Herb Kawainui Kāne: Founding of PVS; Building and Naming Hōkūle‘a
Herb Kawainui Kāne: Ships with Souls (with a Bibliography of Traditional Canoe Building)
Herb Kawainui Kāne: In Search of the Ancient Polynesian Voyaging Canoe (Designing Hōkūle‘a)
Herb Kawainui Kāne: Evolution of the Hawaiian Canoe
Ben Finney: Founding of PVS; Building Hōkūle‘a
Kenneth Emory: Launching Hōkūle‘a March 8, 1975
Sam Low and Herb Kawainui Kāne: Sam Ka'ai and Hōkūle‘a's Ki'i
Hōkūle’a Photo Gallery

Building Hawai‘iloa: 1991-1994
Sam Low: Sacred Forests: The Story of the Logs for the Hulls of Hawai‘iloa

Koakanu: Traditional Hawaiian Canoe-Building (1916-1917)
Edgar Henriques: Hawaiian Canoes (1925)
S.M. Kamakau: The Building of Keawenui'umi's Canoe
Hawaiian Deities of Canoes and Canoe Building
Plants and Tools Used for Building Traditional Canoes
Parts of a Traditional Canoe
Hawaiian Canoe-Building Traditions (1995, online at Ulukau)

Launching Hōkūle‘a

Kenneth P. Emory

[Note: On March 8, 1975, below the peak of Kanehoalani ("Kane, Heavenly Companion") and the broad cliffs of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa ("Sacred Section of Haloa") at the north end of Kane'ohe Bay, Hōkūle'a slid down a coconut log ramp and floated calmly at sea. The site in Kualoa Regional Park in windward O'ahu, at the border of the ahupua'a of Kualoa and Hakipu'u, was chosen for the launching because of its importance to the voyaging traditions of Hawai'i. Kualoa was the home of the voyaging chief La'amaikahiki ("Sacred One from Tahiti"), and Hakipu'u was the home of the voyaging chief Kaha'i, perhaps La'amaikahiki's grandson.1 See below for a video of the launching.]

After the feather pennant and wooden image were secured to the canoe, the canoe on its lona (blocks), decorated with maile, 'ie'ie and Tahitian ti, was ready for the launching.

During the blowing of the conch shells, Herb Kane, Ben Finney and Kenneth Emory mounted the pola (deck); the steersmen, paddlers and Sam Ka'ai seated themselves on the beach between the imu and the canoe. The captain was Herb Kawainui Kane; the kahuna was Ka'upena Wong, assisted by Kalena Silva and Keli'i Tau'a, and kahu Kaupu.

Ka'upena Wong, Kalena Silva, Keli'i Tau'a and kahu Kaupu walked in the direction of the canoe. Kahu Kaupu stopped the group and offered a prayer to the Almighty.

The four continued their walk; Kalena and Keli'i took their positions at the imu and kahu stood in the shade of some trees. Ka'upena, coconut shell filled with seawater in hand, performed the pi kai (sprinkling of the seawater to purify) the canoe and paddlers as he uttered the words: "E kia'i, e alaka'i, e ho'ona'auao, e ho'olanakila, a pae ka wa'a i ke kula me ka lanakila." ("Guide, keep safely (the canoe) until the shore is reached safely.")

Ka'upena drank from the coconut shell before pouring the remaining seawater into the ocean.

Kalena and Keli'i proceeded to open the imu. Taking the cooked food from the imu, Kalena prepared a food offering-pieces of the pig's snout, tail and four feet, a piece of meat, one of the fishes, a banana-and placed them on a coconut-leaf platter covered with a section of banana leaf and 'awa leaves. The platter of food was given to Ka'upena.

Kalena and Keli'i now served the paddlers. After all were served Ka'upena and Kalena walked to the canoe; Ka'upena mounted the pola and received the food offering from Kalena. On the pola Ka'upena faced Herb, Ben and Kenneth. Herb said:

Eia ka wa'a i kalai ia; e kapa'ia ha'inoa 'o Hokule'a. Ke ui aku nei na alaka'i o ka po, na alaka'i o ke ao, na alaka'i o luna, na alaka'i o lalo.
("This is the canoe which has been built; its name is to be Hokule'a. Ask our gods of po and of ao, from above, from below to bless it.")

