Traditional Polynesian canoe, loaded with goodwill, sails into S.F. Bay

RETRANSMISSION TO CURRENT NEWSPAPER TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER - The Polynesian Voyaging Society's sailing canoe Hokulea arrived at Magic Island in Honolulu on Saturday, June 17, 2017. No modern navigation instrumentation guided a Polynesian voyaging canoe as it followed the horizon during a three-year journey around the globe. (Craig T. Kojima/The Star-Advertiser via AP)

After 2,830 miles navigating by stars, waves and birds, and propelled by wind, the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea was scheduled to sail into Aquatic Cove at noon Sunday. It was 18 minutes late, which did not matter to hundreds of people waiting in the grandstand.

When the canoe rounded the breakwater, accompanied by paddlers on outriggers and boards, the crowd went silent in a reverie interrupted only by the ancient greeting of conch shells.


“This is big human stuff. I’m going to be emotional,” said Roberta Delgado, who had come down from Sebastopol and was moved to tears. “It reminds us of the values, practices and courage of our ancestors.”

The Hokulea arrived in San Francisco Bay on a Moananuiakea Voyage that held its global launch in Juneau, Alaska, and is set to circumnavigate the Pacific, 43,000 nautical miles that will take four years to complete and involve travel to 36 countries.

The journey is sponsored by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, described by its cultural adviser Randie Fong, as “a family that is joined in the belief that we’re going to lift up humanity by contributing to the healing of the planet through the ocean.”

The 61-foot Hokulea was built in 1975 using traditional methods and has developed a worldwide following, enhanced when chef Anthony Bourdain featured it on one of his travelogue TV series. The twin-hulled canoe is powered by wind captured in two triangular canvas sails and guided by the traditional art of wayfinding.

The boat represents all of Polynesia, a triangular area from the Rapa Nui in the east to the Hawaiian Islands to New Zealand.

“I’m here for the experience of seeing it come into San Francisco Bay,” said Jane Alvarado of San Jose. “It makes me think how grateful I am that all of this can happen. They’re using ancient systems to navigate.”

The maiden leg of the trip was from Junaeu to Yakutat, but navigator Nainoa Thompson said the 800-mile leg of the journey from Tacoma, Wash., to San Francisco Bay was among the most treacherous in the long history of the Hokulea, which has traveled 300,000 miles in all.

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