HAWAIIAN VOYAGING CANOE VISITS POHNPEI: A JOURNEY OF EDUCATION AND GOODWILL

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By Weston Yap

MISKO BEACH, Pohnpei (March 25 - April 7, 1999 - The Island Tribune)---A crowd of about 1,000 greeted the arrival of the Makali‘i voyaging canoe on the morning of Tuesday, March 16, 1999. A fleet of local outrigger canoes led the double-hulled craft and its escort catamaran, the Zip-Purr, to shore. In a week of heavy rain, it seemed poetic that sunshine and light trade winds would welcome Satawal's Mau Piailug, the Makali‘i's master navigator. Upon landing, the crew performed an Aiha‘a, a Hawaiian chant and dance, similar to that of Maori culture's Hakka, that described the canoe's voyages.

While the journey's goal is to return Piailug home to Satawal, the purposes of the trip are many. Perhaps the most outstanding is the desire to honor Piailug's efforts to revive traditional navigation. The 67-year old Satawalese invested much of the last 22 years helping the people of Hawai‘i relearn the art of non-instrument/celestial navigation. Piailug wants this trip to rekindle and reeducate Micronesians about their ocean culture. Captain Chadd Paishon spoke warmly of Pialug. "We call him Papa," Paishon said. "Mau has shown us the way; what our people used to know and what we will be tomorrow. In Hawai‘i we think of him as the closest living thing we can touch to our ancestors."

For Ramon Falcam, of Awak, the visit held great cultural significance for Pohnpei. "The first canoe, Sapwukini, arrived at the beginning of time to create the land and people," Falcam said. "The second canoe brought the Isokelekel from the land of Katau Pehdak about 400 years ago. He and his men came and conquered the Saudohluhr and established a better way of life. And now the canoe Makali‘i. To me this is a commemoration of the Isokelekel's arrival, a reenactment of my people's arrival because they came on the same path from the southeast."

Na Kalai Wa‘a Moku o Hawai‘i, a nonprofit organization on Hawai‘i's big Isle, spent over two years building the Makali‘i, Hawaiian for "the eyes of the chief." The hulls measure 54 feet in length and stand six feet high. The sail opens to a size of 500 square feet and two steering oars are carried to guide the canoe, one 300 pounds and the other 500 pounds. To tack, or change directions, the mast and jib sail shifts from one end of the ship to the other; a tricky operation that demands much skill and speed. Designers shaped the canoe's two fiberglass hulls to weather heavy storms. On this voyage, Makali‘i faced 25-30 foot swells three days after leaving Hawai‘i. Fortunately, the canoe has faced mostly good weather.

The canoe carries a radio, but other modern equipment, such as a geographic position system linked to satellites, a compass, or wristwatches are not allowed. The escort catamaran, the Zip-Purr, carries modern sailing equipment, but, as a rule, the boat cannot inform the Makali‘i if the direction of travel is right or wrong. The 16-member crew uses only nature to navigate: the stars, direction of wind and ocean swells, cloud formations, behavior of birds or the position of the sun.

For additional reports from The Island Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Island Tribune or http://www.islandtribune.com

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