Chadd ‘Onohi Paishon

Current (2010): executive director of Na Kalai Wa'a Moku o Hawai'i.

Chadd ‘Onohi Paishon joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society in the apprentice navigator program in 1990, as the society was preparing to voyage to Rarotonga 1992 to train a new generation of crew members and navigators. Chadd participated in the repair and maintenance work on Hokule‘a at pier 42 and was a crew member on the 1992 leg to Tahiti.

Chadd on Hokule‘a at Honaunau as she prepares to depart for Tahiti

After that 1992 voyage, he joined Na Kalai Wa‘a Moku o Hawai‘i, a non-profit voyaging and education organization established on the west Side of Hawai‘i island by Clay Bertelmann in March 1993, to preserve, protect, and perpetuate Hawaiian culture and contribute to a safe and health future for Hawai‘i. From 1994-1995, Chadd assisted Clay and his brother Milton “Shorty” Bertelmann in the construction of a 54-foot voyaging canoe named Makali‘i to serve the Big Island.

Makali‘i was launched in February 1995 under a double rainbow and made her inital voyage to Tahiti and Nukuhiva, joining Hokule‘a and Hawai‘iloa for the voyage home. Chadd served as assistant to navigator Shorty Bertelmann on the voyages to and from the South Pacific.

From February to May, 1999, Chadd voyaged to Satawal on Makali‘i, again assisting Shorty with navigation and also serving as captain. Called “E Mau / Sailing the Master Home,” this voyage was to pay homage to master navigator Mau Piailug and to thank Mau, who sailed home on Makali‘i, for his teachings.

When asked by young Micronesians, “With modern technology, why do you still sail by the stars?” Chadd responded, “We needed to know where our cultural practices joined up with modern society, how to balance the two to gain self-esteem and connection to our home. Sailing on a canoe helps us focus on what we need to do for our future.” And he explained to his interviewer, “Right now Micronesians are on the verge of either changing over everything to Western society, or trying to figure out the balance, the best of both worlds. We tell them not to rush too quickly. If they can hold onto their values and culture, that will enable them to have a strong healthy place for their future.”

Makali‘i moored by Sokehs, a landmark
on the island of Pohnpei. Photo by Tim Rock. Star-Bulletin

From Satawal, Makali‘i sailed to Guam then was shipped back to Hawai‘i.

In 2001, Na Kalai Wa‘a Moku o Hawai‘i began the construction of a new 54-foot double-hulled voyaging canoe as a gift for Mau.

Na Kalai Wa‘a also assisted in the building of BYU-Hawaii’s 57-foot double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Iosepa. Chad served as captain on Iosepa’s maiden voyage in 2004, from La‘ie, where the BYUH campus is located, to Kawaihae on the Big Island, the home port of Makali‘i.

Chadd checking Iosepa before the first sail to Kona on the Big Island, 2004. Photo by Barry Markowitz, Star-Bulletin archives.

When Clay fell ill and passed away in 2004, Shorty and Chadd oversaw the completion Alingano Maisu, as the new canoe for Mau was named.

People from all over the world volunteered thousands of hours to build the canoe; Chadd notes: “To build a voyaging canoe, many different pieces need to be made. We break the volunteers into smaller groups and each makes a piece. All the different people that Mau has touched are coming together to help.” His call for volunteers was “We take anything people want to give; money, time, work, prayers.” Maisu was launched in Kawaihae Harbor on Saturday, October 21, 2006.

Maisu Blessing Ceremony, Kawaihae: Ready for the 'Awa Ceremony. Center: Maisu Navigator Chadd Paishon. Photo by Momi Wheeler

After sea trials and provisioning, Maisu left with Hokule'a for Satawal, on Jan. 23, 2007, and arrived there on March 15, via Majuro in the Marshall Islands, Pohnpei, and Chuuk. The voyage was named “Ku Holo Mau / Sail On, Sail Always, Sail Forever” by Pua Kanaka‘ole. On this voyage, Chadd Paishon served as the navigator, with Shorty Bertelman as captain of Maisu.

At Satawal, Maisu was gifted to Mau, Chadd was one of the five Hawaiian navigators inducted into pwo by Mau.

Chadd, an accomplished musician, plays the guitar and sings on Satawal. Photo by Sam Low.

After stops in Yap and Palau, Hokule‘a continued on, serving as a crew member on Hokule‘a from Yap to Okinawa and from Fukuoka to Hiroshima, Uwajima, and Yokohama, participating in the cultural exchanges at each port.

Chadd and Pomai Bertelmann on Hokule‘a conducting tours in Uwajima, Japan.