Mālama Kumu in South Africa

November 19, 2015

We arrived at the pier this clear, crisp South African morning. Hōkūle'a resting peacefully on the green harbor water, her sails folded, inconspicuous and away from the busy pedestrian traffic above on deck and protected from the wakes of vessels entering and exiting the harbor.

There we were joined with the kumu and haumāna of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama and Halau Kū Mana and the 'Oiwi production team to prepare to meet the Hōkūle'a crew on this first morning of her stay in Cape Town. Circled in prayer, we settled our hearts and minds and were reminded of the great opportunity we have to be partnering with this unique and amazing mission.

This morning had been set aside for us to meet the crew as they shared their experiences of the voyage. We stepped aboard the canoe and gathered close, students seated near the feet of captain and navigator Nainoa Thompson, with the crew flanking him. Nainoa addressed the youth directly, as a father teaches his children, kneeling at eye level and speaking in a soft tone.

As we listened, we heard in his voice a commitment to a true purpose. "When we first started thinking about taking this dangerous voyage, we had to ask if it was really worth the risk. But we realized that if we leave the canoe tied to the dock, we will never get the chance to make a difference in this world. We had to go. It isn't about us, but about a bigger cause" he explained.

He introduced each crew member by giving specific insight into their role, personality and value as a team member. He emphasized the importance of safety on the voyage and how teamwork and respect play a vital role in keeping the crew and canoe intact.

This leg of the voyage had been the most challenging and dangerous so far for the Hōkūle'a. Concerns of high winds, rogue waves, freezing rain, cold ocean water, and even the threat of piracy dictated her every move. As she neared Cape Town, Hōkūle'a had to duck into ports along the African coast to wait out bad weather, but their perseverance paid off and half way around the world from Hawai'i, Hōkūle'a pulled into port on schedule.

Nainoa then encouraged us to break off into groups with individual crew members and ask them about their stories. "They all love to tell stories" he chuckled. For the next hour, we witnessed a unifying of the people of Hawaiʻi on the deck of Hōkūle'a. Powerful personal stories were shared about sailing, families, relationships, courage, struggles, love … life.

I believe that on this day, we really understood the true mission of the voyage and why we have traveled halfway around the globe to share in it. We have a responsibility to educate, share, support and engage with the people of South Africa. We have come to share the message of mālama honua and share aloha.

Submitted by Matt Martinson

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