Ka'upena, food offering in hands, chanted [This chant can be found in an article written by Kalokuokamaile called Kala'i Wa'a ana a Me Kona Mau Ano, published in the Nupepa Kuokoa from Oct. 26-1922-Feb. 15, 1923. The chant is in the February 8, 1923 issue.]:

1. Mokuhali'i, Kupa'aike'e, Lea
2. Eia ka pua'a,
3. He uku, he makana, he 'alana,
4. He mohai ia 'oukou.
5. Ua pa'a ka wa'a (Hokule'a) (he kaulua)
6. A e ho'olanaia aku ana i ke kai
7. O kona 'aina ia e huli ai i ka loa'a ame ka waiwai.
8. E nana pono loa 'oukou
9. E maka'ala i na puko'a, na pu'upohaku o kahi laupapa
10. Na nalu, na 'ale o ka moana.
11. Ho'oholo no 'oukou i ka wa'a ma kahi hohonu o ke kai,
12. I hele ai ka wa'a a nalukai,
13. A 'apulu, a ulu ka limu pakaiea, a kaniko'oko'o.
14. 'amama, ua noa.

1. O Mokuhali'i, Kupa'aike'e, Lea,
2. Here is pork,
3. A payment, a gift, an offering,
4. A sacrifice to you.
5. The canoe (Hokule'a) is finished (a double-hulled canoe),
6. Ready to be launched onto the sea,
7. Its home where it will seek gain and wealth;
8. Watch over it carefully
9. Be alert for coral beds and stone outcroppings of the reefs,
10. For the waves and the swells of the ocean.
11. Guide the canoe over the depths of the sea,
12. Let the canoe ride over the waves of the sea,
13. Till it is worn out, overgrown with limu, and aged.
14. The kapu is lifted, it is removed.

After the chant, Ka'upena left the pola and joined Kalena, Keli'i and paddlers at the imu. All ate the food prepared for them. In addition the paddlers drank coconut water. The eating pau Kalena and Keli'i collected the remains from the imu and platters and placed them into a coconut-leaf basket. They weighted the basket with a few imu rocks and tied it up with cord. Kalena and Keli'i carried the basket to Ka'upena who had mounted the pola. Ka'upena placed the food remains in the ti-thatched shelter on the pola. From the pola he shouted to the paddlers: "E ho'omakaukau!" ("Make ready!")

Herb ma, Ka'upena, Kalena, Keli'i, and paddlers took their positions to launch the canoe. Master of Ceremonies Moroni Medeiros invited all males in the audience to help pull the ropes for the launching of Hokule'a. With a signal from Herb, Ka'upena called out: "E alu like!" ("Let's all work together!")

Ka'upena began the hauling chant and was to be joined by the paddlers, encouraged by Kalena and Keli'i:

Kiauau, kiauau (Haul, haul)
Hukiauau, hukiauau (Pull on, pull on)
Koauau, koauau (Draw on, draw on)
Ho'omalo he kaula (Keep the rope taut)
Moku a he kaula (Keep the rope in position)

Hokule'a, anxious to be in her new home, was in the water seconds after Ka'upena chanted the first "Kiauau."

With Hokule'a majestically occupying her place in the water and receiving pats and shouts of joy from her admirers, Herb ma, and the paddlers scrambled aboard the handsome canoe. In the din of excitement, with Hokule'a's swift entry into the water, Ka'upena, Kalena and Keli'i waited, then walked down the beach to the water's edge. Here Ka'upena began to chant a couple of times but decided to stop because of the activity on and surrounding the canoe. Ka'upena, Kalena and Keli'i, ti stalks in hand, mounted the pola. Herb gave instructions to take the canoe out. As Hokule'a moved gracefully out to sea, Ka'upena sat down and chanted [From Malo, 129. The meaning of "kuwa," which appears in the first six lines is uncertain. Emerson, the translator and annotator of Malo, suggests "uplifter," from "ku" ("upright") and "wa" ("space"). See his note 14 on page 134.]:

