Crew Blog | Nāʻālehu Anthony: Day 7

Naalehu AnthonyCrew Blog by Nāʻālehu Anthony

Aloha Nui Kakou,

The phrase for today is “symphony of sails.” Our maestro, Bruce, has been training us pretty hard as we sailed some 700+ miles in a generally northerly direction this past week. We have a pretty robust set of sails on board – at last check there were more than a couple of dozen sails of all sizes and shapes manifested in the sail locker and in the hulls of the canoe, from jibs and genoas, to Marconi triangles to spinnakers.   This extensive collection helps us be prepared for the multitude of different wind and sea conditions that our captains, navigators and crew have trained for on this sail around the planet; it also helps us in solving the minute-by-minute puzzle of how to keep sailing as fast as possible while staying within an acceptable range of our escort vessel, which has a totally different set of sailing dynamics than we have on Hōkūleʻa.

The constant sail changes have given us a great opportunity to work together as a crew and learn a bunch to refine our sailing techniques on this canoe, like how small changes greatly affect speed and heading.  Here is a description of a typical sailing day we’re experiencing as we work our way home to Hawai’i on this leg.

The dawn light blurs the stars into the background and gives us our first clue as to what wind and sea conditions we will see today.  For today, we have a horizon with squalls all around us. The winds are steady 12-15 kts, and we have had three sails up overnight, although our main sail with our 320 sq.ft. crab claw sail is closed so we don’t outpace our escort vessel.   In the front we have a 170 sq.ft. (square foot) jib, a 150 sq.ft. Jib sail rigged up behind the main mast in the position Bruce calls the mizzen staysail, and on the mizzenmast we have a 320 sq.ft. crab claw as well. Total square footage is about 640 for this configuration.  The steering is favorable and we have a decent speed of 5-6 kts in this wind.

As soon as our maestro Bruce can see what is literally “on the horizon” for us for the day, he calls for a sail change – “Drop the stay sail and open the main.” In response to that call, we close the 150 mizzen staysail and open the main sail.  Our total sail area goes up to 710 sq.ft., and we can feel the canoe bear down and start to pick up speed.  Knowing that we are going to outpace our escort shortly, we let Hōkū go but keep an ear open for the call…. sure enough, after what seems like no more than an hour, we hear the crackle of the radio –  “Hōkūleʻa, Gershon II…”  – we are approaching our allowable safety range and need to slow down. Bruce will reduce the Jib to a 90 sq.ft. sail and close the main, bringing our total sail area down to 410 sq.ft., slowing us to wait for our escort to close the distance between us.  And so the symphony plays on, full of ups and downs, as we try to move as quickly as possible without outrunning our safety escort.  Bruce will try out different configurations, playing with the total square footage of the sail set to get a better match for speed, while the wind conditions change by the hour.

In the last week, we have changed sails at least 150 times. Each time we open or close the main sail we have to move 4 sheet lines and a stay. Depending on the size of the jib we need to run its sheet lines through a different maze of rigging to get the curve of the sail just right to achieve lift. In the middle of the night when the radio crackles to ask us to slow down, we go up with harnesses strapped on and red lamps illuminating the way.  Constant moving and working the lines aside, on the plus side we are all getting better as sailors, and we are here to learn from Bruce the maestro and teacher.  This has definitely taught us a lot about voyaging.

Sorry, gotta cut this short, Bruce just called another sail change…

SB 72,


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