Hawaiian canoe on worldwide journey stops next in Caribbean

AP News
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Posted: Feb 15, 2016 3:44 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — A traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe is on its way to the Caribbean after completing a 3,500-mile trek across the Atlantic Ocean.

The Hawaiian canoe known as the Hokulea left Brazil on Friday for the next part of its around-the-world journey, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1Tj0q0k ). The crew is expecting an 18-day, 2,400-mile trip to the island of St. John, which is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The double-hulled canoe left Hawaii last year, and its crew members are sailing without modern navigation equipment. Along their three-year journey they are stopping to teach people in other countries about traditional navigation, Native Hawaiian culture and caring for the ocean.

Heidi Guth, a current Hokulea crew member, was born on Maui but grew up on St. John. She called the upcoming sailing leg "a gift to be able to bring my two families together."

"St. John really raised me, that community, and Hokulea and the ohana waa (canoe family) helped make me the adult I am," Guth told the Star-Advertiser in a phone interview from aboard the canoe's deck Friday. "To have these two ohana come together, I'm more humbled than excited."

Guth is the chief operating officer for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which is leading the Hokulea's three-year journey and aims to provide environmental stewardship and cultural harmony. She typically deals with logistics and other behind-the-scenes details.

"It's so nice" to be sailing instead of being behind a desk, she said Friday. "As soon as I got here and had no access to my email, I felt 180 pounds lighter."

She says the tight-knit Caribbean island community is working to protect natural resources and rediscovering its indigenous identity.

"These islands have to survive more sustainably," said Guth. "They're going to identify a lot with Hokulea and our message."

After St. John, the Hokulea plans to continue up the U.S. East Coast for the first time in its 40-year history. The schedule includes stops in Newport News, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and New York.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com