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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 29, 2004

Canoe team aims for Nihoa Island

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

HANALEI, Kaua'i — A team of 14 outrigger canoe paddlers was expected to arrive at Nihoa Island about midday today after a 28- to 30-hour overnight passage from Hanalei Bay, the first known crossing of the 160-mile channel by an outrigger canoe not equipped with a sail.

The Kaua'i-to-Nihoa canoe team was about 10 miles west of Kaua'i when this picture was taken. The team should reach Nihoa today.

Jan TenBruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

The paddlers are completing a multiyear series of channel crossings between all the main islands of Hawai'i. Last year a crew traveled nearly 100 miles from Hale'iwa on O'ahu to Nawiliwili on Kaua'i.

The Nihoa trip is a daunting open-sea passage. The timing of the crossing was established in part because a nearly full moon would help illuminate the ocean at night, aiding steersmen in selecting a course through the waves. Late October also is a time when many canoe paddlers are in their best physical condition for long-distance paddling, since it follows the Lili'uokalani and Moloka'i-to-O'ahu long-distance races.

Kihei Canoe Club coach Kimokeo "Bully" Kapahulehua is a primary organizer of the interisland paddles, but crew members come from several canoe clubs and islands. Noted distance paddler Donna Kahakui is on the crew, as is Kendall Struxness. Each in recent years has paddled in a one-person canoe across the Ka'ie'ie Channel between Kaua'i and O'ahu.

Other paddlers include Donny Abernathy, Johnny Aracri, Frankie Hauata, Haku Kaiminaauao, Jimmy Ledward, Chris Luedi, Matthew Muirhead, Rob Phillips, David Spansky, Pepe Trask and Jamie Woodburn. Capt. Mala Lanning is leading the escort boat, which is providing direction via satellite navigation equipment.

The paddlers take turns in the six-man canoe, switching out in one-hour intervals.

The canoe was spotted from a small plane at about 10 a.m. yesterday on course for Nihoa in the waters west of Kaua'i, which was a misty dark shape to the east. Nihoa would not be visible until the canoe was within about 20 miles of the island, after dawn today.

Once the canoe reaches its destination, it will be loaded aboard the escort boat for the return to Kaua'i.

The Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a last year became the first canoe in more than a century to make the Kaua'i-Nihoa passage. Hokule'a's crossing, along a more southerly route dictated by the requirements of noninstrument navigation, took about 26 hours.

Hokule'a sailed the channel again in May during a voyage through the length of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands archipelago. Nihoa is the first of 10 rocky, reef and atoll islands that extend 1,100 miles northwest of Kaua'i. It once was populated by Hawaiians, and its steep slopes are dense with agricultural terraces, where archaeologists believe sweet potatoes were the primary crop.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.