Written by Nakua & Kaʻai
These past 2 days Hōkūle'a stands out at the Newport Yacht Clup and Marina for some odd reason. I don't know if it's because she's docked in the middle of so many high rises. There are her usual differences; her sails are brown, she has a crab claw rig, she has yards of rope, and most of the crew are volunteers, like how Naʻalehu mentioned before, the waʻa doesn't belong to only one person (possible link to his blog). The difference I find most interesting is her openness.
She has no windows to tint and no doors to shut people out. She has no space to leave anyone out of a group. Everyone around us, probably from the 20th floor in the building next to us can see when we're taking a nap, cooking dinner, or washing dishes. Activities that complete strangers don’t normally get to see in a home on land. Maybe it gives a glimpse, or even forces people to see how to live like a family, even though we come from far away. Hōkūleʻa is a honua, a place that encourages community.
Why is it that we don't know our neighbors anymore? That we don't interact with people who we probably pass on our way to work everyday? If we all just knew our neighbors, this world would be a better place. This sense of community has changed since my parents childhood days. However, when we sail there are also many people who know, who have been in our shoes. In every port they come offering rides to get groceries or directions to the nearest laundromat and coffee; simple pleasures that make a huge difference.
The beautiful thing about this canoe is the feeling you get when you’re blessed with her presence. To our people Hōkūle’a is a living being, a mother figure to many. The canoe has a way of grabbing the attention of mariners and yachting communities everywhere who stop in awe because they have no idea that voyaging on a traditional double-hulled canoe still exists. Although she is just a boat to many people from the outside looking in; she has a spiritual kind of mana which lures people in to stare and admire her majestic beauty.
If you see Hōkūle'a, don't be ashamed that you're staring at the canoe; she tends to do that to people, she stands out in a crowd. We're sailing around the world so that people can ask questions; so that others can see how living on the canoe can apply to living on the Earth. He wa’a he moku, he moku he wa’a; A canoe is an island and an island is a canoe. Don’t be afraid to say aloha or smile back. You're part of this voyage even if you've only met Hōkūle'a for the first time.
Hope to see you around the waʻa soon! Check out the live tracking map on hokulea.com and mahalo again for following our journey.
One of the best parts of being on the wa'a is when the crew has time to hang out together and talk story. Whether it's after dinner or during a watch, being on the wa'a or maybe on the ocean, brings these mo'olelo, these stories to life. At our last night in Salem, eating delicious ice cream bought by Niko's grandfather who lives in Boston, Kalā Thomas begins to share Papa Mau's story.
Kalā Thomas, whose foundation comes from training with Makali'i, has had the fortunate experience to have learned first-hand from Papa Mau; gaining knowledge from the source (talk about the Hawaiian word kumu. Find the definition at wehewehe.org). Not only is he a skilled crew member and seasoned voyager, but also great at teaching others about wa'a. I can't tell his story of Papa Mau, but here's what I've learned and the story I like to share.
‘O Hōkūleʻa ka wahine, ʻO Mau ke kāne. Hōkūleʻa is the woman and Papa Mau is the man.
Mau Pias Pialug is the master navigator from Micronesia who is from a small island called Satawal. In Papa Mau’s culture, a navigator is chosen before he is born. When the mother is hāpai, she sings navigation songs to her son so that he can get maʻa to wayfinding knowledge. Once he is born, they hold the baby in the tide for hours so that feeling the movement of the water is like breathing, it’s second nature. Uʻi Malakaua, a waʻa sister says, “as if he came from the sea.”
Papa Mau attained an exceptional level where he knew his location based on the feeling the waʻa on the water. He could be inside of a room and point to the exact position of all the stars without needing to see them. I heard one story where it was an extremely sunny day and everyone was wondering why Papa Mau came out of his bunk wearing his foul weather gear. Shortly after it started to storm. He is the Michael Jordan of navigation.
Sometimes people forget that being the navigator, the father of the crew, Papa Mau was expected to do more than just find the direction using the environment. He made lures from the live chicken that was taken on board of Hōkūleʻa’s maiden voyage to Tahiti. When the mast broke, Papa Mau knew how to fix it in the middle of the ocean. If someone was sick he knew how to heal them. He knew the entire process of how to make a canoe, mai uka a i kai, from beginning to end.
Papa Mau, and the culture of wayfinders which included Hawaiians long ago saw the world in an entirely different perspective. Our kūpuna never thought that the world was flat, unlike the famed explorers children in schools learn about from their textbooks. When scientists asked Papa Mau, how did your kūpuna know that the earth was round? He looked at them with a confused face, They looked up. The sun is round, the moon is round - the earth must be round (in Hawaiian the word for round is poepoe. Find the definition atwehewehe.org). The first time I heard this story, I thought why didn’t I think of that?! Simple and full of profound wisdom. Kūpunaology, the knowledge of our ancestors is equivalent to or what I sometimes believe, even exceeds what modern technology is only finding today.
