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The First Time I Saw Her . . .

The first time that I saw Hokule`a was when it sailed into Hanalei Bay for the first time. My lifelong friend and classmate at Kamehameha, Kimo Hugho, was then captain of the Hokule`a. Kimo called me on Kaua`i and told me that he was sailing Hokule`a to Hanalei.

On that day, I drove from Po`ipu to Hanalei and watched as Hokule`a sailed into the bay. It was a moment that I would always remember. The sight made me want to be a part of this wonderful new venture. However, this was not to be. I got back in my car, drove back to Po`ipu and forgot about Hokule`a.

After my divorce, I moved to Po`ipu, Kaua`i, became a fireman and commercial fisherman. My son, Scott, who lived with his mother on O`ahu, always wanted to come to Kaua`i and live with me. Finally, his mother reluctantly agreed and Scott moved in with me. There was no way that I would leave him, again, and go on Hokule`a with Kimo Hugho.

From Pokai Bay to Hanalei . . .

Hokule`a would come back into my life, years later. Another lifelong friend, Leon Sterling, called me, one day. Leon asked if I would be the “Kaua`i pilot” and help bring Hokule`a from Pokai Bay to Hanalei Bay. Hokule`a was going to be used in a film called “Behold Hawai`i”. Of course, I said yes and flew to O`ahu.

After a couple of days, we finally set sail from Pokai Bay at around 0400. As we motored down the Wai`anae coast, we were all laughing and joking, looking forward to the crossing. We would put up the sails, once we entered the Kaua`i Channel. Finally, we entered the channel, turned off the motor and put up the sails.

As soon as the wind caught the sails, Hokule`a surged forward. Suddenly, everyone became quiet. The only sounds were the wind in the sails and the hiss of the wake as the canoe moved faster and faster through the water.

Although I had made several channel crossings, previously, this was my first time on a large multihull. I was amazed at how well Hokule`a handled the seas. I liked the “motion” of the canoe, it was completely different to what I had experienced on “monohulls”; it was much easier on the body, a slower roll instead of a “snap roll”. The speed that we were traveling at also surprised me for such a large vessel with, relatively, small sails. These were my first reactions, but moments later I became immersed in a totally different sensation.

We were now out of the lee of O`ahu and in the Kaua`i Channel. It was a moonless night, so everything was in shadow. As I looked around, this intense feeling of “déjà vu” came over me. Everyone was quiet, lost in their own thoughts and feelings. Leon was steering and I was standing next to him, on the stern, looking forward. The rest of the crew were shrouded in the half-light and I could see Nainoa’s silhouette up on the starboard bow. The feeling of having “been here before” kept haunting me and finally took over completely! I was on the Hokule`a, physically, but my mind had transported me back into another time . . . in the past.

The silence was broken by Nainoa yelling back to Leon to steer on a certain star that he had chosen. Leon steered towards the star and, again  we all became as one, lost in our private thoughts and feelings. Then, Leon looked at me and asked me if I wanted to steer the canoe because he noticed that I had been watching him. I said yes and took the helm. Again . . . that powerful feeling of “déjà vu”. Alhough this was my first time, the steering paddle felt familiar, I had done this before.

Dip . . . lift . . . dip, again. The motion of the canoe and the star were the only things that I was aware of, I was lost in the moment. Suddenly, Nainoa yelled, “Who’s steering?” Leon replied, “Al”. I thought, “Oh no, I screwed up!” Nainoa came rushing back and by the way he was looking at me, I really thought that I had done something wrong.

Nainoa stared at me and asked, “Have you steered the canoe before?” I said, “No, this is my first and only time.” Nainoa said, “I can’t believe this is your first time, that’s the best anyone has steered Hokule`a in years." He also said, “As I was watching the star, I couldn’t believe that the canoe wasn’t wavering from side to side, as usual. It was right on, all the time.” I was speechless, it seemed that I was just steering like I always had, with other boats. “Déjà vu !!!” Now, I knew that I had been here and done this before!

