Our Pledge to Malama Honua with Polynesian Voyaging Society

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Our Pledge to Malama Honua with Polynesian Voyaging Society

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Dec 03, 2013

polynesian voyaging society membersSome things grab us and won’t let us go in ways that we cannot explain. People can do this to us—lovers, for example. Places can do this to us—Hawaii, for sure. And things can do this to us.

This is about a thing. A thing that has captured a collective of people’s awe, admiration, passion, love, hard work, sweat and support.

That thing is Hokulea, a replica of the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe. Hokulea is 62 feet long by 20 feet wide; composed of two curved V-shaped hulls, eight crossbeams, decking, rails, two masts, and two inverted, triangular sails; all lashed together with five miles of line. The draft, vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull, is two-feet, six-inches; total sail area is 540 square feet; and displacement when fully loaded is 25,000 pounds.

But Hokulea really isn’t a thing. Because that’s the thing with people, places and things that plant themselves firmly in our beings like a puppy that crawls into our laps--and, quickly, into our hearts—they add up to more than the materials that have gone into making them. They represent hope, courage, survival, redemption—something different for each individual, no doubt—and they take on a personality and life of their own.

Billy Richards’ first saw Hokulea at Puu O Honaunau, the City of Refuge, on Hawaii Island, where he was participating in a canoe race, and Hokulea happened to be moored in the bay. At the end of the race, some Hokulea crew members, who had been on-shore, requested to be shuttled out to Hokulea. They wore traditional dress of malo, loin cloth, and maile and ti lei around their necks. “They looked bad,” Billy says in a way that indicated pride. So, Billy and a friend paddled the sailors, along with two kupuna, elders, to Hokulea. While one elder delivered a pule, prayer, Billy stood in his outrigger canoe, one hand on Hokulea. The whole while, a crewmember aboard Hokulea stared down at him. After the prayer, the man jumped down into the canoe with Billy, put his hand on his arm and said, “I think you belong on this boat. After that, “Things were never the same.” Billy told me when I spoke to him this past spring. “It was one of those moments in my life.”

Billy went on to sail Hokulea during her inaugural voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976, a member of the first crew to illustrate how Polynesians could navigate across thousands of miles of trackless seas from one island archipelago to another using only nature to guide them—no GPS, no compass, no sextant. And Billy is now the president of Friends of Hokulea and Hawaiiloa, a non-profit dedicated to the perpetuation of Hawaiian canoe building. 

At the end of the summer, I pounded kapa with Michi Wong, in Nualolo Valley along Napali Coast on Kauai, and as we sat, our wooden beaters providing a steady, meditative tone, Michi told me about training with “Hoku,” using the canoe’s nickname. When she’d pause in her kapa beating, she’d look up, eyes far-away, a dreamy look on her face, and said how she hoped to be called to crew in the upcoming Worldwide Voyage. She was clearly smitten with the 37-year-old boat, and everything she represents.

doctor chuck kelley speaking at outrigger reef on the beach in waikikiEarlier this year, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts’ Chairman of the Board Doctor Chuck Kelley sat with Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Dr. Chuck listened as Nainoa talked about Hokulea’s upcoming Worldwide Voyage, the five-year journey that will take the historic canoe around the world—to 26 nations and 85 ports of call—sharing the concept of malama honua, caring for the earth’s natural resources; learning from other cultures about perpetuating the health and vitality of the land, sea, and inhabitants of our living world; and instilling these values in the next generation. And when Nainoa was through speaking, Dr. Chuck responded, in a nutshell, “We’ll be there for you.”

To that end, last week, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts announced its partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, pledging to provide more than $500,000 worth of support to further the mission of the PVS Worldwide Voyage through various fundraising efforts, cross marketing and global hosting at Outrigger hotels and resorts throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

hula practitioners and hawaiiloa steering blade“When someone says they will give us a hotel room, that’s like puuhonua, a place of refuge,” Nainoa said at a reception held at Outrigger Reef on the Beach as the sun set over Waikiki. “It allows us to restore. But that’s just one small piece. This is not just a partnership between resources. This is a partnership between common values, common beliefs and principles, and a common sense of responsibility for tomorrow. On behalf of the 260 who will sail this voyage, we are extraordinarily grateful and thankful for you being there for us. More than you know.”

As this round-the-world voyage unfolds, I will bring you stories of Hokulea and her people, that I hope inspire you to malama honua, care for Mother Earth.

As my fellow Outrigger employee Kaipo Ho said at last week’s reception, “Nestled within the Hawaiian word ‘malama,’ to care for, is the Hawaiian word, ‘lama,’ which means ‘light’ or ‘torch.’” 

I see Hokulea as our light of inspiration, and each one of us—whether we actually sail on her or not, whether we actually live in Hawaii or not—as Hoku’s individual torches to carry the message of malama honua.

Because, as Kaipo said, “The goal for a healthy planet for our future generations is a responsibility that we share as one.”

And, so I ask you, “Are you on board with me?” 


*Since today is now known as "Giving Tuesday, please consider making a financial contribution to support the Polynesian Voyaging Society's Worldwide Voyage. (If you're reading this on another day, no matter. Gifts are always welcomed, no matter the day.)

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