Salt Spring’s deep connection to the Hawaiian Islands was reaffirmed this week as islanders welcomed a very special sailing vessel carrying a timely message into Ganges Harbour.
Voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa arrived in early evening Saturday, Aug. 12 to a warm greeting on Salt Spring Island as the iconic vessel finished a long day’s crossing from Vancouver. Representatives from multiple First Nations as well as islanders of Hawaiian descent and well-wishers from across Salt Spring gathered at the Kanaka Dock bringing drums, food, smiles and heartfelt messages of support as the celebration was tempered by news of the deadly fires on the island of Maui.
Hōkūleʻa and her crew have been sailing for more than two months, since the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) held its global launch of the “Moananuiākea Voyage” in Juneau, Alaska on June 15. The current leg of their journey began in Prince Rupert in July, sailing to Klemtu, Bella Bella, Hakai, Port Hardy, Alert Bay and Campbell River, with the crew engaging with First Nations communities at each stop.
The Moananuiākea Voyage, “A Voyage for Oceans, A Voyage for Earth” is Hōkūle‘a’s 15th major voyage since her launch nearly 50 years ago from Kāne‘ohe Bay on the island of O‘ahu.
It’s hard to overstate the vessel’s significance for Hawaiians — there’s a Hōkūleʻa licence plate available through the Aloha State’s motor vehicle department, with proceeds going to support PVS. The name means “Star of Gladness,” a zenith star of Hawai’i, and she was designed by Herb Kawainui Kāne — an artist, historian and one of the founders of PVS. Her launching was one of several events during that time marking a generation of renewal for Hawai‘i’s Indigenous people — traditions of voyaging and navigation, but also of Hawaiian language, dance, chant and many other expressions of Hawaiian culture.
This voyage also brings a message of climate awareness, and will cover an estimated 43,000 nautical miles around the Pacific, visiting 36 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 Indigenous territories and more than 300 ports. The poignance of that message was not lost this week; as communities on Maui begin to recover from the recent devastating wildfires at Lāhaina, volunteers on Salt Spring organized a fundraising pig roast dinner held at the Harbour House. Donations were also accepted onboard the canoe during several days of crew-led free tours, benefitting the Maui Relief Fund.
Hōkūleʻa next plans to visit Victoria, then enter Washington State and U.S. waters; the crew intends to sail this voyage through 2027.
Founded in 1973, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mission is to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, each other, and their natural and cultural environments.
Visit hokulea.com to follow their voyage.