1. O kuwa o ka lani,
2. O kuwa o ka honua,
3. O kuwa o ka mauna,
4. O kuwa o ka moana,
5. O kuwa o ka po,
6. O kuwa o ke ao,
7. O Malualani ke kuwa,
8. O Maluahopu ke kuwa,
9. Aia no ia ko'i la ke kuwa.
10. Ka wa'a nei o ha luahine makua.
11. Ka luahine! 'O wai?
12. Ka luahine o Papa,
13. Wahine a Wakea.
14. Nana i kuwa,
15. Nana i hainu,
16. Nana i hele,
17. Nana i a'e
18. Nana i ho'onoanoa.
19. Noa ke kuwa o ha wa'a o Wakea.
20. O ka wa'a nei o ha luahine rnakua.
21. Ka luahine! 'O wai?
22. Ka luahine o Lea,
23. Wahine a Mokuhali'i.
24. Nana i kuwa,
25. Nana i hainu,
26. Nana i hele,
27. Nana i a'e
28. Nana i ho'onoanoa.
29. Noa ke kuwa o ka wa'a o Mokuhali'i.
30. Hinu helele'i aku,
31. Hinu helele'i mai.
32. He miki 'oe Kane;
33. He miki 'oe Kanaloa.
34. O Kanaloa hea 'oe?
35. O Kanaloa inu 'awa.
36. Mai Kahiki ka 'awa,
37. Mai 'Upolu ka 'awa
38. Mai Wawau ka 'awa.
39. E hano 'awa hua
40. E hano 'awa pauaka;
41. Halapa i ke akua i la'au wai la!
42. 'amama, ua noa.
43. Lele wale aku la.

1. Uplifter of the heavens,
2. Uplifter of the earth,
3. Uplifter of the mountains,
4. Uplifter of the ocean,
5. Who hast appointed the night,
6. Appointed the day,
7. Malualani is the kuwa
8. And Maluahopu,
9. That ax also is a kuwa.
10. This is the ax of our venerable ancestral dame.
11. Venerable dame! What dame?
12. Dame Papa,
13. The wife of Wakea.
14. She set apart and consecrated,
15. She turned the tree about,
16. She impelled it,
17. She guided it,
18. She lifted the kapu from it.
19. Gone is the kapu from the canoe of Wakea.
20. The canoe this of our ancestral dame.
21. Ancestral dame! What dame?
22. Dame Lea,
23. Wife of Mokuhali'i
24. She initiated,
25. She pointed the canoe,
26. She started it,
27. She guided it;
28. She lifted the kapu from it.
29. Lifted was the kapu from the canoe of Mokuhali'i.
30. Fat dripping here,
31. Fat dripping there.
32. Active art thou Kane;
33. Active art thou Kanaloa.
34. What Kanaloa art thou?
35. Kanaloa the 'awa drinker.
36. 'Awa from Tahiti,
37. 'Awa from 'Upolu,
38. 'Awa from Wawau,
39. Bottle up the frothy 'awa,
40. Bottle up the well-strained 'awa.
41. Praise be to the God in the highest heaven!
42. The kapu is lifted, removed.
43. It flies away.

During the trip out Hokule'a appeared to welcome all aboard by responding to Herb, the steersmen, paddlers. The feeling was good.

