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Canoe project a cultural journey for hotel workers

By Staff | May 6, 2010

Ka‘ilila‘au was launched in the waters off Kaanapali Beach near Pu‘u Keka‘a (Black Rock).

KAANAPALI — Employees at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel spent four months building a four-man, single-hull Hawaiian sailing canoe.

During specified shift hours and on a voluntary basis, 280 employees helped create the hotel’s latest Hawaiian cultural project.

The canoe-building project was taken on as part of the hotel’s Po‘okela Program, an enrichment effort where employees learn aspects of Hawaiian culture in organized classes both on and off-property.

Under the supervision of canoe builder Charlie Noland, employees helped locate and cut down an Albesia tree over 100 feet tall from the forests of West Maui.

Using the wood from this tree, they learned and participated in the many tasks involved in making the canoe seaworthy, including carving, sanding and varnishing.

“Projects like the canoe help to enhance our employees’ understanding and appreciation of the Hawaiian culture, so that we can all help to preserve it for future generations,” said Mike White, the hotel’s general manager.

“Our goal is to integrate and share this knowledge on the history and values of the culture with guests, ultimately offering a unique island hotel and travel experience.”

Building the canoe was part of the hotel’s third annual celebration of the Makahiki season.

Traditionally, the Makahiki season — which begins and ends at the rising and setting of the constellation Pleiades — was a time of harvest, personal rest and renewal, and when to pay taxes to the ali‘i (king).

During the last two years, each hotel department was challenged to craft traditional items worthy of presenting to the king.

More than 200 items were created, including feathered kahili, tools, weapons, fishing nets and hooks, poi boards, hula implements, traditional games and other Hawaiiana artifacts.

“This year’s Makahiki project represents unity, responsibility, leadership and a connection to the past,” said White.

“We chose the canoe, not only because of employee interest, but because it symbolizes the hotel’s goal to share the culture and reach out to people beyond our shores.”                 

The canoe project also has a connection to Kimo Lindsey’s West Maui family.

His son, Ka‘ilila‘au, wanted Kimo to build a canoe from a tree near their home in the valley. Sadly, the young boy died six years ago.

Fate would bring the canoe builder, the hotel and its 280 employees to make this Maui boy’s dream come true.

The tree used for the canoe was donated by this family, who believe the hotel’s project has finally fulfilled their son’s dream.

All they asked in return was that the canoe be named after their deceased son.

The canoe took to the waters at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel for the first time on March 9, as “Ka‘ilila‘au.”

The sailing canoe will remain on the hotel’s grounds as an educational ocean vessel for hotel guests and visitors.