[Story and photos by Mike Foley, originally published in the BYU-Hawaii online Newsroom, April 12, 2007]
Two members of the BYUH Hawaiian Studies program will report on their participation as crew members during the recent open-ocean journey of two voyaging canoes from Hawaii to Satawal in Micronesia to honor the man responsible for restoring traditional non-instrument ocean navigation to Hawaiians over the past 30-plus years.
Kamoa’e Walk (right), Assistant Director of the Jonathan Napela Center for Hawaiian Language and Cultural Studies at BYU-Hawaii, and Kawika Eskaran, Special Projects Coordinator, will speak of their experiences at a 10 a.m. forum on April 12 in the Cannon Activities Center. Both are key crewmembers of BYU-Hawaii’s own 57-foot wa’a kaulua or traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, the Iosepa.
In general, the small community of Hawaiian sailing canoes is close, but BYU-Hawaii’s Iosepa has especially strong ties to the Makali’i, its crew and sponsoring organization, Na Kalai Wa’a Moku o Hawai’i, which helped train BYUH Hawaiian Studies faculty and student crewmembers, and hosted the Iosepa at Kawaihae on the Island of Hawaii during its maiden voyage in 2004.
Over the past several years Na Kalai Wa’a crafted a new sailing canoe, the 54-foot Alingano Maisu patterned after its own Makali’i, to present to “Papa” Mau Piailug as a gift for his invaluable contributions in reawakening the knowledge of wayfinding or non-instrument navigation among the Hawaiians and other Polynesians.
A traditional master navigator from Satawal — the easternmost coral atoll in the Yap group of the Caroline Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, Piailug began teaching Hawaiians when the Polynesian Voyaging Society started preparing for the 1976 inaugural journey of their famous canoe, Höküle’a, to Tahiti and back. Höküle’a has since sailed to many other points in Polynesia, and spurred the development of similar canoes. The Makali’i sailed to Satawal in 1999.
In January of this year the Höküle’a and Maisu embarked from the Island of Hawaii, bound first for Majuro in the Marshall Islands, then on to Pohnpei (formerly known as Ponape) and Chuuk (formerly Truk) in the Caroline Islands, then Satawal and Yap, where the Maisu will be permanently berthed (Satawal does not have an appropriate anchorage). The Höküle’a will continue its historic voyage to Palau and Okinawa, Japan.
In Hawaiian, the voyage to Satawal and Yap was dubbed Ku Holo Mau — Sail On, Sail Always, Sail Forever.
Walk served as a Maisu crewmember for about nine weeks as it prepared and sailed approximately 2,600 miles from Hawaii to Satawal. Eskaran — a Hawaiian master carver who helped create the Iosepa along with Tongan master carver and long-time Laie resident Tuione Pulotu — served on the Maisu crew for about six weeks from Majuro to Satawal.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Eskaran said of the adventure. “It pushed us mentally and physically, almost to exhaustion, but it was uplifting.” He added that the weather was often harsh, “but the storms have a beauty of their own.”
When it sails, the Iosepa usually launches during the Spring Term. The canoe is currently stored in a field behind the dormitories, but a permanent home will be built for the wa’a kaulua in the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Hawaiian village, where it will be available to both students and PCC visitors when it’s not sailing.