Parallel Paths




PVS gains support for five-year journey. ©Hugh Gentry

Outrigger and PVS share common route

By Simplicio Paragas

When Bitsy Kelley was 13 years old, she recalls equating the maiden voyage of the Hōkūle‘a to Tahiti as the equivalent to the launching of a NASA space shuttle. She would follow the news every day, tracking the canoe’s course and anxiously awaiting its return. More than three decades later, Kelley stood proudly among executives and dignitaries to announce the official partnership between Outrigger Enterprises Group and the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) in late November.

In her opening remarks to the crowd, Kelley quipped that she remembers when Nainoa Thompson had brown hair, later adding that they now embark on a voyage with parallel paths. “I grew up with the Hōkūle‘a and it impacted me greatly as a person who loves the water,” says Kelley, vice president of corporate communications for Outrigger Enterprises Group. “I’m very pumped about this partnership between Outrigger and the Polynesian Voyaging Society; we share the same values and responsibility to cultivate the next generation.”

In an unprecedented voyage, Hōkūle‘a, along with sister ship Hikianalia, will circumnavigate the globe during a five-year journey that will include stops at 28 nations and 85 international ports of call, sailing more than 45,000 nautical miles. “Hōkūle‘a is not a canoe, it’s a living life force,” says Thompson, president of PVS and Hōkūle‘a navigator. “This voyage scares me; it wakes me up. We know we’re going to get the storms; we know the seas will be rough.”

During the ’70s, a Hawaiian cultural renaissance began to flourish, thanks partly to the building of Hōkūle‘a — a replica of the Polynesian voyaging canoe built to test ancient methods of navigation. Since its inaugural voyage to Tahiti in 1976, Hōkūle‘a has sailed 137,000 miles, but crew members agree this journey will be her most ambitious undertaking to date. “Malama Honua” (“Care for the Earth) defines this worldwide voyage’s mission, with a goal of charting a new course toward sustainable practices for food, energy and global environment. 

“Nested within the Hawaiian word malama, to care for, is the Hawaiian word — lama, which means a light or torch,” said Outrigger’s cultural experiences manager Kaipo Ho during his invocation at the November reception. “Let this celebration serve as a symbol and our commitment to do our part to Malama Honua, to care for our place, our planet and to be that light for our Mother Earth.”

The partnership between Outrigger and PVS started a year ago when a mutual friend of Thompson’s and Dr. Chuck Kelley’s invited the two to lunch, during which Thompson offered details about the worldwide voyage and its significance in sharing the Hawaiian culture while also learning from others.

“I could see he was trying to absorb this idea,” Thompson recalls. “I remember standing up and shaking hands, and he said, ‘We’re going to be there for you.’”

Outrigger’s pledge of $500,000 equals that of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Hawaii and Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts LP’s, which also announced in November that they would provide cash and in-kind support to the society’s mission.

“As a Hawaii-based company charting our own global expansion, Outrigger is mindful to be authentic ambassadors of aloha while also being sensitive to local cultures and customs — a management and hospitality process we call Ke Ano Waa or The Outrigger Way, that was initially shaped by the late Hawaiian scholar, Dr. George Kanahele, nearly 20 years ago,” says Dr. Kelley, chairman of the board for Outrigger Enterprises Group. “Like PVS, Outrigger is on a voyage to share the Hawaiian culture.”

The gifts from both hotels are welcomed support for the society, helping boost crew morale and getting the vessel closer to its financial goal.  “When someone says they will give us a hotel room, that’s like puuhonua, a place of refuge,” Thompson says. “It allows us to restore. But that’s just one small piece. This is not just a partnership between resources. This is a partnership between common values, common beliefs and principles and a common sense of responsibility for tomorrow. In the end, it’s about children; education has to be in front and not behind.”

With the next generation of Kelleys preparing to take the helm of the growing company, Bitsy Kelley says she hopes that one day one of her grandkids will be sailing the Hōkūle‘a along with one of today’s next generation of navigators.

“This is a significant long-term partnership,” Bitsy Kelley says. “This is like launching our own shuttle. We’re really on the same path but getting there in different vessels.”

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