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Crew Blog | Nāʻālehu Anthony: A Select Few

Naalehu AnthonyWritten by Nāʻālehu Anthony.

This story and the genealogy therein is now thousands of years old. The thought that crosses my mind as I trade my role as producer to voyager is that we may be the only people on the entire planet doing this in today’s world.

IMG_3859The dawn light is just starting to settle in.  We’re drifting, sails closed and sweep out of the water. The canoe is still holding our course, South, in the chop and centered in the trough as we wait for dawn light to see if all the measuring and memorizing and miles and corrections and deviations are correct. The navigational staff agree that we are in the range to find islands; specifically, the first in the chain of the Kermadec Islands, Rangitahua (also known as Raoul Island).  It amazes me to think that this is what our ancestors figured out.  They took the time to memorize everything; their ability to observe and interpret was like nothing we have ever seen save Mau Piailug. He was one of the last who could observe in the way those who came before him did.  The chaff of all the “stuff” we have in our lives prevent us from doing so in our normal lives.  This computer at which I type, the red flashlight of the person next to me providing enough lumens to read, even the distant hum of the propane stove heating water can be a distraction when the crews senses are trying to tune in to what nature is trying to tell them.  For everything that can be seen and felt here, at this hugely important crux in this experiment is a clue. But only if you took the time to learn the signs and calm your heart to let them come to you in a way that makes sense.  Kaʻiulani Murphy and Kaleo Wong have taken that time and put forth the kind of effort to do just that – they come on board this trip as the eyes of the canoe and have put us in the right place and space for us to go and find islands.

The canoe deck is lit now. From the time I started crafting this to now, the sun has given us enough light to start to scan for anything that might break up our horizon. The island we seek measures only 1600 feet high and 11 square miles, and is alone. After 510 miles of sailing, our navigators have put us in a bubble of about a 40 mile radius, where the island would be visible. This is no easy task; typically, the islands we have sailed to in the past are part of a screen of islands that make up an archipelago that expands the cone of error that can be made while traveling all these miles.

Clouds have surrounded us, with the exception of a small space in the East where light is filtering through. This is not ideal for us to be enveloped in this cloudy bubble with no way to see outside of it, but nature and akua will not give up this lesson without the tenacity that the navigator must have.

6 are on deck now, scanning the horizon.  The waves brush against the canoe, gently swaying the rigging in a creaking rhythm. No one says anything, just watching, scanning for the answer we seek to one of the most complex math equations ever witnessed.

This story and the genealogy therein is now thousands of years old. The thought that crosses my mind as I trade my role as producer to voyager is that we may be the only people on the entire planet doing this in today’s world.  The thought is humbling that we are here representing all of those who chose this path to set out and expand the horizon farther and earlier than any other culture would do for the next 1000 years.

Captain Bruce Blankenfeld watches the horizon fill in with early orange light.   Clouds are still prominent in the bulk of the sky and the wind washes past us, unspent, as we are to wait and watch for just a few more minutes. Was our speed calculation correct? Are we in the zone of where this island is? The most important question is: Are we upwind or downwind of the target?  Captain calls the sails open and directs us to sail South, slowly, as we continue to scan all edges of the horizon. There are specks of black in the sunrise that two on the crew are watching intently.  Does it stay black? Or is it moving and changing shape? The former would be a land mass; the latter, merely an observation on top of the thousands already made that could take us all of course in search of something that isn’t even there. The entire crew is careful to watch.  Now crewmember Nick Kaipara Marr sees something on the Western horizon. Just a spec, maybe two.  Dark all around that side of the horizon provides a backdrop for these two tiny tiny blips to be even darker than what the clouds bring.  Nick watches with the seriousness that comes from sailing thousands of miles before this.  Nick brings the sighting to Captain Bruce, who asks him to keep watching it.

We steer the canoe down, to the West as we sail along.  Everyone is working all sides of the canoe searching the now fully sunlit sea.  Nick is still intent on the blips to the West, now off our starboard bow, as the answer we all seek. The clouds pull back just enough to show us a hard sloping edge that is unlike anything else on the horizon but very much something recognizable for those who have pulled land from the sea before.  No one says anything, no cheering, no clapping, just a quite satisfaction that these two new navigators, surrounded by a steadfast crew, have done what only a select few on this planet have been able to do.

Stay tuned as we write the next chapter, sailing in the wake of our ancestors….

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