Portraits of Voyagers, 2000
Text and Photos by Sam Low
Abraham "Snake" Ah Hee
"My father taught me to get lobster without a spear," Snake Ah Hee explains, "you have to gentle, have a good hand, or you spoil the hole. If you do it right you can come back in a few days and there will be another lobster there."
Snake was born on March 18, 1946 in Lahaina, Maui. He lived for a time with his great grandfather who had a house on the ocean outside town. "It was a fishing family," he explains, "we had nets and canoes and ever since I was a small kid my dad took me fishing. I learned the different areas to fishing, how to find the fish, how the current moves, how to steer a canoe using Japanese oars." Snakes's father, Abraham Ah Hee, Sr., was called "Froggy" by his friends because he could stay underwater and swim like a frog. Like most Hawaiians, Snake began to surf as a young boy. Gradually becoming comfortable in big waves. He surfed for a time with the Wind and Sea Surf Club, a California group, and in contests often went home with a cup marked "first place." Later he was on the Gregg Knoll surf team and paddled for the Lahaina Canoe Club where he was also a coach. "I still love to surf," Snake says, " and I hope to do it into my eighties. The ocean has taken hold of me spiritually and mentally. I think its because its tied in with my family, with being raised on the ocean."
Snake graduated from Lahainaluna High School in 1964 and continued to work as a life guard at a variety of hotels on Maui. He joined the National Guard and was called up in 1968 to go on Active duty--one tour in Vietnam. He served in the Southern zone of war--not to far from Saigon. He rose to be a squad leader in charge of patrols. "It made my mind stronger," he says, "more adult. It taught me the value of life. It's crazy to fight. I hope that my children will never have to go to war I want to see peace--all the time--all over the world."
Snake has five children, three girls and two boys: Malia Mahealani, Nainoa Chad, Makalea Rose, Mau Nukuhiva, and David. It is not an accident that the names Nainoa, Chad and Mau appear in this family. "Hokule`a brought all her crew together, "Snake says, "we're like a family of brothers and sisters. I can go anywhere in Hawaii and stay with my `ohana--on the Big Island, for example, I stay with Shorty or Tava or Chad; on Moloka`i maybe with Mel Paoa or Penny Rawlins. I might not see them for a year but when I do it seems like just a short time."
In 1975 Snake first heard about Hokule`a and that she would sail to Tahiti, but he had never had an opportunity to see her. "Then one day I was in my truck on the way to the canoe beach and I saw this boat coming from Lana`i. 'What's that?' I thought. I stopped my truck. I had never seen anything like it before."
Later, George Paoa and Sam Ka`ai came to the beach where Snake was lifeguarding and asked him to be a member of the crew. He began training right away and was chosen to be on the crew for the return trip from Tahiti to Hawai`i. That's where he first met Nainoa. "That trip gave me a real good feeling on the inside," Snake remembers, "It was a good thing for my generation. The canoe makes us strong in mind and spirit--close to our culture. If not for the canoe I won't say that our culture would be lost, but it would be weaker. It helped bring back the language, and helped bring back the community, not only in Hawai`i but throughout all the Pacific--wherever she has stopped."
"On this trip," he continues, "I am here to teach the younger generation who are sailing with us--how to take care of themselves and each other--how to be humble. For me that's the one key part. If you are humble everything will be fine. Everyone will think the same, work the same; be closer together. Only if you are humble can you learn."
Chad Baybayan: Wayfinding
Chad Baybayan stands about five feet eight inches. He has a swimmer's body, suggesting a capability of delivering powerful strokes and a strong finishing kick. He is dark both by genetic makeup (he is part Hawaiian, part Filipino) and because he spends a lot of time in the sun attending to his duties as one of Hokule'a's navigators. Chad will readily tell you that voyaging aboard the canoe has been the seminal experience of his life - accounting for the fact that he is about to receive a master's degree in education, for his happy marriage and fatherhood, for his inner sense of confidence.
"When I first saw Hokule'a in 1975, it just grabbed my heart. I knew that if there was anything in my life that I wanted to do it was sail on her."
For a time, it appeared that Chad's wish might not happen. Chad was too young for the 1976 voyage to Tahiti. In 1978, when the canoe swamped on a second journey, it looked like voyaging might end. But shortly thereafter, new management took over the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Baybayan spent countless hours working with sandpaper and paintbrush, helping to overhaul the canoe for another voyage. In 1980 he made his first ocean passage to Tahiti as the "youngest member of the crew" and began to study navigation by "asking Nainoa Thompson (the canoe's navigator) a lot of questions." During the next nineteen years he spent as much time as he could afford aboard the canoe, eventually working his way up the informal hierarchy to full fledged navigator.