Roland Cazimero and Leina`ala Heine were also on the canoe.  Roland had brought his cassette recorder and as we entered Hanalei Bay, he played “Hanalei” from his “Ho`ala” album. With that song playing, Namolokama, the majestic waterfall, providing the backdrop to Hanalei Bay and the school of porpoises that greeted us as we came into the bay, it was a beautiful ending to a wondrous trip of discovery.

"Behold Hawai`i" . . .

About a week later, we began filming. After putting on our make-up and costumes, we boarded Hokule`a and the escort/camera boat towed us out to sea. Aboard Hokule`a were some of the film crew, a couple of extras and the crew of  Hokule`a. We were all dressed as our ancestors were when they first discovered Hawai`i. The men and boys dressed in malu, were also adorned with traditional tattoos. The women and girls were bare-breasted. Since I was steering, I could see all of this from the stern, it was quite a sight . . .and there it was, again, that powerful feeling of "deja vu"!.

As we got outside of the bay, we unhitched the canoe from the escort/film boat and put up the sails. We then turned around and headed back into the bay under sail. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day. The director called for the film crew aboard Hokule`a to hide and told the rest of us to get ready.

A few minutes later, the director yelled, “Action”. Leon then shouted, “ua mau kau kau, ho`e”. At that very moment, wondrous things began to unfold. A light shower started just ahead of the canoe, the school of porpoises suddenly appeared escorting us as we entered the bay. Then the first rainbow appeared, then the second and finally the third. Hokule`a and its crew were being "blessed" and welcomed! It was an amazing sight to behold!

From the helm. I looked forward and saw us as the first people, our ancestors, who had finally reached their destination after months at sea. Leon tuned to me with tears in his eyes and as I looked through my tear filled eyes, too, I could see that the other crew members were feeling what Leon and I were. The cameras were rolling but we had, in that moment, traveled back in time. A few moments, later, the director yelled, “Cut” and we were jolted back into the “real world”. We all looked at each other and smiled. However, what we experienced in those few short moments, stayed with us for days, for some of us, for a lifetime!

The director and the film crew congratulated us for a “wonderful and great acting performance”. We all smiled secretly, and thought, “If you only knew” . . .

After filming was over, we sailed Hokule`a from Hanalei to Port Allen. To do this, under sail, we would have to go around the south point of Ni`ihau and head out into the Kaua'i Channel and tack back to Port Allen. We left Hanalei early in the morning and set a course for Ni`ihau.

We finally passed Lehua Island, off of Ni`ihau, and started sailing along the shore. To our amazement the shoreline was lined with people waving and calling to us. This was, probably, the first time in centuries that a voyaging canoe had passed offshore of Ni`ihau. It was a very special moment that we all savored as we sailed up the coast. By the early evening, we were heading out into the channel.

This is when I really discovered how well Hokule`a handled the ocean. We were now heading "upwind", directly into the oncoming sells. Hokule`a took the oncoming seas in stride, gently riding over the huge swells. Several hours later, we saw the lights on O`ahu and turned around and headed back to Kaua`i.

After we docked at Port Allen, Jeanne and I looked at each other and knew what kind of boat we were going to build.

A little "side note": When we were approaching the pier, in Port Allen, there were several Hawaiians (from Ni`ihau) standing on the dock, chanting in Hawaiian. After we tied up, they started speaking to we "Hawaiians" in "Hawaiian"! NONE, of us could reply because we didn't speak Hawaiian. The ONLY one that answered them was a "Ha`ole from the Mainland" who taught Hawaiian at a local school on Kaua`i. Auwe!

obby Hall - KiKi Hogho - Al Gonzales . . . filming of "Behold Hawai`i" - Hanalei

Leon Sterling - Booby Hall - John Kruse - Billy Richards - Keani Kruse -  sorry forgot other names (my hair in foreground)



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