Hokule‘a made a stop outside Keauhou Bay Sunday to receive the ashes of the late Chad Kalepa Baybayan to join the crew on its first major training voyage since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Baybayan, a master (pwo) navigator and a captain of the historic voyaging canoe, died on April 8 at age 64 of a heart attack. He was scheduled to make the trip. His family made that possible Sunday, delivering his ashes to the crew of the sailing canoe.
A small gathering of family and friends were aboard Hokule‘a as Baybayan’s remains were entrusted to the crew. The canoe was then decorated with lei draped on his casket.
Pwo navigators Nainoa Thompson, Archie Kalepa, Bruce Blankenfeld and Chad Paison shared memories of sailing with Baybayan and his rise to master navigator.
“He told his wife that he wanted to go, and the following night, he died,” Thompson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We asked the family if we could take him. We started with a crew of 11 on the Hokule‘a, but we will depart the Big Island with a crew of 12. There is also a crew of 12 on the Hikianalia.”
The voyage was originally taking the canoe to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the area of the Pacific Ocean known as “the doldrums,” however Thompson said dangerous conditions in the Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and the Big Island delayed the Hokule‘a and its sister voyaging canoe, the Hikianalia, on Maui for more than a week. He said the delay means that the training voyage can’t make it all the way to the ITCZ.
Thompson said the plan now is to travel through Kealaikahiki, an ancient pathway to Tahiti, and take Baybayan as far south of the Big Island as the canoes can get and still get back to Oahu by Friday. He said the crew will take Baybayan on another sail this fall to Tahiti.
According to Hokule‘a archives, Baybayan has sailed on the voyaging canoe since 1975, when he was 19 years old. Since then, he has served as captain and navigator for eight Hokule‘a voyages, as well as trips on two other wa‘a, Hawai‘iloa and Hokualaka‘i. He was the navigator-in-residence at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo and served as captain and navigator of Hokualaka‘i, a 58-foot canoe launched in 2004 and operated by ‘Aha Punana Leo, an educational organization dedicated to perpetuating Hawaiian language and culture.
Baybayan’s ashes will be brought back to the Big Island before Hokule‘a makes its return trip to Oahu. His family said his ashes will be spread near his childhood home in waters off Maui at a later date.
“Dad was so excited to be going,” said his daughter Pukanala Llanes. “He’s still going, just in a different form. They are not going to spread his ashes, he’s just going holoholo.”