Crew Profile

Preparing for the Voyage

Crew Blog by Neal Palafox

Preparation for Leg 31,

The homecoming route for Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia, appeared to be straightforward. As the waʻa physician, I had to be capable and ready to manage injury and illness on a traditional, double-hulled sailing canoe. As the newest and most inexperienced member of the crew, much training was necessary – physical fitness training was required, I needed to know basic sailing jargon and knots, and I had to be comfortable with traditional oli (chants), mele (songs), and pule (prayers). I had about 2 ½ months to get ready while sustaining my regular work schedule.

During the 2 months in Hawai’i, I completed my 1-nautical mile ocean swim with watch captain Mark, accompanied by fellow watch members Matt and Mikiala who swam along for support. I could manage 20 pushups and the mile run, but wasn’t sure about the required 8 pullups. There were several meetings at the Sand Island PVS office at the Marine Education & Training Center, and at Master Seaman Bob’s home. I met Captain Pōmai and Captain Nikki, and the crew members of Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia with whom I would sail. We reviewed crew kuleana (responsibilities), waʻa equipment, and the PVS safety manual. Mark and Kekaimalu, who is taking the lead in navigating Hikianalia, took me on a sail with their University of Hawaiʻi class on the training canoe Kamauheheu. It was a steep learning curve, learning how to set sails and steer with a traditional steering sweep (hoe). Preparation also meant ensuring that I had the proper equipment; light and heavy foul weather gear, a knife and fid (what?), the right quick drying clothes, dry bags and buckets to keep everything dry, and reviewing the list of medications and emergency equipment in the three white coolers.

Okay I was ready. The crew departed Honolulu for Papeʻete on May 6th, 2017.

During the first two days in Papeʻete, real time events brought me into reality – ʻaʻole makaukau – I was not ready.

Being physically and intellectually fit for the voyage is not the same as being prepared to be part of the crew, the sail, and the Mālama Honua voyage. The dimensions of preparation were far beyond the physical, mental, emotional preparedness that are certainly required, but other assets are necessary. One must feel, breathe, and live the ancestral, cultural, environmental, and spiritual dimensions of the voyage, in context of the past, present and future. There is no book which can ready one for those dimensions of the voyage. I wondered how I could be present with each moment the crew, the environment, the people, the culture, and great mana which clearly surrounds the voyage.

At this writing it is now May 16th, 10 days later, and we are still in Tahiti. Many watching the Mālama Honua voyage are waiting for the leg to start, waiting for the sail between Tahiti and Hawaiʻi to begin. But these 10 days in Tahiti, although not planned by people, are an essential part of leg 31 – we are already on the voyage.

As Nainoa and Bruce frequently note, and I paraphrase, Tahiti and Hawaiʻi are one people, and the ocean road between Tahiti and Hawaiʻi is what we are learning about, so that we may recognize, celebrate and protect this pathway home.

The time in Tahiti is a necessary part of voyage home — of equal importance to the actual ocean sail between Tahiti and Hawaiʻi. The time in Tahiti and the sail home are all part of the completion of the Mālama Honua voyage.

Neal Palafox

Leg 31 Crewmember

Homecoming - Save the Date - Banner Feb 17 Update

Hōkūle‘a Homecoming:
Event registration is live!

Join thousands of supporters and fans to welcome Hōkūleʻa home to Hawaiʻi in June 2017! Register now for the Mālama Honua Summit, reserve your tour aboard Hōkūleʻa, and RSVP for the Polynesian Voyaging Society benefit dinner.

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