Aloha and mahalo, Hokule‘a
Hokule’a is returning to Honolua Bay, and it will be the greatest homecoming of Hawaii’s most important outrigger voyaging canoe that Maui will ever see.
It’s been over four Earth revolutions around the sun since Hawaii’s beloved boat last graced the waters in the lee of Lipoa Point.
On that evening years ago, Hokule’a anchored in Honolua Bay, accompanied by two other canoes. Her crew came ashore for the night, led by Captain Nainoa Thompson. This powerful, humble and deeply wise man spent that evening regaling a small hui of people with stories of the Hokule’a’s earliest voyages in the 1970s. His stories included a tale of the troubled expedition to Tahiti, in which the canoe capsized in rough seas, and beloved lifeguard and Hawaiian waterman Eddie Aikau vanished in his effort to save the crew.
At the end of that evening, Nainoa shared with us that the boat and his crew would be embarking on the greatest journey the Hokule’a had ever known, a four-year journey across the entire world, to carry a mission of aloha, connection with indigenous peoples, sustainability and cultural strength to every corner of the Earth. The canoe would visit Polynesia, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, Europe, ocean islands and more. The expedition would include hundreds of craftsmen, navigators, sailors, scientists, ambassadors, lifeguards, kumus and students, all building connections from Hawaii to communities worldwide. It would be bold, ambitious and sophisticated, just as those early journeys through Polynesia (and from the Marquesas to Hawaii) had been. It would also be true to celestial navigation, using the stars to light the way.
Nainoa walked off the stage that evening, his bright young crew graciously greeted the small audience and the next day, Hokule’a pulled anchor, sailed the Auau Channel and returned to Honolulu to prepare for the mission.
Four years of adventures, relationships, lessons, trials, and triumphs can’t be glibly summarized in a bi-weekly column. This odyssey deserves its true Homer. If you’ve kept your eyes and ears open, you’ve seen articles, live-feeds on the news, Instagram updates, international news broadcasts, ceremonies, speeches and more. Hokule’a has been with us, and will continue to be.
If you live here, you’re likely just a few degrees removed from people involved in this great expedition. West Maui has certainly contributed many of its own, including waterman Archie Kalepa, who sailed Hokule’a through intense and massive Southern Oceans; Sacred Hearts teacher Mary Anna Grimes, who connected her students and lessons to the voyages of the canoe; and countless watermen and women from Hui O Wa’a Kaulua, Maui’s Voyaging Society, guided by Captain Timi Gilliom.
At 42 years old, the career of Hokule’a has evolved along with the Hawaiian Renaissance, a resurgence of culture, language and pride that opposes the cultural repression that characterized too much of the 20th century. The Hokule’a has become the global symbol of the intelligence, courage and sophistication of Hawaiian culture, as embodied by watermen and women centuries ago who traversed the world’s biggest thing – the Pacific Ocean – by following the stars to new lands.
On Aug. 19 and 20, the public will be welcome to come see, welcome and visit the voyaging canoe. Volunteers are also welcome, as hundreds of people are expected for the homecoming. Planting trees will be an essential part of the weekend, as we symbolically and concretely prepare our aina to thrive for our future descendants.
While this is a glorious celebration, there is something bittersweet about it. As Nainoa Thompson said last year, “I don’t want this to end.” It’s the longest journey ever undertaken, and the greatest in the modern era, by a Hawaiian voyaging canoe, and it’s over. It’s a moment worthy of celebration and gratitude, but also wonderment and awe at our continuity with our ancestors and descendants. Our individual voyages may be transient, but the legacies of our journeys can live on.