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Kauai Set To Launch Island's First Voyaging Canoe

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon
/

More than 17 years in the making, Kaua‘i’s first traditional voyaging canoe is ready to set sail. The island plans to celebrate with a launch party Sunday, September 11. HPR’s Molly Solomon visited the Garden Isle recently and has this report.

Nearly two decades ago, three Kaua‘i watermen hatched a plan: build the island’s first long distance canoe. One of those men was Dennis Chun, and he still hasn’t given up on that idea. Every weekend since, he and a group of 6 to 12 people show up at N?wiliwili Harbor.

Molly Solomon
Credit Molly Solomon
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Dennis Chun is one of the three original builders of Namahoe, Kauai's first traditional voyaging canoe.

At 72 feet long, the canoe is impressively large. Its wide berths stand out from its slimmer older sister’s, H?k?le‘a. Chun says that’s no accident. He built it with fellow voyagers John Kruse and Patrick Aiu, both well over 6 feet tall.

“John is like 6’3”, Pat is about 6’4”,” said Chun. “They’re big guys. And for them H?k?le‘a was always cramped. Lying down on the hatches over here, their feet banging somebody’s head, you know, that kind of stuff.”

Chun, a Hawaiian Studies professor at Kaua‘i Community College has recruited several of his colleagues and former students to help with the canoe. Many are here today, like Kaimi Hermosura who drove all the way from Hanalei. He’s been spending his weekends building the canoe since he was in high school.

“It’s a calling, a part of our identity too,” said Hermosura. “Honestly it has a mind of its own. It just makes you get up in the morning, something positive to look forward to.”

Molly Solomon
Credit Molly Solomon
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For the past 17 years, Kauai community members have been coming together to build the canoe. Several showed up on a recent Saturday to sand long pieces of wood.

The canoe was given the name Namahoe, which means gemini and serves as the guiding constellation from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i.

Chun, a longtime H?k?le‘a crew member, said it was important that Kaua‘i have its own vessel. H?k?le‘a, which is currently sailing around the world, docks on O‘ahu, and only makes occasional trips to the garden island.

Molly Solomon
Credit Molly Solomon
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Kaimi Hermosura from Haena, the north shore of Kauai, comes every weekend to work on the canoe.

“The opportunities for the island community to have that voyaging curriculum are few and far between and has not sustained,” Chun explained. “That’s one of the main reasons why we started it, to serve the community more and have that opportunity available.”

And while it’s taken much longer than he originally anticipated, Chun says it’s given more people the chance to be a part of creating this canoe.

“The more hands that touch this vessel as we’re building it, that’s the more mana that goes into it,” said Chun. “Then we’ll know, and the community will know, what’s really on this canoe. If we go to a shop, that’s just another production thing. There’s no spirit to it.”

The spirit behind Namahoe will certainly be there this Sunday, as she’s launched into the water for the first time.  The public is invited to celebrate Sunday September 11th, 2016 at Kalapaki Beach and the Marriott Kaua?i walkway. Entertainment and activities will begin at 9:30 a.m.

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