Kekaha’s Crowell traces roots of Captain Cook, and his own family

Kekaha man again sails aboard the Endeavour. Mark Crowell’s career keeps him busy keeping the books at Roy’s restaurant in Po’ipu.

But his passion for adventure led him to serve as a crewmember aboard the replica of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour.

In late 1999 Crowell and a handful of other Kaua’i sailors were among the crew who sailed the Endeavour through Hawaiian waters, in particular from the Aloha Tower in Honolulu to Nawiliwili Harbor, and then onto Waimea.

Crowell’s second voyage aboard the Endeavour took place in 2002, this time in waters half a world away from Kaua’i’s location in the north central Pacific.

“What drove me to go there was a sense of adventure,” Crowell said. “Sailing the Endeavour is an adventure most people don’t get to do. Only a few thousand out of the millions of people in the world. You’re climbing up the ratlines, not hooked in, going up in the dark, wind blowing damp, the boat is rocking and it’s dark with no lights on deck. Your grip is hard to get because your hands are cold. Can’t use gloves, because you have to tie knots.

The journey to Europe and Great Britain provided Crowell with a history lesson about the roots of his ancestors who hailed from England, and the Azores, an island group in the mid-Atlantic settled by the Portuguese over 500 years ago. He is also a descendent of Hawaiian ali’i.

He was raised in Kekaha where his grandfather worked for Kekaha Sugar, and his father at the Air National Guard Station at Koke’e.

His surname, Crowell, is an English name from London, and his ancestors left that city in the 1850s. Some came on ships, and were sailors. They settled on all the main Hawaiian Islands.

His background is Portuguese, Native Hawaiian and English, plus Chinese.

Crowell met up with the Endeavour in the Azores following an extended journey by air.

He described his ancestral lands and his trip in an interview with The Garden Island:

“Mom’s family name is De Borba, from the island of Sao Jorge. I looked up our family name in the phone book. The Azores is like Kalaheo, rolling green hills, cool, fishermen, most things are shipped in. The islands are one-third of the way back to America from Portugal.

“You do get an appreciation for where people came from. They went around the Horn to Hawai’i with the intention of never returning once they got to Hawai’i. Mother’s family settled on Maui.

“One of our ancestors was one of the ali’i who welcomed Cook at Kealakekua. Palea is his name. The accounts show he was intrigued with the ship (Cook sailed aboard the Endeavour on his first circumnavigation, he arrived off Waimea in 1778 on his third circumnavigation, this time using the ships Discovery and Resolution for his voyage). There was a skirmish, he was knocked unconscious by one of the men with an oar, when he came to, one of the concerns was whether he would be allowed back on board.”

Of his two sails aboard the Endeavour, Crowell said: “You kind of go back into history and you can appreciate better the things they experienced. You get a better appreciation of what life was like back then.

Being a descendent of an ali’i, Crowell was asked what he thought of Captain Cook: “My take on Cook, is if it wasn’t Captain Cook, it would have been someone else (who discovered Hawai’i and opened it up to the western world). Captain Cook’s coming was a lot better than some of the other captains sailing at the time, he had a conscience. The way he treated his men was much bettereven though he let the cat out of the bag about Hawai’i.”

When asked about the details of his trip to rejoin the Endeavour, Crowell said: “In England, they were all very nice to me, they wanted to know all about Hawai’i. They treat people from Hawai’i differently then they do other tourists. On the whole, even in Portugal, it’s special because they don’t get many tourists from Hawai’i.”

Crowell left Kaua’i on June 1, flew to Los Angeles, then to Chicago, where he caught a flight to Frankfurt, and then to Lisbon, Portugal.

“We went the long way, the scenic route. Stayed in Lisbon for a couple days. On June 5 I flew from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada Sao Miguel, the main island of the Azores. I reported to the ship the next day for training. Everyone reporting had already sailed on the Endeavour, and were referred to as ‘repeat offenders.’

“The next day we started sailing, we didn’t see anything at all, with the exception of a few whales and porpoises for about five days, no rubbish; it made me realize how big the ocean is. On June 15 we landed at Alderney in the Channel Islands and stayed overnight. Captain Blake said we had a flat tire, so we stayed overnight. I took a tour around the island, which is three miles by two miles; it only took half an hour with stops and narration. We sailed off on June 16 and arrived at Whitby on twenty-first, off the northeast coast of England. On the way we saw the white cliffs of Dover.

Whitby is the town where Captain Cook did his apprenticeship as a sailor after working in the town at a grocery near where his farmer father lived. The town’s harbor entrance is a narrow one, a slot in the sea cliffs along the coast.

Crowell was at the helm, manning the large wooden wheel when the ship entered the harbor.

“Thousands of people were lining the cliffs up above, along both sides of the approach to the pier. They were hanging out of windows and everything, a band was playing, and dignitaries were there. The BBC was broadcasting, it was a big program. We put the ship to bed, furled all the sails, clean up the ship and moved everything.”

The Kekaha sailor brought gifts from Kaua’i to give to the local government of Whitby. Kaua’i and Whitby have a sister city-type relationship, and the mayor of the small English town has recently visited Kaua’i. The gifts included an aerial photograph of the Endeavour taken by Casey Riemer, the manager of Jack Harter Helicopters in Lihu’e.

Crowell visited York, the capital of the Northern England area, traveled to London and flew home. The entire trip took 28 days.

He said it’s hoped that the Endeavour will again return to Hawai’i, and Kaua’i.

In the ship’s cabin is a replica of a lonomakua, the cross-shaped symbol of the Hawaiian god Lono that Captain Cook saw on his arrival in 1778; it is one of the few items of many given to the Endeavour replica that are kept on permanent display. At a lu’au in 1999 at Waimea’s Lucy Wright Park kupuna Aletha Kaohi presented the lonomakua to the crew. It was crafted by a woodworker in Waimea and Kaohi draped a section of family heirloom tapa cloth on it that dates back to the time of Cook.

Summing up his trip in faraway waters, Crowell said he has gained an appreciation for “how it was for the people before us.”

“I was able to see where my family came from first met people from different cultures, with different points of view,” he said.

His tips for other local travelers venturing far from home are: “If you don’t get out and experience it, you really have no idea, when in Rome do like the Romans do, and try not to be the ugly American.”

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