Hokule'a is preparing for its most ambitious journey yet -- a nearly four-year-long sail around the world to spread a message of global sustainability and the importance of caring for our oceans.
Hokule'a and her sister escort canoe, Hikianalia, will embark on "Malama Honua," which means to care for our Earth, in May. Their journey will cover a total of 47,000 nautical miles with stops at 85 ports in 26 different countries. Their mission is to create global relationships and explore best practices for caring for our oceans and planet.
"The earth's geographic area, 73 percent of it is made up of the world's oceans, so we are intimately connected -- the global population -- to what happens in the oceans, because what happens in the world's oceans will effect what happens on land," said Pwo Kalepa Baybayan, one of Hokule'a's captains.
The first leg is from Hawai'i to Tahiti, as Hokule'a retraces its 1976 sail to Pape'ete. That maiden voyage was crucial to the resurgence of traditional navigation practices, as Hawaiian voyagers proved to the world our ancestors intended to settle in the islands and didn't drift here by accident.
The voyagers will be navigating without modern instruments. Instead they'll strictly use the stars, ocean current, winds, and birds as mapping points for direction.
"It's a huge weight because I know there's so many people that deserve and so many people who have so much love for the canoe that also want to be a part of it, so it's trying to do right by all of Hawai'i who's going to be sailing with us but maybe physically cannot be on the canoe," said Austin Kino, a Hokule'a crew member who will be on the first leg.
Hikianalia is Hokulea's modern-day counterpart. It's equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology, like Google Hangout capabilities, that will allow all of Hawai'i and the world to be part of the worldwide voyage. The outreach isn't just meant to engage, but educate.
"If we sail around the planet and it's only for the 13 or 14 people aboard each canoe, than what impact did we have? Just as media shapes our perspective on everything we can use media as a tool to help shape a perspective of looking at what are some of the traditions and values that have been with us for centuries that maybe we need to carry on a little further forward to help us find some of the answers to the problems that we have now," said Na'alehu Anthony, a Hokule'a crew member and co-founder of 'Oiwi TV, which will travel with Hokule'a and Hikianalia to chronicle their journey and share it with the world.
There are more than 300 crew members from all over the state who will be sailing on Hokule'a. They all come from within the 'Ohana Wa'a, which comprises of several other voyaging canoes -- Makali'i, Hokualaka'i, Mo'okiha and Namahoe.
The 36-month journey launches on May 17 from Honolulu. The crew will sail to Hilo, where weather-permitting, they will depart for the worldwide voyage on May 24.