HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hikianalia is on her way to Tahiti to reunite with her sister wa'a – the beloved traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokule'a – so that they can begin the final leg of the Worldwide Voyage home to Hawai'i together.
After more than three years away from home, with visits to over 150 ports in 27 different countries, Hokule'a will be finally be returning to Hawai'i in June.
"We both left together for Tahiti in 2014. Hikianalia returned in 2015, and so now we'd like to end the voyage the way we started it," explained Pwo navigator Kalepa Baybayan. "Two canoes means there's two crews, more people get the opportunity to voyage and sail."
Hokulea's worldwide voyage – aimed at spreading a message about the importance of caring for our planet – has been an incredible journey for Baybayan and his daughter, Kala Tanaka.
When Tanaka first boarded Hikianalia in May of 2014, it was as an apprentice navigator and education specialist. On Tuesday morning, she boarded Hikianala as the captain in charge of getting the canoe safely to Tahiti.
"It's a very proud moment for me as a father," said Baybayan.
But Tanaka says the bond that's shared on the wa'a runs deeper than blood.
"On the canoe, we are all one family. We're a tight unit," she said. "One of the hardest things when we leave the voyage is leaving our family that we've had for months. It's all about reaffirming that family unit and those values that we hold family dear and close."
While Hokule'a has been circumnavigating the globe, it has also been cementing its legacy by raising the next generation of navigators – ones who only use traditional wayfinding techniques, relying on the stars and sea to guide them.
"We are ocean people, and in that we have discovered our heritage and discovered our cousins," said Pwo navigator Billy Richards. "Now, beyond the Triangle, we've discovered the world. The opportunity for the next generation of navigators, of captains, of crew members, no matter what job they have on the canoe, is to continue that and continue to spread the message.
"We don't want to have to relearn all this again 100 years from now," he added.
The journey south to Tahiti is a little more than 2,000 miles and weather-permitting will take two to three weeks.