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Hokule'a readies for trip

Ko Olina Marina

Source: Star Advertiser

With the blowing of a conch shell, crew members aboard the Hokule‘a paid tribute Sunday to the seafaring contributions of Hawaii beachboys as the double-hulled sailing canoe passed by Waikiki and rounded out the statewide leg of its training for the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

About 300 people, training for the Hokule‘a voyage to promote peace and environmental care for the Earth, have participated in statewide sailing trips, visiting dozens of communities over the past six months to prepare for the international segment that begins in May.

"These young people are the future of voyaging," Hokule‘a captain Bruce Blankenfeld said as the Hokule‘a docked at its home port at Sand Island near noon Sunday. "They're well-trained and have a deep understanding of Pacific Island cultures and our common bonds."

The Hokule‘a left the Hawaii Kai marina Sunday and traveled west along the coast, stopping briefly at the Maritime Education Training Center on Sand Island near noon, before continuing to Ko Olina.

The Hokule‘a will be docked through Saturday at the Ko Olina Marina, and the public is invited to visit with the crew from 3 to 5 p.m. daily through Friday.

The crew of the iconic Hawaiian vessel, whose inaugural 1976 Hawaii-Tahiti voyage proved Polynesians were capable of long-distance travel through native navigation methods, hopes to extend its journey of renewal and renaissance beyond the Pacific. During their stay in Kailua Bay on Oahu last week, crew members participated in service projects, including removing invasive species on Popoia Island (Flat Island), restoring Ulupo Heiau, and ceremonially planting a coconut at the Hawaiian overlook, Na Pohaku o Hauwahine.

Crew member Brad Wong,in a telephone interview, said he hoped that, like the new plants, the crew's relationships with Hawaii communities will continue to grow.

"We want to build relationships with communities," said Wong, a Kailua resident. "For me, it means a lot."

The crew plans to leave in May from Hilo for Tahiti on the first international leg of its more-than-40,000-mile voyage, visiting more than 20 marine protected areas recognized by the United Nations, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.

To avoid an area rife with piracy, the crews of the Hokule‘a and the double-hulled sailing canoe Hikianalia have decided to sail around the Horn of Africa, rather than past Somalia and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

Hokule‘a spokeswoman Kim Ku‘ulei Birnie,interviewed at the Maritime Training Center, said Hikianalia is tentatively scheduled to sail to Gibraltar, Portugal and Italy later in the voyage.

Birnie said her group, working with communities in dozens of nations, hopes to learn about successful practices in natural resource management and to meet community leaders and educators. Hawaii, known as the endangered species capital of the world, has faced its own share of environmental challenges.

The islands have been a major focus of programs in the United States to protect and restore native habitat, including the $400 million project to restore the military target island of Kahoolawe and preservation of 137,797-square-mile Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the largest marine conservation area in the nation.

Before Papahanau­mokuakea's designation in 2006, crews of the Hokule‘a and Hokualakai conducted two voyages to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to train native navigators and educate the public about the pristine environment.

Through grants from the U.S. Department of Education, teachers associated with the Hokule‘a are working at turning classrooms into virtual canoes, integrating science, mathematics and Hawaiian culture into activities aboard the vessel. Hikianalia will be the center for gathering scientific information during the voyage, including records of sea temperatures.

Patricia Halagao, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii, said teachers in the A‘o Hawaii Program have also developed a curriculum that enables the student to not only learn math and science but also history and cultural values. "They're learning journeys," Halagao said.

Hokule‘a veteran Clyde Namuo said he's confident enough contributions will be raised to fund the Pacific leg of the worldwide voyage, thanks in part to sponsors like Hawaiian Airlines, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Outrigger Hotels-Resorts.

The Hokule‘a will be in dry dock in early November to prepare for the circumnavigation.

The worldwide sailing plan is available for viewing at Hokulea.org.

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