Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia crews worked extremely hard over the last three days to steer a straight course for Tonga. The crews caught sight of the island of Vavaʻu at sunrise but lost it during the course of the day due to a socked in horizon (all cloudy). Last night at sunset, crews still had not sighted land. They knew they were close, and in Tongan waters, but did not have an eye on the island of Vavaʻu yet. Navigators Kaʻiulani Murphy and Kaleo Wong worked extremely hard to keep the canoe upwind of the target through Sunday afternoon. The standard operating procedure for navigators when they know they are in the region, but did not sight land at sunset, is to stop and wait for the next sunrise to sail a screen pattern the next day to find land. With a compressed schedule due to the delayed departure from American Samoa, the call was made by Captain Bruce Blankenfeld to get a bearing to the island to meet the obligations of the crews to the Tongan community. Further adding to the decision was a pending low pressure weather system that could pose a safety issue.
“The navigators, Kaʻiulani Murphy and Kaleo Wong did an exceptional job, one can tell that they did so by looking at the track that they held and how straight the course is,” said PWO navigator Bruce Blankenfeld.