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Crew Blog | Nā’ālehu Anthony: Rhythm

Is it day four or five since we left Cocos Keeling Island? I forget as the days start to blend. This is the way it’s supposed to be, I think. Our days are marked by our watch system that is in place 24/7. We stand watch for four hours with eight hours off in between. At sunrise or 6 a.m., the first watch comes up to stay on until 10 a.m., then the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. watch steps in and finally the 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. comes up to stand guard as the sun goes to sleep and the canopy of stars opens. And in the night the same structure exists, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m., 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. and 2 a.m. – 6am.  Life goes on in this system for as many days as it takes for us to get “there,” wherever that destination may be.

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And so a rhythm develops. One has to sleep in a pattern defined by the watch they are on (I’m on the 2-6 watch; it’s the best one) and your watch also defines the work you want to get done.  Ironically, we’re not allowed wrist watches while on watch, so we only know what time it really is at sunrise and sunset. The rest of the time, the navigator calculates and calls when watches change. Some days we stand a little longer watch and other days it may be a bit shorter, but none of us mind the variation. We all feel privileged to be on board and allowed to participate in this Worldwide Voyage, all working in unison to reach our goal.

The first few days for me are always the hardest–my body is not used to the schedule, my mind is still trying to make sense of the all the movement on the horizon. I usually have to force myself to pick up a camera and shoot something, and it’s usually not very good. There is also the lack of being able to anticipate the movement of the canoe. Later everyone gets their “sea legs”, but I think its more than that–our bodies begin sensing and anticipating subtle changes in the movement of the canoe. That split second of anticipation allows some of us to counter the steering to minimize the correction that is needed as each swell passes. This is a very important thing to be able to do if you are going to steer in big seas for long periods of time. And that’s all we’ve had so far–pretty big seas, surfing this canoe all around. It’s tiring work, but it can be really fun as well.  The danger is turning too far in any direction: too far up and you stall, too far down and you can jibe and break stuff.

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While on the watch, everything is canoe-centric. The three or four of us, led by a watch captain, are responsible for steering the canoe and addressing any and all issues that may come about while sailing.  The biggest thing at this point is making sail changes to adjust speed. We are tasked with keeping the two vessels (Hōkūleʻa and escort Gershon II) together. This is no easy task as both vessels have an entirely different set of sailing characteristics. Both the canoe and the monohull are in communications and collaboration to try to stay within 2 miles of each other at all times. Besides that, we make sure the hulls are dry and we bring up drinking water and dry goods for the day as needed.  But the hardest part about it is the steering when there are no visual clues except the swell and wind to steer by.  Sometimes the clouds are so thick that the sun is completely covered in the daytime, or the stars are covered at night.  In these circumstances, we have to keep the swells and/or wind position relative to the canoe the same while sailing along in big swells.  It takes a lot of time to be able to do that well–like years of sailing.  But those who do it well make it look effortless. Just a touch here and there keeps her going straight, anticipating the canoe movement before she gets too far off the mark.  That’s the rhythm that makes the work go easier; the connection to vessel stronger.

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We are lucky too that the weather is settling down as well.  Both Kanaloa and the canoe realizing that we still have about 1,700 miles to go on our journey, and rhythm for everyone’s sake is needed. That rhythm extending into the heavens exists too.  We come up at 2 a.m. every morning to meet who are now old friends: Orion on the horizon rising out of the sea behind us, and Sirius or A’a not far behind. Makali’i guards us to the North and Puana rising later below the belt of Orion. All of this is the rhythm of our night. Venus is now rising up astern in the morning right before sunrises too. This learned rhythm of the heavens, albeit many of us are novices, still allows us to anticipate where stars should be, even when clouds obscure them.  This allows us to imagine the placement of the others even when we can only see one or two in the region. All of these rhythmic clues point us in our direction: steady, holding just South of West for 1,700 more miles and another 6 degrees of latitude.

Me ka ha’aha’a,
SB71
Nāʻālehu


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