Hokuleʻa and her sister escort canoe Hikianalia are preparing to launch Saturday for "Malama Honua", a three-year voyage around the world to spread a message of global sustainability and the importance of caring for our oceans.
Navigators say you can't know where you're going, if you don't know where you come from.
"Over the years as we sailed we recognize that we're in the wake of our ancestors and by knowing the past, that's how we give purpose to the present and to create vision for the future," said Pwo Bruce Blankenfeld, a captain of Hokuleʻa.
Every inch of Hokuleʻa is covered in meaning -- beginning with her name, "the star of gladness."
"It's a bright star. It's a beacon. No matter where we go on the voyage, we'll always see it. It will remind us where home is," said Blakenfeld.
All three paddles are named after the founders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The center sweep, Kawainui, after Herb Kane, who helped bring her vision to life. The hoe ama, Tumoanatane, after Ben Finney, the first president. The hoe ʻakea is in honor of Tommy Holmes, an original crew member on her maiden voyage to Tahiti.
"This reminds us of the moʻokuʻauhau, the genealogy, and the people that came before that helped shape not only the canoe, but our thoughts as we move forward," said Blankenfeld.
The navigator platforms are named after Mau Piailug, the master navigator who taught Hawaiians how to sail the open sea without instruments, and Nainoa Thompson, our first Hawaiian navigator.
The back spreader, Tautira, honors where Hokuleʻa made landfall during her maiden voyage.
"Ever since 1976, Hokuleʻa's first voyage to Tahiti, the village of Tautira has been Hokuleʻa's home there and Tautira happens to be where my family is from," explained Maui Tauotaha, a crew member on Hikianalia who will be helping to document "Malama Honua" with ʻOiwi TV. "To know that Tautira, the name of my family's home village, is on this waʻa and that I'm following in the footsteps of my ancestors or sailing in the wake of my ancestors makes me feel at peace and helps my confidence that what I'm doing right now is making my own contribution."
The cleet for anchoring is named Hakipuʻu after Hokuleʻa's birthplace.
"That's where Hokuleʻa slid down those sands to first taste the salt water, the kai," described Blankenfeld. "At the end of every voyage we wrap up, we go back there to Hakipuʻu -- drop anchor and then we carry on."
Tied at the stern are Hokuleʻa's guardians, or kiʻi, who will watch over the crew.
"It's almost in that sense that they're always behind us, always protecting us and always guiding us, like our ancestors whoʻve come before us," described Pwo Chadd ʻOnohi Paishon, the senior captain of Makaliʻi.
As Hokuleʻa prepares for her most ambitious journey yet, officials say its her rich history that will guide her.
"Hokuleʻa was not built for their voyage last month. Hokuleʻa -- she's an old soul -- and all these ancestors and all these people and all these stories, they step in now and then they move forward and as they move forward they create the new stories and help to recreate the vision and carry on," said Blakenfeld.
Hikianalia is of course much younger, she was brought up from Aotearoa two years ago, but officials say she is equally important to the journey and Hokuleʻa's future.
"In Hawaiʻi at our latitude Hokuleʻa and Hikianalia rise together -- they come up on the eastern horizon together -- Mau calls them sisters, they're companions," Blakenfeld said.
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.
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 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.
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, Namahoe and Hawaiʻi Loa.
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.
The famous voyaging canoe Hokule'a and her sister vessel Hikianalia left Oahu on May 17 More >>
The famous voyaging canoe Hokule'a and her sister vessel Hikianalia left Oahu on May 17 for "Malama Honua", a three-year voyage around the world to spread a message of global sustainability and the importance of caring for our oceans.More >>