Clifford Ah Mow (1942-2010)

Hokule'a crewman was at home in water; He was an amphibian in the sea, says a fellow historic voyager. (The article below was posted by Gary T. Kubota at the Star Bulletin website on March 20, 2010.)

Clifford Ah Mow. Click on the image or name to see a video tribute to Clifford, posted on YouTube by ohanawaa.

Clifford Ah Mow, one of the 15 crew members aboard the historic 1976 voyage of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule'a to Tahiti, died at his home in East Oahu on Feb. 22 after a bout with cancer. He was 67.

Ah Mow came from a family of native Hawaiian lifeguards and was among the select Hokule'a crew to attempt an ocean crossing to show that Polynesians could have sailed between Tahiti and Hawaii using a double-hulled sailing canoe and ancient methods of navigation.

The success of the 1976 voyage supported the assertion that Polynesians were able to navigate the open ocean for thousands of miles before the Europeans and the invention of the chronometer, used for determining longitude, in the 1700s.

Fellow crew member John Kruse said that before the historic voyage, Ah Mow and the rest of the crew lived in two shipping containers on Sand Island while learning about way-finding and sailing from Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug.

Kruse said Ah Mow would drive a van and take whatever crew food was left in the evening to the tip of the Sand Island to give to homeless people.

"He didn't say much," Kruse said. "He let his actions speak."

Kimo Hugho, a close friend and Hokule'a voyager, described Ah Mow as changing into an "amphibianlike being" when he dived to great depths to fish in the 1960s and 1970s.

Other Hokule'a crew members on the first Hawaii-Tahiti voyage who have died include Rodo Tuku Williams, Kawika Kapahulehua, Charles Tommy Holmes, Sam Kalalau, David B.K. "Dave" Lyman III, Douglas "Dukie" Kuahulu and David Henry Lewis.

Ah Mow is survived by sons Clifford Jr. "Pake," Random and Branden "Habu"; daughter Cristin Ah Mow-Moeava; life partner Mary Lee Makalena; brothers Walter "Junior," Henderson "Butchie," Talmage and Oliver "Honey Boy"; sisters Lei Ha'o, Iwalani Freitas, Audrey Vegas and Uilani Beamer; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A funeral service is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25 in waters off the Natatorium in Waikiki.