Laie Bay is not an easy seafaring destination. High winds and rough ocean conditions make voyages here a challenge for even the most experienced sailors. Even with those difficulties, the Laie community had the privilege to host, for the first time, the Hokuleʻa sailing canoe, which is currently touring across the state of Hawaii in preparation for their expedition around the world next year.
Community members, BYU–Hawaii students, and others welcomed the Hokuleʻa crew at Hukilau Beach on Friday morning, October 11, 2013, in a short ceremony. Students and community members chanted “Hiki Mai E Na Pua” to welcome the Hokuleʻa to Laie, a chant composed by Uncle Cy Bridges. Kali Fermantez, assistant professor in the Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Studies at BYU–Hawaii, acknowledged and paid tribute to the late Uncle Bill Wallace, whose vision and leadership helped establish the school’s Hawaiian studies program and the university’s own sailing canoe, the Iosepa.
As is customary in Hawaiian culture, the Hokuleʻa crew was given different hoʻokupu or offerings from both the kupuna and keiki (children) from the community. Fermantez presented a pohaku kuʻi ʻai or poi pounder hoʻokupu to Nainoa Thompson, master navigator of the Hokulea. Isaiah Walker, chair of the department of History at BYU–Hawaii, described hoʻokupu as significant because it “not only shows respect and appreciation to guests and dignitaries but such exchanges help connect and tie people and communities together.” In many ways, the coming together of the Hokuleʻa and Laie communities was a reunion of sorts. Kawika Eskaran, a captain of the Iosepa, has sailed with the Hokuleʻa before. Eskaran, also a master carver, presented a carving he had done as a hoʻokupu. Fermantez noted the event was special because it was not only “an offering from a master to master, but also … it was a way for Uncle Kawika and us to show honor and respect to the navigators and Hokuleʻa for what they have done for us with the Iosepa … and for the Hawaiian and Pacific community in general.”
After the ceremony at Hukilau Beach, the dignitaries moved over to the Polynesian Cultural Center for another brief ceremony at the Hawaiian village and a luncheon. Thompson gave brief remarks. He explained how he was at first reluctant to sail to Laie because of the difficult sea conditions. However, the decision was made to come upon the urging of one of the other Hokuleʻa captains, Bruce Blankenfeld, because the Hokuleʻa needed the mana from Laie. In Hawaiian culture, "mana" is a spiritual energy that resides in people, objects, or places. As they prepare to sail around the world, Thompson and the Hokuleʻa crew wanted to draw from the powerful mana Laie has because of its strong families and stalwart faith.
The Hokuleʻa was constructed and launched in 1975 following traditional Hawaiian methods. The canoe has no nails in its structure and navigates completely by the stars and ocean currents. Nearly four decades later, after many trips across the Pacific, traveling enough miles to have circled the world six times over, the Hokuleʻa entered dry dock in 2011 for a major refit to prepare it for its worldwide tour in 2014. The Hokuleʻa is a significant part of Hawaiian culture, Fermantez says, “because it is a powerful symbol of the revitalization of indigenous island culture, suggesting the expert knowledge and skills our kupuna (ancestors) had, and have, and that we are reclaiming and perpetuating.”
Read more about the Hokuleʻa and their upcoming trip at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: