Canoe follower Saki Uchida

Woman working on canoe hull

The Polynesian voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa brought 22-year-old Saki Uchida across the Pacific.

Some might call it destiny. Her grandfather was in the Japan Coast Guard; her father writes about the ocean and teaches environmental ocean studies. She was just 8 when first introduced to Polynesian voyaging master navigator Nainoa Thompson through a mutual friend of her father’s.

A teenager when the Hawaiʻi sailing canoe visited Japan in 2007, she met the sailors—including one of the first Japanese crew members, ocean photographer Kanako Uchino—and sailed with them from Yokosuka to Kamakura.

With her parents’ blessing, she moved to Hawaiʻi after graduating from high school in Kamagata, Japan, three years ago. She joined Kapu Na Keiki, a Polynesian Voyaging Society youth group, and rode her moped across the city to Sand Island to learn the basics of navigating and sailing. At the Honolulu Community College Marine Education and Training Center, she also learned about the college’s Small Vessel Fabrication and Repair Program and started classes there this fall. She is helping refurbish Hōkūleʻa.

Uchida says sailing aboard Hōkūleʻa is indescribable, both tough and exhilarating. She has yet to chart her future, equally drawn to continuing her work with Hōkūleʻa in Hawaiʻi and educating the Japanese people about the ocean, preservation and navigation.

Read more about Hōkūleʻa and Polynesian voyaging ties to higher education at the University of Hawaiʻi in Mālamalama Online.