Crew Blog | Rick Kilbride: The Relay

Rick KilbrideWritten by Rick Kilbride, 

As a brief participant in Hōkūleʻa’s adventures in Maine and Canada, I’ve been privileged to observe this amazing organization and two dozen or so of the kind and spirited people from which it’s formed.  Along with the rest of the crew, I was presented a cherished eagle feather in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia at our welcoming reception there.  This is a pretty amazing gift for my bit part in this adventure.


As I heard the crew discussing Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage with visitors during boat tours and as I watched the leaders plan next legs, I thought of the marathon this is.  Much of what I heard was about the port visits and seas crossed by a vessel already 2/3rds the way around the world.  There was also the planning: finding the weather windows, preparing and provisioning the vessel, having the crews ready, setting up arrangements in the next ports, as well as contingencies, and on it went.  It is exhausting, and it is an enormous responsibility to the crew and the leaders.  Yet as I observed it and participated in some of it, I became aware that a marathon is not what this voyage is.  It’s a relay.


In the context of the larger goals of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hōkūleʻa’s expedition is about passing along the baton.  It’s about handing forward to others the goals and dreams of the organization.  Nainoa Thompson was specific that the last leg approaching Hawaiʻi is to be navigated by the younger members.  In that unambiguous way, this journey is to end with a new generation carrying the baton.


But the theme is broader than that.  Hōkūleʻa’s voyage is also about handing forward a sense of identity to Native Hawaiians that they are to pass to their children and communities.


In a relay, those that begin the journey are not those that finish it.  Further, the winning team doesn’t have to have the fastest members, but it does have to have those that can effectively hand off the baton.  We all know that passing the baton can be accomplished smoothly, or it can be fumbled and dropped.

Importantly, Hōkūleʻa speaks to the goals of clean oceans and living in a sustainable way on our earth.  The founders, maybe all of the crew, know that these are objectives of the journey that are not likely to be fully realized while they hold the baton.  Treating the earth more kindly, to which all the crew is so committed, is about helping a broader society meet these challenges.  It’s a way that we all seek to live, as well as a serious task that must be passed ahead and shared by a broader society.  This is why the educational aspects of the mission are both the most critical and the most far reaching.  Passing the message and the spirit of Hōkūleʻa to the next generations and influencing their education is the baton that must not be dropped.

Rick teaches at the University of New Hampshire and assisted the Worldwide Voyage in the northern waters of New England and Canada.

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