Crew Profile

Hōkūleʻa Update | March 13, 2017

Blog by Heidi Kai Guth

Early in the day, our navigator, Kaleo, says we are a quarter of the way to Pitcairn. Everyone seems a little lighter in spirit and more comfortable at the start of our third full day at sea. People are grooving into their rhythms and blending with their watches and each other better and better.

Today, after our 6 to 10 morning watch, Kekama brings out his ʻukulele, Keoni finds a fat Hawaiian song book, and crew members begin to sing and occasionally break into dance. Some crew members are hiding in the shade, reading, and the 10 to 2 watch steers in the high, hot sun. ʻAina films the joy, until we all begin to notice a series of squalls sneaking up on us. The concert is interrupted because of sail change needs and rain, with captain Russell and sail master Bruce leading the way.

Most of the squalls are short and mellow, but one dumps wind and rain straight down on us, while Bruce takes the time to explain to us why and how the squalls are different and what to look for in anticipation. Crew dash about, enjoying the fresh water rinse for clothes and bodies, while sails are changed again and again to meet the changing patterns of the wind. Near the end of the 2 to 6 watch, a huge rainbow frames the rotating steersmen from behind, as the sun breaks through the clouds and gets ready to set in front of us. We have had a rainbow or double rainbow every day so far!

We are operating on waʻa time — all of our watches have been put away, and any cameras or phones used as cameras have been set to completely random times. We are not using any human-made timezones, but letting nature tell us what time it is and when crew watches change. For us, the sun always rises 6am and always sets at 6pm. Our navigator tells us by the angle and position of the sun when it is 10am and 2pm (crew change times). He is teaching us how to use the positions of stars and constellations to know when our crew change times are at night as well. Thus, we all feel like we are participating a little in the navigation. We all learn more each shift about which stars to use to steer by; how the sun, moon, planets and stars move across the sky during our watches and how to adjust our steering to those movements; when to huli our crews for the next watch; how the moon rises about 52 minutes later each night; how Jupiter is bright enough to use during our recent full moons until Hikianalia rises high enough to see; etc.

Everything is stripped down to the essentials that nature requires, and we are all happily aware of and learning more and more how to respond to the cues that nature provides and the needs of crew and canoe: keeping clean, well fed and hydrated, and taking the time to make each other happy by looking out for each other and the collective well being of our voyage.

Voyaging, among many other things, is an adventure with like-minded people away from known comforts and distractions. A voyage gives each of us a chance to be our best selves. It might be an opportunity to rediscover who that best person is, or to decide or evolve who we want that best person to be. The larger goal is to not only accomplish that at sea for our crew mates and canoe, but also how to continue to carry our best selves forward once we reach land and once we return home. Vigilance is required to not get tricked back into the seemingly more limited expectations of many land-based societies and the conventional norms we may have grown too comfortable within prior to the voyage.

Here’s to each of us, whether on land or sea, finding our rhythms within our best selves so that we can navigate together — with nature — toward a brighter, more balanced future based on the wisdom of indigenous cultures who built such glorious voyaging canoes and the skills to sail them purposefully.


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