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Around Oahu in 29 days

Crew members share details about their 2024 Iosepa launch and the importance of a crew acting as one

The charted course of Iosepa’s 2024 voyage. Changes were made during the voyage due to weather. Graphic by Moevai Tefan.
The charted course of Iosepa’s 2024 voyage. Changes were made during the voyage due to weather.

A cohesive crew

The Iosepa sailed around Oahu in 29 days, and it was made possible by a united crew and community, said the canoe’s captain, Mark Ellis.

Ellis, the director of Voyaging Experience at the Polynesian Cultural Center, said the most important things for him to keep in mind as captain are his crew members and the canoe. “If it’s not safe for the crew or the canoe, we do not set sail,” he said. Weather is a key factor in determining whether or not to move, he said.

Someone always needs to be on watch while sailing, explained Ellis. He had a watch captain help him do this to make sure they sailed in the right direction, he said. There will also be a cook, a medical person and a person in charge of media, he added.

Mark Lee, a community member from Hauula, is the crew member in charge of media. He said he was given the task because of his experience as a professional photographer and doing underwater photography. He will be documenting the voyage around Oahu, he said.

Another crew member, Jerusha Magalei from BYU-Hawaii’s Faculty of Education & Social Work, said the Iosepa is very important to her family because her father, “Uncle Bill” Wallace III, is the canoe’s founder. She said she will only go on one short leg of the entire voyage and will spend the rest of her time providing support from land because the Iosepa will be sailing close to shore the whole time.

Magalei said the trickiest part about sailing is finding a crew that works well together. “If your relationship with the crew is not good, you will have a hard time getting anything done,” she said. “It is very important for you to be humble, and you have trust and faith in your crew and your captain,” she explained.

“I am hoping this launch will bring the community together,” said Lee. He expressed his desire to help the people of the island become stronger. As part of this effort, there have been community work days, he explained, where people helped prepare the Iosepa and learned about its history.

The journey around Oahu

Ellis and a crew of 12-to-13 people started their journey in Haleiwa harbor on May 30. The first day was a shakedown sail, said Ellis, to make sure everything was working perfectly. On June 1, they sailed from Haleiwa to Hukilau and then to He’eia Kea where they camped for two days. Ellis said they camped so as not to sail on Sunday.

On June 3, they sailed to Kualoa Beach for the Wa’a Traditional Voyaging Festival where there were other canoes from different parts of Polynesia. Ellis said of all the boats there, Iosepa was the only canoe made entirely out of wood.

The next morning, the crew engaged in recreational activities with the community. On June 10, they had an education day, said Ellis, because they “are trying to integrate voyaging and wayfinding into classrooms for students to learn more about the history of the canoe.” Ellis said they will be monitoring the weather for a few days before they continue to sail to the south side of Oahu.

“Our next stop will be at the Marine Education Training Center on the south-side of Oahu,” said Ellis. He added they will stay there for a couple of days before heading to Pokai Bay in Waianae on the 19 and stay there for a few more days. “We will then end our trip back at Haleiwa on the 26 and get the canoe ready to pull out,” he said.