Hōkūleʻa: Financing the Voyage

Aug 16, 2017

The Mahalo, Hawaiʻi sail kicks off this afternoon, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society has a lot to mahalo. For most of its 40 plus years in existence, PVS has been a small budget operation until now. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports.

Before the World Wide Voyage, Polynesian Voyaging Society CEO Clyde Nāmuʻo was dealing with a program that had an annual budget of less than $1 million.

“All of a sudden you had a program that had expenditures that had $10 million a year,” says Nāmuʻo, “So you know, just to give you an idea of how much time, energy and effort goes into something like that.”

Hōkūleʻa completed its historic 40,000 nautical mile journey to 23 countries and territories, with a price tag of $30 million.

“Ramping up to a $30 million project was definitely a big step,” says Nāmuʻo, “And again I think that’s why there were people in Hawaiʻi that wasn’t sure whether PVS had the capacity to manage something as large as the World Wide Voyage given the cost.”

Nonetheless, PVS received an overwhelming $20 million in in-kind donations, including airfare and lodging for crew members, and $10 million in cash donations. The unexpected surprise was the outpouring of financial support from Hawaiʻi.

“It was such a large sum of money the consensus was that you would need large corporations,” says Nāmuʻo, “But what we have found is about 85 percent of the money, the cash that was raised came from Hawaiʻi foundations.”

Now that they’re back home, fundraising efforts are focused on the Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail – a statewide voyage where PVS will engage with schools, organizations, and community members through canoe tours, service projects and more. The price tag?

“$300,000 is the estimate that we’ve come up with. And that includes hotels, if we have to put crewmembers up in hotels. It includes food. It includes insurance. It includes fuel for the escort vessels,” says Nāmuʻo.

Compared to the three-year World Wide Voyage, raising several hundred thousand dollars seems like a drop in the bucket. But Nāmuʻo admits…

“It is gonna be a little bit harder for us because I think people feel that well, you know, it’s over. And it’s really hard to remind them that it’s not over,” says Nāmuʻo.

On top of the statewide sail, PVS has follow-up work to do on Mālama Hōnua’s environmental initiatives and plans to raise funds to purchase Hikianalia, the sister vessel that accompanied Hōkūle’a around the world. Many people may not realize the PVS does not yet own the vessel.

“The vessel is valued at approximately $1 million. It was a donation or it was constructed by a German industrialist called Dieter Paulmann,” says Nāmuʻo, “And it was always a promise that we would eventually pay for it.”