Cowboys and Canoes
In the 1970s, two brothers from a paniolo family in Waimea fell in love with a double-hulled voyaging canoe, a man with the vision of our ancestors and a dream for our future. Clay Bertelmann and his brother Shorty Bertelmann would spend the next 20 years of their lives, sailing the Pacific with Papa Mau Piailug on Hōkūleʻa.
In the early 1990s, Clay found himself with a new dream, a dream about a canoe that would build individuals to sustain communities, a canoe that would provide the continual platform of learning for his brother and his people. The only thing left to do was to build the dream.
In 1994 Clay Bertelmann approached the Parker Ranch seeking support for the construction of Makaliʻi, a 54 foot double-hulled voyaging canoe intended to serve the communities of Hawaiʻi. Parker Ranch responded by providing a space, a Quonset hut off of Highway 190 just outside of Waimea town. More importantly though, was the huge support of the paniolo community that came to build this canoe. Cowboys old and new brought their “jack of all trade” experiences to combine with canoe makers and fiberglass workers. Their families brought pots and pots of food to sustain the work that often went on night and day.
Nine months later, Makaliʻi emerged from the Quonset hut and made her descent down the slopes of Kohala mountains to Kawaihae. There in the calm waters of the harbor, Makaliʻi was born under the blessings of a double rainbow.
So we would like to mahalo Parker Ranch and our paniolo community as they celebrate their 50th Rodeo and Horse Races. Who would have ever guessed that these cowboys, these ranchers from the uplands of Waimea, would find themselves the builders of canoes, and the builders of dreams.