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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, August 4, 2007

Special on Hokule'a's westward voyage an enthralling ride

 •  Hokule'a 2007 voyages to Micronesia and Japan
Follow the Hokule'a as they sail to Micronesia and Japan in our special report.

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hokule'a crew members reached Itoman Harbor, Okinawa, in April. From left: Takuji Araki, Kaina Ho'omalia, Ka'iulani Murphy, Nainoa Thompson, Dr. Pete Roney, Chadd Paishon, Maile Neff (behind Paishon), Tim Gilliom, Kanako Uchino, Pomai Bertelmann and Atwood Makanani.

Polynesian Voyaging Society

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7 p.m. Monday; repeats 9 p.m. Aug. 18


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"Hokule'a: Passing the Torch," airing Monday on KGMB9, covers the Polynesian Voyaging Society's iconic vessel in its element.

The hourlong special includes footage from the Hokule'a's five-month journey to Micronesia and Japan, which covered 7,000 miles of open sea.

It provides a glimpse into rituals and lifestyles of Micronesian culture as well as candid views of Hokule'a crew members as they followed the tradition of sailing without navigational tools, guided only by the stars and waves.

The recent journey is part of a 30-year odyssey with ties to Satawalese navigator Mau Piailug, who shared his skills with then-young sailors from the Islands. The Micronesian segment includes a trek to the atoll of Satawal, where Piailug presided over a graduation ceremony known as pwo in essence, a passing-of-the-torch milestone when navigators Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld, Chad Baybayan, Shorty Bertelmann and Chadd Paishon, with 11 Satawalese residents, underwent the same "induction" process that Piailug himself went through 50 years ago.

Narrated by Lopaka Kapanui, the show includes recent video, archival footage and vintage still photographs to track and retell the awesome adventure.

"Voyages have to be about protection of our values," Thompson says along the way.

In the film, Thompson also raises the prospect of a possible future sail westward from Hawai'i, then around the world a daunting mission with many expected risks, and only a dream for now.

The Satawal sequence is remarkable for its depiction of the islanders' customs: They dance, sing, prepare food and take part in ceremony. With the local paddlers and navigators visiting, you know it's the present; but the flavor and flourish well might have been the same generations ago.

A visit to Uwajima, home base for the Ehime Maru the fisheries school training vessel that collided with a U.S. submarine off the Islands in 2001 was emotional, with crew members offering kahili to families of the nine victims of the mishap as a token of remembrance.

The crew weathers a 20-hour rainstorm, prepares such meals as saimin, fried rice and salmon patties, and clearly demonstrates that each one has a role in assuring a safe journey.

And it all comes down to dedication.

"We sailed this canoe with great pride, great affection and great love," Thompson says.

For viewers, "Hokule'a" is a great ride.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.