Voyaging canoes off on next leg of journey

By Marcel Honoré on July 12, 2014

With a fresh crew aboard, the Hokule‘a and Hikianalia are headed to Samoa 

After spending more than two weeks reconnecting with extended ohana on Tahiti, crews of Hokule‘a and Hikianalia have resumed their ambitious voyage to spread aloha across the globe via canoe.

The two Hawaiian voyaging waa (canoes) left the fishing village of Tautira on Tahiti’s northeastern shore Wednesday morning for the neighboring island of Moorea, launching the second leg of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Malama Honua (“Care for Our Earth”) worldwide voyage.

A fresh crew of volunteer sailors flew from Hawaii to Tahiti last week to relieve most of the 29 crew who brought Hokule‘a to French Polynesia from Hilo in its fastest time yet, taking 17 days to reach the distant atoll of Rangiroa.

The new crew aboard will guide Hokule‘a and Hikianalia, the voyage’s new science and safety escort vessel, to Samoa by way of the Society and Cook islands.

During the first leg, apprentice navigators used only the wind, waves, celestial bodies and natural surroundings to navigate.

“Physically, emotionally, mentally … I did better than I first thought I was going to be doing,” Hana native Nokua Konohia-Lind said Wednesday, having recently returned to Oahu after crewing Hikianalia for his first international voyage.

Konohia-Lind said he felt the greatest challenge of this most recent voyage’s first leg was meshing all the different crew personalities that had to work together to succeed while confined to close quarters.

“I feel as if we did great as a whole — really bettered ourselves as a whole, as a team, as an ohana waa (canoe family). We really did improve our skills,” he said.

This new leg will be a markedly different sail from the first. Malama Honua’s first leg was essentially a straight shot across open ocean to Tahiti, in which the crew went more than two weeks without coming anywhere near land.

The trip to Samoa, by contrast, will feature various stops as they sail through the Societies and the Cooks before reaching the end of the leg.

That might sound easier, but this latest leg will pre­sent its own mix of challenges and could prove to be just as difficult as the Tahiti leg.

“There’s reefs, there’s other things you need to be concerned about,” Oahu-based Marine Education and Training Center Director Bob Per­kins said Thursday. “When you’re going through the Society Islands and the Cooks, (the worry is) you don’t hit something on the way.”

After the Samoa leg wraps up, Perkins is slated to captain Hikianalia on the next couple of legs.

Pwo (master) navigator Chadd Cody Onohi Paishon told the new Hokule‘a crew while on deck before they left, in a video provided by Oiwi TV, “The legs that we go to land more is probably the more trickier legs because you get more opportunity for get sick.”

Paishon is captaining the canoe to Samoa, relieving fellow pwo navigator and PVS President Nainoa Thompson. Pwo navigator Kalepa Baybayan, who was second in command on Hokule‘a under Thompson, is captaining Hikianalia.

After leaving Hilo in late May, apprentice navigators aboard Hokule‘a for the Tahiti trip endured strong wind and bouts of sickness while aboard — yet they accurately guided the waa and made landfall in Rangiroa, an atoll north of Tahiti.

Once in Tahiti, the first leg’s crew attended cultural dance performances, journeyed to sacred sites on the island, spoke with local students and helped get the canoes ready for the next leg.

In a special ceremony, Thompson was also made a Commander in the Order of Tahiti Nui, which local news outlet La Depeche described as “the highest honor of the country.”

Hokule‘a made its first, historic voyage to Tahiti nearly 40 years ago, also without the use of a compass or other modern navigation tools. Four years later Thompson became the first Native Hawaiian in centuries to navigate a voyaging canoe to Tahiti using only those ancestral wayfinding techniques.

Konohia-Lind said the hardest part of his recent journey was leaving it behind.

“We made so (many) connections in this period. Leaving them behind is kind of like when you’re leaving for college, you know?”

But for the voyage’s latest crew members, the journey is just beginning.

“Only thing we got to think about now is we got to get to Samoa,” Paishon told his crew before leaving. “Just keep your head on the canoe. One island at a time.”

Hokule‘a and Hikianalia leave Tautira, Tahiti, as the leg from Tahiti to Samoa begins. The canoes are making their way to the island of Moorea. (Photo courtesy BRYSON HOE-COMMUNICATIONS LIAISON - WORLDWIDE VOYAGE)

Hokule‘a and Hikianalia leave Tautira, Tahiti, as the leg from Tahiti to Samoa begins. The canoes are making their way to the island of Moorea. (Photo courtesy BRYSON HOE-COMMUNICATIONS LIAISON – WORLDWIDE VOYAGE)