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Mo`okiha O Pi`ilani: Launch Day, Part 3

As the ceremonies continued and the time for the launch approached, I decided to give up my choice location in order to find the perfect spot for photographing the launch itself. That meant missing some of the ceremonies such as hula from these dancers, also from the Old Lahaina Luau.

The spot I chose was on a breakwater which protects the boat ramp from large ocean waves. And the view from there was quite magnificent — here the luau grounds from the Old Lahaina Luau, practically next door to the boat ramp. And the backdrop of the lush West Maui Mountains makes it almost perfect.

Most, if not all, of the canoe clubs were participating in the day's festivities — this crew from the Hawaiian Canoe Club came in close, probably to check on the status of the launch.

Finally, the high tide was here and it was time to begin the launch. The ancient Polynesians thought of the launching of a voyaging canoe as its birth — thus the traditional ceremony is filled with that symbolism. A large rock, representing the land, was held by kūpunas (elders) and connected to the canoe by a rope fashioned out of ti leaves, representing the umbilical cord. After further blessings, the cord was cut and the canoe was slowly, meticulously, lowered into the ocean.

The gathered crowd was silent, as if holding its collective breath, as Mo‘okiha O Pi‘ilani first touched the water then gently lifted off the towing rig.

At this point the crowd erupted in rapturous applause and shouts of joy — this baby, some 18 years in gestation, had a successful birth. Checking the clock in the delivery room, it was 3:17 PM HST on Friday, July 11, 2014.

As the crew checked the canoe for any issues, the crowd sat quietly waiting for the Mo‘okiha O Pi‘ilani to take its first steps (so to speak).

Captain Timi Gilliom oversaw the inspection and preparations by the crew. He looked like one proud papa.

Finally, she was deemed seaworthy and the small powerboat, Scorpio, connected a tow line and began to gently tow Mo‘okiha O Pi‘ilani from the boat ramp. A jet ski and safety lines were positioned to made sure no mishap would befall this baby taking its first steps.

Applause erupted again as the Mo‘okiha O Pi‘ilani began its inaugural trip into the ocean and to its initial mooring spot at Kamehameha Iki Park where sits the workshop in which she was crafted.

Once Mo‘okiha O Pi‘ilani was clear of the inlet, the outrigger canoes joined in the precession.

It is hard to express the joy of Mauians and Mauians-at-heart — this was a very special day.

And from a very interesting vantage point aboard a helicopter drone, Epic Aerial Productions captured a wonderful video — click here.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com