That day, the vaka first touched the ocean at Hale’iwa Beach under the leadership of Kamaki Worthingon, a navigator and captain on Hokule’a, and also a son of the Cook Islands. Kamaki is the grandson of Jim and Poko Ingram, and second son of Dr Takiora Ingram.
After years of planning, that morning a large crowd of about 150 people gathered around the sailing and paddling vaka, for a traditional Hawaiian blessing, before community members pushed it into the water for the first time.
The vaka is 9 metres long, and crews can both sail and paddle it. All her components are lashed together using traditional Hawaiian skills and style of canoe making. No metal fasteners or nuts and bolts were used.
With assistance from many partners, including the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Kamehameha Schools, Malama Loko Ea Foundation, Ulupono Initiative, and the Omidyar Foundation, a very supportive group of North Shore community members started building the vaka in October 2016. Wanana Paoa will serve the community as a floating classroom for the children and families of the North Shore.
Volunteers are developing programmes for local schools that will teach students to apply a navigator’s mindset to solve problems, increase cooperation, strengthen decision-making skills, and become good stewards of the North Shore’s cultural and natural resources. The vaka and its crew will be undergoing sea trials over the next few months, in preparation for escorting Hokule’a when she returns home from her worldwide voyage in June.
The name, Wanana Paoa, is from the largest islet outside Waimea Bay, which helps mark the boundary between the moku of Waialua and Ko’olau Loa.
In his dedication speech, Kamaki shared the vision of the founders of Wanana Paoa.
“We envision a vibrant North Shore community that understands, values, and protects our culture, place and people.
“We are working to have more community members build a navigator’s mindset by providing educational opportunities to young and old, blending modern and ancestral knowledge about science, leadership and aina, (land) to create strong decision-making skills, a sense of place, and cultural vibrancy.
“Today is a testament of how incredible our community and home is. It is time for the North Shore to be recognized as more than just a stop off for surfers and visitors. We are so much more than that.” He thanked the “countless people who had worked tirelessly on the vaka initiative as volunteers. Wanana Paoa now proudly sits on the beach at Hale’iwa Beach Park where activities are taking place.
Perhaps this initiative will also inspire other young Cook Islanders to learn to build, navigate, and sail traditional vaka.
- Jaewynn McKay