Remembering Moʻolele o Lahaina


Moʻolele, the sailing canoe famously celebrated in the joyful 1984 song recorded by the Makaha Sons of Niʻihau, was lost to the flames that engulfed Lahaina on August 8.

She was in dry dock in Lahaina for repairs.

Sister canoe, Moʻokiha o Piʻilani, moored offshore of Lahaina at the time, was spared. She has since been relocated to Pūkoʻo, Molokaʻi, by Hui o Waʻa Kaulua, the Lahaina nonprofit that owns the canoes.

Moʻolele was the first canoe that was built, the one that is considered the mama canoe of all these sailing canoes,” said Kumu Hula Hōkūlani Holt.

Moʻolele launched for the first time on Sept. 20, 1975, just six months after the voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa, first launched earlier that year on March 8.

Moʻolele and younger sister canoe Moʻokiha o Piʻilani were both the work of the late Master Carver Keola Sequeria of Lahaina, who passed away in 2022.

Sequeira was trained and mentored by Master Carver Wright Bowman, Sr., who was his woodshop teacher at Kamehameha Schools when he was a student there. When Bowman was overseeing the construction of Hōkūleʻa, Sequeira joined in the effort.

Renowned artist and Hōkūleʻa designer Herb Kāne asked Sequeira to carve Hōkūleʻa’s masts. Two koa trees from the forest above Makawao, Maui, were cut for that purpose. Sequeira fashioned the masts in the workshop behind his home in Lahaina.

Six months after work began on Hōkūleʻa, Sequeira and several friends who helped him carve Hōkūleʻa’s masts, decided to build their own canoe; that canoe was Moʻolele.

The 42-foot long double-hulled Moʻolele (which means flying lizard) was built in his Lahaina workshop. Sequeira sailed her between the islands for 25 years.

Hui o Waʻa Kaulua has been using both Moʻolele and Moʻokiha o Piʻilani as floating classrooms to cultivate and support future generations of voyagers for years now.

The loss of Moʻolele is felt keenly by the voyaging community on Maui and across the entire pae ʻāina. For nearly 50 years she inspired and brought joy to her community.

“Her memory lives in the stories and the songs that we sing,” said Holt. “That is what I feel about Lahaina and the other places affected by the fire – we will remember them moving forward, because of the stories and because of the songs.”

Excerpt from the song, Moʻolele

Words & Music by Ned Lindsey

E holoholo kākou ma ka waʻa kaulua Moʻolele o Lahaina
E lele i ka moana, ke hōʻeuʻeu mai nei
Ka peʻa i ka makani Moaʻe puni kākou Hawaiʻi
Punahele mākou o ka waʻa kaulua Moʻolele

Moʻolele, haʻaheo kou hele ana
Ka peʻa kiakahi, piha i ka makani
Moʻolele, haʻaheo kou hele ana
Mahalo nui iā ʻoe, me kou haku (ʻo) Keola

Let’s voyage on the canoe Moʻolele of Lahaina
Sailing over the ocean so exciting
Sail in the tradewinds that surround Hawaiʻi
We are the favored ones on the double-hulled canoe Moʻolele

Moʻolele, journey with pride
Your single-mast sail filled with wind
Moʻolele, journey with pride
Gratitude to you and your master Keola