That is why I like the word kilo so much. I think of kilo hōkū, observer of stars. It can refer to someone who is a seer, a kahuna, a person who looks at stars, or reader of omens. I found it particularly interesting that kilo is not only for waʻa or navigation. Kilo aupuni means to be a political expert and kilo ʻuala is to know when sweet potatoes are ready to harvest. Kilo can be used in any context because if you take the time, you can observe anything around you. By practicing kilo our kūpuna knew that the earth was round, that the the sun travelled a specific path that marks the equator, the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer at certain times of the year, that animals can be used to help show direction. The list can go on and on. Without any modern technology they had this knowledge, using what they had; their eyes, their minds, and their naʻau.
I’ve asked students to look at the world around them for one minute, just one minute. They laugh because it is uncomfortable- it is no longer common practice to ask oneself what the world trying to say. It is an example of how many have become completely disconnected from the world. This practice need not happen outside, you can observe how your children are behaving, how your classmates or coworkers are feeling, if things in your life are starting to come together or not. Take it in and write it down. So you don’t forget, so that you can teach your children. Being more aware of the world around you is a way to mālama honua.
Papa Mau started to notice that children in his village were becoming less interested in navigation, preferring and depending on modern technology like motors. He saw that if this continued, the people of Satawal would be in the same situation as Hawaiʻi, a potential lost of this traditional practice. I hear others commonly say that Papa Mau came to Hawaiʻi and started to teach Hawaiʻi how to navigate again. It wasn’t as simple as it sounds. He was a part of a long line of navigators where the knowledge they passed on from generation to generation was sacred, for the few, for the chosen ones. People in his culture looked down upon him, shunned him, and did not support his decision until many years later. Independently, he went against tradition to pass this knowledge to us, and that’s why there is an enormous kuleana to tell his story and perpetuate the legacy he left us. Pomai Bertelmann explained his gift like this: Papa Mau deposited his knowledge to us and we have a kuleana to not only perpetuate it, but also care for it until the time comes for it to be withdrawn in the future for the people it was meant for, the Papa Mau's people.
I usually say that without Papa Mau, “This star compass wouldn't exist, many wa'a wouldn’t exist today and Hōkūleʻa probably wouldn’t be sailing around the world.” Future generations are changed because of Papa Mau; the powerful impact that one individual can have on a people, on a community, and on the world. Everyone has the potential to make this kind of positive and lasting impact. I tell my students, if they had to remember one thing from this lesson, it would be to remember Papa Mau and his story.
It’s our first morning back in Hall Quarry, Maine on the pier at J.W. Boat Co. We wake up to find that Rick, our enthusiastic escort captain is eager to share that he has a two hour tour of parts of the island that includes breakfast at the local cafe. While Hokule’a has been sailing around the world, her crews has shared the importance of learning local knowledge not only from indigenous people, but also from mariners who have been sailing and motoring all over the places we visit. Rick, with his lobster boat, the Quinipet, has been traversing these East Coast waters for decades and, fortunately for us, has an oven that’s been baking us blueberry muffins along the way. Quinipet has been a companion for Hokulea for our Leg 22 visit from Maine to Yarmouth, Canada and back. Rick has been extremely helpful in giving advice, knowing where to avoid and best routes for our journey. We are thankful for his willingness to help with this journey and be a part of the crew, like many other friends we’ve met these past three years.
Our first stop is to Brandon & Laura’s cafe, where the sign says “Eat where the locals eat.” There are random humorous signs that hang everywhere which include “Fish stories told here - ‘some true’” and “Business hours subject to change during fishing season.” Even though we’re off watch, the voyage continues on land. No matter where we go, people are interested in why we sail and so discussions soon started with the locals of the place with us strangers who were clearly not from around these parts. A man even gave us a magic show where he made one dollar bills turn into 100 dollar bills; we adults were actually quite impressed. After a breakfast full of homemade oatmeal, cinnamon bread, and blue berry pancakes with real maple syrup, we set out on a mobile tour guided by captain Rick.
Down the rocks of Bass Harbor head, we visited the light house where we learned that this was the location where Captain Rick proposed to his wife. We passed Beech Hill farm that looks so beautiful with all kinds of fresh food growing. We saw rows and rows of kale and it looked like they were harvesting beets in the field. Rick swears by their tomatoes as well. We had a choice to go ma uka or ma kai, towards the mountains or towards the sea. We chose ma uka. Climbing up the smooth rocks, some of the crew naturally took off their slippers to hike. We learned how to tell the difference between fur and spruce trees; “flat flexible fur, sharp spiky spruce.” Barefooted we reached the top of Beech Hill where an old fire watch station still stands. There once was a time where people use to be paid to look for forest fires and direct the firefighters on where to go. Now it is a boarded up relic that has some of the best views of the area. From the top we are able to see the entire ahupuaa; what we call everything from the mountain to the sea at home. Rick stands pointing to every lake, hill and mountain by name because he is connected to this place.
I encourage you to go on a hike and look around just like how we did today. Can you name every mountain or river? Do you know the stories of your place? Draw a map and if you don’t know the answers, go find them. Mālama honua, taking care of the world begins with deeply knowing and taking care of the places we call home.
Kumu Kaʻai previously taught at Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy and Hawaiian Studies at Wilson Elementary School to K-5 students.