Hōkūleʻa Update | January 9-10, 2017

On Leg 26, Hōkūleʻa voyages south from Florida to Panama. In this update, watch captain Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau describes the anxiety of waiting to enter the Panama Canal and the bustle of industry the crew finds inside it.

January 9

Blog by Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau

A man a plan a canal, Panama: this palindrome spins in my head as I awake with expectations of departure. This morning is the moment we’ve been waiting for. It is time to untie from the Shelter Bay marina and tie on to our support vessel for a Panama Canal transit. It is time to take Hōkūleʻa back to the Pacific. Lines are readied, deck is cleared, banners removed. We must only wait for the work boat that will be helping us through the locks. The wind is up, the sun is out. A refreshing 20-30 knot wind is helping to protect us from mosquitos through the night. With this wind there is a slight chop. This side tie to the work boat will be trickier than it was during our simulation in calm conditions a few days ago. I rehearse the scenario in my head wondering what issues to anticipate. Safety of crew and waʻa first. The crew is ready for new scenery, ready to finish this section of the world wide voyage, ready to move forward. It’s been 6 days in this quiet marina. It seems like a lifetime ago we were sailing gracefully through the Carribean Sea.

Phone rings. Kapena Bruce answers. Our ears engage. “…So you’re telling me we’re cancelled for today?…”  Our hearts sink as we listen to our new options. We take time to digest the news and contemplate our disappointment. Captain shares the news with the crew along with his manaʻo during such circumstances. Such factors are out of our control. We must put things in perspective. We are healthy. No sense dwelling and staying frustrated over that which we cannot control. Roll with the punches. Go with the flow. This is what we do best. This is what Hōkūleʻa has done since the beginning. This is when the values we live by matter the most.  Welcome to voyaging. A little patience and understanding, ahonui, goes a long way at sea and in port.

Plan A: we get underway tomorrow.

Plan B: if we get cancelled again we must prepare the canoe for the next crew to take Hōkūleʻa through the canal and on to Galapagos. We will spend a day observing the locks from the sidelines to at least get a taste of the process.

Gentle strums on the guitar and ukulele by Lohiao Paoa and Brad Wong help remedy the wavering spirits. Kaʻau’s guitar sings to us as it has from the beginning of the voyage reminding us why we are here. Reminding us to be selfless. Take it all in, help each other and keep happy. For now we wait and hope ready to accept, understand and flow with whatever comes our way me ka haʻahaʻa. Aloha.

…The sun sets after a day of seeking knowledge about the canal at the canal. Just as I’m finishing the last words of this blog Captain’s phone rings… We depart for el canal de Panama at 3am tomorrow!

January 10

Blog by Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau

“E mau ke ea o ka ʻaina I ka pono” Kanaʻi Aupuni rustles me awake from a deep hour of sleep. I hit the snooze button aggressively. It plays again. It is 2:45am. Time to prepare lines. Time to prepare to side tie to our support vessel through the Canal de Panama.  The wind blusters. 15-25 knots out of the northeast, koʻolau, with occasional rain squalls to keep things interesting.

Our support vessel comes roaring into sight around 5:09am. Just in time for our first squall to hit. Crews scramble for jackets and help the 82 foot DWS Linda tie up to the dock. We tie to her starboard with few words exchanged with the captain and crew. My Spanglish only gets me so far but they are smiling and snapping photos so perhaps they are interested in what we are doing and do not think I am a complete idiot after all.

Nothing like the smell of diesel in the morning. We move forward into a windswept, rainy harbor with all energy focused on lines and fenders that separate beautiful Hōkūleʻa from this 82 foot diesel, steel beast. Constant adjustments are made to ensure safe passage as we wait for our pilot to board. We soon find ourselves in the calm waters of the canal entrance moving forward and back under a thundering diesel engine as we wait for a massive ship, Fortune Tiger out of Hong Kong, to enter. Out of the wind and wave the crew feel more relaxed as we wait for our first lock to fill with water and take us 27 feet above sea level.

My thoughts drift to our learning journey yesterday where we spent the afternoon at the Mira Flores lock seeking knowledge about this amazing feat of human ingenuity to connect two seas. My grammarless, flow of consciousness journal entry tried to make sense of it all:  Human ingenuity displaced dirt and a whole lot more. Blood, sweat and tears poured into the land and sea by various corners of humanity seeking excellence in engineering feats beyond the imaginations of the time. Steel and machines and dollar-a-day human labor as nations battle to flex their industrial muscles and get a hold on world commerce. One nation fails to finish. One nation succeeds. Many lives are lost over many years. Young martyrs of the land fueled by the civil rights movement make their plea for independence known. A shortcut to connect two seas and avoid the perils of Cape Horn through a dredged land up and down with gravity and water. The ships get bigger, the cargo gets heavier, the Canal grows larger… People and goods connected, habitat and ecosystems altered, ship traffic made safer, water manipulated. Island earth suffers or grows. Who knows. Hawaiʻi knows these ships well-filled with wants, and wants, and a few needs. We know them too well…

Surrounded by phenomenal feats of human engineering Hōkūleʻa remains timeless and humble amongst it all putting up with the noise and smells so she can make it home safely. The thrilling adventure of travelling half a knot surrounded by enormous ships that seem to clear the walls of the lock by centimeters has lulled me to sleep. I awake 26 meters above sea level staring across man-made lake Gatun which is filled with ships and surrounded by dense forest. We move forward away from the ships, and the surrounding trees and wilderness provide a refreshing respite from the relentless industry. It is a beautiful night with a Hua moon glowing and our friends ʻIwa Keliʻi and Hōkūpaʻa watching over us.  Tomorrow we will re-enter the Pacific. Tomorrow will be a special day. Pō Malie.


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