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Friday, March 9, 2012

Launching Hōkūle‘a March 8th

Society thanks helpers who restored Hōkūle‘a

The canoe has been fully rebuilt ahead of an ambitious trip

By Michael Tsai, Honolulu Star Advertiser

Mar 04, 2012

The Polynesian Voyaging Society marked the completion of an extensive restoration of the Hokule‘a Saturday with an appreciation celebration for volunteers who had a hand in making sure the historic voyaging canoe continues to make history.

The event was held at the Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island and attended by society officials and more than three dozen volunteers.

"We had hundreds of volunteers helping out over the last 18 months," said society Vice Chairman Bruce Blankenfeld. "With good care, common sense and just standard maintenance, (Hokule‘a) should be good for another 40 years."

The canoe will return to the water on Thursday to begin a process of water trials and fine-tuning. A crew will take the vessel around the state next month for education and training in preparation for what promises to be its most ambitious voyage yet — a journey around the world tentatively scheduled to begin in March 2013.

The double-hulled canoe was brought to dry dock in September 2010 for complete restoration and rebuilding after a challenging journey across the Pacific.

Executive Director Nainoa Thompson said the vessel was completely disassembled and meticulously restored piece by piece.

"The standard became ‘no rot, no damage,'"Thompson said. "We wanted to make it faster and more powerful. Eventually, these guidelines became mandates. The question was:Do you have the community capacity to make it ‘no rot, no damage?' It was a scary journey because we tore her apart and we had to put her back together again."

Thompson estimated that at least 24,000 volunteer hours were devoted to the project.

"The experience was magical in many ways," Blankenfeld said. "Most of the volunteers came to us with no ship-building skills, no woodworking or fiberglass-working skills. What they brought daily was a willingness to help, a commitment to showing up and doing whatever was needed. They brought a spirit that was so generous and so full of aloha."

Jen Umilama Nadeau, 53, started volunteering with Hokule‘a shortly after she arrived from California to study Hawaiian astronomy and navigation. Nadeau, a retired fire investigator with family ties to Hawaii, said she spent her volunteer hours sanding, applying epoxy, rigging and lashing.

"I just did whatever needed to be done," she said. "Iwent every Thursday and whenever I could get away but after a while I felt like I didn't want to do anything but this."

Westly Alapai, 42, of Kona started volunteering with the project as part of his rehabilitation program at Habilitat.

For Alapai, who grew up with a deep affection for the ocean, working on the iconic vessel was a way to reconnect with a cultural identity from which he had become estranged.

"I spent a lot of years off track," he said. "I got into doing the things of the world — drugs and alcohol — and I lost the foundation that I had from my family.

"Working on Hokule‘a was a big opportunity for me to regain my culture and to be happy with who I am," he said. "I'm happy to be Hawaiian. The ocean used to be my life. Mauka to makai — that's how we used to live. Now I'm getting all of that back and I want to take what I've learned and share it with my kids and my community."

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