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A young boy’s dream comes true in ‘Ka‘ilila‘au’s Canoe: A Journey of Spirit’

By Staff | Nov 26, 2010

The canoe is now being used as an educational vessel for employees and visitors at Kaanapali Beach Hotel.

KAANAPALI — The story of Ka’ilila’au — the canoe that was built during the Makahiki season by Kaanapali Beach Hotel employees — will be featured in an “Emme’s Island Moments” Thanksgiving Special, “Ka’ilila’au’s Canoe: A Journey of Spirit.”

The one-hour special will air on KGMB on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. and rebroadcast Saturday, Nov. 27, at 6 p.m.

The 32-foot, four-man canoe was built from a 100-foot tree found by hotel employees who wanted to build a traditional Hawaiian sailing vessel as part of “Po’okela,” the hotel’s award-winning cultural enrichment program.

The employees discovered the ideal tree growing deep inside Honokohau Valley by the home of Kimo and Leimaile Lindsey.

The Lindseys agreed to donate the tree with the simple request that the canoe be named after their oldest child, Ka’ilila’au, who died in an accident seven years ago at the age of 11.

Hotel employees cut down the tree last November, blessed the log with Makahiki rituals and built it in four months with the help of master canoe builder Charlie Nolan and instruction on using tools and machines, sailing, rigging and safety.

In March, Ka’ilila’au celebrated its first launch. In July, the canoe took Ka’ilila’au’s ashes out to sea, accompanied by his family and friends who came to bid him farewell.

Ka’ilila’au would have graduated from Lahainaluna High School this year. He wanted Kimo to build a canoe from a tree near their home in the valley.

The family believes the project fulfilled their son’s dream.

“Building a Hawaiian sailing canoe has been a wonderful opportunity for our employees to connect in a real sense to our host culture,” said Mike White, Kaanapali Beach Hotel general manager. “This is the best way we can share Hawaiian values and traditions with our visitors and guests.”

“We visited the Lindseys in their modest surroundings and learned that their eight remaining children are articulate and happy,” said show Producer Emme Tomimbang.

“Even without iPods, cell phones and the toys most children have, they were grateful with what they have. I’ve learned so much from this family and from the employees who really put their hearts and souls into building the canoe. It’s a real privilege to be able to share this true island moment during this season of thanks.”

Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson will appear in the show to talk about the significance of canoe communities and share his intimate thoughts about losing master navigator Mau Pialug, who was instrumental in bringing traditional Polynesian way faring to Hawaii.

“At first the Kaanapali Beach Hotel only wanted to document the canoe project, but the story was too valuable to just be archived,” said Tomimbang.

“Ka’ilila’au’s Canoe: A Journey of Spirit” offers an extraordinary experience of real Hawaiian values and the people who are keeping them alive and thriving.”