A new passion on Hoku
And so begins another chapter, another voyage, another experience aboard Hōkūleʻa. Typically for me, I’m a week plus getting started on my journal – enjoying the surroundings, reflecting on the port of departure, getting my sea legs always seem to trump writing. But once the routine gets routine, it’s easy to carve out time for a few words. The benefits of the discipline are well worth it when relived years later – memories rekindled causing stories to be retold resulting in lessons learned from going to sea.
An early teaching on this leg has been provided by a frequent and favorite shipmate – Gary Yuen has worked us all into haiku hysteria! Learning the 5-7-5 syllable and specific time mention rules has the crew staring off into space while counting on their fingers creating some sublime poetry and lots of laughs. Gary’s real forte, though is in “Hop Sings Kitchen,” where on a two burner camp stove he churns out masterpieces on a daily basis – sweet chili sauce mahi mahi served with a fish soup filled with wakame, tofu and fish, rice, sashimi and fresh tomatoes; fresh andagi (malasadas) made from pancake mix and coconut milk: the occasional cake baked in a frying pan and tonight, roast pork with carrots and potatoes! Always the hardest working man on the vessel, we are truly blessed to have Gary aboard.
Blessings abound on this leg of Mālama Honua. Our weather has been incredible with the classic ʻfair winds and following seas,ʻ 10-15 knots on our port quarter after we steered away from the coast of Namibia. Leaving Cape Town, South Africa and paralleling the west coast to Walvis Bay was interesting with lots of sea life in all forms from tiny krill to seals to birds, dolphins and whales. After making the “left turn” away from Africa we did encounter a strange weather phenomenon – three or so days of cold, thick sea fog with just enough wind to ghost along at 3-4 knots. Navigation was challenging with occasional glimpses of the sun and moon but the wind was a reliable direction indicator. It seemed as if we were passing through a time portal into the Atlantic, the sailing became fast and easy and Kanaloa was very generous with some tasty fish – a big eye tuna, rainbow runners, mahi and ahi.
At day break on Day 16, we were greeted with an electrical storm off the starboard bow. The pervious watch said they saw flashes throughout the night, and as we approached the system thunder started getting louder. Since we were going to gybe over anyway, now seemed like a good time. By the time we changed tacks the gods were cracking pretty loudly. But as we bore off the system settled away, the wind was perfect and the day was beautiful. About three hours later St. Helena was spotted dead ahead. Talk about hōʻailona!
Indeed, we had gone through a time tunnel. After securing Hōkūleʻa on a mooring off Jamestown, we had a nice celebration aboard Gershon, a recon party went ashore to replenish some liquid refreshment and brought back tales of friendly natives. Morning revealed a very quaint, colorful British colony complete with cobbled streets, castles and forts built in the nineteenth century and a very happy, engaging people. Known for being the isle of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte and his eventual death site, we found much more at St. Helena – a gorgeous green interior covered with pine and eucalyptus forest, flax covered slopes from a now defunct plantation, fascinating rock formations, and an almost completed new airport.
A community of around 4,000, St. Helenan’s call themselves Saints and certainly seem that way – one can’t pass a car without a wave and smile. All we met were polite to a fault and very intrigued with the canoe, the voyage and particularly the navigation. After a braie, or BBQ, Bruce gave a talk about Hōkūleʻa’s history and our purpose and received a lot of questions about wayfinding. Not surprising considering they are all seafarers. The only way to the island is by ship or yacht – the mail ship comes every other week on a Cape Town-St. Helena-Ascension circuit. With the advent of air travel, the general consensus seems to be mixed with some welcoming the modernization it’ll bring and some not so sure. Having seen “progress” in my time, I’ll opt for keeping her how she is.
One of the amazing features of Jamestown is Jacob’s Ladder, a grueling set of 699 stairs going from the narrow valley floor to the ridge directly above our mooring. Built for the workers and soldiers to access the fort that overlooks the town, it has been restored and maintained so anyone can struggle up or down. The crew did just that – my legs hurt for days after…
We’re now a day or so, out of Ascension and the birds are getting more frequent – first Manu o Kū yesterday, more today along with boobies and Koaʻe Kea’s. This is day five from St. Helena with 150 miles to go, so we’re right on schedule albeit a little slow. The weather has been wonderful – some cloud cover earlier but good stars now, warm water for showers, dry decks with minimal rainfall. Early on we caught a nice 19 lb. mahi that fed us for two days but haven’t hooked up since. Yesterday we got teased for hours with aku swimming alongside feeding on small malolo but not at all interested in our lures. This morning a large pod of dolphins crossed our bow, more intent on their breakfast than playing with us – we were going too slow anyhow. And just now we watched an ʻiwa bird (another close to land sign) hassle an honest working bird until he gave up his catch, the ʻiwa scooped it out of the water, climbed and shook himself dry.
Ascension was spotted at sunset two days ago and passed in the night. Congrats to navigator Kaleo and sensei Bruce for drawing another island up from the horizon. Abeam of the island a pōhaku from Hauʻula, ʻMeheiwi,ʻ was dropped to the ocean floor, accompanied by haunting pū harmonies, forever tying our island to this one.
Our seemingly slow pace has been enhanced by a favorable current so distance estimates were a little too conservative. The line was spot on, though, with Kaleo’s call for gybes to get back to his reference course spot on. We’re all here to learn, and the lessons keep on coming. Which is why, of course, we continue to sail and are so grateful that Hōkūleʻa continues to carry us – we discover so much out here away from land’s distractions about the ocean, about our planet, about ourselves: how to live with limited resources, how to give thanks and praises for our gifts of good weather, clean air, fresh fish and how to truly work together.
One of the best times of the day is just before supper. Gary has presented another fantastic feed (two mahi yesterday after no fish for a week), we gather around the galley and Bruce asks one to say grace. This moment of reflection and gratitude is always profound and powerful. We give thanks for the many small blessings of the day – the miles covered, the incredible things we see, the beautiful places we’ve been and are approaching. We give thanks to our leadership and our amazing staff back home for giving us this opportunity. We give thanks to our families and loved ones for enabling us to be here and believing in our mission of spreading aloha around the globe. And we’re always grateful to all the people of Hawaii who inspire us, support us and mālama us. Mālama Honua, eo Hōkūleʻa!
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