Moku Chandler paused as he tried to find the words to express his feelings about being a crew member of the Hokulea and the rousing welcome it received in Hanalei Bay on a spectacular Sunday morning.
The voyaging canoe, recently back home from its three-year Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, was greeted by hundreds on boats and boards, and watching from the Hanalei Pier. Even a pod of dolphins and a monk seal watched.
“It’s everything I dreamed it was going to be,” said Chandler, born and raised on Kauai. “You never really know what to expect, but I just knew that there’s something else that’s in charge.”
He paused again, then said this:
“Think about the thing that makes you happy and you love so much. That’s what it feel like.”
Joy, love, forgiveness, caring for each other — all were expressed when Hokulea and sister canoe Hikianalia arrived for the first of its three-day stay on Kauai.
A crowd of keiki to kupuna filled the Hanalei Pier, where the canoes were docked, to watch a spirited, heartfelt ceremony that included hula, chants, blessings, lei and gifts.
Madeline Guyett of Kilauea made and left lei on each canoe, quietly offering prayers as she left them.
“I got chicken skin for sure during the protocols,” she said. “I feel a lot of pride in this culture — Hokulea is such an important part of the culture.”
Voyagers departed from Haleiwa, Oahu, Saturday and reached their destination after 12 hours of sailing through the night amid clear skies and steady tradewinds. Hokulea was captained by Kamaki Worthington, North Shore resident, while navigation student Koral McCarthy provided direction via traditional Polynesian wayfinding techniques.
“Hokulea pulls people together,” said McCarthy who also coordinated arrival ceremonies and much of the week’s coming events. “We prepare for her visit like we would for a visit from tutu. She teaches us about respect and challenges us to rise up to our kuleana. She reminds us how we treat her is how we should treat our earth and each other.”
The Kauai port stop and outreach events were planned by the Polynesian Voyaging Society and coordinated by local community members and supporters as part of the Mahalo, Hawaii Sail, an extension of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage. The sail includes similar visits to every major Hawaiian island into 2018.
During the three-day Kauai engagement, crew members will participate with the community in activities that will highlight the recent Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage as well as the work being done within Kauai communities.
During a ceremony on the beach Sunday, Kauai’s Louise Sausen looked out at Hokulea floating at the end of the pier. She smiled and beamed with pride.
“This is just the most awesome sight,” she said. “It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime sight. If you’re here for this, you know.”
It was a day for the mind to focus on and connect with the past, present and future, she said.
“When I chant it’s for all of us to open up our inside so we can see the signs that are there,” Sausen said. “We don’t all have the same signs, so you can have a little deeper understanding of our culture.”
Worthington said the enthusiastic and large turnout for Hokulea “speaks to the community’s value in our culture and in taking care of Mother Earth and the ocean.”
“I think I can speak for the hundreds of voyagers who were part of Malama Honua around the world. They have seen, tasted, touched, all the different parts of the world, experienced aloha in parts I never knew aloha existed,” he said. “But I have to say, and I think I speak for them, that there is no more beautiful place in the world than Hanalei right here.”
The voyage, he said, was not something anyone tried to do.
“It is something that is innate, that it’s your destiny to do,” Worthington said.
Liberta Hussey-Albao, Kauai director of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands, called the Hokulea’s arrival “fabulous.”
“Welcoming them back, saying mahalo to them for traveling the world, it’s been beautiful,” she said.
Kumu Leihi‘ilani Kirkpatrick brought halau members who were part of the opening ceremony. She spoke of unity, malama and aloha, all things that can be learned from Hokulea’s journey that took it 40,000 nautical miles and to about 150 ports worldwide. Crew members met with people around the globe.
“All of these things you have to have in a small canoe like this with people,” she said. “We can learn these lessons from them as well as embrace the ancient navigational ways.”
She said Kauai was proud of Hokulea and all it represents, and she was honored by its visit.
“We’re going to learn so much from this, and it’s going to continue and continue,” she said. “Today is a time we share, all of our family, together we live as one.”