A Proposal to Recreate the Royal Yacht



(Pride of Hawaii )



          Recreating the Royal Yacht of King Kamehameha II will generate a compelling platform for exhibition and education for visitors to the State of Hawaii.  Ha’aheo o Hawai’i is emblematic of the cultural heritage and the identity of our state and it will fill a crucial gap in the effort to tell the story of Hawaii ’s maritime history.  The ship will amplify the significance and potential of Honolulu in the Pacific – one of the world’s most important and exciting ports.

          Because of the role of the Royal Yacht in the founding of Hawaii , the Royal Flagship will draw visitors from throughout the world to Hawaii ’s waterfront to learn about exploration, history, and science.  This remarkable sailing vessel can also be built on Honolulu ’s waterfront as a public demonstration of historic wooden shipbuilding.

Historical Background

Ha'aheo o Hawai'i (Pride of Hawaii) holds a special place in both American and Hawaiian maritime history.  Ha'aheo o Hawai'i, a hermaphrodite brig, began her career in Salem , Massachusetts in 1816 as the first American-built ocean-going yacht, Cleopatra's Barge.  The 191-ton brig was 23-feet breadth, 83-feet waterline length, 140-feet sparred length, with a square stern, and two decks.  Retire Becket designed her as a pleasure yacht for George Crowninshield and was fitted out in the grand style of a small palace.


Model of Ha'aheo o Hawai'i in the Peabody Museum Salem , MA .


In 1817, the luxury yacht Cleopatra's Barge sailed to 16 ports in southern Europe and the Mediterranean .  Up to 8,000 visitors would come out on a single day, just to feast their eyes on the opulent splendor of this extraordinary vessel.

The design of the vessel was based upon Beckett’s earlier design of the privateer America IV built for the Crowninshields in 1803.  She was constructed with the finest craftsmanship and materials available and outfitted with fine furnishings in the Federal and neo-classical styles with all the accoutrements of royalty.  George Crowninshield’s intention was to sail her to Europe with the hope of marrying a European princess and hosting Napoleon himself on board and becoming the toast of the continent.  Mr. Crowninshield returned home that year only to die unexpectedly the following year.

After his death, China traders purchased the vessel. They brought her to the Sandwich Islands in 1821 where she was sold to Liholiho (King Kamehameha II) for $80,000 of sandalwood.  The Hawaiian wood was highly prized in the Orient by the Chinese artisans for its clear grain, texture, and sweet smell.  Liholiho cherished the yacht and renamed her Ha'aheo o Hawaii (Pride of Hawaii) and thus she became the first Hawaiian “Ship of State.”   The royal court traveled frequently aboard her as they sailed between the islands and foreign visitors often mentioned the King’s brig in their diaries and letters to friends.


The painting by English artist Raymond Massey depicts King Kamehameha II’s Royal Yacht, Ha'aheo o Hawai’i , entering Hanalei bay on the island of Kaua'i during the summer of 1821.  For two weeks, Kamehameha ll toured the island in grand style with Kaua'i's King Kaumuali'i.  On the evening of the ship's departure, Kamehameha II ordered his crew to set sail quietly for O'ahu while Kaumuali'i was sleeping on board.  While the king snoozed, his island kingdom was lost.  He returned only once to his beloved Garden Island .  Kaumuali'i lived out his remaining years on O'ahu as husband of Queen Ka'ahumanu as a virtual prisoner. 

King Kamehameha II was considered less threatening than Kamehameha the Great who had forcefully unified the Hawaiian Islands, and trade among New England sea merchants with Hawaii grew steadily.   On April 5th 1824, while the king was visiting England , Ha'aheo Hawai’i was wrecked on a reef near the mouth of the Waioli River on the island of Kaua’i .

In 1995, Paul F. Johnston of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History conducted a survey that lead to the discovery of the famous vessel.  It was found that the Royal Yacht is one of the greatest treasure trove of artifacts from the reign of Kamehameha II. 

Today, the wreck still lies at the mouth of the Waioli River in beautiful Hanalei Bay.  Excavations have yielded the few remaining artifacts from King Kamehameha II’s regain, including a conch shell that was used to announce the arrival of the royal yacht.  Also found at the site were poi-pounders, pieces of armament, gold-gilded beads kukui nut oil lamps, and chunks of raw ivory.  Her part in Hawaii 's history was short lived and tragic much like the Hawaiian monarchy itself.  Nevertheless, she will be remembered as a part of Hawaii 's rich history.  Ha'aheo o Hawai’i needs to be reconstructed to remind everyone of the importance of her role in the history of the Hawaiian Islands . 


Consistency with the Bishop Museum Mission and Philosophy

The Bishop Museum has enjoyed considerable success with its living history educational programs and it is only fitting and appropriate that they take the lead role for this important project.  With the Museum's mission to study, preserve and tell the stories of the cultures and natural history of Hawai'i and the Pacific, Ha’aheo o Hawai’i will fill an important role as an additional floating classroom.  The Royal Yacht also represents a crucial point in the amalgamation of the Polynesian and Western cultures. Voyages of exploration and trade were one of the few areas of human endeavor where such vessels linked cultures.

