Molokai boater dies after being pulled from waters off Kamalo Harbor

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On Molokai, rescuers, Saturday, tried to save a man found unconscious in the waters of Kamalo Harbor, a man who spent most of his life trying to save lives, as a chief emergency medical technician on the island for many years. He is also a Hokulea crew member.

Maui police say police and fire rescuers were called about a missing person who was last seen mooring his boat at Kamalo at about 12:30 p.m.

They say they found 62-year-old Melvin “Mel” L. Paoa of Kaunakakai about half a mile west of the harbor and the boat about 500 yards off shore.

Then they brought him to Molokai General Hospital in critical condition, but despite life-saving attempts, he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy will determine his cause of death.

Paoa is known for his love of sailing off Molokai, where he was born and raised, married and raised his children.

Those who are close to the boater say when he sails, he always wears his hat, even when leaving Tonga for New Zealand last October on Hokulea’s voyage around the world. He’s been sailing Hokulea since 1977.

“Mel is quiet and humble, you’d never know his story because he never talks about it, his geneology is Paoa, he’s ohana to Duke Kahanamoku, his ancestry is all about the ocean,” said Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson.

Paoa and the rest of the Hokule’a crew carried to the sacred shores of Waitangi, New Zealand, where he was served as the medical officer on many voyages, across Polynesia and to Japan. He even captained Hokulea many times, including home from Midway Atoll.

Those who knew Paoa, said he had a way of moving with the canoe.

“There are that few that in their feet they are connected through the canoe to the wave it’s like this educated instinct about being with the motion as the ocean moves Hokulea it’s like a predicting the movement that when you see someone like Mel on the canoe he’s on the ocean and unified,” Thompson said.

He also had a way of making everyone laugh.

“That’s what everybody’s gonna miss, is his sense of humor, no victims, everybody was brought into the laughter, nobody was hurt, it was beautifully Molokai and local and humble,” Thompson said. “He’s a huge loss so we aloha his family, we love his family tonight and send our best wishes and aloha Mel on his new journey.”

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