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Crew Blog | Kālepa Baybayan: This Is Africa

Kalepa_BaybayanWritten by Kālepa Baybayan

How do you know that Hōkūleʻa is in Africa?  When you have monkeys in your rigging.

Hōkūleʻa and her crew arrived in South Africa at the port of Richards Bay on Monday October 19, 2015.  In four days, we have danced with Zulu, seen hippos and rhinos from the back of trucks, met our guardian angels face-to-face, and prepared our canoe for the next jaunt to Durban.  

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There is a saying in Africa, “This is Africa!” (pronounced “This Is Ahfrikaa!”), or “T-I-A” (pronounced Tee-Eye-Ay), meaning things get done at their own pace and in their own way.

We arrived on Monday at around noon and began the tedious task of cleaning up the canoe. On Tuesday, representatives of local tribes hosted us to a Welcome to Country Ceremony. On Wednesday, we washed and reorganized the canoe, sterilized the bunks, and checked the stays for chafing, then visited the Sea Rescue of South Africa facility for a tour and barbeque.

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Sea Rescue is the South African Coast Guard, a fully volunteer organization. Each station in South Africa is responsible for raising funds for equipment and operations, which they secure through donations from individuals and corporations. Sea Rescue has become Hōkūleʻa’s guardian angel, providing escort and piloting service into Richards Bay, and each port we enter for the duration of this leg.  

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On Thursday, we were hosted at the UNESCO World Heritage site iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Saint Lucia Estuary. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a Zulu dance troupe of a dozen men and 2 women, brandishing spears and fur-lined shields. They performed for a while, and then invited us to participate in song and dance; I offered something that I thought might be part-Haka and part-Africa inspired. For four hours, we toured the site accompanied by Zulu tribal elders; by boat we were treated to viewing hippos and crocodiles, and saw zebra and rhinos from the back of trucks in the grasslands. We wrapped up with a late lunch, and I was honored to present gifts to the tribal elders and the UNESCO manager.

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It is now Friday.  This morning at 5:30am, we exited Richards Bay Marina and are now searching for the Agulhas Current. Once established in the southward flowing Current, we should be able to add an additional 2-3 knots of hull speed, shortening the time of our 90-nautical mile transit from Richards Bay to Durban. The 12 of us who left Mauritius together are still aboard Hōkūleʻa, but now with an additional team of 3 – Daniel Lin, Kaimana Barcarse, and Derek Ferrar – making up a land-logistics team driving to Durban. We need to time our transit down the South African coast to the constantly changing weather, which comes in 5-day cycles. After Durban, we prepare for what is potentially the most dangerous part of this leg, a 260-nautical mile jaunt to our next planned port of East London.

And no, no monkeys in the rigging yet – but they supervised Max as he washed down the canoe in Richards Bay, keeping a watchful eye on him and the rest of the crew from afar.

T-I-A (This Is Ahfrikaa).


Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

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