HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hokule'a and Hikianalia are set to depart from Hilo on the first leg of their worldwide voyage Friday morning. The canoes are headed to Tahiti -- a trip that is estimated to take 15 - 20 days as crew members navigate without using any modern-day instruments, but rely instead on the wind, current, swells and stars.
Polynesian Voyaging Society officials say the launch Friday morning from Palekai, Hilo is 99.9% likely now that weather conditions are more optimal. The canoes arrived on Hawai'i Island last week Monday after a heart-felt send off from O'ahu, in which more than a thousand people showed up to wish the crews good luck and a safe journey. Crew members have kept busy in the last week and a half with final preparations, which has included everything from man overboard training to testing Hikianalia's towing strength should she need to use her back-up power motors to assist Hokule'a in an emergency.
The mission of "Malama Honua," which means to care for our Earth, is to create global relationships and explore best practices for caring for our oceans and planet. The 36-month journey will cover a total of 47,000 nautical miles with stops at 85 ports in 26 different countries.
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.
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.
Send off Friday morning is expected sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. You can track Hokule'a & Hikianalia's voyage every step along the way, by visiting: hokulea.com