Crew Profile

Hōkūleʻa Update | September 10, 2015

Aloha, this is Bruce Blankenfeld from the deck of Hōkūleʻa in the Indian Ocean. Right now is close to the end of Day 13 on our voyage from Cocos Keeling Island to Mauritius. Just a few hours ago, we sighted the island of Rodrigues, which is a waypoint on the way to Mauritius. It was 1,940 miles from Cocos Keeling to this point. Part of the significance of today at this point in time is that one of the key messages of the Worldwide Voyage is culture and celebrating native wisdom. Hōkūleʻa, from the onset, sought to rediscover traditional Pacific Island navigation. As we all well know through the generosity of sharing knowledge, Mau Piailug became our teacher. So to carry that on, we honor him and we honor all ancestors who were part of living the culture. But this landfall also represents everything on this voyage that started more than six years ago when we were getting ready for the Worldwide Voyage. But this has been part and parcel of everything that has gone on prior to this, all the other landfalls in Tahiti being the first one to this one. A big part of it, of course, is a very good, trained crew and the belief in what their contributions to this effort is. It’s something special. So from here we have 300 or so miles to Mauritius, our final destination for this leg. Thank you for all of your support, belief in what we do, and keep following us on Hokulea.com. Aloha!


Aloha e nā hoa,

The big news for today is that at about 645 PM Hōkūleʻa Standard Time, crewmember Kealoha Hoe sighted the island of Rodrigues to the South of us, the small isolated target that Captain and navigator Bruce Blankenfeld guided his Leg 14 crew and Hōkūleʻa to.

This came after sailing 13 days and 1,940 miles unaided by modern instruments. This crew only used what was available to us as observational clues in nature – stars, wind, waves and other elements that the navigator could read. Led by Bruce, the rest of us 10 crewmembers worked hard and diligently throughout the near 2 weeks to be able to sum each of those days into a course that led us to the island today. This brings this legs total miles to about 3,000 since leaving Bali 26 days ago.

The most difficult part of this task was the almost 4 days of near 100% cloud cover, that, at times, obscured even the sun and the moon from view.  This made for a good lesson in steering by the wind; in Captain Bruce’s words, even the wind “still allowed us to be confident in the course and speed during that time.” This confidence is critical to the process of deep ocean crossing, as each mile is built on the previous to equal the whole, both physically and on the course line held in the navigator’s head – every decision made in changing course, in estimating speed, they sum to the crossing.  Bruce has an uncanny way of estimating speed with great accuracy, and is at a point in his navigational career where his internal sense of direction is apparent.  He is constantly checking direction, not only those times when we see him measure stars for orientation, but also by feel, even when he is sitting on the deck in the middle of conversation.  I heard him more than once pause mid-sentence and say to the steersman, “you gotta come up” –  which translates to “let the canoe sail up into the wind” – and then jump right back in to the conversation.  Direction, speed, course line – these are all part of his constantly running internal mechanisms, honed after decades of training.

There was no cheering today when land was sighted, just some tears and a quiet moment to thank the generations upon generations of people who practiced this craft in order to keep navigation alive to this day.  Even though we have about 300 more miles to go, everyone recognized that the time we have here on this little floating island, with this waʻa family, will be over soon.  Yes, we have jobs and family to get back to. And a whole world of obligations beyond this little waʻa world, which for me at least, I see lingering just on the other side of this email inbox on a daily basis.  But for now, for the past 26 days and the handful of days left, we have also come to know Hōkūleʻa as our home. For those of us who have sailed on this canoe before, the feeling is familiar; we settle in to her rhythm, and she accepts us.  For those who are new, they will feel a longing to come back the minute they step on to the dock to head back to the place they called home before this journey… perhaps that is part of what gives Hōkūleʻa her incredible mana, that we all leave a piece of our hearts here with her when our time with her is over.  I suspect it has been this way since voyaging started, worlds split in two as we headed out into the unknown, trying to make better sense of the world we left behind, searching for new islands in the sea of our futures; living for a time in this little waʻa world in the middle of the deep blue, sailing in a sea of endless possibility.

On behalf of the entire Leg 14 crew – captain and navigator Bruce, watch captains Wally, Kealoha, and Kimo, and crewmembers Tomo, Kazu, Craig, Gary, Kalei, Kaina and myself, thank you all for coming on this voyage with us and helping to make these thousands of miles well worth it.  Please stay tuned for more as we near Mauritius, our next port stop.

Naʻu me ka haʻahaʻa,
Still SB71
Nāʻālehu


Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

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