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Kauai voyagers sail to Oahu to celebrate Hokulea’s return

Updated: 
June 17, 2017 - 12:05am

LIHUE, KAUAI — Joyous will be an understatement at Magic Island marina today.

After a three-year voyage to engage communities worldwide on the practice of sustainable living and Polynesian culture, the Hokulea (star of gladness), is returning to the Aloha State.

“This is marking the success of our people and the intentions and what our people are capable of doingin the past,” said Ka‘imi Hermosura, a crew member of the Namahoe, Kauai’s voyaging canoe. “It proves to the world that we have this knowledge and skill that we’re preserving it and sharing it and passing it down and also sharing it with the world.”

Hermosura will be among thousands expected to greet the Hokulea after it traveled 40,000 nautical miles and visited more than 150 ports in 23 countries and territories worldwide.

The long-sought wait is a blessing for Hermosura, who became involved with the Hokulea in the late ’90s and traveled as far as Mokumanamana on the voyaging canoe.

“Finally it’s home,” he said. “It’s like having a family member who went away and collected all this knowledge and gaining all these experiences and all these lessons that was learned through these voyages.”

The 34-year-old Wainiha resident and a crew of about 20 Kauai residents sailed to Oahu on Monday morning to be a part of the festive event.

It was also the first time the Namahoe traveled to a neighbor island.

“Now it’s about navigating and learning different skills and incorporating them into our curriculum and bringing them into our values of seamanship and what it means to be a crew of Namahoe,” Hermosura said. “It makes us proud and happy and relieved. It feels like we’re accomplishing some goals and completing things that we have manifested before.”

Also on the canoe was Dennis Chun, a Kauai Community College Hawaiian Studies instructor who became involved with the Hokulea in the 1970s.

“For me personally, it gives the world a broader understanding of Polynesians and voyaging and navigation and cultural values that could benefit worldwide,” Chun said. “What is needed to survive out at sea, thousands of miles and be successful. That sense of aloha and that sense of caring for what’s around us in nature and how do we fit in all of that.”

Chun, who’s traveled to Tahiti, Rapa Nui and Marquisas on the Hokulea, is excited and is preparing for the large crowds.

“I don’t think any of us is ready for that mass congregation of people in one place,” he said with a laugh. “We’ll be part of a table and exhibition exhibit at the convention that they’re having. We’ll have a display about Namahoe.”

The return of the Hokulea will bring an energy that will uplift the people, the culture and families across the state, Hermosura said.

“For me, Hokulea was a global movement toward peace and resource management and to malama, take care, the Earth,” he said. “It went to collect all those energies and all the things that happened along the way.”

Steven Soltysik said the journey — Malama Honua, to care for the Earth — was a way of weaving a lei of hope for the future of the environment.

“(The voyage was) a resurgence of people with their sense of identity, with their heritage and inspiring them to take better care of themselves, their family and their village and their immediate environment,” said Soltysik,who sailed interisland on the Hokulea on three occasions.

As part of the festivities on Saturday, the Lihue resident will educate keiki on the importance of the canoe’svoyage and will help them build replicas of the Hokulea.

“It gives a sense of identity and direction for the young and older islanders here on Hawaii. It starts with a veryyoung child taking care of a little canoe,” he said. “It’s what motivates me to work and teach with the kids. It’s time for the new generation to sail on the Hokulea.”

Several voyaging canoes from neighbor islands and one from Tahiti will greet the majestic sea vessel.

“All of these canoes coming together unifies our nation, unifies Hawaii,” Hermosura said. “These are sailing vessels that still carry that kuleana and mission since the past: understanding and practicing our wayfindingskills, celestial navigation.”

The canoes that succeeded the Hokulea is a continuum of what the voyaging canoe started, Chun said.

“For Namahoe, I think it supports our own existence. If Hokulea hadn’t been successful, if that first crew hadn’t been successful back in 1976, then none of this would exist today,” he said. “It’s important that we know that and acknowledge that and we honor that and respect that. Carry that forward with the humility that the first guy that went out. That’s an awesome feat. You can never replicate that.”

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