How a Round-the-World Canoe Trip is Inspiring One Foundation’s Marine Giving

A replica of a traditional Hawaiian, double-hulled voyaging canoe is currently on a four-year, 47,000-nautical mile sail around the world, using only the stars, ocean current, wind and birds for navigation. The voyage is influencing one Hawaiian funder to lead a large group conservation effort. 

The Worldwide Voyage of the canoe Hokule’a and its sister ship Hikianalia was conceived by the Polynesian Voyaging Society as a way to draw global attention to ocean protection, our historic connection to the oceans, and to build relationships in conservation efforts. 

The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the largest private funder in Hawaii, recently decided to lead a joint marine conservation effort in honor of the voyage, which will drive the funder’s grantmaking in the next four to five years, according to Eric Co, senior program officer for marine conservation. By email, Co described the funder’s convening of more than two dozen ocean management organizations to develop 20 commitments to improve Hawaii’s ocean health during the course of the Hokule’a’s voyage.

In a nutshell, this collective impact effort focuses on answering a simple question: How will the Hawai‘i to which the canoes return in four years be different from the one they will leave behind? The Harold Castle Foundation will be guided by these collectively owned and implemented commitments over the next four to five years.

The historic canoe was built in 1975 by artist and historian Herb Kawainui Kāne as a way to revive the navigating traditions of Hawaiian ancestors, as well as an appreciation of Hawaiian culture. The Worldwide Voyage is the largest the canoe has ever undertaken, and will be accompanied by modern, zero-carbon-footprint vessel the Hikianalia. The navigation, which will hit 85 ports in 26 different countries through 2017, will not use any modern instrumentation. 

The ships spent 2013 visiting ports in the Hawaiian Islands, and embarked on the round-the-world journey in May. It’s now in Tahiti (you can track it here).

The Harold K. L. Castle Foundation gives around $6 million a year to education, community and marine conservation causes in Hawaii, the latter receiving between $500,000 and $2 million a year for efforts to protect nearshore ecosystems. Community involvement and traditional Hawaiian values are an ongoing part of the foundation’s giving, so it’s understandable the funder is rallying behind the Hokule’a’s voyage and mission. 

Read our full IP profile of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation here.