Crew Profile: Melvin “Mel” Paoa

PVS Member Since 1977

HOMETOWN: Kaunakakai, Hawaii
PRIMARY DUTY: Medical Liaison
OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES: Cook, electrical, and radio

Born and raised on the island of Molokai, Mel first sailed on Hōkūleʻa in 1977. He was Molokai’s first traditional master navigator. With much sadness and deep aloha, the Polynesian Voyaging Society and voyaging ʻohana mourned the unexpected loss of beloved Hōkūleʻa captain Mel Paoa on August 8, 2015.

Mel’s career in medical services began in 1975 as a lifeguard for the County of Maui’s Cooke Memorial Pool. While there, a county official asked if he would like to take a first aid class, which he did. Then he was offered the opportunity to become a first aid instructor, since the American Red Cross had left the island and there was a void to be filled. In the years after, Mel become a First Responder and after that, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Mel, also the Molokai captain on the Hōkūleʻa, has sailed on numerous voyages throughout the Pacific including trips to Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Marquesas, Aitutake, Pitcairn Island, and Japan.

As a retired resident of Molokai he planned to serve as captain on some legs of the Worldwide Voyage of Hōkūleʻa and sister vessel, the Hikianalia.

Hōkūleʻa meant the “connection to our past” to Mel, and all he wanted was to see the younger generation really take charge and show leadership during this leg.

Mel looked forward to no cell phone, no TV, and no distractions while out on a journey. A voyage, for him, meant a total focus between him and his crew and the surroundings.

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