NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (HawaiiNewsNow) - From Cape Town to Cuba, Hokulea crew members have been to some incredible places on their worldwide voyage.
But they there's nothing quite like New York City and for many this is their first time in the Big Apple.
"It's chicken skin. We can't believe we're finally here. We're just trying to take it all in," said Jenna Ishii, a Hokulea crew member and voyage education coordinator.
For such a small vessel in comparison to others docked at North Cove Marina in Manhattan, Hokulea sure is leaving a lasting impression.
"It's just been really, really amazing the amount of people that's come ask questions, 'Where are you from? What are you doing?'" said Archie Kalepa, Hokulea captain and safety officer. "Just spreading the message of 'malama honua.' It's just been really incredible and people have been grasping that."
Each interaction has been an opportunity to share the world wide voyage's mission on the importance of caring for our island Earth.
"Bringing Hokulea, it brings attention into the city that never sleeps," Ishii said. "There is so much going on but it lets people pause for a moment and say, 'What's going on in the Pacific? What's going on with our oceans?' So we hope we can make that kind of impact."
And It's not just New Yorkers who've been drawn to the canoe, but former Hawaii residents, like Sarah Steinbrecher who bid Hokulea farewell when the wa'a left Hilo two years ago.
"She definitely is a visual point of interest," said Steinbrecher. "She looks different than everything else -- but it's cool for us. It's a piece of home here that we can see and it brings us back to Hawaii. It's wild though, huh?"
Billy Richards was on Hokulea's maiden voyage to Papeete. He says he never imagined 40 years to the date he'd be sailing the canoe down the Hudson River.
"It's different, of course, and it's crazy out there. The amount of vessels that are on the water and the speed at which they travel. We had to hire a boat just to have a red light blinking so that we don't get run over," Richards said.
On Thursday, the Polynesian Voyaging Society hosted a mahalo celebration at the National Museum of the American Indian to thank those who helped make the historic visit to New York possible.
"The fact that we're here is because of that commitment by the larger community to really make it happen. It's really awesome to be a part of it," said Bruce Blankenfeld, pwo navigator and Hokulea captain.
Since departing from Hilo in 2014, Hokulea has spent practically all of the last two years outside of the country, returning to the United States for the first time this March.
The crew plans to leave New York on June 19 to make their way up the east coast, stopping in Maine before heading to Nova Scotia.
By the time Hokulea heads home to Hawaii next June, the wa'a and crew members will have been away 37 months, visited 28 countries, stopped in 82 ports and covered more than 50,000 miles spreading a message of "malama honua," or the importance of caring for island Earth.