Hōkūle‘a Comes Home

After her three-year odyssey around the globe, Hōkūle‘a’s youngest crewmembers prepare to take the helm.


Less concrete but equally important are lessons intrinsic to the experience of voyaging, which requires an uncommon strength of body, mind, and spirit. Nakua and Kalā learned from Hōkūle‘a veterans like Kalā’s father, Maui-born master navigator Kālepa Baybayan—one of five students Mau inducted into Pwo, a 2,000-year-old society of deep-sea navigators in Micronesia.

Kālepa Baybayan
Master navigator Kālepa Baybayan enjoys a cross-cultural moment in South Africa, where the crew learned about ubuntu, a philosophy of community and caring much like the Hawaiian concept mālama honua, “to care for the Earth.”

Nakua recounts a story about a massive storm they encountered after leaving Aotearoa. “It was eight- to ten-feet swells. The wind was thirty-five knots consistently, all day, all night. And it wasn’t just regular wind; it was cold wind from the southern hemisphere. The waves would hit the side of the canoe, and the canoe would always be wet—for about a week and a half. On that trip, we used a lot of baby wipes. No one showered, because it was way too cold.”

Even though everyone wore boots, waterproof socks, two layers of clothing, and full, foul-weather gear, the chill tested their resilience. Nakua remembers crewmembers asking Captain Kālepa how much longer they would have to endure these conditions, and Kālepa responding: “All you gotta worry about is where we’re going. We have to get this canoe safely to the next destination. We just have to hold on and deal with it.”

A couple of weeks later, Nakua found himself on a leg of the voyage that took twelve days longer than expected. Hōkūle‘a was stalled in the doldrums—an equatorial region where the wind disappears.

“We were there almost a week, just bobbing up and down, sails flapping in the wind,” he describes. Some crewmembers became antsy, eager to get home, but Nakua channeled Kālepa’s laissez-faire attitude and sat on the bow, soaking up the experience—“just chilling,” as he puts it.

“A couple of the crewmembers would come up and go, ‘You all right?’” Nakua says, laughing. “And I said what Uncle Kālepa said: ‘It is what it is.’

“All we’re out here with is the ocean and each other, so you have to live every moment of it and enjoy the time,” he explains. “Once you get to land and back to reality, everything changes. Everybody says, ‘Oh, I wish I was back on the canoe.’”



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