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The Iosepa Sets Sail

The Iosepa — a majestic 57-foot traditionally shaped, single-masted, twin-hulled (wa’a kaulua) Hawaiian sailing canoe — was carved just yards away from its PCC home out of seven large tropical hardwood logs in 2001. Those logs were imported from Fiji, as no comparably sized logs were available at the time in Hawaii. Thousands of people visited the work site to observe the creation of the canoe, and more thousands thronged Hukilau Beach in Laie in November that year to be part of its maiden launch. The canoe has since become an icon and joint venture of both the university’s Hawaiian Studies program and the PCC Hawaiian Village.

Iosepa at Hukilau Beach

 The Iosepa at Hukilau Beach waiting to be pushed into the water


PCC “captain” Kawika Eskaran, who was one of the two master carvers behind creating the canoe, said the sail plan tentatively calls for the Iosepa to remain in Oahu offshore water for several days and includes stops at Kualoa — a culturally significant place in ancient Hawaii, Kahana Bay and Haleiwa, weather permitting.

Approximately eight BYUH Hawaiian Studies students will serve as crewmembers under Eskaran, who was formerly Director of Special Projects in the program. He will be joined by BYUH Hawaiian Studies professor R. Kamoa’e Walk and others. For example, approximately 12 platinum-

level members of the BYUH/PCC Presidents Club were invited aboard the Iosepa the morning of August 21 for several hours of sailing out of Haleiwa harbor. Eskaran said the original sail plan then called for the crew to sail the Iosepa to and around the island of Kauai before returning to Laie; but several potential mechanical problems with the escort vessel would likely mean keeping the Iosepa close to Oahu this year.

He stressed that safety always comes first, noting that earlier plans to sail were postponed due to tropical hurricane and 




Iosepa at Haleiwa's Ali'i Beach Harbor

The Iosepa at rest in the Haleiwa Ali'i Beach Harbour

storm warnings. “We’re watching all the different happenings — wind speed, wave heights, etc. — to make sure the students can handle all of these things,” he said, also pointing out that several of the student crewmembers have previously sailed.

“We’re very grateful to both PCC and BYU–Hawaii for assisting with the canoe,” Eskaran continued. “For example, the students on the crew who work at PCC have their jobs guaranteed when they return.” 

Iosepa Crew at Haleiwa

The student crew of the Iosepa at Haleiwa harbour.


Kaipo Manoa, “chief” of the PCC’s Hawaiian Village said he and some of the other village staff would also love to sail, and that kūpuna or community elders and other leaders who participated in the short sails from Kahana Bay and Haleiwa in years past still talk about their experiences.

He explained that since the Iosepa found a permanent berth in the PCC Hawaiian Village, literally millions of people have learned more of its significance. “We know the significance of having this cultural icon here,” Manoa said.  “It adds to our credibility, and we 

look forward to more opportunities to share it with the world in different ways, and have more people appreciate what we’re trying to accomplish.” 

Manoa also praised the dedication of the BYUH Hawaiian Studies faculty and students, who have been training for the upcoming sail for months. “The crew hours are crazy,” he said. “They sometimes begin at 5 in the morning, and sometimes stay until 11 or 12 o’clock at night.”

 Iosepa in its berth at the Polynesian Cultural Center

The Iosepa will once again go on display in the Hawaii Village when it returns from its latest voyage.


Story and pictures by Mike Foley