Among Hokule'a's navigators (there are three other fully qualified ones - Nainoa Thompson, Shorty Bertelmann, Bruce Blankenfeld) Chad may be the most charismatic, and it is for this reason that he is often chosen to be the Voyaging Society's spokesman. So it was that one evening in May of 1999 (98?), Chad stepped forward to talk to crew candidates for the upcoming voyage between Hawaii and Rapa Nui. The men and women assembled before him were about to go through a final four day training session that would include an open ocean swim of nearly two miles, a sail aboard Hokule'a, and many hours of testing their navigation and seamanship skills. They all knew each other well. Most of them, excluding a few young rookies, had sailed on previous voyages during the canoe's twenty-five year career.
"You are all here because you share a powerful vision for Hawaii," Baybayan told them. "And that vision joins you together across differences in ethnicity and race and where you may have been born and raised. You share a common desire to make this world better."
Baybayan's notion of ethnic and racial unity was not always a part of the voyaging consciousness. The early 1970s marked a cultural revival among Hawaiians that inspired not only pride but also renewed painful memories of a history marked by near genocide, loss of land, and culture. The times were ripe for sectarianism. On the first voyage to Tahiti in 1976 - a near mutiny was inspired by some crewmembers who felt that only authentic Hawaiians, as they defined it, should be allowed aboard the canoe. But now, almost twenty-five years later, seated before Baybayan were men and women of many extractions - Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Hawaiian, Portuguese, German, English, American. They had shared hundreds of hours working together during which potential differences between them had come to mean not a whit.
Confronting the sea on long voyages, Chad has had much time to integrate all that he has learned and he has done so by bundling an astonishing number of lessons into a general philosophy that he (and the other sailors and navigators as well) calls "wayfinding."
Chad distinguishes wayfinding from navigation - the technical art of finding land without the use of instruments or charts. He will tell you that wayfinding is "a way of organizing the world." He has also said that it's "a way of leading," "of finding a vision," "a set of values," "how to take care of the earth," and, in general, "a model for living my life."
Chad's vision of wayfinding eventually evolved to contain principals that appear astonishingly universal and timeless, while, at the same time, being rooted in values that Hawaiians have come to recognize as inherent in their own unique history. Values like vision, for example.
"Our ancestors began all of their voyages with a vision," Baybayan explained during his talk to the assembled crew. "They could see another island over the horizon and they set out to find these islands for a thousand years, eventually moving from one island stepping stone to another across a space that is larger than all of the continents of Europe combined."
"After many years, I began to understand that wayfinding was really a model for living," Chad continued. "Once you have the vision of a landfall over the horizon, you need to develop a plan to get there, how you are going to navigate, how much food you need. You must evaluate the kinds of skills you need to carry out the plan and then you must train yourself to get those skills. You need discipline to train. Then, when you leave land, you must have a cohesive crew - a team - and that requires aloha - a deep respect for each other. The key to wayfinding is to employ all these values. You are talking about running a ship, getting everybody on board to support the intent of the voyage, and getting everybody to work together. So it's all there - vision, planning, training, discipline and aloha for others. After a while, if you apply all those values, it becomes a way of life."
Chad Baybayan's concept of wayfinding is not exclusive to him. It is, in fact, a voyaging subculture shared by everyone who is attracted to the canoe and who sticks around long enough to learn the lessons it has to teach.
In the last decade or so, the philosophy of wayfinding has "moved ashore" so to speak. New words have entered the wayfinding vocabulary, "stewardship" for example, or "sustainable environments." Lessons learned at sea are now being applied to the land. The ancient philosophy of wayfinding is now merging with the new world view of environmentalism, as Chad explains:
"To be a wayfinder, you need certain skills - a strong background in ocean sciences, oceanography, meteorology, environmental sciences - so that you have a strong grounding in how the environment works. When you voyage, you become much more attuned to nature. You begin to see the canoe as nothing more than a tiny island surrounded by the sea. We have everything aboard the canoe that we need to survive as long as we marshal those resources well. We have learned to do that. Now we have to look at our islands, and eventually the planet, in the same way. We need to learn to be good stewards."
This new vision is at the core of the Voyaging Society's "Malama Hawaii" program which we celebrate on this voyage home.
"At the beginning of this new millennium, we honor the first 25 years of Hokule'a's life and the achievements we've all realized working together," Nainoa writes in an open letter on this web site. "Since 1975, the canoe has sailed more than 90,000 miles, taking us to each of the points of the Polynesian Triangle. We've learned a lot during these voyages--the power behind shared vision, the energy generated through collaboration, the continuing thrill of exploration and discovery and the joy of kinship."
"But by far, the most compelling lesson we've learned in all of our travels has to do with home. We've come to appreciate anew, the uniqueness of Hawaii and her people and our responsibility to work together to maintain that uniqueness."
