Sam Kalalau (1923-2008)

Sam Kalalau, crewmember on the first voyage of Hokule'a from Hawai'i to Tahiti in 1976, passed on on Oct. 21, 2008, at his home in Hana, Maui. He was 85.

Sam Kalalau, right, with his late wife, Cecilia.

Polynesian Voyaging Society Founder Herb Kane composed the following remembrance:

As I recall I believe it was Sam Kaai who first told Sam Kalalau about our Hokulea project. Later when we took Hokule'a to Lahaina from Oahu on the first leg of the shake-down and training cruise, Sam Kalalau and one of his sons would drive all the way from Hana to Lahaina every Saturday morning to sail with us. We would paddle north and catch the brisk Northeast Tradewind off Ka'anapali, then sail to Molokai.

After lunch in a quiet cove and discussion of the morning sail, we would broad reach on the strong afternoon wind back to Maui. No one could hold the steering paddle rock-steady like Sam. He became our principal steersman and trained others, giving me time to work with others in handling the sheets and general seamanship. Sam was no a young man, but he was among the strongest, and the most respected for his knowledge of the sea after many years of fishing the rough waters off windward Maui.

After five weeks we selected a Maui crew and sailed to Hawaii. Our departure was at night because winds and seas in the Alenuihaha Channel are normally less troublesome at night than during daylight hours. But we did get into a series of rain squalls, each stronger than the one before, and winds piling up waves to 10 feet, judging by the phosphorescence on the wave crests which was the only light, there being no moon. At first light when some judgement of our speed could be observed we were approaching the lee of the Kohala mountains, and with the wind on our port beam, several of us guessed we were reaching at something over 16 knots. As the wind moderated in the wind-shadow of the mountains, I remember Sam turning his steering paddle over to someone else and joining others in bailing the canoe.

Later, when a crew selection was made for the voyage to Tahiti, Sam was an obvious choice.

A bust of Sam at the Hana Cultural Center & Museum. Sam was a respected member of the Hana Community. The wood is Kou and was carved by Coila I Eade.

Voyager and cowboy experienced 'a full life'

Gary T. Kubota, Star Bulletin

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2008

Although Sam Kalalau Jr. was 53, he was an obvious choice to be part of the crew of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule'a on its historic Hawaii-Tahiti voyage in 1976, says Herb Kane, a founder of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

"No one could hold the steering paddle rock-steady like Sam," Kane said. "He became our principal steersman and trained others. ... He was among the strongest, and the most respected for his knowledge of the sea after many years of fishing the rough waters off windward Maui."

"At that time he was (in his 50s), the oldest member on the crew," recalled daughter Carolyn Fuhrmann.

Kalalau died last Tuesday at his home in Hana, Maui. He was 85.

The Hawaii-Tahiti voyage, done through Pacific way-finding and without Western navigational instruments, supported the assertion that Polynesians were capable of charting courses and traveling thousands of miles to settle in Hawaii.

Kalalau was a fisherman and also a cowboy who trained wild horses at $25 a mount for Hana Ranch. Fuhrmann said her father, who retired as a field hand boss for Hana Ranch, went fishing and hunting often to provide food for his family:

» His hunting dogs would corner a wild pig, and he would use his bayonet to kill it.

» He taught his children how to find fish and octopus by spitting chewed coconut juice on the ocean to create a kind of oily-looking glass so he could spot the sea life.

"The old Hawaiians taught him to do this," she said.

Fuhrmann said her father died with a large smile on his face.

"He said, 'I'm ready to go. What I wanted to do, I did. I've lived a full life.'"

A funeral service is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at the veterans memorial at Hana Bay, followed by the scattering of ashes aboard the Hokule'a, whose crew will be sailing from Oahu to Maui.

Besides Fuhrmann, he is survived by daughter Mona Lisa Kalalau, sons Sam Kalalau III and Howard Manaois, brothers Ellsworth and Stanley, sister Beauty Costello, 29 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren.