Canoe launch delayed until mid-May

The launch of the voyaging canoe Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani has been delayed again, this time because of wet weather and repairs at Mala Wharf in Lahaina.

The launch has been reset for the full-moon high tide in mid-May, an announcement said Tuesday.

A “fluid” target launch date of Jan. 17 was set last month for the 62-foot-long, double-hulled canoe that has been almost 18 years in the making.

But the rainy weather over the past month has hampered efforts to complete the canoe. Dry weather is required for varnishing masts and spars to ensure that 14 coasts of epoxy and three coats of lacquer bind properly, according to Hui o Wa’a Kaulua, the nonprofit leading the canoe-building project.

If the finish prematurely dries, it would put the canoe back to dry dock for repairs, the hui added.

Last month, the canoe was hauled out of dry dock from under a hale at Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina to complete the construction on the rest of the vessel.

After the finish is cured, there will be the lashing of the masts to the canoe and the rigging to the masts.

“The next full-moon high tide for launch is in mid-May,” said Capt. Timi Gilliom, canoe builder and captain of Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani’s crew. “Until then, the state of Hawaii will be rebuilding Mala. It will be great to launch from the new wharf.”

State officials last year aimed to make repairs at Mala including its two loading docks. State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials could not immediately give an update Tuesday afternoon.

When completed, the Hawaiian traditional canoe will become Maui’s first modern-day, deep-sea voyaging canoe capable of navigating vast distances across the Pacific Ocean. Much like the state’s first Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokule’a, which first sailed to Tahiti and back in 1976. Mo’okiha will be used as a living classroom to preserve ancient Hawaiian traditions and wisdom.

The canoe is able to hold as many as 24 people at a time. Plans for the canoe include sailing around the state, to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti and Rapa Nui using the traditional celestial and wayfaring navigation techniques.

All hands are invited to visit the dry dock and help apply the finishing touches to the canoe from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 522 Front St. in Lahaina next to Kamehameha Iki Park.

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