Arts and Culture

Educational Sailing Canoe, Mo’olele, Lost in Lahaina Fires

Maui’s double hulled sailing canoe, Mo’olele, was lost in the Lahaina fires last August. The Hawaiian Sailing and Wayfinding Ohana are in mourning for this tremendous loss. The 42 foot Mo’olele, which means flying lizard. She was built in Lahaina and sailed throughout the Hawaiian Islands for nearly 50 years.

replica historic hawaiian war canoe

Mo’olele, replica of an ancient Hawaiian war canoe, sails in waters off Maui, Hawaii, with rainbow behind it. Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua.

Mo’olele had ben dry docked in Lahaina at 525 Front Street when she was decimated by fire, as well as the canoe house and some crew members homes.

burned canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

“Moʻolele was the first canoe that was built, the one that is considered the mama canoe of all these sailing canoes,” said Kumu Hula Hōkūlani Holt. She was first launched on Sept 20, 1975. Hui o Waʻa Kaulua, the Lahaina nonprofit that owns the canoes, had been using both Moʻolele and her sister canoe, Moʻokiha o Piʻilani, as educational resources. For years the canoes were ‘floating classrooms’ that cultivated and supported future generations of voyagers worldwide. Students received both hands on sailing aboard Mo’olele and were able to participate via the internet for distance learning.

canoe burned in lahaina maui fires

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

A Go Fund Me has been set up by the nonprofit Hui o Wa’a Kaulua, who lost a total of five out of their six vessels. Any donation amount will be received with gratitude.

historican hawaiian war canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

hawaiian war canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

hawaiian canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

war canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

hawaiian war canoe

Photo credit to Hui O Wa’a Kaulua

“Her memory lives in the stories and the songs that we sing,” said Holt. “That is what I feel about Lahaina and the other places affected by the fire – we will remember them moving forward, because of the stories and because of the songs.”Excerpt from the 1984 song, Moʻolele, recorded by the Makaha Sons of Niʻihau

E holoholo kākou ma ka waʻa kaulua Moʻolele o Lahaina
E lele i ka moana, ke hōʻeuʻeu mai nei
Ka peʻa i ka makani Moaʻe puni kākou Hawaiʻi
Punahele mākou o ka waʻa kaulua Moʻolele

Moʻolele, haʻaheo kou hele ana
Ka peʻa kiakahi, piha i ka makani
Moʻolele, haʻaheo kou hele ana
Mahalo nui iā ʻoe, me kou haku (ʻo) Keola

Let’s voyage on the canoe Moʻolele of Lahaina
Sailing over the ocean so exciting
Sail in the tradewinds that surround Hawaiʻi
We are the favored ones on the double-hulled canoe Moʻolele

Moʻolele, journey with pride
Your single-mast sail filled with wind
Moʻolele, journey with pride
Gratitude to you and your master Keola

replica hawaiian war canoe on the water

Neal is proud to feature this Blog written by Stephenie Brown.

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Beth Robinson

October 19, 2023

Neal – thank you for this post! The waʻa and organization have been on my mind. Your post brought up this memory. The last time I was in Lahaina was for the Hawaiʻi Land Trust event last January, which ironically got rained out. The night before I decided last minute to walk from my condo next door to 100 Front St to find a bar for a glass of wine and a pupu. Walked into Kapenaʻs. Chatted at the bar with a couple from Oregon. Local guy walks in and sits at the far end beside them. Bartender says “here, Uncle” and slides a beer over without being asked. He lifts the beer in a toast. I ask if heʻs really her uncle or come in all the time uncle. He says they are related but more like cousins, his sister is the genealogist. Bartender adds their families know each other, his sister gave her mom singing lessons. He asks where we are from. When I say Kohala, he says Big Island, I ask if he knows Kohala and he says he knows the harbor, sails the waʻa in there. I ask “which waʻa?” and he says “All of them.” Duh – finally the puzzle pieces fall into place. “Oh – I know who you are,” I say to Timi – “and your sister is Amy Hanaialiʻi.” The Oregon couple decides they will leave us to the conversation. I had already paid my tab but my wine glass kept getting filled and we closed down the place talking about ʻohana waʻa.

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