Captains and crew of Hokulea and Hikianalia received special honors during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Tahiti.
Master navigator Nainoa Thompson received the highest honor when he was inducted into the Order of Tahiti Nui with a medal of recognition by French Polynesia president Gaston Flosse.
“The journey he made in 1976 and the one he makes now give more soul to the cultural links between Hawaii and Tahiti. Before 40 years ago there was a flame but it was not as strong. Nainoa strengthened that flame,” Flosse said via a translator. “Hokulea became a part of our children’s history and it is something living, not just something we read about. Nainoa, we would like to thank you for giving this spirit back to Tahiti.”
Thompson asked fellow Pwo navigators Bruce Blankenfeld, Kalepa Baybayan and Tua Pittman to join him in carrying out the responsibility of Commander.
Thompson also said that when he navigated to Tahiti in 1980, the first person he saw on the beach was the president. “I am more honored right now than I could find words to express,” he said. “Not just because of the medal, but because of Tahiti’s support for the past 37 years.”
Government officials, leaders of the Tahitian organization “Friends of Hokulea,” and PVS volunteers, staff and family members were also present.
On Sunday, July 29, Flosse will hold a public ceremony to officially rename Paofai beach in Papeete to Hokulea Beach in honor of the special relationship between Tahiti and Hawaii.