Crew blog by Nāʻālehu Anthony.
Believing isn’t necessarily Seeing
The navigation team works really hard. The intensity at which they must persist everyday is really interesting to observe because they take such pride in the work and because they are so serious about it. And why shouldn’t they be? They are responsible for tracking our canoe some 2400 miles across the ocean. So this team has to watch and be alert with all of their senses. That requires them to be present at all times. When we describe navigation to groups just getting on the canoe for the first time, we talk about how this system is about observation and that the keenness of our observation is what will determine what can be used as a clue to find direction. On this journey, the way the canoe changes pitch against the waves is a clue. The wind getting louder (or softer) relative to our speed is a clue. A star peeking out of the black night is definitely a clue. But one has to be aware of and ready to react to these clues to keep the course, as every deviation needs to be accounted for as we make our way home.
Bruce is really interesting to watch. He might be asleep on the top bunk on the deck, but when the canoe slows down because we turned too high into the wind, his naʻau will wake him up. He will sit up in that dark night and say, “You guys gotta come down;” and as we steer down off the wind, he will be lulled back to sleep as the course settles down inside him. That’s the bar — Bruce is really the bar that everyone on board sets as the goal to be like, but no one more than the navigation team. They are in charge of the course, and Bruce is here to make sure that everything is safe and that the team is successful.
As a photographer I have trained to be a very careful observer of people. I watch these navigators concentrate on the rhythm of this leg of this voyage, to the point where they stand at the stern of the canoe to take it all in and actually feel their way across this massive body of water. They are vigilant at night, always scanning the dark sky for any visible clue to give truth to what their other senses are whispering. Part of the test that I have witnessed the navigators partake in is being blind and having to find their way. We have had night after night of near 100% cloud cover block their eyes from the simple clues: the stars and planets. They are forced to look into the wave and to read the wind, not with their eyes but with their feet as the canoe rocks through their body, and with the feeling of the wind on their skin as they stand on the back of the deck, all the while waiting for a sign that the path is true. Then there comes that moment Venus will poke through a cloud, sometimes for a mere 30 seconds – but Venus shows up right where Venus is supposed to be. The direction is confirmed, and the team becomes a little more confident. Night after night now this is how it goes, seeking in the darkness for what cannot be seen.
I guess sometimes you gotta be blind to really see.
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