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Hokule’a Closes the Circle

The wa’a Hokule’a sails into Waikiki Bay, wrapping up her circumnavigation of the globe.

© 2017 Lauren Easley

More than 40 years after she was first launched, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule’a has returned to Hawaii after her most ambitious journey yet. Departing in May 2014 and returning this past Saturday to Honolulu, the twin-hulled canoe sailed around 46,000 miles, visiting 23 countries as part of a "Malama Honua" journey to promote environmental conservation and stewardship for "our island earth." Returning to a hero’s welcome and an estimated crowd of 45,000 people, the 61-ft wa’a (voyaging canoe) was joined by wa’a from all over Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific, as well as an escort of more than 1,000 vessels including many canoes, stand-up paddle boards, power boats and sailboats.

Hokule’a arriving at Magic Island in Honolulu following her worldwide voyage

© Phil Uhl

In addition to promoting environmental conservation, the Malama Honua voyage served as a means to continue training more navigators in the ancient — and almost lost — art of using the traditional wayfinding methods of navigating with no instruments or tools, in complete harmony with nature. Named for the star Arcturus — one of the brightest stars in the sky, and one that lies directly over Hawaii and thus guides Hawaiians home — Hokule’a has now become the first-ever boat of its type to circumnavigate the earth.

Hokule’a sailed through Polynesia in 2014-2015, visited New Zealand, Australia and Bali, crossed the Indian Ocean to South Africa, sailed across the Atlantic to Brazil, traveled through the Caribbean and up the East Coast of North America, transited the Canal en route to the South Pacific, then sailed north to Hawaii to complete her circumnavigation.

© Polynesian Voyaging Society

Upon arriving in Honolulu’s Ala Wai Harbor on Saturday morning, Hokule’a and her crew were honored through a traditional Hawaiian ceremony that had not taken place in an incredible 200 years. At Sunday morning’s 4 a.m. low tide, the masts were lowered and the wa’a loaded with nearly 80 crew so that she would ride low enough in the water to clear a low-lying bridge and enter the Ala Wai Canal, where she was docked in front of the Hawaii Convention Center. For three days, from Sunday through Tuesday, Hokule’a was the main attraction at a free-to-the-public convention promoting stewardship for the environment. See

Hokule’a has been docked in front of the convention center in Honolulu this week.

© 2017 Ronnie Simpson

Malama Honua is not just the name of a sailing voyage; in Hawaii it is a way of life. Recently, after the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, Hawaii’s governor David Ige — inspired by Hokule’a — made formal arrangements for the state to individually adopt the major components of the accord, in an effort to Malama Honua, or "care for our island earth."

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