Hōkūleʻa Update | June 05, 2017
Crew Blog by Nāʻālehu Anthony
Tonight brought the kind of gifts that our navigators have been waiting for for days. Thankfully it came right at the right time. If you have been reading the blogs before this you know that the weather has not been as kind to us as we would have liked, but we also know it could have been a lot worse. The 100% cloud cover for days was one of the biggest challenges for all of us, as there are less visual clues for navigators and steerspeople to hold our course. One of the blessings, however, was wind. We had a tremendous amount of wind all the way through this trip, which we are grateful for. We have heard the stories of previous crews trying to make it through the ITCZ or doldrums and getting stuck there for two weeks, as the region is known to have very little wind at different times in the year. While that didn’t happen to us, we still needed to see the stars at some point to reinforce what the dead reckoning was telling the navigation staff.
Seeing the Southern Cross wasn’t as important to us a week ago. We knew that we were sailing as far east as we could each day so we are confident that we are to the east of Hawai’i, but what we needed to know was how far north we are and when is the right time to turn west to Hawaiʻi. In the lessons taught to the navigators by both Nainoa and Bruce they learn that the two best ways to know your latitude in going to Hawaiʻi is measuring the North Star and the Southern Cross, with the cross being much more useful than Hoku paʻa (the North Star) because of the really neat thing that happens in the cross. At the latitude of the middle of Hawaiʻi, the Southern Cross at meridian (at its highest point) is the same distance from the top star to the bottom star as it is from the bottom star to the horizon. And so this morning after a dead reckoning (DR) estimation of 2076 miles along the reference course line and 17.5 degrees of estimated latitude, it was critical that we got to see the cross to confirm the estimations.
Sunset came with the moon high in the sky. We had some cloud cover but the southern sky was opening. As the sun sunk lower and lower, taking with it the light on the horizon, the stars slowly emerged. The anticipation was an easy read on the faces of the entire navigation staff. Just a little darker and the cross slowly appeared just before meridian. Immediately, we had 5 sets of hands up in the air trying to measure the distance between the bottom star and the horizon. The naked eye could tell that the distance was more than the distance of the stars in the cross but the critical part was just how much, so that we could know if our DR was close to the actual latitude as told by the stars. After many minutes of discussion, and measuring and re-measuring, it was agreed that the cross was between 8 and 9 degrees off the horizon. This confirmed that we were between 18 and 19 degrees North latitude.
No sooner than the cross turned out of meridian did the clouds come in and cover up our stars. While short lived, the gift was there just long enough to make sure our navigators got the confirmation they needed to move forward with confidence. These are some of the makana we have had along our way that give us just what we need to find our way out here. Mahalo ke Akua. We are humbled and grateful.
Me ka haʻahaʻa,
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