Blog | Cat Fuller: Getting Out of the Boxes
- Posted on 17 Oct 2014
- In Crew Blogs
I walked into it my first day here and saw boxes literally from floor to ceiling. Wow. A daunting task for us, considering we had more food than boxes to pack it in. Here is where we truly had to find our way.
Some time ago at crew training, we were asked if anyone was willing to go to Pago Pago, Samoa, early, as most of the previous leg’s crews would be departing, leaving only a few who would carry over to the next leg. Those who went had to be willing to conduct educational outreach as well as to put in hours preparing the canoes to sail on to Tonga.
One of the biggest tasks to be handled by the interim crew was to pack the new food shipment into the meal boxes for both Hikianalia and Hōkūleʻa. The drawback to all this was that dengue fever and chikungunya, both mosquito borne illnesses, were on the rise, and going early meant a greater exposure period. Lita Blankenfeld, the “food boss,” pulled me aside and said, “Cat, sorry about the mosquitoes, but you HAVE to go.” I’d worked with Lita on prepping and loading food for the last couple major voyages, so I would be able to contribute to that process as well as to outreach. I was fortunate enough to be able to take leave from my job as a teacher at ‘Iolani School for this leg of the voyage, so I agreed to go, along with two other crew members, Kekaimalu Lee and Mahina Hou Ross.
My other purpose in coming early was to be able to study the southern sky, as one of my kuleana on Hikianalia is to be a navigation teacher for eight apprentices. I’d been studying with other members of our crew as well as the navigators for Hōkūleʻa, Ka’iulani Murphy and Kaleo Wong. I thought that this would give me a head start in being ready for the voyage. What I didn’t expect was a navigation of another kind – through a sea of food.
The three of us arrived on September 29th, the day the last of the previous crew departed. The remaining crew members, Keli Takenaga, Nikki Kamalu, Saki Uchida and Ryan Hanohano, had been in Pago Pago since September 16th, and were looking forward to the new crew arriving, because that meant they would be able to move on soon. That isn’t to say that they didn’t enjoy being here – in fact, it was quite the opposite – but land time brings complexities that don’t exist at sea.
My priority was, of course, the food. Keli, our cook and quartermaster, was tasked with packing, loading and manifesting what remained from previous legs, as well as 2000 lbs. of additional food that had just arrived. Through the generosity of the NOAA Tauese P. F. Sunia Ocean Center here in Pago Pago, we had a small storage room to work in. I walked into it my first day here and saw boxes literally from floor to ceiling. Wow. A daunting task for us, considering we had more food than boxes to pack it in. Here is where we truly had to find our way. Through the week, we sorted, packed and inventoried enough food for both canoes to reach New Zealand AND travel down the coast to Auckland. New to this kuleana, Keli was the one doing the wayfinding, as she had to think through the process in a way that was most logical to her in order to accomplish her goal.
In addition to the food, we also had school tours on the canoes as well as outreach in schools themselves. I went with four other crew members to the village of Fagasa, in the National Park area, to speak in the school on different aspects of navigation. The curriculum was set up by the National Park Service office here in Pago Pago. They, too, are wayfinders, seeking a means to bring the traditional knowledge of navigation back to Samoa in order to foster a reverence for the ocean. They embraced our theme of Mālama Honua, as there is still much subsistence living here, and it is vital for those that live off the land and sea to have healthy and clean resources. Our crew had many talks during the week, with visitors from first graders to kupuna to people who just were walking by. It is gratifying to see their interest in our canoes and humbling, to say the least, to feel their generosity and aloha for us.
Change is inevitable, especially with crew, and I know it was very hard for our four “Samoan residents” to see the crew they had sailed with depart, only to be replaced by new people who didn’t share that experience. Even though we are all friends, the bonds developed through voyaging are intense and long-lasting. Your crew becomes your family for life. Even after only a week here with a small group, we got used to our routine of breakfast, work and dinner together. With the arrival of the rest of our voyaging ‘ohana on Monday, the dynamic changed once again. Now we are about thirty crew, all eager to help, work and collaborate to make our upcoming sail that much better. As nice as it is to be reunited with our ‘ohana for this next week in Pago Pago, as always, our minds and hearts look towards the sea and the adventure that awaits us in Tonga.