St. John Receives an Amazing Visitor

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I admit, I am super late to the party on this and I wholeheartedly apologize. Sadly, sometimes life gets in the way and I am unable to tell the stories I’d like to share with all of you. Luckily for me, my good friend Leah Randall of Mermaid Tales St. John Photography stepped up this week to help me share the amazing story about Hokele’a, an amazing boat that visited our little slice of heaven last week. Here’s the story in Leah’s own words. Thank you Leah…

Like many others on St. John, I did the “buy a ticket, pack a bag, quit your job” thing a few years ago. In the states that idea seems crazy, but here it seems normal because so many of us have done it (or maybe we are all a little crazy down here, haha!). I traded in stateside normalcy, predictability, a job with full benefits for a life on St. John full of rich experiences and vibrant characters. I went from a two bedroom, 3rd story apartment and teaching high school math in Texas to where I am now; living with my boyfriend on his beautiful gaff rigged ketch in Coral Bay, constantly pursuing our passion for diving, (we dive for lobsters and sell them to try to cover the expense of our dives), sailing, exploring and my love for the art of photography. His sailboat, Buxom, is 78 years old, all wooden and is where my deep love for traditional boats began. So, imagine my excitement when I found out about a boat named Hokule’a, steeped in centuries of boat building tradition, who was on her way here…

First, a couple of things about Hokele’a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society – because this is some really incredible stuff. Hokele’a, which means Star of Gladness, is on a voyage to revive the almost culturally extinct methods of sailing, exploration and discovery of the Polynesians who settled Hawaii. Hokele’a’s design dates back hundreds of years and as she sails, she represents a commitment to cultural revival and cultural pride. Now, I absolutely love traditional boats, as they carry with them centuries of stories, tradition and craft, and Hokule’a is a whole different level. Along with the traditional rig, the captain and crew of Hokele’a are holding true to their ancestors in how they sail as well. Most of us are pretty dependent on our phones, Google maps, GPS Navigators in our cars, the list goes on and on with new apps invented every day. I even have an app that shows me where all the lobsters are when I dive! Ok, just kidding, that’s a stretch!

But, nevertheless we are very dependent on technology. Imagine sailing using only the stars, the moon, the sun and the sea as your only navigational tools – your “Google maps”. This is how Nainoa Thompson, Hokele’a’s navigator, guides Hokele’a and her crew around the globe. Hokule’a has been sailing since 1975, with voyages to some of the most remote islands on earth. Currently, Hokele’a along with their sister ship, Hikianalia, are on the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, circumnavigating the globe while holding true to the almost forgotten Polynesian sailing and navigation methods. Their voyage is an effort to raise awareness of the importance of living sustainably and working together for a common goal.

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One of the greatest things about St. John and our community is our amazing ability to mobilize, and last week was no exception. I mean seriously, give us locals a good reason to rally and we are unstoppable. Clark Beam, a longtime community member and sailing charter captain of Coral Bay, had gotten the message that Hokele’a was on her way to St. John. Instantly inspired by Hokele’a, the Hawaiians and their commitment to their values of tradition and sustainable living mission, Clark knew St. John needed to give them the welcome they deserved. To make this an even bigger deal than it already was, Hokule’a had a St. Johnian as crew named Heidi. Heidi was on her way home via Hokele’a, what an awesome ride home, right?

After realizing nothing had been planned for community events, Clark approached Beverly, owner of Pickles in Paradise in Coral Bay about hosting the captain, crew and support team of the Hokele’a. Beverly, a great supporter of community events, was in and after before we knew it Lindsey Chabot’s Thursday night Veg Night at Pickles in Paradise had become a St. John-style island welcome party! It truly took a village to put on such a great party and WE DID!!! Countless names deserve to be thanked for their help in pulling off such a fantastic party, but that’s how we roll. We are full of heart, full of love and took such joy in welcoming these amazing sailors to our rock.

The crew
The crew

Just as I expect many of you do, I have a torrid love affair with St. John. This island has a way of rooting itself firmly into our hearts, doesn’t it? One of my favorite things about this island is how you just really never know what’s going to happen on any given day. A week ago, I had barely heard of Hokele’a. Fast forward to last week; St. John threw one heck of a welcome party for our new friends from Hawaii at Pickles in Paradise and we were able to take one of the boats out to photograph her under sail as she left our waters. The icing on the cake? The day she set sail was my birthday and having the opportunity to photograph that beautiful rig under sail??? TOO COOL!!!!

Check out this video to see exactly what has gotten Leah so excited…

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