Crew Profile

Crew Blog | Joia Karen Holman: Preparation and Potential

Karen HolmanWritten by Joia Karen Holman

In the days and months preceding a voyage, there is a realm of the “in between”, a twilight type of time when one foot is on land and the other is somewhere distant and imaginative. It was the presence of children that finally prompted my one foot to catch up with the other. In a presentation at Anuenue School, I showed an image of the Earth captured by astronauts and asked students to describe how it made them feel to see our home suspended there in the infinite vastness of space. A young boy says that to see the planet from afar makes him feel like “a mystical God roaming the Earth”, while another gestures to his body and says that he feels like he is “gone,” a simple shedding of the physical that suggests something much more profound in spiritual depth. Others speak of our responsibility to take care of our precious planet, and as they ask questions and I share stories, the approaching journey becomes real and visions transition to reality.

Hikianalia in the sunrise.

Just two days before our departure to Aotearoa, our crew gathers at China Walls on the island of O’ahu. We practice our chants, share our thoughts, and come into the space of one mind. I have often heard it said that 90% of the voyage lies in the planning. During our training process, everything around us evokes potential. Even the chants we sing beckon us to step into our truest potential. Our prayer of gratitude ends with the words:

E mālama mai iā mākou a palekana
A puka i ke ao mālamalama
A puka!

Tend to us with protection
So that we might emerge forth into the light.

There at China Walls, Keoni Kuoha explains to us the true meaning of the word ʻpukaʻ. In a commonplace sense, we know of it as a ʻholeʻ but in a deeper sense, puka is to emerge from one state into another, and refers to the potential of the hole and not the hole itself. Puka is what the sun does when it rises or what a person does when they graduate, and what we will all do as we sail Hōkūleʻa across the Tasman sea from New Zealand to Australia. Our chants evoke the unseen. Again we launch into the future, imagining where we will use certain chants. We are reminded that we may chant without audience before arriving in Sydney, but just because there is no human audience, this does not mean the elements are not responding to us.

A crew member reminds us that a carver carves the bottom of a piece and not just what is visible on the top because the spirits are watching and they want to see. As we observe the pitch and fall of the swells from land, we chant about coming from the troughs and peaks of the waves, of hearing the creaking of the lashings, of coming from the sea and seeking refuge on land. We chant with emotion, we jump in with our whole hearts and send our intention across the shores. We are reminded of what awaits in Aurere, and of the power of chanting in the context it was intended.


As we envision moments yet to actualize, we again dwell in the seed and in imagination. We look out over the horizon to the south, the direction in which we will sail, and imagine that soon we will be surrounded by open ocean in a 360 degree perspective. As crew members we share what brought us to this moment and the significance this voyage shares for each of us. A rainbow emerges over Lē‘ahi, or Diamond head. It is a low lying rainbow, ʻkokoʻ, a blood rainbow. Before leaping off the land into the sea we contemplate who we are bringing with us and the commitments we wish to make to ourselves and our community. To speak it is to make it real. We make the leap into the sea and embrace each other in the rolling swells. Somehow the jump into the ocean represents a much bigger jump, into a space we have yet to discover.

Photo by Joia Karen Holman
Photo by Joia Karen Holman

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

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