"Learning to live well on islands is a microcosm of learning to live well everywhere. Here in Hawaii we are surrounded by the world's largest ocean, but Earth itself is also a kind of island, surrounded by an ocean of space. In the end, every single one of us - no matter what our ethnic background or nationality - is native to this planet. As the native community of Earth we should all ensure that the next century is the century of pono - of balance - between all people, all living things and the resources of our planet."
Tava was born in Taiohae on Nukuhiva, Marquesas Islands on April 6, 1945. His father worked on a sailboat that made interisland trips carrying passengers such as the governor or one of the priests who served the various islands. As a young man he went to Tahiti to learn to carve wooden tikis from his uncle Joseph Kimitete. Pape'ete was a place where young Tahtitians like to rough up boys from the outlying islands, so Tava learned to box. "When I went boxing, I got proud," he recalls. "I was amateur, six rounds. I won't drink anymore, I exercise, forget kid stuff, no more smoking cigarettes." What Tava doesn't tell you is that he was the lightweight champion of French Polynesia.
"I first learned about Tava's boxing when I was on a voyage with him in 1980," recalls Chad Baybayan. "We were going to go out on the town and Tava began to get dressed up. Then he stood in front of the mirror and began shadowboxing. It was scary. I always knew him as an extremely gentle person, and now I was seeing his wild side. When we went into the bars, he would walk in the door like a superstar. People came up to talk to him and I was surprised how many people knew him in Pape'ete."
In 1970 Tava came to Hawai'i on a visa arranged by Kimitete's son and worked at the Polynesian Cultural Center in La'ie building traditional houses and carving tikis--in general carrying on the traditional arts of the Marquesas.
In 1975, he saw Hokule'a for the first time. "When I first saw Hokule'a, I think 'what is this big canoe?' I never see big canoe like this in the Marquesas. We have 30-foot canoes with outriggers, single canoe, not double canoes. I am excited. It all comes back to me--my ancestors. I feel my ancestors all around me. I wonder how they sail this canoe? how they survive on the ocean?
"Right after seeing her, I began to work on her. I work at my job all week and go spend weekends working on the canoe."
In 1975 Tava sailed on Hokule'a interisland. Later he learned from Mau Piailug how to build canoes in the traditional Pacific Island way, with sennit for lashing and coconut husk and breadfruit sap for caulking.
At about the same time, he met Nainoa, who was just beginning to study the stars: "I met Nainoa at Ala Wai. He is a very quiet guy because there is something he is learning by himself--the stars. I see him looking at the sky. I never know what he is looking at. 'What you looking?' I ask. He say, 'I looking at stars. I learning navigation, to be a navigator.' I try speaking Tahitian to him but he no understand me. He look at me and say, 'Sorry I can't understand.' He was really quiet, and I very quiet too. I ask him what he looking at and he point to the sky. 'You see that star over there?' he says. He tells me navigator star. I don't know which one. I say to myself, 'What that, navigator star?' I keep quiet but I thinking, What that, navigator star?"
Since meeting Nainoa and beginning to sail on Hokule'a, Tava has sailed at least one leg on each major voyage. "I always ask Tava to come with me," Nainoa says. "Tava loves the canoe and what it stands for. He gives the canoe his life, and the canoe gives him her life. Tava takes care of me while I am at sea and he provides a net of security around the entire crew. He makes it comfortable for me to concentrate on navgiation."
During one voyage Nainoa made with Tava, an important piece of equipment went overboard, and Nainoa impulsively went in after it. When he finally got back on board, he was shivering uncontrollably--near hypothermia. "I was just sitting there on deck unable to get warm and Tava came up from behind me and hugged me; he shared his warmth so his friend would not be cold."
Tava's personality emerges from what others say about him:
--He's genuinely kind. He lives by the standards he learned as a child growing up in the Marquesas."
--He bridges the gap between the old and the new,between traditional and modern society. If you see him being greeted by the older people throughout Polynesia, you see the respect he is given.
--He is powerfully intelligent, yet clear and direct in his thoughts and expression. He is clear about his role on this canoe.
--He has a pure spirit and puts me at ease when I'm with him.
--He sees what needs to be done and does it. He makes himself an integral part of doing any task. There is no work too hard for him.
--He is a quiet, caring and gentle perosn, always there when you need him.
--One of the most loving human beings I have ever met.
--To look at him, you would be scared. Who is this guy--bald headed and mean looking? But he is a kind, kind man.
--First impressions of Tava can be off-putting--his head is shaven and he is clearly a strong man. If you saw him in a dark alley, you would surely turn around and walk the other way. That impression is rapidly dispelled when you meet him. There is a firm welcoming hand shake and a smile so genuine that it warms the room.
It was surely the warm, loving side of Tava that his wife Cheryl saw in 1980 when they first met. Tava and Cheryl have two children--Rio, 18, and Helena, 6. Today when Tava is not sailing, he works for the National Park Service at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, as a cultural expert, demonstrating wood carving and canoe making.
