Canoe set ablaze: Crowdfunded project burned after run

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WAIPIO VALLEY — A community sailing canoe, built with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, was set on fire earlier this month, said one of the builders, who believes the damage was intentional.

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WAIPIO VALLEY — A community sailing canoe, built with the help of a crowdfunding campaign, was set on fire earlier this month, said one of the builders, who believes the damage was intentional.

The 24-foot double-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe was built as part of a Kickstarter project to provide a sailing vessel for the community of Waipio Valley, said Hualalai Keohuloa, a canoe builder. It’s name, Kana Lei Aloha, means “the lei bound by aloha.”

“It’s the biggest one we built,” said Keohuloa, founder of Waa Hamakua, which focuses on building canoes and educating the community about traditional sailing.

The campaign to get it built raised more than $5,000, and the canoe itself was constructed over a year and a half before its completion at the beginning of this month. Once finished, Keohuloa displayed the canoe as part of the Aha Pule Aina Holo, a four-day run around the island.

The run began Thursday, Nov. 10, at Honokaa Park and continued through Sunday, Nov. 13. It attracted about 100 people, Keohuloa said.

Keohuloa said he set up the canoe at the Waipio Valley Lookout, which participants passed Sunday before the run ended. That was the first time, he said, the canoe was fully assembled and it hadn’t even been launched into water yet.

“It was the first time everybody got to see the canoe,” he said.

Wednesday morning, he said, he went to the lookout to bail out water that had collected inside the canoe. That’s when he discovered it had been burned.

The damage, he said, seemed to be intentional.

“Somebody put gas on it and lit it,” he said, adding that there was an “undoubtable smell of gas.”

“It’s kinda trippy, kinda heavy,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t believe the vandal was someone who participated in the event.

“Not at all,” he said.

The canoe isn’t a total loss, he said, saying the vessel itself only needs a few repairs. As for the sail, though, “it’s done.” The sail, Keohuloa said, came from canoe builder Kiko Johnston-Kitazawa and was used in Keohuloa’s wedding.

“It’s more sentimental than anything,” he said.

In the week since the canoe was burned, he said, the community has rallied in support.

“We’ve gotten a lot of help from the community,” Keoholua said.

What’s left of the spar and boom, he said, has been turned into pu ohe, bamboo trumpets.

The remains of the sail were cut and made into ribbons that can be displayed in support of Mauna Kea.

Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman Chris Loos confirmed that they had received a report about the canoe and said it was being investigated as second-degree criminal property damage.

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Overall, Keohuloa is keeping a positive outlook on the incident.

“If you dwell on it as a problem, you might create more problems,” he said.

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