Far from home, Hokulea takes ‘heritage sail’ to honor a precious gift from years ago
YAKUTAT, ALASKA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hokulea and its crew are preparing to embark on a four-year, Pacific-wide journey. But before that begins, the voyaging canoe’s crew started a “heritage sail” in Yakutat, Alaska.
The journey there started with Hokulea leaving her homeport of Honolulu in April onboard a container ship.
To get to Yakutat, an isolated town in southeastern Alaska, the only way in is by plane or boat.
Only 600 people live here while cold crisp air and pristine nature surrounds you.
SPECIAL SECTION: Hokulea Pacific Voyage
Before kicking off Moananuiakea, the four-year voyage around the Pacific in June, the crew is conducting its heritage sail to say thank you to indigenous communities in Alaska, especially to the family of business, political and cultural leader Byron Mallott. He was born in Yakutat and died three years ago.
Mallott donated two spruce trees used to build a second Hawaiian canoe, Hawaiiloa, more than 30 years ago.
On a recent day, his family sailed on Hokulea with Polynesian Voyaging Society President and pwo master navigator Nainoa Thompson. Together, they honored Mallott as they sought to carry his spirit on the voyage.
“There is so much about Uncle Nainoa that reminds us of our grandpa in a way like he is still with us,” said Martha Mallott, Byron Mallott’s granddaughter.
“This is a homecoming. We are bringing my grandpa home,” she added.
Thompson said the trek to Yakutat was about keeping a promise to a dear friend.
“We made a commitment to bring the canoe even though we didn’t know how to do it,” he said.
It took about a half hour to sail from Mallott’s house to the dock at the Yakutat Boat Harbor.
“I would just say how do you describe when you are overcome with a lot of emotions, a lot of happiness and a lot of memories of the connection,” said Toni Mallott, Byron Mallott’s widow.
Chris Blake, Hokulea crew member, called the trek an “amazing opportunity” to honor Mallott and his family.
This is Hokulea’s first visit to Alaska.
Here, it’s two thirds of the way to the North Pole and the farthest north the Hawaiian voyaging canoe has ever been.
“The gulf of Alaska is really dangerous place to be out in,” said Thompson.
Wearing cold weather gear, the crew is battling temperatures in the 40s. With wind chill it goes down to the 30s.
Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.