The Building of Keawenuia‘umi’s Canoe
Samuel M. Kamakau
[From Ruling Chiefs of Hawai'i, 38, 41-42. This passage has been translated by Kenneth Emory from terms identified by Mr. Kupihea.]
When Keawenuia'umi learned that Paka'a [his kahu iwikuamo'o or chief personal attendant] had run away, that he had left him and was gone, he was filled with longing for him. The chief ordered strong paddlers to go from Hawai'i to Kaua'i to seek him. They sought him on the leeward and windward sides as far as Ni'ihau, and returned to the presence of the chief to report that Paka'a could not be found. They had not gone to the remaining island, Ka'ula. "It might be that a certain man at Kaluako'i, Moloka'i, was he [they said]. He was accompanied by a young boy on a canoe. The boy asked us questions, but the man did not raise his head. We inquired for Paka'a, but the boy replied that no stranger was seen there." They [the chief's paddlers] returned, leaving t he two catching uhu fish at Kala'au Point.
Keawenuia'umi said, "I dreamt that Paka'a's spirit told me that he is on Ka'ula and will not come back until I, myself, go to fetch him. He will not return with the messengers of the chief. Great is my longing for my personal attendant. Let all of Hawai'i make double canoes and large single canoes, and let us go to fetch Paka'a."
Keawenuia'umi sent a proclamation to every high chief and every lesser chief for double canoes, for canoes that were joined together, and for single canoes, to be used in the search for the personal attendant of Keawenuia'umi. The chiefs were all supplied with canoes, but there was one thing lacking. There was no double canoe for the ruling chief. The cause of the delay in the making of that canoe was two birds. When the tree selected for the chief was about to be felled, these birds called from the very top of it; "Say, the log is rotten." After the tree was felled, it was found that the trunk was rotten. The chief hired many canoe-making experts, but no canoe was finished for him. The chief hired bird-catchers, those who gummed birds, but none could cat ch the birds. The naughty birds which called about the decayed log flew away and vanished into the sky. They returned only when a koa tree was about to fall. The tree fell just after their cry of "The log is rotten" (puha ka waha). The chief was weary of them!
[The two birds were killed by the famous archer Pikoi-a-ka'alala, son of 'Alala and his wife Ko'uko'u, natives of Lihu'e, Kaua'i. In gratitude Keawenuia'umi gave Pikoi his daughter, and "all the lands on Hawai'i where bows and arrows were used".]
After the enemies of Keawenuia'umi had flown away to the sky, a man was found who was an expert in putting on canoe parts and in hollowing the log. His name was Lulana, and he came from Kipahulu, Maui. This man's skill was noticed when he went to the upla nd and saw two very large trees, one on either side of the trail. These were hollow trees used as dwellings by some of the canoe-makers. When the stranger went to the upland he noticed them and said to Keawenuia'umi's canoe-making experts, "These will mak e good canoes for the chief, as the centers are hollowed already."
The chief's men replied, "Who would convert these hollow trees into canoes? They are used as shelters for canoe-makers, bird-catchers, and experts in canoe-making."
Lulana said, "These are easy to use, for the openings are already there. They will be fine canoes, and there are no defects. If these were made into canoes for the chief, they would be excellent."
The hewing began at the spot pointed out by Lulana, until both trees fell. The large side branches and tops were cut off, the bark stripped until none remained on the outside, the prow and stern shaped, the sides smoothed off, and the prow and stern polis hed smooth. The canoe was then turned up, the edges leveled, and as the canoe was already hollow, leaving only the two sides at the opening, the opening was then shaped. The opening was already there, so there was little work needed on it. The work was so on finished, and it was seen that there were no canoes to equal the canoes of Lulana in the days of 'Umi or of the ancient chiefs before him.
Word was carried to Keawenuia'umi of the fine canoes made by Lulana, that they were beautiful and free from defects. No canoes as beautiful had ever been seen in olden times. They were twenty anana long [20 arm spans, or 120 feet] and one anana and one iw ilei [1 and 1/2 fathoms, or nine feet] in depth. When Keawenuia'umi heard of the doings of this expert who was unequalled in his skill, he was filled with happiness and joy. In no time the canoes were finished inside and ready to be hauled to the shore. K eawenuia'umi, the chiefs, lesser chiefs, and commoners hauled the canoes to the shore of Hilo. Lulana became a favorite and was made chief over all canoe experts (po'e kahuna kalai) on Hawai'i by Keawenuia'umi.
Lulana and all the experts put together the canoes of Keawenuia'umi. When the pieces (la'au) and all the things which belong to a canoe were fitted together, the canoe which was to take the place of the outrigger float (that is, the 'ekea canoe) was set a longside. Then the connecting booms ('iako) of the canoe were put on. When the four large inner booms had been fixed, then were added the two booms for holding together the forward and rear ends of the double-canoe (na 'iako elua i na umi o na umi'i o mua a me hope). Now the wash strakes (palepale) were set over the booms, on the inside and outside. In front were placed the weatherboard (kua po'i). After the clamping down of the rear pieces (uma) of the canoe and the fastening with running sennit-cord (ho lo 'aha), the platform (pola) midway between the canoes was lashed on.
Just over the arch of the main booms was set up the house for the chief, so that the chiefs could sleep on the platform. It was lashed securely (helea) with sennit just as for the lashing (lu'ukia ana) of the booms. There at the big boom over the large lu gs (pepeiao), the sail (pe'a) was set up (kukia). When the little imperfections of the canoe had been remedied, then all that was left was to sail it on the ocean.