For Haunani Kane, Hōkūleʻa has always represented pride in the Hawaiian people, their intelligence, and their strength both in and out of the water. It was no surprise, therefore, that when Haunani met Nainoa Thompson in high school -- ( President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the first true Hawaiian navigator in hundreds of years) -- she was intrigued by learning even more about the iconic canoe and honored to be placed under his mentorship.
By 27 years old, Haunani was ready to take on her first sail outside of Hawai‘i at the beginning of Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage. Nainoa encouraged her to train and become as physically strong as possible for the voyage. “Nainoa kept reminding me I had to train before my big trip. Before Hōkūle‘a, I loved to surf, but I didn’t have much interest in being buff. It’s not really my body type. I did train a lot to become physically stronger and I really benefited from it. It’s part of my lifestyle right now even though I am not sailing all the time.” But the challenges of being a woman on board Hōkūle‘a go beyond physical strength. Just the basic things that women do on a day to day basis can be a challenge. “At that level it’s easier to be a guy,” Haunani says. “For example, having long hair and having to shower in salt water showers is tough. Just finding the right shampoo and conditioner that can work with salt water showers while also being good for the environment…you have to think about these things.”
Not that any of that is holding the women on Hōkūle‘a back, and Haunani has plenty of strong and talented women to look up to such as Kaʻiulani Murphy and Pomai Bertelmann. “I was fortunate to sail with them both this past summer,” Haunani says. “Pomai was the first female captain on Hōkūle‘a. It was so amazing to be on the canoe the first time they had a female captain!” And Haunani herself is now an important member of the navigational crew, as well as on board scientist, helping to monitor the health of the oceans they pass through. She’s also working on a PhD that focuses on climate change and the Pacific islands, and she takes a lot of what she learns on the canoe to drive her research. And, as with all the other crew members we talk to, it’s clear that for Haunani, time spent on Hōkūle‘a learning about the ocean, stars, and winds also helps her learn more about herself. “I think by sailing on Hōkūle‘a, I have learnt more about my own strengths and weaknesses,” she explains. “Being part of it for so long I’ve seen how having something that is important to your culture can help you find your purpose in life. I just want to be a part of helping to create more opportunities for kids and young people to have the experiences I have had -- whether on the canoe or by helping them to find themselves through their culture.”