By Steve Soltysik. For a moment, step back in time to the first voyage of the Hōkūle’a to Tahiti in 1976. Two of the original crew, John Kruse and Billy Richards, were once again aboard the Hōkūle’a in Nawiliwili Harbor on Sept. 15, 2013.
The young crew and visitors, Jr. Life Guards from Kaua’i, had the honor of a very special and rare day — the sharing of thoughts, memories, and feelings from voyaging 36 years ago.
The future life guards of Kauai found themselves spell bound with true, first hand stories about the early voyaging days, the challenges, stress, joy, jubilation and overwhelming experience of taking part in the rebirth of Hawaiian identity and pride.
John Kruse was also aboard the 1978 voyage that ended in the Hōkūle’a swamping one hull, and turning up side down, adrift and the tragic loss of Eddie Aikau. Emotions and connect ran deep on the deck of Hōkūle’a , in Nawiliwili Harbor — with the older generation passing on their experience to like minded, young skilled water rescue life guards.
After an extraordinary hour aboard Hōkūle’a , Jr. Life Guards were introduced to the Hawaiian canvas star compass, dock side next to the Hōkūle’a. Kalei Velasco taught the basic lesson, having voyaged many thousands of miles through the Pacific, his skill of communication and off shore experience was much appreciated by the life guards.
The second half of the day was in Kalapaki Bay, aboard the escort canoe, Hikianalia. Anchored out 200 yards, all the life guards swam out, “in training” no faster than the slowest swimmer, no one left behind. Demonstration of man overboard procedures, and life saving techniques were shared in the calm waters of Kalapaki Bay. The Jr. Life Guards were shown the Hikianalia stem to stern, by crew members Kalei, Zane and Steve Soltysik.
The Jr. Lifeguards swam the distance to shore, with a rare and special experience that is certain to influence their compass course in life.