honolulu Advertiser science writer Jan TenBruggencate is sailing aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule'a and submitting reports as it proceeds through the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago.