HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The wait is finally over! After years of preparation and planning, testing and training -- Hōkūleʻa & Hikianalia have departed Hilo for Tahiti, a journey that is expected to take 15 - 20 days to Papeete.
It was an incredible outpouring of aloha and support as hundreds of people gathered at Palekai in Hilo to say "a hui hou" to Hokule'a and Hikianalia before they departed on the first leg of their worldwide voyage.
It poured for hours, but that didn't dampen the crowd's spirit. Family, friends and well-wishers endured the inclement weather -- most with a smile on their face and a makana, or gift, to share with hopes for a safe journey.
"If we didn't have all of this support, we wouldn't even be able to leave today. From getting the canoes refurbished and safe and seaworthy on Oʻahu to the sails that we did around our islands to really make sure that everyone here at home feels included and that they're part of this voyage to right before departing being here in Keaukaha and the community of Keaukaha just taking care of us and making sure we're nice and plump before we leave on this voyage -- that we're healthy -- we couldn't do it without all this support. It's amazing," said Hokuleʻa crew member Kaʻiulani Murphy.
A total of 29 crew members are onboard the two wa'a. They range in age from 20 to 72 years old.
"It's definitely a manifestation of everything that I've ever wanted. I've worked so hard for this and I just cant believe that finally it's happening -- a lot of nerves, a lot of excitement," said Kala Baybayan, a Hikianalia crew member.
Baybayan is one of several student apprentices who've been training under pwo navigators for their first deep-sea voyage.
"That's been really special this morning to get all of their manaʻo and all their blessing and all their advice on how to transition from life on the land and come together as one on the ocean, like they were taught by Papa Mau to become one once you're at sea. We're so thankful that those lessons have made it all the way to us and now we can -- after we get back -- we can educate and keep it going so it's never lost in our community," said Austin Kino, an apprentice navigator aboard Hokuleʻa.