A reflection on the Pacific Voyagers and the power of the sail

Molokai sailing clinic set for July 15

By Clare Seeger Mawae

The sails appeared on the horizon as people crowded the Kaunakakai Wharf with anticipation of the voyagers arriving to the shores. The reasons for wanting to be there were many. The seven pacific voyaging canoes stirred strong emotions, whether that of culture, a glimpse at a historic past, a witness to the natural power of the elements, or to understand the message the voyagers brought to the community.

The natural elements of the wind, the sun, the stars, and the land powered the voyaging canoes to the Hawaiian shores. The dominant force of the wind took the ancestors to new horizons, whether they were Polynesian or other cultures from around the world.

For generations, the wind powered those looking for a new way to travel, or seeking distant shores, or putting food on the table and returning their catch to their communities. Then the power of the engine came and in many ways took away a piece of the past. Culture became hazy and the focus became that of the future.

Today, the reality of the modern world has set in and people do need to look to the future. But more importantly, people need to first look back on the culture as oceans are dying, fish are disappearing and pollution is appearing in all forms. As a result, sustainability and preservation are words that are gathering momentum.

For many on Molokai, seeing the canoes coming in under sail and then utilize the natural element of solar to power the engines as they docked upon the shores was unique. The canoes represented two important qualities in life: the past, with strong ties to the culture, and the modern, with state-of-the-art technology. The canoes blended the two into a new direction for the future.

Mahalos have to go to Penny Martin and Mel Paoa for being part of a resurgence of a cultural and historical past, by bringing voyaging canoes to a live classroom.

The world as we know it is changing, and not in an upward direction like before, but in a detrimental and downward spiral of abuse toward Mother Nature with pollutants destroying the essence of the earth’s life force. These seven sails represent a new direction that perhaps reminds people of the importance of clean energy. It was also a reminder of their strong ties to a cultural past and where everyone came from, while being a sight that still captures beauty.

No matter the culture, the sail with the power of the wind has spanned many ethnic groups and thousands of generations. These voyagers have brought hope by combining the tools of the past — the use of the natural elements of the wind and the sun — with a strong belief in remembering the culture and keeping that alive.

Culture is important, it is the root for future generations, steadfast in keeping things grounded in the modern world, and, perhaps most importantly, bringing appreciation and understanding of how important sustainability is to humankind. If people choose to destroy this world, that is one thing. But if people choose to make a world for the children and for many generations, then seeing and learning from these experiences is essential. The waka moanas did just that for those that absorbed their presence and the message that was brought.

Sailing has always been in the blood of those living by the sea, especially with those living in the islands. Sailing has been around for so many generations, giving the power of the wind in the sails to open up new horizons.

On Friday, July 15, the community will get another chance to experience the power of the sail. The Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association will be hosting its annual Molokai sailing clinic at Hale O Lono Harbor from 2:30–5:30 p.m. This will be a great opportunity to feel the wind, and with the wave of emotion still riding high from the voyagers, perhaps this wave can build momentum when the community gets to experience what is like to be under sail.


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