Hawai’i’s voyaging canoe Hikianalia is back home in Hawaiian waters Sunday evening after more than a year away. The canoe has gone as far as New Zealand.
Her homecoming is especially important as it was a passing of the torch of sorts, three apprentice navigators guided her from Tahiti only using nature’s clues, and for their first time, found home.
After 21 days at sea, they started scanning the horizon for home, and kept scanning for four days. Austin Kino, Jason Patterson and Kekaimalu Lee, all in their 20s, were faced with their greatest challenge yet as apprentice navigators. They made the call on their own, starting in Tahiti, and now, to the end.
The crew finally saw the lights of Hilo casting a glow Saturday night, and then spotted land Sunday morning.
“It was an amazing feeling after 25 days to finally pull land out of the sea,” said Lee. “It’s been an awesome experience, it hasn’t sunk in yet but I know it will in the next few days.”
The other young crew members also felt intense joy when they knew they were almost home.
“That realization when it’s there and there’s no doubt in your mind it’s a solemn joy and the crew all woke up and got out of their bunks and celebrated with us so it was a really special time with us on deck,” said Kino.
“For me it took a moment for me to actually accept that we found home and I was sitting on the hale for a bit and a voice just finally said no we’re home and a rush of emotion hit,” said Patterson.
This was also their first voyage without a master navigator on board coaching them.
“This is the first time where I’ve been in front and had to have control over the steersman and tell them where to put the canoe,” said Lee. “It was a little scary at first but as the time went on my confidence built.”
One of those steersmen was Snake Ah Hee of Maui, crewmember on Hokule’a’s maiden voyage from Tahiti to Hawai’i in 1976.
“Having Uncle Snake on board was one of the most amazing things, I could watch another 30 sunsets and sunrises with him and you get to feel mau and Eddie and all the guys who really built this legacy,” said Kino.
“It’s good fun get older guys like me and younger kids wasn’t born when the voyage first started,” said Ah Hee. “They remind me of me when I first sailed on Hokulea.”
And they had veteran voyager and navigator, Iolani school teacher Catherine Fuller on board, but it was her first time navigating to Hawai’i as well.
“This group has been super supportive of each other, we make sure we sleep, eat, take care of each other we back each other up, each one of us has had both something to teach and something to learn so it’s been a great experience to have the four of us together,” said Fuller.
“All of us our sea legs grew a little bit longer, our feet a lot more comfortable on the deck as our confidence has grown immensely over this past voyage and experience,” said Kino.