Unique Polynesian Vessel Visits Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole

The day breaks over Hōkūleʻa with Kualoa behind her.

The day breaks over Hōkūleʻa with Kualoa behind her.

VINEYARD HAVEN – A unique vessel will visit Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole this week.

Hokule’a, which is homeported in Honolulu, is a replica of the vessels used by Polynesians to settle the Pacific Ocean. It first launched in 1975 sailing ancient Polynesian routes and is now voyaging around the world to promote a sustainable way of life.

Anthropologist Sam Low is a crew member and said the boat is traditionally called a canoe but is actually a catamaran.

“She has twin hulls spanned by a deck,” he said. “She’s 62 feet long and carries a crew between 16 and 24.”

Hokule’a can also carry up to 10 tons of cargo.

“She sails very beautifully and she’s nothing at all like what we picture people paddling around in on our harbors and bays,” Low said.

The ship is still navigated without instruments and charts like it would have been done in ancient times. The crew instead relies on signs of direction in the stars, waves and the flight of birds.

The designers of Hokule’a researched sketches from early European explorers and used them to create a blueprint and build the canoe.

“She is as near as we can determine an exact replica of the kinds of vessels Polynesians used to settle the Pacific thousands of years ago,” Low said.

The vessels current voyage is different from any other it had been on since it was built in 1975 and is sailing areas of the world the original boats had never been.

The message of this voyage is Malama Honua, or “care for the planet,” according to Low.

“The mission of the canoe now is to visit people, organizations and places around the world where we are learning to live within the limits of our resources, learning to live sustainably and to trade with people and exchange with people in various locations how we do that in Hawaii,” Low said. “And then take home to Hawaii those new things we are learning on the voyage.”

The vessel arrives to the Vineyard Tuesday where it will be greeted by a traditional Wampanoag Mushoon, which is a traditional dugout canoe.

Hokule’a will then will be docked at Tisbury Wharf where ceremonies will be held to commemorate the ships four day visit to the island.

The public is welcome to visit the ship on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and canoe tours will be given out on a first come-first serve basis.

Exhibits will also be set up under a large tent and will include presentations on how the navigators steer by the stars. Other exhibits include organizations working toward a sustainable way-of-life.

A film tent will also be set up to show videos documenting the places the Hokule’a has been on the Malama Honua voyage.

The vessel departs for Woods Hole on Friday where it will stay through Tuesday, July 5.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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