Two years ago, a 40-foot double-hulled canoe called the Hokule’a left Honolulu on a round-the-world journey, logging over 150,000 miles using only the stars, wind, ocean currents and the movement of birds to set its course. On Monday afternoon the boat arrived on the Vineyard, anchoring first in Menemsha Harbor, and then on Tuesday entering Vineyard Haven Harbor to mark its official stop here.

The sound of a booming conch shell, blown three times by the crew, announced its arrival. Students from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School waved hello from their perch aboard the Black Dog schooner Alabama, along with fifth grade students aboard the Shenandoah.

Tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop welcomes crew of Hokule'a as medicine man Jason Baird (left) looks on. — Ray Ewing

But for the official first greeting, members of the Wampanoag tribe of Aquinnah rowed out to greet the Hokule’a, traveling by muhsh8n (pronounced mishoon) a traditional canoe that was created in recent weeks the old fashioned way, by using a single piece of wood to burn out a hollow in a log, a technique perfected centuries ago.

The Hokule’a enters a port only if it receives a formal greeting from a land’s native people, according to Wampanoag councilman Jonathan James Perry, one of the muhsh8n rowers. After receiving the signal from Hokule’a captain Bruce Blankenfeld, the Wampanoag rowers sang a native welcoming song. Then a final conch shell blow summoned the crowd of spectators standing dockside on Packer’s Wharf toward the pier’s entrance.

“I’m thankful today to our relatives that have come from so far away to be amongst us today,” said Wampanoag medicine man Jason Baird during the welcoming ceremony. Mr. Baird emphasized human interconnectedness, saying that we all share the earth as a single family. “Our people are in that water, our people are in those boats and in the stars above that have guided you here.”

The ceremony at Packer’s Wharf began with welcoming speeches from Wampanoag leaders along with remarks from Ralph Packer and Tisbury Board of Selectmen chairman Melinda Loberg. Edgartown School students concluded the ceremony by offering the Hawaiian crew homemade jam made from their school garden.

Edgartown students brought homegrown produce and homemade jam for crew. — Ray Ewing

Shortly after, the crew addressed the crowd. Hokule’a navigator Kaleo Wong delivered a speech applauding the Wampanoag’s hospitality while the crew chanted the Oli Mahalo as a token of appreciation.

“These youngsters from Edgartown school and all the people of the community who’ve been working together, they value their resources here and they understand how precious they are,” said Hokule’a captain Bruce Blankenfeld. “We’re not going to save the earth with this voyage,” he added. “We’re going to do our little part to do things like reaching out to communities, learn what you’re doing and carrying a message of hope and ideas.”

Mr. Blankenfeld addressed the Hokule’a voyage’s mission of encouraging sustainable living through the same ancient art of navigation used by Polynesia’s first settlers.

The formal ceremony concluded when Wampanoag members removed the yellow rope separating the crowd from the crew. The hosts and crew embraced one another and opened the Hokule’a to public tours for the rest of the afternoon.

Vineyarder Sam Low was instrumental in bringing Hokule'a to the Island. — Ray Ewing

“There was such an outpouring of aloha from all of the people on Martha’s Vineyard,” said Vineyarder Sam Low, who played a key role in bringing the Hokule’a to the Island. Mr. Low also served as a crewmember on the boat in the 1980s.

“I’m going to say 30 or 40 people I’ve never met before stepped up and took care of food, took care of transportation and took care of lodging,” he said.

The celebration ended with a Hawaiian musical performances and Wampanoag rituals. Members of the tribe offered lessons on Wampanoag history while children and adults admired both the Hokule’a and the muhsh8n.

The Hokule’a leaves Vineyard Haven for Woods Hole on Friday. It then resumes its journey toward the Panama Canal and Tahiti en route to completing the ship’s voyage back to Honolulu.

More photos of the Hokule'a