Colleen Uechi
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Photo of Kala Baybayan, navigating her canoe across the seas

Photo of Tanaka and a fellow crewmember study a map of their island destination. (Photos courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
Tanaka and a fellow crewmember study a map of their island destination. (Photos courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)

 

The wind was gusting fiercely as Kalä Baybayan Tanaka hunched behind the communications box to do an interview at sea. It was May 31, a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Tanaka was sailing homeward through the South Pacific with the crew of the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Höküle‘a.

The canoe was still 17 days away from Honolulu, and it was only fitting that Tanaka was aboard for the final leg. Three years ago, she had traveled the same waters in the opposite direction, en route to Tahiti, at the start of Höküle‘a’s inspiring Mälama Honua — “Caring for Island Earth” — Worldwide Voyage. The Tanaka who was returning, however, was bringing back much more knowledge of the stars, the wind and the sea. […]

Photo of Kalä Baybayan Tanaka and her dad, Pwo navigator Kälepa Baybayan are all smiles with Tanaka’s birthday cake, which was baked at sea and topped with slices of banana. She said turning 34 at sea aboard Höküle‘a was a milestone she will never forget.
Kalä Baybayan Tanaka and her dad, Pwo navigator Kälepa Baybayan are all smiles with Tanaka’s birthday cake, which was baked at sea and topped with slices of banana. She said turning 34 at sea aboard Höküle‘a was a milestone she will never forget.

 

A short time later, the crew glimpsed its first sight of home: the cloudless peak of Haleakalä. For the Maui girl, “it felt really good to just see my mountain,” Tanaka said.

If there is anything Tanaka has learned from her travels with Höküle‘a, it is how the world could look if people work together to care for it — and how it might look if they don’t.

Take New York Harbor, for example. Years of overharvesting, dredging and pollution have all but wiped out the oyster reefs that served as natural ocean filters. That means dirtier waters and fewer habitats for fish. But there’s hope: Students at New York Harbor School have been working to restore oysters in the harbor as part of the Billion Oyster Project.

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Colleen Uechi is a reporter for The Maui News. She is a fourth-generation Uchinanchu who graduated from Pacific Union College in California in 2013. Uechi was previously a reporter for The Molokai Dispatch.

 

 

Photo of Kala and her dad, Kalepa Baybayan, working on the canoe
“Each of these voyages has taught me to be more in sync with my environment and see things better.” — Kalä Baybayan Tanaka
Photo of Kalä Baybayan Tanaka with her husband Daniel and their two sons Kalae‘ula (age 5) and Tekauri (age 2). (Photo courtesy Tanaka family)
Kalä Baybayan Tanaka with her husband Daniel and their two sons Kalae‘ula (age 5) and Tekauri (age 2). (Photo courtesy Tanaka family)

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