"I like working there. Sometimes I work in the halau, sometimes I work on the roof, sometimes carving, or building a stone wall."
Over the last 25 years Tava has become so integral to Hokule'a that to see her without him standing on her deck at the forward manu, dressed in his bright red malo would be like seeing the canoe with only one mast--or with some other key part of her missing. Yet this trip back from Tahiti may be his last. "It's time for retirement. I am 55 years old. I like see my wife on the land. I like build my house now. I am excited." Even so, in conversation with him on this voyage, it is clear that what Nainoa says of Tava is true--that he gives life to the canoe and receives life from her. When he leaves Hokule'a he will leave an important part of his life behind. "I will be sad because I am used to voyaging. But better for me to stay on land. I feel like crying, but I no cry. That is my rule--always show a smile to the canoe."
It's not that he will ever leave the canoe or her family competely, because he plans to make interisland voyages aboard her and because he knows he has left a part of himself behind with the new younger crew members.
"I come on the canoe when I am young, and now I am looking. Maybe some of the young people are like me. It's time to leave the canoe, so the young people can learn. You have to learn to sail by hand--how to steer, how to trice, how to look at other people, how to behave. The canoe's mana means all the crew take care of the canoe and the canoe take care of the crew. The canoe take you all the way home."
"When I no sail, I no feel bad if I have trained other people. It is for you now, like Chad, like Bruce, like Shantell, like other young people. It's your turn."
A generation or so ago two Bertelmann brothers married two Lindsey sisters and the trajectory of history in the Big Island town of Waimea shifted slightly. Glenn Bertelmann and Delsa Lindsey had seven children and Clay Bertelmann and Deedee Lindsey produced five - a tight family with deep roots in a much larger `ohana that thrived beneath the gentle catenary arc of Mauna Kea . In Clay and Deedee's family, Pomaikalani was the first-born - on March 7, 1973 , in Honoka`a. At the time, her father was a well known Parker Ranch cowboy, so it's not surprising that young Pomai grew to love horses - in fact, animals of all kinds.
"I was basically raised on my family's ranch and riding was a passion since I can remember," Pomai says. "I also worked as a kid on Hale Kea ranch in Waimea, fixing fences, raking the arenas, exercising horses and taking care of the livestock."
Waimea was less dressy in those days, an informal rural town where children could safely ride horses along the main street and in the surrounding empty pastures. They rode to the Dairy Queen drive-up window to order hamburgers, they staged informal barrel and baton races and played "musical chairs" in the vast empty prairie just outside town.
"A sense of community was second nature among us," Pomai says, "there were kids from all the families - the Keakealani family, also Rebozos, De Silvas, Kimuras, Lindseys - a lot of Lindseys - Kainoas, Colemans, Kanihos, Kaauas, Bergins, Awaas, Purdeys and the Fergerstrom family - to name a few. All of us were kaukalio (riding horses)."
One of the biggest events in Waimea was the fourth of July rodeo organized by the Parker Ranch Roundup Club where cowboys from the ranch's numerous divisions competed in various events - cutting, roping, racing.
"The cowboy life style was not exclusive of women, not at all. There were a lot of awesome women riders too. Lorraine Urbic sat a horse like no one else, and she won a lot of races. Then, just to name a few, there was Hoppy Whitehead, Val Hanohano, and Peewee Lindsey - all of them very strong people - great role models for us."
But life in Waimea embraced more than the land-based culture of the Paniolo.
"One of my fondest memories," Pomai explains, "was loading up the family Bronco with my mom and dad and the five of us kids and then picking up all my cousins and food and camping gear and heading for the beach. We went to a place called Wailea at Puako. There was no one there in those days. We had the place all to ourselves. Right next to where we used to camp there's a telephone pole with the number "69" printed on it. Since then, things have changed. Malahini now call Wailea "number sixty-nine". When you lose the real Hawaiian name, you lose a lot.”
At Wailea and other places, Pomai learned to dive with her father and she enjoyed fishing but never really grew fond of other water sports. As a youngster it was always the life kaukalio and with animals that attracted her most. But in 1975, her Uncle Shorty sailed aboard Hokule`a on her maiden voyage to Tahiti .
"We supported him as a family, and whenever the canoe came to the Big Island we helped care for her and her crew."
During the series of voyages between 1985 and 1987, Pomai's father Clay sailed often aboard Hokule`a.
"He was away at sea for maybe six months during those two years, and I began to wonder a little about the kind of life he was leading."
