- Associated Press - Saturday, January 16, 2016

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) - Like a mother and very comfortable and consistent is how Wailuku resident and apprentice navigator Kala Baybayan describes the Hikianalia, a 72-foot voyaging canoe that blends traditional Polynesian sailing as its navigators use the stars, sun and wind to guide them with modern technology with its solar-powered electric engines.

“I like everything about her,” said Baybayan, who has gone on numerous trips with the Hikianalia, the sister canoe to the legendary Hokule’a.

“I feel very comfortable on her,” said the 32-year-old daughter of master navigator Chad Kalepa Baybayan.

The younger Baybayan spent her early years at Kamehameha III Elementary School, moved away and now has returned.

“It’s a very inviting feel about her,” Kala Baybayan said of Hikianalia, and she should know. She has sailed numerous times around the Hawaiian Islands on the Hikianalia and, in 2014, sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti as the canoe accompanied the Hokule’a as it embarked on its three-year malama honua (“Care for Our Earth”) worldwide voyage.

On a Saturday in early January, the Hokule’a was in the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the British territory of St. Helena. But the Hikianalia is on a statewide voyage that began last year on the North Shore of Oahu. The canoe is mooring off Lahaina Harbor as future crew members train and do educational and community outreach. The Hikianalia will remain off Lahaina until around Jan. 24 before heading to Molokai.

While Hokule’a was in the South Atlantic Ocean, members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which the canoes belong to, along with environmental organizations and Maui’s own Hui O Wa’a Kaulua (Assembly of the Double-Hulled Canoes), which has its own voyaging canoe, Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani, held a community outreach event at Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina. More community events are scheduled from Jan. 21 to 23 with details to be released soon, officials said.

Many Maui County residents have sailed on the Hikianalia and this is not the canoe’s first visit to Maui. But the worldwide voyage has thrown a spotlight on Hikianalia, which at times travels as Hokule’a’s escort vessel. For this trip to Maui, the canoe was brought to Lahaina from Oahu on Jan. 3 under the watch of 1976 Hokule’a crew member and Maui resident Snake Ah Hee.

Hikianalia was first launched on Sept. 15, 2012, from Auckland, New Zealand, and was specifically designed for the worldwide voyage, according to the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Hikianalia is the Hawaiian name for the star also known as Spica. It rises together with the star Hokule’a, or Arcturus, in Hawaii. The two are sister stars because they break the horizon together at the latitude of the Hawaiian Islands, according to the society. The two canoes began the worldwide voyage together and will conclude the voyage together.

Each of Hikianalia’s hulls contains an electric motor powered by onboard photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight to electric propulsive energy. With a zero carbon footprint, the design supports the malama honua intent of the worldwide voyage.

The motors are not used all the time and may be used while docking or crossing channels, said Miki Tomita, director of the Learning Center at the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Tomita is a former Maui resident who also spent time on the Hikianalia.

She said that, unlike the Hokule’a, the Hikianalia has a flushing toilet and a working galley. However, crew members tend to cook with a propane burner on top of the canoe as they do on the Hokule’a. (On the Hokule’a, crew members relieve themselves on the side of the canoe, which can involve a special strapping device to told bodies in place.)

A water hose on the Hikianalia can be used to wash down the decks while on the Hokule’a crew members would be using buckets of seawater, Tomita said.

Various scientific experiments have been conducted aboard the Hikinalia. These included water quality measurements, monitoring of fish DNA and their stomach contents, monitoring of marine debris, monitoring of marine life acoustics and a study of plankton, crew members said. Depending on the experiment, Global Positioning System coordinates are taken when specimens are collected. Some of the data collected has been shared with Hawaii schoolchildren.

Using a CellScope provided by the Oahu nonprofit organization Kahi Kai, crew members were able to look at the plankton found in oceans as they were voyaging. The device turns iPhones into “diagnostic-quality microscopes.” The devices and the photos of what could be seen with them were on display at the recent event.

Along with the education, training and science components, Tomita said that the Hikianalia is used to spread the malama honua vision in the islands.

Being an apprentice navigator is a learning experience for Kala Babayan, who is following in her father’s footsteps.

As a 22-year-old, she took her first canoe voyage with her father in 2001 aboard ‘Aha Punana Leo’s Hokualaka’i canoe through the Hawaiian Islands.

She called the experience “very nerve-wracking” as it was her first voyage and she was traveling with an all-male crew.

“I did it as a way to connect with my dad … I wanted to understand or experience what it was, what he loved so much about voyaging.”

After getting over her initial jitters and not getting seasick as she expected, Babayan relaxed. Her father, who put her on an early-morning watch, then gave his daughter a lesson in the stars, a far different view of what she had seen from looking at the heavens from land and in cities.

“It was so gorgeous,” she said.

She later heard and saw a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the canoe.

“We are so interconnected,” she realized.

“That trip was the hook,” she said of the beginning of her navigational experience.


Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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