After it was some distance from shore, Herb directed that Hokule'a be turned around. He reminded everyone that when the food remains were given to the sea, no one should turn to look back. Kalena and Keli'i threw the basket overboard and the crew began to paddle Hokule'a back to shore. Ka'upena, Kalena and Keli'i moved up front and sat down. Together Ka'upena and Kimo Hugho worked out the rhythmic pattern for the next chant. About halfway in, Ka'upena began the chant; and he was joined by Kalena, Keli'i, the Kamehameha School chanter-paddlers, and Kimo ma:

Ia wa'a nui / That large canoe
Ia wa'a kioloa / That long canoe
Ia wa 'a peleleu / That broad canoe
A lele mamala / Let chips fly
A manu a uka / The bird of the upland
A manu a kai / The bird of the lowland
'I'iwi polena / The red Hawaiian honeycreeper
A kau ka hoku / The stars hang above
A kau i ka malama / The daylight arrives
A pae i kula / Land ashore
'amama, ua noa / 'amama, the kapu is lifted

This chant was accompanied by the striking of the paddles against the sides of the canoe. Instructions for the chant rhythm were as follows: "The stroke is slow. The paddle is struck a little in front of the paddler on the return of the paddle. The timing is thus: Ia wa'a (thump) nui (thump), ia wa'a (thump) kioloa (thump), ia wa'a (thump) peleleu (thump)."

As Hokule'a neared the shore Ka'upena called for the chanting, to end with: "A pae i kula!" ("Land ashore!")

Ka'upena left the pola and announced to all: "'amama, ua noa!" ("The prayer is said, the kapu is over!")

Then he turned to Hokule'a and asked: "Pehea ka wa'a, pono anei?" ("How is the canoe, is it good?")

All aboard answered: "'Ae, maika'i loa ka wa'a Hokule'a!" ("Yes, the canoe Hokule'a is indeed very good!")

Ka'upena turned to kahu Kaupu, who had walked down to greet Hokule'a and her crew, and he said: "Eia ka wa'a e ho'opomaika'i ia." ("Here is the canoe in your care for a Christian blessing.") Kahu Kaupu, in celebration, offered a prayer:

E Ke Akua Manaloa, Ke Akua Ka Makua piha Ka 'ihi'ihi ame Kealoha, no Kou ka honua ame Kona mea i piha ai. Eia no ka wa'a Hokule'a e kalai 'ia no na moana me na kai, a he pono ia 'oia makou i na mea ma'a mau mai kupuna mai. E loa'a 'oia me ka malu ame Kealoha.

Na Ke Akua, me kokoke 'oe Hokule'a, e pale aku mai 'oe; a iloko 'oe Hokule'a, e ho'oikaika mai 'oe, a puni 'oe Hokule'a, e malama mai 'oe; a mamua ae 'oe Hokule'a, e alaka'i mai 'oe; a mahope iho 'oe Hokule'a, e ho'apono mai 'oe; a maluna 'oe Hokule'a, e ho'opomaika'i mai 'oe. Me Kealoha o ka Haku Ka Makua, Ke Keiki, a me Ka 'Uhane Hemolele, me 'oe ame e noho 'oia mau aku. 'Amene.

Almighty God, our Loving and Holy Father, the earth is yours and the fullness there of. Here is your canoe, the Hokule'a, built for the oceans and the seas. And we have consecrated her according to the traditions of our Kupuna. Receive her, O God with Aloha and peace.

May the Spirit of God be near you to defend you, within you to restrengthen you, around you to preserve you, before you to guide you, behind you to justify you, and above you to bless you. May the Aloha of God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

At the completion of Kahu Kaupu's prayer, he and Ka'upena embraced. Kahu was embraced by Kalena and Keli'i, the paddlers, Herb ma. Everyone felt good, proud. It was time for the lu'au, hula, songs, music, beer, talk-story.2

Video of the Launching, March 8, 1975 (posted on YouTube by BudScelsa):


1. See “Voyaging Chiefs of Kāne‘ohe Bay” for voyaging traditions related to Kane‘ohe Bay.

2. Herb Kane says "the launching festivities and lu'au for 2,000 was entirely done by volunteers, led largely by Paige Barber. Eddie Kamae and the Sons of Hawaii donated entertainment as did a hula halau." The notes above by Kenneth P. Emory describe the ceremonies and chants used for her launching. Emory was an anthopologist for the Bishop Musuem and a member of the Board of Directors of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. He and Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Puku'i served as consultants to those who planned and carried out the launching ceremony.