Hokulea’s Thompson reflects on the canoe’s voyage to Tahiti

In a few days, the voyaging canoes Hokulea and Hikianalia will be leaving the shores of Tahiti, but in the meantime the canoes’ crew members are exploring the beautiful land.

Recently, the crew visited Fare Hape, located in the center of Tahiti, where special ceremonies were held between the people there and the crew.

In one ceremony, the crew immersed themselves in a beautiful waterfall in order to help them clear their minds and open them to the sacred area.

They also got to share stories, cultural traditions and some wonderful food with the people of Fare Hape.

(Photo courtesy Oiwi TV)
(Photo courtesy Oiwi TV)

Hokulea has previously sailed to Tahiti six times. Its latest journey to the French Polynesian island wasn’t only the swiftest, it was also the most accurate.

That’s according to master navigator Nainoa Thompson, who returned to Hawaii two days ago.

Thompson was beaming like a proud father when he spoke about Hokulea’s young crew.

“This voyage was really going to be for the young, and that promise is not just to them, it’s to our teachers that gave us a chance,” he said.

Polynesian Voyaging Society leaders took great care when they hand-selected the crew that would guide Hokulea to Tahiti, a crew filled with youth and inexperience.

“We took a risk because, out of a crew of 13 on Hokulea, only four went deep-sea.

“In terms of one single voyage, 16 days at sea, they were amazing,” he said.

In fact, the 61-year-old Thompson is still in awe when he reflects on how fast Hokulea reached Tahiti. It took only 16 days to reach the Tuamotu Archipelago, despite more than two days of seasickness.

“When I look at this crew, the youngest, the most inexperienced, the ones that really took the most risk of all the voyages, the ones that had more women than men, but they were the fastest, and that has got to account for (something).”

Hokulea and Hikianalia were honored by the President of French Polynesia upon their arrival in Tahiti. Thompson was also named commander in the order of Tahiti Nui, the nation’s highest award given for outstanding merit.

“Everybody knows that award is not to a single individual,” Thompson said. “Everybody knows that goes to 39 years of effort of our teachers.”

He also expressed gratitude over the renaming of Paofai Beach in Papeete to Hokulea Beach, a honor that highlights the special relationship between Tahiti and Hawaii.

“The recognition of such awards, that rename beaches, that give the highest award that French Polynesia gives, is really about the relationship,” Thompson said. “It’s about this very strong bond, and Tahiti made it very clear that Hokulea counts, and this canoe is theirs.”

The theme for the next leg of the voyage is bringing families together.

Hokulea and Hikianalia will leave Tahiti in mid-July and head to the Society and Cook Islands before arriving in Samoa by late August.

Crew members helped with food preparation for a meal to be shared with the people of Fare Hape, Tahiti. (Photo courtesy Oiwi TV)
Crew members helped with food preparation for a meal to be shared with the people of Fare Hape, Tahiti. (Photo courtesy Oiwi TV)
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