blue boat home: he wa’a, he moku

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When I set out in my kayak for a day, I consider…

…the coconut…

Image result for moana images coconut

eh, sorry Moana, too much time listening to your awesome soundtrack and finding tumblr memes…

But…that song, actually, is about sustainable village life on an island. “The island gives us what we need…” If you live on an island, you consider your resources, and if you are wise, you use them carefully.

If you are setting out for a day or a few hours in a kayak (the boat you wear) you consider carefully what you need, no less (lack of a compass could be critical as could lack of enough water, or warmer layers as the weather changes), no more (do I really need a dozen donuts? Can you say Sugar Bonk?). You drink what you need but don’t guzzle, you don’t eat all your rations at once…


On a boat of any size, your world is limited to the length of your deck, and to the line where the sky meets the sea. You become very aware of what you need to make the voyage.

The Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule’a is a reproduction of the kinds of boats (wa’a, waka, vaka, va’a) that carried Polynesian voyagers across the Pacific for millennia. She’s been on a worldwide voyage, themed malama honua, caring for island earth, and is returning to the Pacific now.

Related image

If you lived in Hawaii, and were in middle school, you could enter this story contest…

If you don’t, there are still things you can learn, or use to teach … 

(find them on that same page)

Their theme is ”He Wa’a, He Moku – Mālama Honua: Caring for Our Island Earth”…

“He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa”, translates simply as “the canoe is an island, and the island is a canoe.”

South Island in New Zealand (Aotearoa) is, according to legend, Te Waka a Maui, or Maui’s canoe.

All of us who have ventured forth in small boats devoid of engines are keenly aware of the limits of wind and oar and paddle (somewhere I read that scientists finally figured out that the Polynesian voyagers HAD to sail, they could not have paddled and kept enough food on the ships to do that), and the limits of our resources.

In a kayak, or a Viking ship, or a wa’a, you are closer to the water, the wind, the marshes and beaches. You FEEL the shape of the sea, FEEL the bottom come up under you in the shallows, SMELL the grass and trees as you approach land across open water. You’re close when the eagle chases the osprey for its fish, when the skimmer unzips the water’s surface, when the fins of rays break the surface at the end of your paddle blade.

And you care.

Island Earth is in trouble… so what will you do? How will you malama honua?


Some of my other favorite “blue boats”…



Technically, still travelling over water (frozen), a Force of Nature harnesses (for ships, wind, for sleds, dogs), and the double “hull” (runners) creates a lighter, faster footprint than a “monohull” (toboggan).


And this… a folk song by Peter Mayer called Blue Boat Home which sums it all up… (click on the pic above for a youtube video of the song). Set to the hymn Hyfrydol by Rowland Huw Prichard.

Though below me I feel no motion
Standing on these mountains and plains
Far away from the rolling ocean
Still my dry land heart can say
I’ve been sailing all my life now
Never harbor nor port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home

Sun, my sail and moon, my rudder
As I ply the starry sea
Leaning over the edge in wonder
Casting questions into the deep
Drifting here with my ship’s companions
All we kindred pilgrim souls
Making our way by the lights of the heavens
In our beautiful blue boat home

I give thanks to the waves upholding me
Hail the great winds urging me on
Greet the infinite sea before me
Sing the sky my sailor’s song
I was  born upon the fathoms
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe
is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home
The wide universe
is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home



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