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Mel Paoa

Mel dedicated almost 40 years of service to Hōkūleʻa and our voyaging community.  He provided humble leadership from Molokai, always with deep affection in his actions and joy in his eyes.

A paramedic on land, Mel was a valued medical officer, cook and captain on Hawaiʻi’s canoe. He last crewed on Hōkūleʻa during the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage late last year on the leg from American Sāmoa to the Kingdom of Tonga and Aotearoa (New Zealand), keeping his crew well fed, healthy and laughing.

Mel’s passion for the ocean and the voyaging ʻohana led him to become the designated Molokai captain on the Hōkūleʻa. He told Molokai Middle School students last year that he first touched the legendary double-hulled voyaging canoe in 1977 and never let go. “Don’t let anybody discourage you or say, ‘no you can’t go or do that,’” he advised youth. “You have to challenge yourself.”

In 1985, he did his first open-ocean sail on Hōkūleʻa at the age of 32 — 12,000 miles from Hawaii to Tahiti to French Polynesia and finally the Cook Islands.