Gradually, Pomai's family was becoming more and more entwined with the sea. From 1989 to 1991 the Bertelmann family helped search the forests surrounding Mauna Kea for koa logs to build Hawai`iloa. They cooked and packed food for the searchers, walked side by side with them during long weekend treks - took a key role in the entire process. Ultimately, so devastated were Hawai`i 's forests, that no logs were found and the canoe was built instead of Alaskan spruce. But from this effort, Mauloa was born - the first traditionally made Hawaiian six man coastal canoe fashioned within perhaps centuries.
"We did find Koa logs big enough for a smaller canoe," Pomai explains. "We went to Keahou to fell the trees and we lived there over a long weekend in tents."
The canoe builders used adzes that they fashioned from stone gathered at the ancient Keanakakao`i adze quarry on Mauna Kea under the watchful eye of Mau Piailug. From 1991 to 1993, Pomai's father Clay spent every weekend at Pu`uhonua O Honaunau working on the canoe.
"In traditional times women were not allowed to work on canoes so we supported the men," Pomai explains. "Mauloa was built by the Na kalai wa`a - the canoe builders - from Koa and Breadfruit sap and sennit and Lauhala, her hulls were smoothed by stones and she was given a sheen with Kukui oil.
In 1992, Pomai went with her father to O`ahu to help him prepare for Hokule`a's voyage to the Cook Islands . There she met a group of young people who were beginning to assume leadership roles - Moana Doi, Keahi Omai, Ka`au McKenney and Chadd Paishon, who she would eventually marry.
"I began to think seriously about my life in 1992," she remembers, "and as I learned more about the values involved in voyaging, I thought I wanted them in my own life. Voyaging gave me a sense of family - which was familiar since I had grown up in a strong supportive family - and it gave me a connection to my cultural roots. And when Mau Piailug began to stay with us I met a man who had done so much for our people - how could I not be excited?"
Next came Makali`i - the Big Island canoe built by a passionate community effort spearheaded by Clay, Shorty and Tiger Espere. Beginning work in January 1994, the canoe was finished the following December. In September, Pomai became - as she puts it - "a one woman administrative staff," for Na Kalai Wa`a Moku O Hawai`i - The Canoe Builders of Hawai`i. She was hooked.
In 1995, Pomai sailed aboard Makali`i from Tahiti , through the Marquesas, and back to Hawai`i. "Then in 1997, Mau asked us to take him home to Satawal on Makali`i and, of course, there was no question about it." In February of 1999, Makali`i raised anchor and set out on the voyage called E Mau - "Sailing the Master Home."
"We sailed to many islands in Micronesia to honor Mau among his own people," says Pomai. "On Satawal I saw Mau as a complete man for the first time - not just as a navigator - but also as a father, a husband, a fisherman, a farmer - you should see his taro patch. I have never seen him so happy."
Soon after Makali`i returned from Micronesia , Pomai was once again deeply immersed in organizing the details of caring for the canoe and organizing it's many educational voyages. Through the intimate grapevine of Hawaiian sailors, she learned of Hokule`a's upcoming voyage to Rapa Nui . "I also heard that it might be Nainoa's last voyage as a navigator," she remembers, "and I was heart broken. I always wanted to sail with him. I thought I might never get the chance." A short time later, Nainoa called and invited her to come aboard Hokule`a for the fifth leg - the voyage home.
"This is such an honor for me," Pomai says, "to have a chance to not only learn from Nainoa but from the greatest sailors of the last quarter century of traditional voyaging - from Uncle Snake and Uncle Mike and Uncle Tava. I'm now sailing with the guys who started the renewal of our ancient voyaging arts and contributed to the beginning of the revival of our Hawaiian culture."
Shantell Ching--In the Zone
For the last week Shantell Ching, navigating Hokule'a home, has gone without appreciable sleep. "I catnap" she says, " and maybe get one and a half to two hours of sleep a day. Last night I was so tired that my head was bouncing. I like to sit in the navigator's seat but I was afraid I might go to sleep and fall overboard so I moved over to the platform and sat there".
What Shantell is going through is part of any navigators rite of passage-attaining the mental and physical stamina needed to constantly process a steady flow of information and make good decisions to ensure the safety of the canoe and her crew.
"It takes a lot at adjusting just to get in synch with the ocean after having been on land for so long, " Shantell explains, "and I need to get to the point where I can mentally see the canoe in the middle of the star compass in the middle of the ocean so that when I look around the canoe I can see the compass points on the horizon. I have to reorient myself to the southern stars, for example, to get to the point where I don't have to mentally think about where they will come up but I seem to know by instinct".
Most top athletes report attaining a similar " instinctual" sense when they are performing at their peak. Basketball players, for example, report a sense of having " eyes in the back of their heads", meaning they can sense what is happening in the court all around them-how the other players will move, where the ball will be. "I'm in the zone" they say. Sports psychologists say that entering the zone requires first mastering the basics of the game in the right hand rational side of our brain so well that we can switch over to employing the left side, the artistic and instinctual side of our brain and be truly creative. The process that Shantell Ching describes seems to be similar. She's entering her own version of "the zone".
