Crew Blog | Kālepa Baybayan: North of the Equator

Hokulea Moolelo Graphic

By Kālepa BaybayanKalepa_Baybayan

It’s exactly as I recall some 37 years ago, sailing through this region as a 23-year young voyager on my inaugural oceanic passage. The same equatorial climate that I now know as typical – blue sunny skies, calm easterly seas, and tradewind cumulus passing overhead. Nainoa was navigating this Hawaiʻi to Tahiti crossing for the very first time – the first Native Hawaiian navigator to do so in six hundred years, as far as our research can tell us –  and I was the youngest crewmember on the deck of Hōkūleʻa. I was just beginning to learn the way of the sea, something that has grown into a 43-year career for me. As we approached Tahiti, Nainoa offered that if I wanted to continue my learning I should stay aboard and sail the canoe back from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi.  I agreed, and today I am participating in my sixth Hawaiʻi to Tahiti crossing.

Hikianalia, Hōkūleʻa’s younger and newer sibling. Like Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia is a sailing vessel powered only by wind; unlike Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia is built with the addition of solar-powered engines, so she can motor as needed (in times of little to no wind), but she still leaves no carbon-emitting footprint.

Kalau Spencer, Tava Taupu, Miriam Chang and Snake Ah Hee during our dinner pule.

Kalau Spencer, Tava Taupu, Miriam Chang and Snake Ah Hee during our dinner pule.

Onboard we sail with a large crew of 16 crewmembers, both young and older veterans. I am happy to be sailing with my long time friends and partners Snake Ah Hee, Tava Taupu, and Gary Yuen. Also crewing is Lohiao Paoa, son of my late friend Mel Paoa who died suddenly almost 2 years ago. I asked Lohiao to crew because Mel and I had made a pact that we would sail together on the Worldwide Voyage, something that never happened. Lohiao is the identical image of his father as a young man, Mel is with us in spirit.

Five crewmembers were recruited to apprentice as navigators but that number has quickly grown to encompass all of the newer crew. Lohiao Paoa, Kaipo Kiaha, Kalani Kahalioumi, Kawika Crivello, and Nikki Kamalu each monitor the canoe’s direction and speed for their respective watches. They measure the stars at night as the stars pass through the celestial meridian, updating the canoe’s latitude to their star fixes. They meet twice daily in a Navigation Roundtable to assess their position. As much as I can tell they have been precise in their estimations, but only a successful landfall within the Western Tuamotu target block will tell.

Nainoa asked me to make this leg an opportunity for new crewmembers to engage in learning the art and science of wayfinding. Because most of the crew was relatively new to navigation studies, I chose to make the learning process more visual, creating aids that help to capture the context and content of navigating without instruments through two navigation-learning stations I designed on the lids of two deck boxes.  I think the process has provided an opportunity to make the learning more impactful, and the crew seem very engaged in the process.

The other major and perhaps the most important difference about this voyage is that I am no longer the Captain of the vessel; Kala Tanaka, my daughter, assumes that responsibility. It has been a learning journey for the both of us as we navigate this new relationship. Ours has been one of Teacher and Student in place of Father and Daughter. My role has been more reserved, consulting with her on sail selection, having conversations about sail strategy, and being tactical about making informed decisions. The quieting of myself is her opportunity to find her own leadership and command voice. She is very communicative and nurturing – something I think having to do with her youth; I encourage her grumpy side to balance out her good nature, but have had no success. If there is a sense of “father’s pride” it is well hidden – my nature won’t allow it; I prefer to keep our relationship professional until the journey’s end.

Manaiakalani, The Chiefs Royal Fishing Line, ascends the eastern horizon and climbs high into the night sky. My companions Humu-Altair, Keoe-Vega, and Piraeteʻa-Deneb, of the Navigator’s Triangle, have been my constant companions for my 43-year long career. Ka-Makau-Nui-O-Maui, Maui’s Fishook or Scorpio, is upon Hikianalia’s bow, as we are pulled southward through the Koʻolau Quadrant I call Ke-Ala-I-Kahiki, The Pathway to Ancestral Homelands. The hulls of this new canoe are fast as we maintain our quick pace to a Tahiti landfall.

Kālepa Baybayan

Sail Master, Hikialanlia, Leg 29B

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