John Christensen and Harold Morse's article on the capsizing of the voyaging canoe Hokule'a ran on the front page of the Star-Bulletin on March 18, 1978.

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The second Tahitian voyage of the Hokule'a—one that was to span 3,000 miles and an estimated 30 days—ended only hours after it began when the vessel capsized in rough seas. Fifteen of the 16 crew members were plucked shivering but safe from wind-whipped, 15-foot seas 32 miles off the western end of Molokai late last night and early today. A search continued for the 16th, lifeguard-surfer Eddie Aikau, 32, who left the Hokule'a yesterday morning on a surfboard to get help. He was equipped with a lifejacket, safety equipment and flares. His destination was Lanai.

Shortly after 9 am today, the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Corwin righted the canoe and began towing it broadside slowly back to Honolulu. Its precise destination and arrival time were not immediately determined

Twelve of the crew members were lifted last night from precarious perches on one of the canoe's two hulls by helicopters and returned to Honolulu Airport. Three others—David Lyman III, the captain; Leon Paoa Sterling, first mate; and Norman Pi'ianaia—stayed with the canoe until the Cape Corwin arrived. They went aboard the cutter and this morning assisted in the salvage effort. The canoe was righted in a little more than an hour in choppy 6-to 8-foot swells and 20-to-25-mile-per-hour winds that were even rocking the 95-foot Cape Corwin.

The canoe was drifting westward and by 8:30 am was about 40 miles southeast of Honolulu and 25 miles southwest of Molokai.

The search for Aikau resumed at daylight. A Coast Guard helicopter and C-130 and two Civil Air Patrol planes were covering a wide area under clear, sunny skies, according to Sgt. Pete Pettit.

Petitt said the Aikau family had chartered a helicopter and was mounting its own search.

Police on Molokai and Lanai were searching the shorelines.

According to crew members, the 60-foot sailing canoe ran into trouble about 11 pm Thursday night, only four hours after leaving Magic Island to a joyous and emotional send-off. The crew sailed despite small-craft warnings and forecasts for gales up to 40 knots in the major channels. It was shuddered by a blast of wind before it cleared the Ala Wai Channel and had several brisk rides thereafter.

“We were going along really good," said Sam Ka'ai, a 39-year-old master woodcarver from Maui. “We're not used to conditions like that off Oahu. Usually we have two or three days [at the beginning of a voyage] to shake it down and get everything shipshape. But we were going eight or 10 knots in bursts. Man, it was like being on a Hobie Cat. We were going like a bat out of hell."

Other crewmen, although reluctant to talk until the entire crew was collected, admitted that the seas were strong.

About 11 pm, a crewman said, the swells started washing over the 42-by-9' foot deck from the stern. The seawater began flooding the starboard hull through an open compartment. "We just started bailing," said Curt Sumjea, 28, a fisherman from Lanikai. But we couldn't bail fast enough."

The crew, wearing life jackets and yellow foul-weather suits, began tossing food overboard. "I reached down once and came up with a bag with 50 pounds of dried aku. Ka'ai ruefully told friends later. "But the captain said jettison, so I jettisoned it. Boy, I hated to to that."

Shortly midnight, the Hokule'a began listing severely to the right as the starboard hull settled deeper and deeper. "The only thing we could do was get everybody over on the port as a counterweight," said Charman Akina the medical officer. "But it didn't work."

The ocean poured over the deck, and there was no longer any question of keeping the Hokule'a upright. When it came to rest, upside down, its two masts were broken, its sails were in shreds and the crew was either in the water or astraddle the hull's ridged bottom

"We lost everything," said Sumida. "All our valuables, our fishing gear, our cameras, everything." For the next 22 hours, until the first helicopter arrived, at 10:43 last night, the crew busied itself with surviving

"The amazing thing," Akira said last night, "is how organized it was. All the training we’d had over the past three or four months paid off. Nobody panicked "

Each crew member was equipped with a strobe light, knife, and whistle on a lanyard. Using the lights and whistles, they organized themselves for the wait. Although they made occasional forays under the Hokule'a to see what could be salvaged, the crew stayed out of the water as much as possible. "The water was cold," Akina said. "The wind wasn't much of a problem until tonight."

Several flares were fired but none was answered. "We saw a couple boats", said Surmda. “One last night, Thursday, and one today that looked like a Navy boat. We saw two or three planes, too, and shot flares. But nobody saw nothing."

About 10 am yesterday, Aikau left on his cream-white surfboard for Lanai He may have reached it and nobody was there," said Ka'ai, flaring bitterly. "You can walk for 28 miles on Lanai and not see anybody."

At 8:27 last night, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot spotted the Hokulea'a flare and got the rescue underway. The first helicopter took six of the crew. Naimoa Thompson, Akina, Bruce Blankenfeld, Kiki Hugho, Abraham “Snake" Ah Hee, and Marion Lyman

Encyclopedia of Surfing

The second helicopter returned Sumida, Ka’ai, Tava Ta'upu, and Wedemeyer Au. The third, Buddy McGuire and John Kruse. They were greeted by tearful women and fiercely protective men who waited behind a chain link fence at the Federal Aviation Administration's nose dock. They were hugged and kissed, given dry clothes, coats and blankets and formed a tight, dark huddle to pray Ka'ai said that spirits were high during the ordeal. Sterling found an air pocket in a dive beneath the canoe and emerged with a dry carton of cigarettes. Thompson and Kruse, noting how the crew clung to the hull, called them “opihi."

Four different crewmen vowed to give the trip another try Ka'ai called the experience “merely a lesson in seamanship" and said all that’s required are “higher gunnels and we'll do it again."