"I am gradually getting the entire sky in my head, "Shantell explains, " and I am getting a good feel for how the waves that we use for telling direction make the canoe feel when we're steering different courses. I also need to get in complete synch with the canoe to feel in my own body when she is pinched too far in to the wind or when she is sailing too far off the wind- when she is struggling and when she is free."
"I don't think that lack of sleep is a problem anymore, " she continues. "I can be immersed in the navigation, for example, and when we encounter the beginning of a squall I snap right out of it and know exactly what to do. I am right there"."I have been learning about navigation now for six years and this is a chance to apply what I've learned. If I am successful the credit goes to my teachers--Nainoa and to Bruce and Chad. And really to all the teachers who inspired me. When I was in elementary school I was too young to understand how important math would be in my life but alot of navigation is basic math-addition, subtraction, simple trig. Now, when I solve a math problem in my head, I thank all those teachers who were strict with me".
"I can see Hawai'i in my mind and that's a good sign. Nainoa taught me that to find an island you first have to see it mentally and thats also what Mau taught him."
"When I was younger I fished with my Dad every summer," says Joey Mallott. "We went tower trolling for salmon and long lining for halibut in the Gulf of Alaska. It was a lot of hard work and long hours. The waters were rough and cold. We also fished for Coho salmon in the Inside Passage. Sometimes the water was mild and we would nest up with other boats in an isolated cove, cook dinner, tell stories. In the morning we woke up surrounded by an almost undisturbed wilderness. It was beautiful."
The Inside Passage is a legendary waterway--often violent and extremely dangerous, about which author Jonathan Rabin wrote this in his recent book, Passage to Juneau: "The water on which NW Indians lived their daily lives was full of danger and disorder; seething white through rocky passages, liable to turn violent at the first hint of a contrary wind, plagued with fierce and deceptive currents. The whirlpool--capable of ingesting a whole cedar tree, and then spitting it out again like a cherry pit--was a central symbol of the sea at large, and all its terrors."
Joey was born in Anchorage, Alaska on June 2nd, 1977 to Byron and Toni Mallott. Through his father, he was also born into the Killer Whale clan of the Eagle moiety of the Tlingit Nation and through his mother into an Athabaskan group of people--more specifically the Koyukon Tribe who lived in the interior of Alaska on the Yukon River.
"I spent most of my summers growing up in small Indian villages," Joey says. "My parents wanted me to have that kind of experience, living in small indigenous communities rather than in big cities."
Joey's father, Byron Mallott, is well known among his people. He was born in a time when it was still probable to see signs posted which said "No Indians and Dogs Allowed." "From a young age he has been motivated from a strong desire to help his people," Joey says, "because he saw a lot of pain among them and the problems of poverty, alcoholism and high rates of illness and early death. He worked hard all his life. When he was only 18 he captained a 56 foot schooner from Washington to Yakutat on the inland passage."
Growing up on this difficult ocean, Byron Mallott learned early to be determined in reaching his goals, either at sea or on land among his people.
As a young man of only 34, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Sea Alaska Corporation, which manages a huge tract of land belonging to native Alaskans, and he used the funds from this enterprise to help lift his people from poverty and depression.
Joey Mallott lived with his grandmother as a boy where he learned many of the same values that have motivated his father. "The day I arrived in her village," Joey says of this experience, "my grandmother handed me a 4/10 gauge shot gun and told me to get dinner. She taught me how to hunt, fish and trap and to live and survive in the outdoors, but more important, her lessons were about patience and kindness and about being open to everyone you meet."
Joey graduated from elementary school and high school in Juneau, Alaska and went on to earn his Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at the University of the Pacific in 1999. "Life in college was different than the way I was raised," he says of the experience, "I saw a lot of vanity there and selfish acts."
In 1991 Nainoa first traveled to Juneau to meet with Byron Mallott to discuss receiving the gift of two giant spruce trees from the Sea Alaska Corporation to build Hawai`iloa and the two men became fast friends which led to a joining of the Thompson and Mallott families which Joey describes as "one single family." (See "Sacred Forests" about the gift of trees for the hulls of Hawai'iloa.) When Pinky Thompson asked Nainoa to choose an Alaskan representative to journey on at least one leg of the voyage to Rapa Nui Joey was offered the position. "I got the call in 1998," Joey remembers, "and I knew right off that I wanted to go."
In 1999 Joey moved to Hawai`i where he now lives with his girlfriend Lissa Jones in Pauoa Valley on O`ahu. "I wanted to take some time off between college and beginning my teaching career," Joey says, "and we both like the idea of living for a while in the islands. Besides, I have family here now."
