He ‘Ono I’o Nō — Delicious, Indeed

Timi and the 75lb ʻono he caught

One of the most valuable parts of catching a fish on a voyage is not only the delicious food that our crew gets to eat, but a sign that we are on the right path.

In the morning on Day 7 of our Kealaikahiki voyage from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi, our crew was gathered around the rear of the waʻa (canoe), enjoying a nice breakfast of oatmeal and scrambled eggs. We had our hoe uli (large steering paddle) in the water to guide our waʻa further into the windward direction. I was on the hoe uli when the conversation turned to high school graduation. Chris, whom Nālamakū and I had as a teacher for a Papa Kilo Hōkū (Celestial Navigation) class during our senior year, recalled a speech that I had given at our 2017 Kamehameha Schools Kapālama graduation ceremony, and suddenly Maui was busting out a microphone and I was being asked to recount the speech to the crew on the spot. I playfully accepted the challenge. As I began to recite the speech (with some freestyle omissions and additions), I remembered just how appropriate its focus was for this moment. Back in high school, I had been inspired by the same themes of Hōkūleʻa, oceans, and fish that are inspiring me right now as we voyage to Tahiti.

I talked about the ways that, as we voyage through life, we can enjoy the many ‘ono (tastes, delicacies) of the sea. One of the main themes I discussed was the importance of returning home after our journeys and sharing our diverse bounty with each other. I highlighted how Hōkūleʻa was one of the best examples of this. This waʻa had left on her Mālama Honua Voyage in 2014, returning after 3 years to a homecoming like no other. She traveled the world, brought the gifts of Hawaiʻi to other lands, and just a few weeks from the day I gave that speech, she would be coming home again to share the many gifts received in her travels. 

I ended my recounting of the speech in the same way that I had at graduation – we all held hands and sang Hawaiʻi Aloha. A few moments after we finished singing, the rubber band on our starboard-side fishing line snapped, and we had hooked a fish. In a few minutes, Timi and Archie pulled a 40-pound ‘ono onto the deck, a favorite fish of our captain and navigator, Lehua. I couldn’t help but laugh as we enjoyed the ‘ono, a fitting fish that came at the perfect time, a sign that we were doing well.

A few days later on Day 10, our crew woke up early for a small ceremony at sunrise to honor our crossing of Ka Piko o Wākea (the celestial equator) and Ka Piko o ka Honua (the Earth’s equator) as we moved from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere. We stood in a circle at the back of the waʻa and began by sharing thoughts that were on our mind. After everyone had the chance to share, we blew our pū kani (conch shells) and offered several mele (song, poetic text) and pule (prayer) together as a crew. We shared ‘awa, and those who brought pōhaku (stone) from our homes or other special places offered them to the ocean. We closed with a pule as a crew and another sounding of the pū kani to signify closure.

Soon after the ceremony, a fish jumped onto each of our two fishing lines – we pulled in two big aku! We prepped a bucket to float over to Hikianalia so they could enjoy some fresh aku, too; as the bucket was crossing over, another big aku jumped on the lure, so we ended up with two aku again! That night for dinner, Kana seared aku fillets that she laid upon special sushi rice with scrambled egg, a celebratory dish she had been hoping to make. Kamu prepared poke with Hawaiian salt, onion, and inamona (crushed kukui nut), and Kamu and Nālamakū cut sashimi. For dessert, Tamiko baked two cakes, a crazy accomplishment using a pot, steamer basket, and foil. Later that night, after we changed our mizzen (back) sail, Timi made “Aku Skin Madness” using thinly sliced aku skin and potato peels fried crispy in butter, and made fish head soup. The evening had the excitement of a big family party! I took the three aku as another sign that our voyage was on the right track.

Kamu making his dinner bowl with ono poisson cru, steamed ʻuala, and poi

Eating fresh fish always fills our crew with immense gratitude for the ocean, and as we gather together and share food, we are also overwhelmed by gratitude for one another. Every day, we offer the best of our gifts to each other and the waʻa because of our aloha for one another. Because this is what Hōkūleʻa, the ocean, and our ancestors ask of us, unspoken but understood. Because we have tasted the unparalleled ‘ono of heartfelt service with a common purpose, and we can’t help ourselves. We keep coming back for more.

Vance Kaleohano Kahahawai Farrant

To follow the journey to Tahiti, please visit the voyaging dashboard at www.WaaHonua.com.