This post was written by Suzette Hau`oli Smith Gurtler.
Women have always been involved in the Polynesian Voyaging Society, but trying to get on a voyage was tough.
In the past, the way the waʻa was set up for sailing point, you had to have strength and muscle and be willing to get wet. Steering with the hoe in rough weather was difficult, and hoisting and lowering mast, spars and sails was physically demanding; you had to have stamina to keep up with the Uncles.
Hauʻoli Smith-Gurtler, sailing since before birth.
Now, 39 years later, Hōkūleʻa has gone through so many modifications that it made it easier for us women to muscle her, and the resurgence of voyaging with all the new canoes being born gave women more sailing time on little waʻa’s and a better foundation to start with before venturing onto Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia.
Having all these talented wahine on board now gives them a chance to share their dynamic personalities and their talents in education, high tech, logistics, cooking, etc. and to serve as apprentice navigators and watch captains and show their commitment to the voyage by taking on this adventure on the high seas. It’s a Kū / Hina thing, Yin and Yang, Balance. The most exciting thing happening right now is having a daughter in an apprentice navigator role aboard Hikianalia chasing her pwo navigator father aboard Hōkūle`a across the Pacific to Tahiti. For us Hawaiians, it’s a DNA thing; doing it naturally after all these years.