Hokulea’s original crewmembers honored at State Capitol

Photo courtesy Hawaii State Senate

Hokulea’s 40-year history was honored Monday at the State Capitol.

Various lawmakers in both the Senate and House chambers recognized the Polynesian Voyaging Society, as well as 12 of the 13 living crewmembers of Hokulea’s maiden voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti and back in 1976.

PVS was founded in 1973 by Herb Kane, Ben Finney and Tommy Holmes. Then on March 8, 1975, PVS launched its first waa kaulua, the Hokulea, in Kaneohe Bay.

Her maiden voyage to Tahiti in 1976 was led by Mau Piailug, using traditional, non-instrument navigation.

“We are grateful to have our governmental body take the time to celebrate the worldwide voyage and to me, it shows that Hawaii is still with us, that the canoe still matters. As the voyage now heads into the Indian Ocean, which is much more dangerous, it gives us the strength to set sail,” said Nainoa Thompson, pwo (master) navigator and president of PVS.

Joining Thompson from the crew were Finney, Abraham “Snake” Ah Nee, Milton “Shorty” Bertelmann, Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana, John Kruse, Francis Kainoa Lee, Kimo Lyman, Gordon Piianaia, Penny Martin, Billy Richards and Dr. Ben Young.

It was the first time all living members of the original crew were together since that groundbreaking voyage.

“We could not have predicted today’s event when we launched 40 years ago. We thought we might make a splash, but it turned into something so much larger,” said Finney.

“Your island is like a canoe and your canoe is like an island. To take those lessons that we learned on Hokulea and then to bring them back and to apply it to the community to the island that you live on,” Martin said.

Hokulea and her sister canoe Hikianalia continue their Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, which launched from Hilo in 2013. The canoes are currently docked in New Zealand.

By the end of the voyage in 2017, the canoes hope to have traveled approximately 47,000 nautical miles.

Volunteers and employees from the University of Hawaii were also honored as they have long helped to house and care for Hokulea.

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