The experience of being involved with the building of Hawai`iloa and living in the islands has allowed Joey a deep insight into Hawaiian culture. "I think there is a great deal of similarity between any indigenous culture and how we view the world," Joey says. "That's why Hawaiians and Native Alaskans share so many values. We both respect our elders and believe in taking care of our environment, for example, and we are motivated to recover our native traditions and pride and to bring back our sense of community."
In time, Joey expects to return to Alaska to begin his career as a teacher. When he does he will bring with him a vision inspired by sailing aboard Hokule`a and Hawai`iloa.
"My people were a seafaring people," Joey explains. "When my father was a young boy he saw large dug out canoes which were used for fishing and traveling from village to village. They are still made today, but mainly as works of art, not for sailing. One of the first things I want to do when I get home is start a project to build a traditional canoe in the traditional way."
Kahualaulani Mick (with Pomai)
When Kahualaulani Mick was only four years old, in 1975, his mother took him to see Aunty Emma DeFries, a descendant of Kamehameha I and Queen Emma who was Kahu of a well known educational halau specializing in teaching Hawaiian culture.
"It didn't matter to her or not if you had Hawaiian blood," Kahulaulani says, "she would look into the soul of each prospective student to see if they were open to her teaching. Even though I am not Hawaiian as some people--she took me into her halau and now, looking back on it, that was a turning point in my life."
For five years, every Saturday, Kahualaulani met with Aunty Emma and her other students in an apartment at Queen Emma's summer palace where she was a custodian.
"She took us all over the islands and she taught us a lot about Hawaiian culture and history. Although she passed away in 1980 I still talk to her. My decisions in life are still based on her teachings.
Among Aunty Emma's gifts was Kahualaulani's name which she translated as "fruitful branch of Heaven."
After graduating from Kalaheo High School in Kailua in 1989, Kahualaulani went to Colorado State College in Fort Collins to study Animal Sciences. He lasted a year. "It was too damn cold and the surf was terrible," he jokes about it now, but mainly like so many young Hawaiians who travel "away" to school--he missed the islands. "They put me in a dorm with three other Hawaiians and all we did was talk about home. When people found out we were from Hawaii they always asked us 'why are you here?' After a while I asked the same questions and, when the first year was over, I came home."
The next year he enrolled in the Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaii to, as he puts it "make up for lost time. Being away led me to really appreciate being Hawaiian," he explains, "and I think my decision goes back to the influence of Aunty Emma."
In 1990 Kahualaulani first joined the Protect Kahoolawe `Ohana and since 1992 he has attended every one of the annual Makahiki celebrations there. "Aunty Emma was one of the advisors to Emmet Aluli and George Helm in the early days," Kahualaulani remembers, "and I think she knew I would one day become a member of the `ohana. She had Ike Papalua--fore knowledge. It is hard to explain but even though so many years have passed I feel like she's right here. The day she passed away a night heron came and perched on a wall at our house in Kailua and so the heron has become a kind of family aumakua. I always associate Aunty Emma with that beautiful bird."
Kahualaulani took the first navigation course taught by Chad and Nainoa and made his first voyage on Hokule`a in October of 1994 on an interisland trip to Moloka`i. In 1995 when Hokule`a went into dry dock, Kahualaulani showed up to help. Later Dennis Kawaharada asked him to be a teacher in PVS's ho`olokahi program. "That was a really different experience," he recalls, "I was really green. I thought, 'I can't do this, I don't know enough,' but somehow I did--and being a teacher taught me a lot." For three months that year Kahualaulani virtually lived on the porch of the school at Honaunau on the Big Island teaching in classrooms some of the time and on the decks of the voyaging canoe E`ala the rest. During 1997 he voyaged aboard Hgokule`a for five months during her statewide sail. "We made connections with so many people," Kahualaulani remembers. "I could see it in their eyes when they came aboard. They all felt the same thing as I did when I first stepped on Hokule`a's deck--a sense of awe, pure and simple--a sense of beauty."
In addition to voyaging aboard Hokule`a, Kahualulani has spent a great deal of time sailing with Makali`i and her `ohana. "I really like being on Makali`i too," he says. "She's a different canoe and I learn a lot being aboard--and the Makali`i family is wonderfully supportive. I'm honored to think I may be a part of it."
"I remember the first day of the navigation class at U.H.," he says looking back to the beginning of his experience with voyaging. Nainoa came in and told us that navigation was not about sailing--it was about life--about having a vision of where you wanted to go and making good decisions. I knew then that studying navigation and sailing would change my life, and it has."
Now, facing his first long distance voyage aboard Hokule`a as apprentice navigator, Kahualaulani admits to being "somewhat scared. But," he adds, "I'm going anyway. I've studied for this trip for five years. I've been teaching navigation and now this is my chance for validation--to actually do it, not just talk about it."
