Last Wednesday, August 20, I took my first ever ride on the legendary Double-Hulled Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe, the Hokule’a. Believe it or not, I’ve had multiple opportunities to ride on the canoe. Each semester we (well, my co-workers) take the students out for a ride and I’ve had opportunities to do private training rides on it with my co-workers but I’ve never took the opportunity as I typically value my weekends and evenings at home with the Mrs. What changed this time? Not too sure. This particular opportunity was actually extended to a co-worker from the IT Department as he won a sail through an auction and he was allowed to bring 20 of his closest friends and lo and behold I rated 🙂
We were out on the water maybe about 3 hours. This was an evening sail and it was my first time ever out on the water on a canoe (I’m as domesticated urban socialite as they come). For me it was a very moving experience being out on the canoe and learning more about how my Polynesian ancestors made their way across the vast bi-ways of the Pacific in antiquity.
Hawaiian Voyaging is actually something I’m intimately/peripherally involved with. As some of you know I work in Native Hawaiian Higher Education and one of the big initiatives we are currently working on is the development of a Hawaiian Voyaging program that will to preserve and train the next generation of traditional Polynesian Voyagers. My role in this particular sphere is the development of online courseware materials as well as the maintenance of the classroom technologies that power the training facility. Eventually I’ll have an opportunity to train alongside the navigators to get a better “feel” for how I can best play my role in the development of the program/curriculum. So as you can see, I’ve been on the periphery for a while but I guess the signs are showing that soon I’ll be knee-deep in this stuff.
The cruise was a great experience. The majority of the trip was spent listening to Captain Bruce Blankenfeld reveling us with stories of the Hokule’a and PVS’ history, its mo’okuauhau, its travels across the Pacific and stories of life at sea. Also included were basic lessons in traditional navigation and the Polynesian view of astronomy. Having been schooled in Hawaiiana I was already aware of the history of PVS and Hokule’a’s voyages and the basic CONCEPT of how the Polynesian’s used the stars, currents, bird flight patterns, etc to navigate. What I did NOT know was the fact that the canoe ITSELF was a compass which Bruce demonstrated to us. I must say our ancestors were very ingenious folk!!! Also, learning about the Polynesian views on Astronomy was refreshing. I love Greek/Roman Mythology but I’m also a big fan of hearing of other cultures world views and hearing that of my own ancestors was something that really calls to me from the past.
The sail itself, physically, was just gorgeous. We sailed along the Southern coast from Sand Island to Diamond Head and back. The water was calm and gorgeous and we had a chance to see paddlers everywhere. The calm water and fresh sea air was JUST what the doctor ordered after two VERY rough and hectic weeks at the office. I could actually get used to life at sea for a short-term and can see how a lot of my friends enjoy paddling as their hobby of choice.
For myself, I really hand it to both our ancestors for their strength of faith to head out in the unknown and their pioneering spirit. I had it to folks like Nainoa and Bruce for taking it up in the modern day. For myself, I doubt I’d be able to handle sailing it sea for a month or so just drifting living off of canned goods. But who knows? In life their is nothing by chance. We are all put where we need to be to learn the lessons that we must learn. For myself my path is inevitably tied to the paths taken by those who came before me. Over the past years I’ve been exposed to various facets of my Hawaiian heritage through the study of its music and martial arts. The one cap I need would be to explore our seafaring Heritage and with the “Worldwide Voyage” in the works it may not be too far-fetched that I may find myself sailing on one of those legs of the Voyage rediscovering and expanding upon the paths my ancestors trail blazed all those centuries ago through the deep seas of Polynesia.
Pics from Flickr are here
Videos from Bruce’s lecture are coming at some point in the future.