HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hokule'a began the first leg of a worldwide voyage today with a "Malama Hawai'i" statewide sail. There are 22 legs planned for Hokulea's voyage around the world, but the first and final are both right here at home. Crew members say it's about honoring our community and showing Hawaii's people their gratitude.
Over the next four years, Hokule'a and her escort boat and sister canoe, Hikianalia, will travel to 28 countries and stop at 85 international ports – sailing more than 45,000 nautical miles around the world.
"We want to go. It's time to go," said navigator Nainoa Thompson, Hokulea's Captain.
But before they set sail for international waters, Hokule'a and Hikianalia will spend the first five months of their journey right here at home.
"Around Hawai'i sail is the first leg. It's only a thousand miles, probably the shortest of all of them, but it's the most important," described Thompson, before adding this portion of the voyage is crucial to making sure all 250 crew members are trained and prepared before heading to the South Pacific next May.
"In many ways we could go to Tahiti right now. We're safe enough to do that, but I think this engagement with home is a crucial piece to earning that voyage," explained Thompson.
"Malama Honua", or "Care for the Earth", defines the worldwide voyage's mission and crew members say that starts here in the islands with "Malama Hawai'i".
"Home is so important because we have existing relationships. We want to strengthen those and build new relationships and then when we do sail around the world, meeting new people and creating that kind of lei of people that are all trying to do the same thing in our own way - taking care of our larger island earth," explained Ka'iulani Murphy, a navigator and Hokule'a crew member.
Hokule'a and Hikianalia will make 30 stops across the state through October 2013. Each will focus on connecting with the local community through educational outreach.
"Hokule'a is Hawaii's canoe. It was built with that vision in mind in 1976, and she's always been Hawaii's canoe. That's one thing we want everyone to understand that - so when the canoe sails, it's not Hokule'a sailing with a crew. It's all of Hawai'i sailing with Hokule'a," described Bruce Blankenfeld, a navigator and the "Malama Honua" Voyaging Director.
Organizers say the mission of the worldwide voyage is to chart a new course toward sustainable practices for food, energy and our global environment. Crew members say they plan to achieve their goal by sailing around the world, sharing Hawaii's knowledge and skills with others and bringing back what they learn from other countries and cultures along the way.
"The vision is "Malama Honua" -- to care for the Earth, to care for the planet. So the planet is at a point where it's healthy and all people are healthy and everyone is doing well. I think one of the things we want to accomplish is the ability to capture stories and disseminate them and these are stories of human endeavor -- that kind of encompasses that vision of caring for your own home, your rivers, your oceans and things like that. It's going on, it's going on around the world. I think we can learn from each other -- that's for sure -- and the other thing is that we all know that everyone's working together," explained Blankenfeld.
There's no question, the worldwide trip is also about perpetuating the Hawaiian culture and traditional voyaging.
"Now that we have relearned a knowledge that was either sleeping or almost lost – how to navigate across thousands of miles of ocean – it's really about making sure we never lose that again," explained Murphy.
Hokule'a has already sailed 137,000 miles, but crew members say this journey is her biggest undertaking since they landed in Tahiti in 1976 on her maiden voyage.
"When I first started sailing Hokule'a, the idea was just to retrace the migratory paths of our ancestors. Then as years went by we thought about expanding the voyage to include as many islands as possible, but when the idea came up a few years ago – 'Why don't we sail west 'til we reach Hawaii?' Well, why not? I think it's the next step that all of us were ready for," said Billy Richards, who sailed on Hokulea's maiden voyage.
Organizers say the estimated cost for the worldwide voyage is $30 million over the span of four years.