Crew Profile

Crew Blog | Michelle Knoetgen: The Canoe is a Classroom

Michelle KnoetgenWritten by Michelle Knoetgen

On Saturday, March 18, Hōkūleʻa Captain and Pwo Navigator Bruce Blankenfield held crew training for Leg 19 of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage at Hui Nalu O Hawaii, a historic canoe club founded by Duke Kahanamoku and others in 1908.


Crew training began with Pule Hoʻomaikaʻi, a prayer of gratitude that asks for protection and enlightenment, followed by Mele Kāhea, a chant which requests permission from a host before entering their space, and is often practiced from the deck of the canoe upon entering a new port. Leg 19 anticipates three arrival ceremonies that will include Hawaiian and Native American protocol.

Just before singing Oli Mahalo, Captain Bruce reminded the crew that we are grateful to the teachers before us: the beach boys and the paddlers who have protected and passed down their knowledge of canoes and their love of the ocean.

Leg_19_Crew_Training_Nā Mamo O Paoa
The crew’s main focus was steering and stopping the canoe.

While crew members paddled Nā Mamo O Paoa, a six-man outrigger canoe, around the waters of Hawaii Kai, they focused on steering and stopping in order to simulate the experience of bringing Hōkūleʻa through the Atlantic Ocean’s Intracoastal Waterways (ICW).

Captain Bruce, along with experienced watermen Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau and Duane DeSoto, taught other crew members the nuances of steering from the back of the canoe, including finding a focal point, anticipating wind, and reading the ocean swells in order to keep the canoe on a straight course. Another important skill they got a feel for was stopping the canoe with their paddles, in preparation for the need to stop Hōkūleʻa.

As teacher-crew members continue to prepare for Leg 19, Captain Bruce reminds them to ʻimi ʻike, to search out knowledge on their own: to make sure they know their knots inside and out, to continue to practice the mele and oli that they will share with various communities on the East Coast, and to research the areas they will be visiting.

Crewmembers practiced teamwork and communication as they paddled together, switching positions regularly so that everyone got chances to steer, lead, and count off, just as they will share responsibilities and work closely as a team on and off the canoe from Cape Canaveral, FL to Yorktown, VA.

Mahalo for reading! Continue to follow the voyage at

More than Adventure

Beyond a daring expedition, the Worldwide Voyage is quite possibly the most important mission that Hawaiʻi has ever attempted. As people of Oceania, we are leading a campaign that gives voice to our ocean and planet by highlighting innovative solutions practiced by cultures around the planet.

We could not have begun this great journey without your support, nor can we continue to its completion.

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