As a classroom, the recreation of Ha’aheo o Hawai’i will further the Museum’s philosophy by serving and representing the interests of Native Hawaiians as the primary purpose of the Museum.  It will substantially add to the Museum’s collections and  activities that integrate Hawaiian culture and maritime history.

As an operational vessel, the construction of the Ha’aheo o Hawai’i will allow her to be used in recreating King Kamehameha II’s voyages to all the Hawaiian Islands , providing a dynamic series of off-site locations to reach new audiences and collaborate with other educational institutions.  We anticipate that the vessel will function as an extraordinary floating museum providing a traveling exhibition recalling our maritime history from the age of exploration to the early days of Statehood.

Early modern era replica ships have proven to be most successful and sustainable for the public, attracting new audiences with each new crop of fourth and fifth graders, and contributing to regional tourism.  After 50 years, the Mayflower replica in Plymouth , Massachusetts and the Jamestown replica ships in Virginia remain some of the most popular visitor attractions on the East Coast.


Specific Attraction Goals

Schooner Pride of Baltimore ll in Baltimore Inner Harbor and under construction


Specific Educational Goals


Specific Ambassadorial Goals

·       Be a symbol that pays tribute to the rich history of Hawaii and its people, and in particular to stimulate the state's younger citizens to continue pivotal roles in East-West relations.  Wherever she sails, the Ha'aheo o Hawai'i and her crew will serve as Hawaii ’s goodwill ambassadors.



Vision and Collaboration

          Ha’aheo o Hawai’i will function as an ambassador from a past world.  In all outward appearances, she will be a faithful early 19th-century ship of discovery and capable of sailing thousands of miles, as did the original.  External appearance will be replicated as faithfully to early 19th-century detail as present knowledge allows.  

          Visitors will encounter a ship fully furnished with the equipment and possessions of her original crew.  Her performance under sail will be consistent with the impressive sailing performance of the original in her voyage throughout the Hawaiian Islands .

          The ship will be fully operational, powered with an auxiliary engine (in order to meet schedules) and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry passengers and students.  Below, the accommodations of the vessel will recreate the original opulent and elegant space that was intended to entertain royalty.

          The internationally respected naval architect Melbourne Smith, designer and builder of such well-known ships as San Salvador , Californian, Lynx, Pride of Baltimore , the US Brig Niagara, Spirit of Massachusetts, et al, will undertake the research and design for the Ha’aheo o Hawai’i .  Mr. Smith has considerable experience in building successful replica ships and he will oversee the actual construction on a suitable site in Honolulu .

          William J. Leong will build a museum-quality model based on the design by Melbourne Smith. The model will provide a visual image to exhibit her unique historic details and attract the involvement of potential sponsors and contributors.


Reconstruction of the Interior of Cleopatra's Barge on display

in the Peabody Essex Museum , Salem , Massachusetts .


Community Involvement

          For seaport communities of generations past, the construction of a new ship involved the widest conceivable spectrum of occupations and industry.  For the majority of American history, “it took an entire town to build a ship.”  While present day shipbuilding has become more specialized and insular, a renaissance in the building of traditional replica vessels and museum ships has elsewhere proven to draw upon the same expansive breadth of community participation and identity as the original ships did in historic times.  Built on the Honolulu waterfront before the public, the vessel will truly become the “Pride of Hawaii”.


Public access and use

Ideally, in addition to technical requirements and environmental considerations, the building site will allow for public viewing and easy access by school groups.  Building the ship in public view will allow the opportunity to exhibit and interpret the process of traditional ship construction, the first industrial activity of the New World .  An apprentice program will be incorporated as part of the building process, as many of the skills required to build such a ship are transferable to the construction trades and ship repair industry.



The Unfinished Voyage


Upon completion and commissioning, the Ha’aheo o Hawai’i will reenact King Kamehameha II’s Island voyages, during which time she will be on exhibit at the Museum’s and other public waterfront sites throughout the Islands.  With such regular voyages, thousands of visitors and schoolchildren will board her.


Financial Projections

The financial program is in four stages: Design, Funding, Construction, and Operations. 

DESIGN STAGE:  The first design step includes ship research, design and specifications, production of a ship model for presentation, cost projection for construction, cost projection for operation, establishing a workable marketing/funding plan, and establishing a community relationship.  The proposed budget to begin the project is $350,000 and will require eight months to complete.

FUNDING STAGE:  After the groundwork of solid research and design work is completed, the actual construction costs can be identified, and a marketing/funding plan developed.  With this, a meaningful program to finance the construction can be organized. 

CONSTRUCTION STAGE:  Fixed costs for building the vessel will be established in the design stage.  From previous experience in building replica ships, it can be projected that construction will cost between $7and $8-million dollars and require two years.

OPERATION STAGE:  Present costs of similar size sailing vessels for operating and maintenance is $1-million annually.

Recreation of the Hawaiian Royal Yacht



Pride of Hawaii


Proposed by



1020 Green Street ,  No:101

Honolulu , Hawaii 96822 3604

808 521-1917    202 277-7107