Return of Hōkūleʻa Celebration

The previous 6 days had the crew living and sleeping on Nāmāhoe while docked at METC.  This experience gave some of the newer crew members a sampling of life at sea during a long voyage.  However, the task for the crew was to make modifications to the yokes of the booms, replace and relash 3 of the stancions, and assist the sailmakers of North Sails as they were scheduled to attach newly made canvases for Nāmāhoe and make any needed adjustments.  An added bonus to being there was the visiting of many past voyagers of Hōkūle’a, Hawaii Loa, Makaliʻi, and Hikianalia.  The crew got meet these voyagers of the past and listen to the adventures of their voyages.
Saturday, June 17th, crew call is at 3am with a departure from the dock no later than 4am.  A captains meeting held the night before organized the logistics for bringing in 8 voyaging canoes into “Magic Island” at Ala Moana park.  This entailed anchoring these canoes along the channel the turn around basin of the Ala Wai Yacht club.  Nāmāhoe, Hikianalia, and Fa’afa’ite were the largest of these canoes at 72 ft in length.  Moʻokiha from Maui, Makaliʻi from Hawaiʻi Island, Hawaiʻi Loa from Oʻahu, Okeanos from Aotearoa, and finally Hōkūle’a rounded out the fleet that was to enter channel and anchor along Magic Island.  Archie Kalepa and Brian Keaulana with there water safety officers on jet skis were in charge of manuvering and positioning these canoes to safe and secure anchorages.  In addition, only Nāmāhoe and Hawaiʻi Loa were located at METC.  The rest of the fleet had just sailed over from Moloka’i and were anchored outside of Hawaii Kai waiting to sail around Diamond Head in the morning to make the approach to Ala Moana.
The plan was for Nāmāhoe and Hawaiʻi Loa to meet the fleet outside of the Diamond Head buoy by 6am.  This resulted in the 3am crew call and leaving the dock by 4am in order to sail and make the 6am rendezvous at the Diamond Head buoy.  Once again leaving in the darkness of the early morning Nāmāhoe made its way out of Sand Island with the aid of Keala Kimura on what we called the “Rubber Duckie”.  In our wake was Hawaiʻi Loa also making its way out to Diamond Head.
Sailing out with the rising sun over Diamond Head we spotted the rest of the fleet approaching along with their escort vessels, Coast Guard escort, DLNR enforcement vessels, and supporting vessels.  It made for a sight as we approached Diamond Head.  The VHF radios began relaying messages to identify vessels and communicate the order of entrance to the Ala Moana channel.  Coast Guard and DLNR enforcement officials cleared other watercraft from the path needed to allow the fleet to sail into Ala Moana.  This was shaping up to be quite a “BIG THING”!  We didn’t realize all of these agencies and the amount of coordination that was required to pull off this event.
As we circled off the Diamond Head buoy, radio communication indicated that we were to form up in the order that we would enter Ala Moana Channel and the eventual mooring.  That involved us, Nāmāhoe, taking the lead and start heading toward Ala Moana.  With that order, we opened fully our sails and steered a course toward the channel entrance some 2 or 3 miles distant.  Looking behind we saw the rest of the fleet with all sails open following our lead with the sun rising behind.  Such an awesome sight to see all of these voyaging canoes sailing together bringing “Mama” Hōkūlea home.
As we turned down the channel at Ala Moana, we closed our sails to give our escort vessel and the jet skis better control of Nāmāhoe as they brought us in to our final mooring spot.  What a sight to see as we neared the entrance, people lined up at least 10 deep all along the bank of Magic Island extending to the where the man-made peninsula ended at Ala Moana Park.  On the ocean-side, surfers, standup paddlers, canoes (of all sizes) lined up along the channel markers cheering.  As we began our approach down the channel, sounds of cheering, chanting, and the excited sounds of the pū began filling the air.  In response, our crew began chanting “Ua Pa’a Ke Kahua”, “Te Waka”, “Auwe Ua Hiti E”, and blowing our pū in response and in respect for the welcome.  As this was occurring, one of the crew members nudged me and pointed upwards just behind us.  Looking behind a beautiful full rainbow had formed just above us as we had entered the channel.  What a wonderful and spiritual sign of welcome as we began this day.
Continuing down the channel we continued our chants with a vigor and intensity that seemed to come from within each crew member.  This included the youngest members, the children of our crew who, over the past years have become increasingly involved and an integral part of our organization.  If, we say what we are doing is for the next generation, then it is important to have them involved now so that the canoe is something familiar and an everyday occurrence rather than a distant possibility.  The sounds of these young crew members chanting with all the vigor and intensity as their parents brought a sense of pride to us as we neared our mooring area.  An interesting thought occurred to me as I looked around at our crew.  I had my older son, Keao, a young 16-17 year old when we started this canoe, who would come with me at times on the weekends to help layup the hulls of the canoe.  Along with him were his two children, Na’ale and Lei, whose pikos have been placed one in each hull.  Looking at them, I realized that on board were 3 generations of people that are connected to Nāmāhoe.  No wonder there was such intensity in the ‘oli that we were offering.
As we set about mooring Namahoe with the expert assistance of Archie Kalepa and Brian Keaulana along with the rest of there water safety officers, the groups from land began their chants and protocol to welcome us from the ocean back to the land.  One by one the other canoes set about their mooring, next to us was Moʻokiha from Maui, then Hawaiʻi Loa, Makaliʻi from Hawaiʻi, Okeanos from Aotearoa,  Hikianalia, Fa’afa’ite from Tahiti, and finally Hōkōle’a.  As we finally secured our lines, each of the crews were shuttled to shore and greeted by protocol and “Na Koa” to be escorted to the main ceremonial area.
As we all gathered and awaited the arrival of Hōkūle’a, it was a time of re-uniting with long time crew members who may not have seen each other for a time.  As we sat and recounted our experiences it was a time of joy being with each other again.  The arrival of Hōkūleʻa and the crew brought about the start of the formal ceremonies, Awa, speeches, and ultimately a time to hoʻolauleʻa.  This was a joyous time and one which will not be forgotten for years to come.  A statement was made that this was a once in a lifetime event, but I believe many in the voyaging community see this as the beginning of more events to come in the future that will bring our island nations together and to offer what we have learned to the world.
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