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ISLAND HISTORY: Gov. Paul Kanoa’s famous voyage aboard the schooner ‘Excel’

Gov. Paul Kanoa (1802-1885) was born in 1802 in South Kona, Hawai‘i, and served as clerk to the governor of O‘ahu, Mataio Kekuanaoa, prior to being appointed governor of Kaua‘i in 1846 by Kamehameha III.

Of Kaua‘i’s 10 governors, beginning with Ke‘eaumoku in 1824 and ending with William Hyde Rice, whose term ended in 1893, Paul Kanoa remained in office the longest, 31 years, until 1877.

He is perhaps best known for a voyage he took aboard the schooner “Excel” in April 1858.

Kanoa’s voyage commenced when “Excel” embarked from Waimea, with himself and his retinue on board, and with its captain setting a course for Honolulu, approximately a hundred miles distant.

The voyage, which should have taken only a couple of days, was hindered by rough winds and seas that blew “Excel” off course.

No land was sighted for several days, while the schooner sailed about aimlessly with provisions running low.

While the captain worried, Kanoa and his retinue, on the other hand, appeared not the least concerned.

Finally, the captain, in desperation, asked Kanoa what to do.

Kanoa replied, quietly and with much dignity, that he should turn the schooner around, sail straight back to Kaua‘i, and start again.

The captain then took Kanoa’s advice, and soon afterwards, when a passing whaler sighted “Excel’s” distress signals and came alongside, its captain reaffirmed Kanoa’s counsel by informing the captain that he was indeed sailing toward Kaua‘i.

The captain then got his bearings off Mount Ha‘upu near Nawiliwili Bay and sailed on to O‘ahu, arriving after 13 days at sea.

When “Excel” arrived in Honolulu, Kanoa laughed and told the captain that he knew the schooner had been sailing in the wrong direction, since he could tell by the look of the ocean which way the schooner should have been sailing.

He also advised the captain not to worry in the future.

If he would only do as Kanoa tells him, he would never have trouble finding land again.

Kanoa then became famous throughout Hawai‘i as a navigator.
Source: The Garden Island

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