KAWAIHAE, Hawaii BYU-Hawaii's 57-foot traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, Iosepa, left Hukilau Beach in Laie, Oahu, on May 20 on its maiden voyage and arrived on the west side of the island of Hawaii 24 hours later.
William K. "Uncle Bill" Wallace III, director of the BYU-Hawaii Hawaiian Studies program, explained that the canoe will spend approximately a month in Kawaihae, where Chadd Paishon and the late captain Clay Bertlemann of the Hawaiian sailing canoe, Makalii, had been helping train the Iosepa crew and leaders since work started in 2001.
Brother Wallace also said the canoe will remain at Kawaihae until the end of June, at which time another crew will sail it back to Laie. During that voyage, he said Iosepa may stop off at Hana on Maui, and Kalaupapa or other valleys on Molokai, where he was reared, before the final downwind leg to Laie.
Brother Paishon, a veteran of open-ocean voyages, acted as captain on Iosepa's maiden voyage. He and his wife, Pomai, and other experienced Makalii crew members, have been working closely with Brother Wallace. The Iosepa crew consists of BYU-Hawaii students, faculty, alumni and members of the community, many of whom helped create the canoe.
"The Iosepa is an integral part of our Hawaiian Studies program, and is truly a teaching canoe," Brother Wallace said. Students on the crew must be trained in their responsibilities, have completed or be currently enrolled in courses on preserving the land and sea, maintain a 2.0 grade average, pass a rigorous swimming test, keep a journal of their experiences and attend Church.
Brother Wallace stressed that the lessons of the canoe go far beyond seamanship. "Iosepa has made me become more aware of my kuleana, my responsibilities," he said. "My testimony has grown a hundredfold from all of the experiences from the beginning.
Brother Wallace said that the canoe is critical "in helping us spread the gospel and touch the lives of everyone we'll be visiting," and that "Iosepa helps strengthen our students and realize the sacrifices made by their ancestors not only in traversing the ocean, but also the sacrifices they made in accepting the gospel."
The crew members agree. Tereiha "Bubba" Hapi, a Maori student from Hastings, New Zealand, recalled: "As the sun was about the rise, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my ancestors, for my Heavenly Father blessing them and guiding them to our land. I had that comforting feeling through the whole journey that I didn't have any fear, especially coming through the channels. I had the feeling Heavenly Father was there with us, guiding our canoe and guiding our captains. I know our strength came from Him."
Jude Sells, a senior Hawaiian Studies and exercise science major at BYU-Hawaii, said, "I actually got baptized as a result of the Iosepa." Namealoha Curtis, one of the Hawaiian Studies students, encouraged him to help with building the canoe. A year after he was baptized they were married in the Laie Hawaii Temple.
"On the whole, working with the Iosepa is a very spiritual experience," said crew member Julia Noelani Lowe, a 2003 Hawaiian Studies graduate from Laie.