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Crew Blog | Aloha Cerit: Nā Kelamoku trip to Miami

Nā Kelamoku trip to Miami

Written by Nā Kelamoku crewmember, Aloha Cerit

The one week I spent in Miami with the members of Nā Kelamoku was life changing.  My days were filled with an exchange of sustainable ideas with various youth from Miami.  We shared our desires and our actions to take care of the planet and in turn learned the ways that students in Miami were implementing the concept of mālama honua in their classrooms and lives.  Our evenings were equally amazing.  As an aspiring sailor, I jump with excitement at any opportunity to be around the waʻa (canoe) and learn from the seasoned crew members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  I quickly fell in love with spending my evenings sharing a meal with the leg twenty six crew of the Worldwide Voyage.  They had so much to teach, and I soon felt welcomed into the awesome journey on which they were about to embark.

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Nā Kelamoku youth Aloha Cerit, Tehani McLean, and Baylee Jackson with Captain Bruce before departure from Miami. Photo Credit: Hye Jung Kim.

When the morning arrived that Hōkūleʻa was set to begin her journey down to Key West, Nā Kelamoku awoke before dawn to see her depart.  Not wanting to get in the way of the crew as they busily prepared for their voyage, we sheepishly stood on the dock.  However, our inhibitions were quickly wiped away when the crew saw us and invited us on board with a smile.  We eagerly offered our help in all the ways we could.  Hōkūleʻa was ready to set sail, but she needed to be turned around.  The crew worked together as a well oiled team.  Each crew member executed their part perfectly and the wa’a slowly spun around.  The Nā Kelamoku members were lucky enough to hold the lines on the dock and help Hōkūleʻa maneuver.  I was overcome with excitement as my training at home to be a sailor was being realized in front of me.  I was actually holding the lines to the Hōkūleʻa.  As she maneuvered around, an immense surge of pride rushed through me.  The canoe was simply turning, but seeing Hōkūleʻa afloat on the water reminded me that this canoe was special.  Our culture, values, and everything that Hawaiʻi emanates was floating in front of me.  We were 5,000 miles from Hawaiʻi yet I was more connected to my culture and my home than ever.

When the Hōkūleʻa was facing forward, our members of Nā Kelamoku were asked to step back on board and join the crew in chanting Oli Mahalo.  As I chanted, I considered the words and the meaning of the oli (chant).  It tells of gratitude to God, to our ancestors, and to love.  In that moment, I had everything and some to be thankful for.  I was living my dream.  I was also overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for the crew, the waʻa, the places that had hosted us, and all the experiences I had encountered. We wished the crew a safe journey and kissed them goodbye.  Once again the canoe pushed away from the dock.  As I watched Hōkūleʻa, a gentle shower began to fall.  I looked up into the rain to see a rainbow looming.  There was a rainbow in Miami just for her.  A sign of hope, light, and beauty.  She was being wished a safe journey from the heavens.  In that surreal moment only one thought crossed my mind.  A hui hou (goodbye).  See you at home.  I cannot wait to see you again.  She was beautiful on the water.  The members of Nā Kelamoku walked out to the edge of the pier with each of our eyes fixed on Hokule’a as she drifted away.  Her next adventure awaits.  She was about to continue sharing the message of mālama honua as she finished her tour of the world.  We stood there in silence, unblinking, not wanting to come back to reality after the wonder in which we had all just taken a small part.  She slowly disappeared into the sun and eventually was just a speck.  I felt content.  I was overjoyed that I had seen her, and I felt extremely satisfied with myself for the time and learning I had on the canoe.

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Nā Kelamoku youth Aloha Cerit, Tehani McLean, Baylee Jackson, and Brandon Caliwag watching Hōkūleʻa depart from Miami heading to the Panama Canal. Photo Credit: Hye Jung Kim.

When we walked back to the car, still savoring the moments of witnessing Hōkūleʻa on her way, I was overwhelmed with pride, happiness, and awe.  As I was was wrapped up in my head, a man in a wheelchair approached us and asked if we were on the dock to watch Hōkūleʻa depart.  We explained that we were Nā Kelamoku, the youth group of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  This kind stranger seemed overjoyed to meet us, and introduced himself as the owner of the pier that Hōkūleʻa had been docked at for the past few days.  He and a few of his partners were about to take a boat out to follow Hōkūleʻa.  They asked if we wanted to join them.  Of course!  Another chance to see Hōkūleʻa on the water was something that none of us could deny.  What are the chances that this stranger would come up to us and extend such an amazing offer?  How lucky we are. This only happens when you have a good heart and a good purpose.  Good people find you. They gravitate to your goodness and they want to be apart of what you are doing.  I had never had such kindness extended to me.  I knew that this was happening because of the inspiring mission and team that I had become a part of.

As we coasted into the open ocean, I was excited to see Hōkūleʻa again.  I struck a conversation with our benevolent new friend, Harry.  I was captivated by his story.  He had broken his back a few years ago, and, being someone who loved the water and boats, was inspired by his misfortune to fill a need in the community.  There were no marina’s that catered to disabled peoples, so he founded one.  He called it Shake a Leg.  Shake a Leg Miami became a place of rehabilitation, therapy, and new opportunity for youth with physical and mental disabilities.  I sat behind Harry and his service dog and was filled with so much respect.  To me, he had achieved the definition of a successful life.  Harry had found a need in the community, something he was passionate about, and did it.  I want to be able to say that I did something this meaningful with my life someday.

When we pulled Hōkūleʻa closer to us, I was again struck by how beautiful she was in the water.  Even with her sails closed, she jumped over waves with grace and stood majestic.  She was a beacon of hope and a representative of Hawaiʻi.  Hōkūleʻa was proof that our ancestors were voyagers, made for the water, and able to navigate purposefully without the use of modern technologies.  As we all gazed at Hōkūleʻa with wonder and amazement, Harry asked me to explain the story of Hōkūleʻa to his live video feed.  I was more than happy to share her story because it truly is amazing. The people that made her possible were determined to prove what they believed.  Against the common belief and the criticisms that they received, they constructed Hōkūleʻa and successfully completed a journey.  Their determination prevailed and they proved that they were right.  As I was speaking for the live video feed, a huge wave splashed us and soaked everyone.  I didn’t care one bit.  I love the water it was refreshing and it is a friend.  I sat there soaking wet, telling the story of our amazing waʻa, and staring at her glide over waves.  There was nothing in the world more perfect than that moment.

Nā Kelamoku youth crew members Baylee, Aloha, Tehani, Brandon with advisor Hye Jung right after meeting Harry Horgan, the founder of Shake-a-Leg Miami. Photo Credit: Hye Jung Kim.
Nā Kelamoku youth crew members Baylee, Aloha, Tehani, Brandon with advisor Hye Jung right after meeting Harry Horgan, the founder of Shake-a-Leg Miami. Photo Credit: Hye Jung Kim.

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