Raising Funds for Hokulea's Worldwide Voyage

Companies, nonprofits and individuals have provided millions in donations to support Hokulea’s four-year round-the-world journey. Much more is needed.

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20 nations and about 60 ports of call

This map, based on one provided by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, shows the planned worldwide voyage of Hokulea and Hikianalia. The expectation is that the sailing canoes will visit about 60 ports in 20 countries, but the society says it is not disclosing most of the locations for safety reasons. One of those safety reasons is pirates, who may be tempted by sailing canoes whose speed – or lack of speed – is determined by wind and sea conditions.

click on image above for larger view.



Sailing Sister

Hawaiiloa, the most traditional of the sailing canoes, needs to be restored to continue its mission of training young voyagers

Photos By Olivier Koning

Once Hokulea leaves  Hawaii’s shores, sister ship Hawaiiloa will take the lead in training new crew with interisland trips, says Billy Richards, president of Friends of Hokulea and Hawaiiloa. Then those crewmembers will be ready when they take their turns on one of the many legs of the global voyage.

Richards, along with Jerry Ongies and Jay Dowsett, are leading the team to rebuild the Hawaiiloa, the only canoe made of traditional materials as much as possible.

“In the late ’80s I was part of the team asked to do a tree search in the koa forests of the Big Island,” Richards explains. They needed a koa tree tall and wide enough to carve into a canoe. When they finally found a tree, they had no way to get it off the mountain. He laughs when he says, “I called the U.S. Marines to see if they could air-lift something that was five to six tons. They said ‘no problem’ until they heard it was up where the air was too thin to lift and fly.”

Turning to “Plan B,” they made contact with the Tlingit, one of the tribes that owns Sealaska Corp. in Alaska, who offered two Sitka spruce logs that were 200 feet tall, seven feet in diameter and over 400 years old. To those who question why Alaskan logs should be used in a Hawaiian canoe, Richards says, “Visit Ka Lae, South Point on the Big Island, even today and you can see drift logs from Alaska.” Both Richards and Nainoa Thompson quote the journals of Capt. George Vancouver, in which he described the largest canoe ever seen in the Hawaiian Islands, something 60 to 100 feet long, carved from the trunk of a pine tree.

With those logs and the work of many hands, the 57-foot Hawaiiloa was created and it logged many thousands of miles of open ocean sailing. “Then it sat, on exhibit, like a fish out of water,” Dowsett says. “It dried out.” Now, it is up to Ongies, Richards, Dowsett and others to restore it.

Dowsett says the canoe had to come apart to be put back together. Unfortunately, no one made a master list, so the team is putting the pieces together, “a bit like a jigsaw puzzle in the round.” Multiple cracks are being filled and mended with pewa, which are traditional Hawaiian butterfly patches.

Of course, like voyaging around the globe, canoe restoration costs money. Volunteers will perform many of the jobs, but thousands of hours must be invested by craftsmen who have to earn a living. Once purchased, the five miles of lashings need to be tied. A steering blade could cost $3,000, sails even more. While the Worldwide Voyage preparations move ahead, Hokulea’s new crew members have the opportunity to learn the art of lashing on the Hawaiiloa.



Voice of the Canoe

Oiwi TV will be onboard all during the worldwide voyage, sending back pictures, video and data so students and others can connect with the adventure

Hokulea does not carry modern navigation systems. Its crew guides the boat by stars, wind, waves and other traditional methods passed down by countless generations of navigators.

Naalehu Anthony recalls the 1999 voyage to Rapa Nui, when a once-a-day radio connection to and from Hokulea provided all the crew’s contact information, weather reports and condition updates.

“At 4 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, every day, we received and gave only the most important information,” Anthony says. “If there was a storm on the horizon it was up to the crew to handle since no additional weather report would be forthcoming until the next day.”

Today, Anthony is CEO of Oiwi TV and the award-winning director of “Papa Mau,” a documentary about Mau Piailug, the navigator who kept alive the Polynesian navigating tradition and passed it on to Nainoa Thompson and the other Pwo navigators. Anthony, along with Oiwi general manager Keoni Lee and their team are planning to ensure that Oiwi brings Hokulea’s stories about the world back to Hawaii.

The idea behind Oiwi TV is to present news from a Hawaiian perspective, with videos in English and Hawaiian. You can watch it on Oceanic Channel 326 and on the web at www.oiwi.tv.

Daily updates from Hokulea would be impossible without the escort boat Hikianalia, a canoe with modern communication capabilities.

“The only way to move data is via satellite,” Anthony says. “Out at sea there are no cell towers. Until this voyage, the cost was out of range. Now we will be able to send audio, still photos, video, scientific data and use Facebook, Twitter and Skype with schools and indigenous networks across the globe. The crew blogs will be a click away. Students will really be able to participate and learn, in real time.”

The satellite link costs $4,000 a month for a journey that will last four years, in addition to the expense of four to six technicians, editors and news directors in the Honolulu office. Some members of the crews of Hikianalia and Hokulea have been trained to do added service as on-board photo editors and technicians. On top of that, Anthony says, they will also act as educators in the communities they visit, sharing their experience with local audiences.

Two Oiwi team members at a time will be imbedded as crewmembers for the duration of the four-year plus voyage, one on each canoe.

Each will do “double duty” because they will have a solid working knowledge of voyaging as well as the ability to operate the satellite feed and all technical programs. Anthony’s own plan is to spend three month-long segments on the voyage each year.

Lee says this adventure is “so in line with what we are trying to do with Oiwi TV, showing everyone that traditional Hawaiian knowledge and culture has relevance and value in a modern context.”


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Hawaii Business,February