Story by Rita Goldman | Photo courtesy of Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel
Once upon a time, a decade or so ago, a boy named Ka‘ilia‘au asked his father if they could build a canoe from a certain tree that grew on his family’s property in a secluded West Maui valley. Although he knew the boy loved to paddle, the father was busy with work, and time slipped away. When Ka‘ilia‘au died in an accident at sea, the tree stood forgotten.
The story is true, and so is the sailing canoe that now sits on the grounds of nearby Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel, carved from that same 100-foot-tall Albizia tree during the past season of Makahiki.
Each autumn, hotel staff take on the challenge of creating the kinds of offerings that ancient Hawaiians presented to royalty during this time of harvest and renewal. Visit the hotel, and you can view artifacts from past Makahikis: fishnets and hooks, poi boards, kapa, hula implements, Hawaiian games and weaponry.
In 2009, they accepted the formidable challenge of transforming a log into a single-hulled sailing canoe. Learning of the project, Ka‘ilia‘au’s family offered his tree, presenting it formally at last November’s ceremonies marking the start of Makahiki.
Under the direction of canoe builder Charlie Noland, the entire staff, housekeepers to general manager, worked on the canoe, using traditional tools and techniques to carve, sand and make the vessel seaworthy. At times they may have doubted that they’d finish it in the four months of the Makahiki season, but from the start, they knew the canoe’s name. Ka‘ilia‘au.