Kawika Kapahulehua, 76, the captain of the historic first voyage of the ocean-sailing canoe Hokulea, died Thursday at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, according to the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The cause of death was not announced.
The 62-foot double-hulled wooden canoe first set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976, using only celestial navigation and calling attention to the journey Polynesians had made 600 years before in the opposite direction. The canoe is now on its 10th major voyage, which includes stops in Micronesia and Japan.
Kapahulehua was born on the island of Niihau off Kauai on July 13, 1930. As an adult he sailed catamarans out of Waikiki and raced them off the California coast.
A resident of Honolulu, he gave lectures about the Hawaiian language and culture to university students, schoolchildren and community groups.