Crew Blog | Kālepa Baybayan: Pulling for South Africa

Kalepa_BaybayanWritten by Kālepa Baybayan

We have arrived in South Africa.  

But the journey here was not an easy one.  Yesterday, as we attempted to leave the safe harbor we sought in Maputo, we ran into difficulty.  Or rather, difficulty snared us.  

We stood – 8 crew in a line – rope in hand, pulling and tugging, trying to lift our anchor off the ocean floor.  We tugged and tugged, to no avail.  We tried to use Gershon II to tug, letting Gershon II motor ahead with Hōkūleʻa under tow, attempting to lift the anchor with the added force.  Nainoa even contemplated cutting the rode and leaving the anchor – a hard decision to make with this expensive anchor, long chain and 300 feet of rode, valued at $2,000.  


From off in the distance, a big motor boat approached us with a lone driver, camera in hand, videoing us and our strange-looking craft.   I put on my best Aloha, and called over to the driver “Would you mind taking a few of our crewmembers aboard your vessel to help us retrieve our anchor?” We explained that we – the canoe and escort vessel – needed to move to the next anchorage before the sun set.  The driver – Mike Ferguson, Chairman of International SOS, a medical service provider in South Africa – agreed to help us, returning our aloha and smiles.  He agreed to help run the boys in to retrieve the anchor, and then run them back out to our vessels.


We boarded three crew members  – big Sam Kapoi, our media specialist; OluKai waterman Archie Kalepa, our safety officer; and Honolulu Police Department officer Keahi Omai, our watch captain.  We tied a large fender to the anchor line to float the line, provided rope for a bridle to be rigged up on Mikeʻs stern, and gave the three Hawaiians a hand-held radio so the boys could communicate with the canoe.  

As they headed out to retrieve the anchor, Mike relayed to our three Hawaiians on board a theory of how the anchor got stuck – during the war, the Dutch sank a number of ships in the harbor at the start of the water to stop an all-out invasion; as a result, there is still a lot of metal in the water which the anchor likely got fouled up on it.  


The boys rigged the bridle to the stern of Mikeʻs boat and tugged, but the anchor still didnʻt move an inch.  Mike spun his boat around the anchor in a large circle hoping to unfoul it, but that didnʻt work either.  As Archie called in to Nainoa to explain and Nainoa was facing the decision to cut the anchor line, Mike decided to go for it – he gunned his engines, the boys scrambled for cover from the fully loaded anchor rode, and the line snapped!  The anchor came free.  As Archie relayed the message to Nainoa, cheers came up from both vessels.   We escaped Maputoʻs last attempt to hold on to the canoe, with the assistance and now friendship of one of the best of the 1.7 million people we are saying goodbye to in Maputo.  


We anchored Hōkūleʻa and Gershon II 17 miles outside Maputo Bay, and prepared for our 190 nautical mile run down to Richards Bay.  We plotted a course that would take us into the Mozambique Current, hoping to add 2 more knots of speed to our hulls for what we anticipated would be an overnight passage.   


We took off early yesterday morning, in hopes of getting in to Richards Bay this afternoon.   Under sail and tow, we started at 5 knots and moved quickly to 7 knots, in keeping with our projected 6.5 knots of speed.  Soon we hit 8 knots and then, in the Mozambique Current – 10 knots!  

Our plan for an afternoon arrival in reality became a mid-morning landing.  The South African Rescue Service was there to assist, rafting up to Hōkūleʻa’s stern to as we transferred the tow rope from Gershon II back to the canoe.   The South African Rescue Service guided us the final mile into our berth alongside the wharf in Richards Bay.


We were greeted by a number of people , including Customs and Immigration Officials and Nick Alexander, our jovial Shipping Agent.  Everyone was so helpful, even helping us to move several vessels to make room for Gershon II.  We began the process of cleaning up the canoe, already gearing up for the next ocean endeavor.  We huddled in prayer, full of gratitude, our two captains speaking with and for us to thank our families and ancestors, those who are welcoming us to this shore, and those who worked from home and afar to support our safe passage.


Now, from the comfort of this hotel room, having showered and cleared a backlog of 400 emails I have received since we departed Mauritius 15 days ago, my last kuleana for this night before I sleep is to write this update to all of you.  As I finish writing this, Iʻm smiling thinking about our crewmember Max, and the conversation we shared at lunch today at the hotel.  I told him that we should be consdering him for a management position with the canoe because of his work ethic – he has been doing a great job, always helpful, very enthusiastic, with a great attitude.  In response, he tells me that heʻs been trying to guess how many baths I took on the way from Mauritius.  I wonʻt divulge that information to you all, but I can say it was more than one.  But a hot, freshwater shower…  letʻs just say that in this land that gave us our first Homo Sapien, I am now feeling pretty Homo Sapien myself.  

From the comforts of Richards Bay,

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

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