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Around The World In One Canoe


Relying on only sails for power, a Polynesian sailing canoe, which left Hawaii two years ago, has docked in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But it's not your typical canoe. It's 62 feet, double-hulled. Using the stars for a compass, the canoe is on a three-year journey circling the earth. Stephanie Guyer-Stevens reports.



UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're here.

STEPHANIE GUYER-STEVENS, BYLINE: As the Hokule'a eased into port on St. John, Captain Kalepa Baybayan was beaming about the trip. I ask him what this is all about.

KALEPA BAYBAYAN: Sharing the legacy of voyaging the exploration that embodies the spirit of the oceanic people who settled the Pacific.

GUYER-STEVENS: The Hokule'a left Hawaii in 2014, sailing west. Life for the 12 people aboard this canoe is really about living with the elements. Here's crew member Justin Ah Chong.

JUSTIN AH CHONG: You're just in it. You ride it out. You see the storm coming, you either throw on all your foul weather gear and prepare for it or you strip down and throw on the soap and prepare for a freshwater rinse.

GUYER-STEVENS: The deck is flat. There's no cabin. The bunks are just body-width, running down either side of the deck. They're covered by a thin sheet of canvas. Kelly Tam Sing says even sleeping is an adventure.

KELLY TAM SING: Water's actually flowing underneath your bunk in the hold where you're sleeping, and you feel like you're on this carnival ride. And I just remember just laughing, just laughing and laughing and laughing.

GUYER-STEVENS: For the first time in almost two years, the canoe is back in U.S. waters. It's heading next to the British Virgin Islands then on to Cuba. It's scheduled to arrive in New York City on June 8 to celebrate World Oceans Day at the United Nations. Captain Baybayan says it's been fun, but there has been one challenge sailing this Polynesian voyaging canoe around the world.

BAYBAYAN: Only thing that's pretty tough for me is that I'm away from my family quite a bit. Yeah, my wife just asked me, when the hell are you coming home?

GUYER-STEVENS: The crew's expected to return to Hawaii next year.

UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing in foreign language).

GUYER-STEVENS: For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Guyer-Stevens on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

UNIDENTIFIED MEN: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephanie Guyer-Stevens