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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 20, 2009

Hokule'a reaches Palmyra

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The crew tied the arriving Hokule'a to a mooring in the Palmyra lagoon yesterday. From left: Kaina Holomalia, Keala Kai, Chris Baird, captain/navigator Bruce Blankenfeld and Pauline Sato. The voyage was a training cruise and a new crew will train on the return trip.

Photos by Mike Taylor

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Hokule'a under full sail was photographed from aboard the escort boat Kama Hele the day before the Palmyra arrival.

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An "endless pod of porpoises," schools of manta rays and an estimated 400 melon-headed whales escorted the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule'a into the pristine waters of Palmyra Atoll yesterday as its young crew wrapped up a nine-day, 1,000-mile journey south from Honolulu using traditional navigational techniques.

Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, was back in Honolulu yesterday wrestling with conflicting emotions: Disappointed that he could not enjoy the sight of Palmyra and all its marine life for the first time with his beloved Hokule'a and proud that the canoe and its crew made the trip without him.

"The Palmyra success is that I'm not there," Thompson said.

He plans to make his first trip to Palmyra tonight by plane, along with the bulk of a new crew that will sail Hokule'a back into Hawai'i waters.

During the one day that he'll be on Palmyra, Thompson plans to dive in the waters of the atoll and expects to see a mass of sea life unimaginable in the main Hawaiian islands.

Then-President George W. Bush on Jan. 6 designated the atoll part of one of three new Pacific marine monuments.

The journey also represents the first deep-water, open-ocean voyage this year to train a new generation of young crews to take Hokule'a around the world on a 37-month voyage.

In all, Hokule'a is expected to make a dozen interisland and deep-sea training cruises this year.

"It's hard to train as a navigator just interisland because you can see landmarks pretty easily," said Kamaki Worthington, who sailed to Palmyra and is training to be a captain and navigator. "On this long-distance voyage, it's very different. We hadn't seen land for eight days, but we navigated a straight course.

"This training sail helps fulfill the task set out for the worldwide voyage, training young leaders."

Hokule'a captain Bruce Blankenfeld called the performance of the 12-person crew "stellar."

"This is an excellent sign for the worldwide voyage because we have a vision for young leadership and they are stepping forward in an awesome way," Blankenfeld said.

The new crew plans to leave Palmyra on Tuesday on Hokule'a for the return trip, Thompson said, and the canoe will first be towed 350 to 400 miles east to escape the doldrums surrounding the atoll.

It will then take another three to four days to properly position Hokule'a for the estimated 11-day return trip to Honolulu.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.