Hōkūle‘a Comes Home

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

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hawaiian voyaging canoe on Potomac
Hōkūle‘a glides along the Potomac, sailing past another iconic symbol during the recent Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

Lahaina-born Snake Ah Hee, a longtime voyager, was part of the 1976 crew on the return sail from Tahiti. He and wife Myrna also took part on several legs of the worldwide voyage. With decades of sailing on Hōkūle‘a under his belt, Snake would reassure newer crewmembers that everything would be okay, especially when the seas were rough. “Sometimes the younger generation—they’re in a rush,” Snake shares. “I tell them, ‘Wait until everything clears up and we see where we stay.’ Sometimes you gotta get patience. Sometimes the wind changes and you cannot do anything about it, so you just keep on sailing. And once the wind changes again, you work your way back.”

Snake is impressed with the commitment of today’s young voyagers and their willingness to learn. “They’re so akamai [astute]—good with the ocean, good with navigation,” he says, certain that the more water time they have, the more comfortable they will be.

Kalā agrees: Multiple crossings between Hawai‘i and Tahiti have deepened her knowledge of wayfinding.

“At a certain latitude, the temperature of the water changes, and you see a spike in life—like the phosphorescence you see at night or the squid in the water,” she describes. “Papa Mau always talked about ‘sea marks,’ things you can see in the ocean that are indicators of where you are.”

Kalā and Nakua know the size of the shoes they’re destined to fill, and they’re grateful for their mentors.

“They were never afraid to dream, never afraid to push the boundaries,” Kalā acknowledges. “Because of what they set in motion, we’re able to go farther and reach farther.”

“It’s an honor—I don’t think it’s a privilege,” Nakua adds. “I think it’s my kuleana [responsibility] as part of the next generation to keep this voyaging tradition going.

“Before I joined this voyage, I remember Nainoa telling me: ‘I’m not bringing you on the canoe just for this one trip. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. You’re the only way this knowledge can live on.’”

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