Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

1997 Drydock: Preparing for Rapanui

Hokule'a goes into drydock near Pier 60, 1997

In May of 1997, after a nine-month long State-wide Voyage, the Polynesian Voyaging Society began considering a voyage to Rapa Nui as its next major voyaging project. The question was asked, "Was Hokule'a seaworthy enough to make such a voyage-one that would take the canoe 2700 miles upwind from Hawai'i and over 10,000 miles?"

Executive director Nainoa Thompson sought the advice of a marine surveyor, who inspected the canoe and told him, "Hokule'a is getting old and you might want to consider that this canoe has sailed all it can. I cannot certify the canoe to sail more than 25 nautical miles from the main islands of Hawai'i."

Nainoa's response was "No, we can't allow that, the symbolism of this canoe is too powerful to allow it to be tied up some place. We have absolutely got to figure out what needs to be repaired and how to repair it."

So Hokule'a went into drydock for eight months, and when she came out in May, 1998, Nainoa noted: "Now the surveyor has sent in a report saying that Hokule'a is structurally stronger than when she was launched 23 years ago. That's the result of an awful lot of care on the part of a whole bunch of people. That drydock period was about renewal."

To strengthen the canoe, the inside of the hulls were fiberglassed; the lashings on the railings and port-side 'iako were redone by five Micronesians led by Mau's son Sesario Sewralur; a new forward mast step was added.

To lighten the canoe, one of the double 'iako in the middle of the canoe was removed, along with four of five stern spreaders, two navigator platforms from each side, and some waterlogged foam from one of the manu; a thinner pale wai was made and smaller high efficiency solar panels replaced the older, heavier ones. In all, around 4000 pounds was removed. Nainoa explains: "We had to get Hokule'a to sail closer to the wind for the trip to Rapa Nui; which lies 2700 miles upwind from Hawai'i. She's lighter now, and will sail higher into the wind." The work was done at Pier 60, where PVS leased space from the Friends of Hokule'a and Hawai'iloa.

Volunteers included students from PVS high school and college voyaging programs, as well as community groups across the state. The work was supervised by Bruce Blankenfeld. In May of 1998, students from WCC and UH Manoa Hawaiian Studies program took Hokule'a on its first sea trial to Moloka'i and back. The canoe performed beautifully in 25 knot winds, riding buoyantly over swells.

The canoe is now ready for the voyage to Rapa Nui, scheduled for the June 1999-January 2000. The journey will take the canoe to the Marquesas, Mangareva, Rapa Nui, the Australs, Tahiti, Rangiroa and back to Hawai'i.

To get upwind from Mangareva and find a target as small as Rapa Nui, the navigators will have to play wind shifts and use a zigzagging search strategy as they approach the island. Sail plans for the voyage are currently under construction.

Hokule'a Coming Out of Drydock