Battleship Missouri Memorial, PVS talk navigation

A scale model of the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a sits next to the Battleship Missouri during a panel discussion on the importance of navigation by crewmembers of the Hokule‘a.

Story and photo by Ensign Britney Duesler

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

The Battleship Missouri Memorial hosted members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) for a panel discussion in the ship’s wardroom, Sept. 14.

Participating in the panel were six crew-members of the Hokule‘a who sailed various legs of the voyaging canoe’s “Malama Honua” journey around the world, to include crew that set sail on Hokule‘a for the first journey to Tahiti in 1976. In attendance were Mike Carr, president and CEO of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Dan Parsons, director of education, as well as an assortment of former crewmembers of the USS Missouri and educators from the community.

The panel discussion began with a brief video by PVS outlining the mission of Hokule‘a followed by crew member introductions. The panel discussion centered around the importance of navigation at sea, a concept that struck home with the Navy veterans in the audience.

Gordon Piianaia, a retired Navy captain and veteran crewmember of the Hokule‘a, reminded the audience that, “We are all born as navigators, starting from when we are crawling as toddlers. You navigate every day, whether driving along the highway or out to sea, and you are helped to navigate. Navigation is very important, and we are all in this journey together.”

Piianaia, whose father was also a naval officer and recreational sailor, said his love of the sea started not with aloha, but with sanding and varnishing his family’s schooner. When asked to compare his time in the Navy with his multiple journeys on Hokule‘a, Piianaia honed in on one word: discipline.

“People who go to sea have to be very disciplined and know not everything is going to go their way all the time. The camaraderie that’s developed is really important,” Piianaia said.

The crucial nature of camaraderie at sea was echoed by others as well, with crew member Eric Co reminding the audience that “Your ability to take care of [the vessel] is a reflection of your ability to take care of each other. Eating, sleeping, and working in a space that is a third of [the wardroom of the Missouri]—unsavory parts of humanity boil off, and you’re left with the best in us. There is something to be said in the pressures of existence out there.”

Co’s reflections echo the “ship, shipmate, self” mantra that nearly every Sailor in the Navy has heard at one point. In order to be successful at sea, the crew must be disciplined, work well together, and know how to navigate.

The crew of the Hokule‘a also explained another important aspect of their mission: care for the ocean and mother earth. They reminded the audience that when the Battleship Missouri left Bremerton, Washington, 20 years ago, the ship pulled into Astoria, where the harsh change in salinity killed much of the growth that had accumulated on the ship’s hull. This prevented the ship from inadvertently introducing alien species into Pearl Harbor. In 1995, the crew of the Hokule‘a did the same thing, journeying from Puget Sound to Astoria before making their way to Pearl Harbor.

The Hokule‘a is in the midst of a state sail, where the crew is visiting local schools on all the islands and promoting seamanship and navigation to Hawaii’s youth. The voyaging canoe’s next stop will be the North Shores of Kauai and Oahu.

For more information on the Hokule‘a, visit For more information on the Missouri Memorial, visit

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Category: News