Of the five separate legs of the "voyage to Rapa Nui" he feels extremely honored to be on this one. "There are three reasons why I wanted to be on this leg," Kahualaulani explains, "First- it's an ancient voyaging route; second--it's the trip that all my mentors made when they were just starting out--guys like Nainoa and Snake; and finally, we will be going home to Hawai`i."
Among those called to medicine, it is probably accurate to say that the innermost sanctum of practice is the operating room of a major hospital. A hospital like The Queen's Hospital in Honolulu, Hawai'i's largest, for example, where Kau`i Pelekane has been a surgical nurse for the last four years. Her ascent to this extremely demanding position has not been easy--calling for a complex juggling act in which the needs of a career must be matched always against those of her two children, Ikaika and Kaimipono, now thirteen and eleven years old.
Kau`i was born in Long Beach, California on January 24, 1965, but was raised in Kailua-Kona by her parents Mike and Monique Pelekane. In 1983 Kau`i graduated from Konawaena high school and enrolled in nursing school at the University of Hawai`i, which she attended for a year before taking time off to work a variety of jobs, get married to Tim Mencastre (they are now divorced) and begin having children. To support her family, Kau`i worked for a time at a bank. "Then I began to consider my life and my responsibility to both myself and my kids and I decided that I didn't want to be a bank teller for the rest of my life," Kauai says. "When I was in high school I worked in a doctor's office as a secretary and when the doctor did minor surgery I occasionally was called on to assist him. I found that I like helping people and I think that's when I got the idea to become a nurse."
In 1989, pregnant with her second son, Kau`i returned to nursing school enrolling in a two-year associate degree program which resulted in her qualification as a registered nurse. For three and a half years she worked in the oncology ward and then learned that Queen's was opening a six month surgical training program. Only four applicants would be accepted from many candidates. "I got in the second time I applied," Kau`i explains, "and now I have been working as a surgical nurse for four years. It's very intense sometimes," she adds, "but I really feel that I am helping people."
Although Kau`i was born on the mainland she doesn't remember much about her life there because she was so young when she returned to Hawai`i. Soon thereafter, "My family on the Big Island were heavily involved in paddling," she says, "and they started the Kaiopua canoe club in Kona. I have been paddling since I was ten years old. My dad took me fishing and taught me how to pick `opihi. My family had a catering business so I learned how to cook for a luau. In Hawai`i," she continues, "we had avocado trees and never paid for fish. Vegetables and other fruits came from our neighbors. When I first moved to O`ahu I couldn't get used to buying fish in the market "-- here Kau`i pauses for a moment to laugh at herself--"and I refused to pay for fish for about a year."
Kau`i and her two children live in Kailua but she paddles for the Hui Nalu canoe club where she first met Nainoa. "I have always known about Hokule`a," she remembers, "but I never dreamed that I would ever sail aboard her. Then, late in 1998, Nainoa asked me if I would be willing to be the medic on board for the last leg of the Rapa Nui voyage. How could I say no? Even though I had big reservations about it--taking on such a large responsibility--I said 'yes, I'll go."
Kau`i was not only concerned about being responsible for the health of the crew during a voyage far from land and having their welfare entirely in her hands, she also worried about her two young children. How would they deal with her absence for such a long time and could she endure the separation herself?
"I spent about a year preparing them--maybe I should say preparing us--for the voyage," Kau`i explains to me in Tautira as we sit in the shade of Hokule`a's awning, "We talked about how important it was. I told them that I would be safe. They said, 'Okay.' Then they asked, 'How long?' I told them five weeks." Here Kau`i pauses for a moment considering her children, obviously missing them. "It's difficult," she explains, "I know they are being well cared for and I know they understand the meaning of the voyage. They were in the immersion program for a long time and so maybe they even understand it better than I do. But I just can't help worrying about them."
To prepare for her anticipated role as both Hokule`a's only health care provider and as a crew member, Kau`i stepped up her regular regime of paddling and read about the medical problems she was likely to encounter aboard the canoe--heat stroke, dehydration, common illnesses and various psychological issues which she subsumes under the heading of "cabin fever." She is now well prepared for any eventuality but, as it turns out, the responsibility of caring for Hokule`a's crew will not be hers alone. A few months ago, Dr. Ming-Lei Tim Sing also joined the crew.
"That was actually a great relief for me," Kau`i says. "We make a great team and I'm much more secure now that we can handle any problems we might encounter."
In January, 1999, Kau`i remembers attending the first meeting for crew members at the Maritime Center. "Bruce and Chad explained the goals of the voyage and of the Polynesian Voyaging Society," she says," and I became even more excited about going. They talked about the opportunity to do something that our ancestors had done centuries ago and about how this voyage would be an opportunity for them to pass on the knowledge they have gained to the next generation of sailors. And then I thought about my own children. I realized that I'm not making the voyage just for myself but also for them. When I come home, I will certainly have learned something that I can pass on to them."