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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 27, 2009

Hokule'a ready for Palmyra

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Nainoa Thompson yesterday announced Hokule'a's plan to circumnavigate the planet and train the next generations of captains.

Photos by GREGORY YAMAMOTO | Honolulu Advertiser

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2010 Drydock repairs and preparations

2011 Sail to 42 communities in Hawai'i

2012 Kaho'olawe, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Aotearoa

2013 Fiji, Indonesia, Australia, Maldives

2014 India, Oman, Red Sea, Egypt, Canary Islands, Cross Atlantic to Caribbean, Panama Canal

2015 Galapagos, Peru, Rapa Nui, Australs, Tahiti, Marquesas

2016 Hawai'i statewide sails

Source: Polynesian Voyaging Society

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kaina Holomalia of Nanakuli is a captain-in-training and will be part of the crew heading to Palmyra Atoll. He is also a prime candidate to become one of six new captains for a planned worldwide voyage.

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The voyaging canoe Hokule'a is scheduled to leave Hawaiian waters tomorrow for Palmyra Atoll, a preliminary step in an ambitious plan to circumnavigate the planet and train the next generation of captains and crews in the ancient ways of Polynesian navigation.

Exactly when Hokule'a sets sail on its eight- to 10-day voyage south across 1,000 miles of open ocean depends on weather conditions, especially the winds.

But its arrival and planned six-day stay at Palmyra Atoll will mark the first arrival by an ocean vessel since then-President George W. Bush designated the atoll one of three new Pacific marine monuments on Jan. 6.

"It's a fascinating place," said Barry Stieglitz of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "I wish we had the opportunity to get everyone there. I believe the crew members of the Hokule'a will be very, very pleased to have an opportunity to go.

"It has an incredible human history: shipwrecks, failed financial ventures, World War II military history and even some murders that have been well known here in Hawai'i."

The arrival of a traditional Hawaiian canoe at Palmyra using ancient navigational techniques will bring together two distinct visions, said Suzanne Case, executive director of The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i.

"One vision of and for people and learning. ... The other vision of place and nature and wildness and wholeness as it can and should be. The view into our deep past of a great people with the Hokule'a and a great place at Palmyra Atoll allows and creates and renews our vision for the future. Taking these voyages and protecting these places are epic undertakings requiring commitment, compassion and courage. With these visions we'll heal ourselves and our peoples and our places all around the world."

The Palmyra trip is just the first of 12 deep-sea training cruises and sea trials this year designed to test and prepare Hokule'a and its crews-in-training for a potential voyage around the world, which could include the dangers of modern-day pirates.


Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, initially rejected the idea of sailing Hokule'a around the world when his late father, former Bishop Estate trustee Myron "Pinky" Thompson, began suggesting it in the early 1990s.

But now, with his 56th birthday approaching on March 11, Nainoa Thompson said it's time for Hokule'a's most ambitious plan ever in its 34-year history, to help heal the environment and train the next generation of navigators and captains.

"I was on the edge of a time when 50 years ago one could in relative terms say that Hawai'i's oceans were healthy," Thompson said yesterday. "At the same time one of my great lifelong, so-far regrets is that all I did in the last 50 years was witness the decline and didn't do anything about it.

"If we are a society that is committed to the well-being of children not born, then reversing the trends of degradation of our environment is a priority. It's not an option. It's an obligation to children. Fundamentally, that's why we sail. I don't have much tools. I just have a canoe and some extraordinary people and we'll do what we can."


Hokule'a will embark on its 37-month, worldwide journey of 31,000 nautical miles and 40 countries only if it can first develop a minimum of 12 crews.

The crews, consisting of 12 people each, will take turns sailing the canoe and no one will be asked to be at sea for longer than 30 days, Thompson said.

"For the well-being of Hokule'a to be able to be a tool for the future, you have to have young leadership," Thompson said. "Us old guys are getting old. ... You need young people to be involved because it's their world."

So 40 percent of the crew members have to be under age 30, Thompson said, such as captain-in-training Kaina Holomalia of Nanakuli.

Holomalia, 24, dropped out of Nanakuli High School in the ninth grade and got tempted by "what Wai'anae is known for," he said.

"Hokule'a saved my life in a lot of ways," Holomalia said. He called Hokule'a "a mother that took care of me in times of need."

Now Holomalia plans to work as a watch captain on the trip to Palmyra Atoll, where he hopes to see for himself what healthy reefs and giant schools of fish look like.

Then, Holomalia dreams of sailing Hokule'a up the Leeward Coast as one of its new captains, to introduce the canoe to hundreds of elementary school children and perhaps inspire them as the canoe continues to inspire him.

The Leeward Coast is "where she is much needed," Holomalia said.

Holomalia is a prime candidate to become of one of six new and young captains that will be necessary for a worldwide voyage, Thompson said.

"We need Kaina more than Kaina needs us," Thompson said. "He's an investment in the future."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.